Yikes. Parenthood is not for the weak. It takes a huge amount of sacrifice, patience, love, more patience, and humility to shape and mold these little blessings into responsible, well-adjusted, and kind-hearted human beings.
I wish that I knew back then what I know now. After studying parenthood and families over the last two years, I have come to see things that I would like to have done better as a mother. Even though I feel that my kiddos have turned out alright, I am definitely not proud of some of the parenting moments I had when they were younger. My hope with this post is that I can share some insights that may help other parents recognize areas in which they could improve their parenting as I have recognized ways in which I can (and must) improve mine. Even though my kids are not little anymore, I can still make adjustments/improvements in how I parent them as I strive to become more like my Heavenly Parents.
Let me begin with this disclaimer. Every child is different. What works to parent one child may not work to parent another. "Whatever the nature and disposition of a given child, wise parents work to adjust, relate to, and rear each child in a manner that is somewhat tempered to individual needs as parents and children learn from each other" (Hawkins et al 104). I love what that statement says. Parenting children is not something that is a "one size fits all" kind of thing. Parents must be humble enough to adjust how they parent to adapt to each of their children and recognize that, as a parent, you can learn from your child.
REARING CHILDREN IN LOVE AND RIGHTEOUSNESS
Think about how God parents His children. Is He long-suffering with us? Does He persuade us to make good choices while allowing us to suffer the natural consequences of our actions (AKA discipline)? Does God parent with charity, gentleness, and kindness? The God I know does and following His parenting model is what I am striving to do.
I'm not perfect at parenting like God does, nor will I ever be in this life, but that's okay. God understands that and blesses me with opportunities to improve, as I choose to do so.
Research suggests and the Lord's prophets agree that "warm and responsive parenting tends to promote lasting bonds between parents and children...specifically, research has documented that children are less aggressive and more sociable and empathetic if they have parents...who are more loving, patient, playful, responsive, and sympathetic to children's feelings and needs" (Hawkins et al 108).
I feel it goes back to the "golden rule" of treating others as you would want to be treated. When I look back on things I have said to my children in moments of anger, I cringe. I would never want someone to speak to me in the way that I have spoken to them at times. Your children will respect you more and be more inclined to be obedient when they feel you respect them and hold them as a high priority in your life.
SETTING LIMITS WITH ROOM FOR COMPROMISE
Our Heavenly Father has set limits for us--in other words, He has given us commandments to follow. When we follow those commandments, we are allowing the safety net to catch us when we fall. When we disregard the commandments, it's like walking the tightrope with nothing beneath us, flirting with the danger of the situation.
"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).
Again, this statement makes me think of how our Heavenly Father parents us. When we violate the rules/commandments/limits He has set, there are pre-established consequences that will come into the equation. Although it is true that we have our agency to choose as we would like, we cannot choose the consequences of our actions. This is something that should be practiced in regard to setting limits for your children. Try having pre-established consequences for situations that come up regularly such as: not cleaning their room or completing other chores when asked, sneaking out, missing curfew, etc. I realize that it is not possible to come up with a pre-established consequence for everything because you can't possibly imagine every scenario that will come up, but by enforcing the consequences in these situations, it won't come as a surprise when you have to enforce consequences for other slip-ups.
Just because you have to enforce consequences when the limit barrier has been breached, does not mean that you have to do it in a menacing or contentious manner.
Reproving a child in a calm manner is SO much easier said than done. I have definitely not perfected the art of it yet. That is why the information I am learning in this class has been so valuable to me!
Here are some ways that you can reprove/correct and show that increase of love afterwards:
*Physical Affection: "Maybe you can sit here on my lap for a while until you feel like playing nicely with your sister."
*Affirming Verbal Statements: "Although I am disappointed that you did not obey, I love you very much."
*Humor to Break up the Tension: "Okay, enough of this serious stuff. Time for a hug!"
*A Change in Activity: "Will you be my helper in the kitchen? I need a junior chef to help me whip up some cornbread."
*Expressing Confidence in the Child: "I know it's been a hard day. We all make mistakes. I know you will do better next time."
LATITUDE: MAKING CHOICES WITHIN THE LIMITS
Giving your children appropriate levels of latitude to make their own decisions is how you accomplish this. Elder M. Russell Ballard taught:
"Helping children learn how to make decisions requires that parents give them a measure of autonomy, dependent on the age and maturity of the child and the situation at hand. Parents need to give children choices and should be prepared to appropriately adjust some rules, thus preparing children for real-world situations" (Hawkins et al 109).
Once again, I feel it comes down to respect and respect is a two-way street. Yes, you are the parent, but that does not mean that you should not respect your children and their agency. Our Heavenly Father is the perfect example of showing respect to His children by giving us appropriate levels of latitude in which we can exercise our agency.
I'm not going to lie, sometimes I am terrified to let my kids use their agency. What if they make horrible choices that they will carry with them for years? What if those choices lead to other choices that ultimately lead them away from the Savior and His gospel? I have done a lot of soul searching about this because I want my kids to know that, at the end of the day, my love for them is stronger than any disappointment I may have from choices they have made and that I am here to support them in the decisions they feel are right for their lives. I love the counsel that Elder Robert D. Hales has given us:
This advice is like gold to me right now as I am in the midst of "teenagerhood" at our house and I am learning every day. I can tell you that I have seen a difference in my kids when I am striving to use the Lord's way of love and acceptance rather than Satan's way of force and coercion.
The deeper I get into my studies of families and parenting, the more I am convinced that the doctrine expressed in "The Family: A Proclamation to the World" is the ideal I want to strive for. Research supports it, which is great, but in all honesty, the only support I need is what I can see. I can see that following the guiding doctrine from prophets and apostles has made a difference in my families lives. I know that I am only 20 years into this parenting gig and I have an extremely long way to go. I also realize that there may be times when the doctrines presented in The Family Proclamation will be stretched thin within my own family and I will have to rely on what I have learned about loving and supporting my posterity as God and Christ love and support them.
But I also know that as I continue to strengthen my own testimony of Jesus Christ and His everlasting gospel, I will have the tools I need to continue to face the challenges that surface and that my family will be blessed because of my willingness to look unto the Savior and His teachings, no matter what.
"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.
WHY ETERNAL FAMILIES?
This page is dedicated to sharing information regarding God's plan for families, how we can strengthen our family relationships, and how the Savior can heal even the most broken of hearts.