The stage has been set for today's post. I have talked about why eternal families are important, how families can be saved by temple covenants, why dating is an important part of the marriage process, and last week, I talked about marital sexuality.
Today, I want to dive into the roles of mothers and fathers, why they are each an important part in a child's life, what their different divine roles are, and how they can work together to create an environment to fulfill their "sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness" (The Family para 6).
As always, the information I am sharing is what would be an ideal setting, but as you and I are both know, sometimes the "ideal setting" is not possible so you have to do the best with what you have. I am a firm believer that if you do your best to achieve the ideal setting that God has set forth, then through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, all of those areas of shortcomings will be made up for.
This picture is an accurate betrayal of how motherhood looks for me most days. I'm bracing myself against the wind, trying to cling to all my little chickadees in hopes that they don't get carried off in the storms of life.
And, for the record, most of the time, they probably don't think of me as "Mother Dearest". More likely it's "Mother Weirdest" or "Mother Get Out of My Face-ist". (I know, now I'm making words up. Time to move on.)
At any rate, I know that my calling as a mother is the most important thing I will ever do in my life. I don't know why God has blessed me with four incredible, brave, smart, and talented children, but He has and I am determined to not screw them up.
Prophets have testified of "the significant influence of women as mothers" and "research studies exploring influences on children's development" support the testimony of the prophets (Hawkins et al 131). Bearing that influence in mind, how can mothers use this influence in their children's lives effectively? Let's start with the foundation: love.
Love: The Foundation of Effective Mothering
It all begins with the relationship a mother forms with her child from birth, even pre-birth as she sacrifices comfort, among other things, to carry her child.
"A mother's attentive love in this new relationship becomes the foundation by which all of the other tasks of mothering become effective" (Hawkins et al 132).
I cannot begin to describe to you the amount of love I have for each of my children. The idea that "it's a good thing they are cute" when they make less-than-desirable choices is true, but it's more than just that. I feel that it comes down to that love. It's more of "it's a good thing I love them" type of scenario.
Kids and parents alike will make less-than-desirable choices, but if you have a solid foundation of love, and focus on that love, you can take these difficult situations in stride. How do we, in reality, do this? It feels much easier said than done as you stand there staring at the entire container of powdered sugar spread across the length of your kitchen floor...
"Children seem to do best when mothers show love by communicating about and being aware of their activities and behaviors. Expressing love through listening, communicating, and monitoring enables a mother to be warm and supportive while setting and enforcing appropriate limits" (Hawkins, et al 133).
Let's look at each of these ways to express love in a little more detail:
The type of listening I am referring to is empathetic listening. "The goal of empathetic listening is to help another person feel understood and valued" (Hawkins et al 8). One very important lesson I have learned in my years as a parent is that, as a parent, I'm not always right. Sometimes, my kids are right and often times that is a hard pill to swallow. I have learned that listening to them, without jumping in to correct them, is extremely important in helping them feel understood and valued.
"Communication is defined as 'the ability to bargain, problem-solve, and make decisions'...[it also] involves interacting with others in a way that consensus can be reached while respecting the rights of each individual" (Hawkins et al 8). Bargaining with a child? Doesn't that teach them to not respect me? No. What it teaches them is that you value their opinion and are willing to involve them in problem-solving and decision-making. Respect is a two-way street and when your child can feel that you respect them, you are teaching them how to respect you. By establishing a line of open and loving communication with your child, they will feel that they have a safe space with you and know they can come to you for "judgement-free" advice.
"Setting limits and following through with pre-established consequences when rules are violated is one way that parents can help children learn to be self-regulating" (Hawkins et al 109). By setting limits and consciously monitoring your children's behaviors/activities, you show them that you care about what is going on in their lives. You will probably get push back from your children, especially as they are in their teenage years. "Why do you need to know all the details?" "You're always in my business!" These are two phrases that might come from your teenagers mouth, but all will be well and, in the long run, they will recognize that they really did appreciate your monitoring habits as a parent.
"The careful monitoring of adolescents' whereabouts and behavior as well as encouragement to adhere to parental expectations is a form of limit-setting that can go far in reducing delinquent activity" (Hawkins et al 109 emphasis added).
Before we move on to the Papas and their divine roles and responsibilities, I want to leave you with one more quote about the Mamas...
The daddy in our home loves to tease, make up new lyrics to songs, correct grammar, and, last but not least, loves his role as a father, and he is good at what he does. Just this morning we received an email from our son, Josh, who is serving a mission in Taiwan for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I want to share with you some thoughts he has about his dad...
"My dad taught me the importance of work. He taught me if I'm going to do something, then I need to do it right. I have definitely not followed that counsel perfectly, even sometimes here as a missionary, but I have been grateful many times for my dad's high expectations and hopes in me throughout my life. They have definitely helped me remember who I am and make changes to become more of the missionary I should be.
Five Fundamental Principles of Fathering
Let's take a closer look at each of these fundamental principles of fathering:
I feel that sometimes people mistake what the word "preside" means. It does not mean that the father gets the last word or that everyone needs to bow down to him and do what he commands. That is not what the family proclamation says. It says that "fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness" (The Family para 7). Again, we come back to the fundamental aspect of love. I feel that Ezra T. Benson said it best: "God established that fathers are to preside in the home. Fathers are to provide love, teach, and direct" (Hawkins et al 141).
"...another fundamental principle in fathering is to partner with others in raising a child, including the child, the child's mother, extended family members, and the larger community" (Hawkins et al 142). I love that God has blessed us with circles of people so we don't have to do this incredibly difficult job of parenting alone. We are meant to work together to provide for children. I also love that it mentions that first and foremost, a father is to partner with the child as he raises the child. This goes back to the 3 ways to express love that I wrote about in the mothering section and it takes a large dose of one thing...humility.
Have you ever tried to have a conversation with someone whose attention was obviously not on the conversation you are having together? It's frustrating, isn't it? Now, put yourself in a child's place who wants to learn from his or her father, who wants to talk to and spend time with his or her father, but who can't because the father has chosen to not be present.
"A fundamental principle of fathering...is to be present in a child's life and consciousness, to be available and aware of a child's needs such that he or she develops in an atmosphere of security and love" (Hawkins et al 144 emphasis added).
This is more than just something that father's should do...it is a sacred duty and responsibility for fathers to provide for their family. When I think of this concept of a father providing for his family I think of the basic necessities of life: shelter, food, protection, clothing, etc. The textbook for my Family class takes it a bit deeper than that. It describes the father's responsibility to provide as assuming "stewardship of meeting children's needs and offering opportunities for their development, as well as dedicating one's time, energy, and resources for the benefit of the next generation" (Hawkins et al 145). This duty for the father to provide for his family does not mean that he should be the sole provider. What it means is that with this aspect of parenting (and all other aspects) the father and mother work together as equal partners to provide for their families with the responsibility of seeing that these needs and opportunities are provided to the children resting upon the father's shoulders.
"The context of preparing a child for the outside world and instilling a child with needed skills and knowledge sets up...another fundamental principle of fathering, to protect a child from harm and also equip him or her to both avoid and manage life challenges" (Hawkins et al 146). One of our basic human needs is to feel protected and it is the sacred duty of a father to provide this sense of protection for his children. I have seen a few instances in the lives of others around me where this role of protector is not being fulfilled and instead, the children need protection from their father. That makes me sad in so many ways and it is unacceptable to the Savior of the World. In Matthew 18:6 we read, "But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea." Fathers, protect your children. Protect their physical bodies as well as their spiritual and emotional bodies. They love you and trust you and need you to fulfill this sacred duty.
The Key for all the Mamas and the Papas
Well, my friends, I have spewed a lot of words in this post. It has taken me three days to complete and there is SO much information that I have had to leave out for the sake of not having it take hours for you to read this post.
However, I feel that there is a key that all of these things hinge on; a key that works for all of the stages in our lives.
"Power in righteousness comes only as we associate ourselves through prayer and sacred living with the powers of heaven" (Hakwins et al 148).
There is power in righteous living: power to make it through the difficult teen years, power to survive dating and the heartbreaks that may come with it, power to become equal partners in your marriage, and power to raise your families in love and righteousness.
"Family: A Proclamation to the World." (1995, November). Ensign, 25, p. 102.
Hawkins, A. J., Dollahite, D. C., & Draper, T. (2012). Successful marriages and families: Proclamation principles and research perspectives. Provo, UT: BYU Studies and School of Family Life, Brigham Young University.