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.
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.
In "The Family: A Proclamation to the World" we learn about the divine roles that mothers and fathers have. The primary responsibility that mothers have is to nurture their children (The Family para 7). The word "nurture" means to "care for and encourage the growth or development of" (Google Dictionary). That's a lot. To care for and encourage the growth and development of another human being, or in my case, four human beings? How can an imperfect, impatient, and selfish person like me possibly raise four human beings who are kind, responsible, resilient, and ready to be an asset to the world instead of a detriment? I'll let you in on a secret I have learned in the nearly 20 years I have been responsible for these human beings... it's only through relying upon the Atonement of Jesus Christ and trusting in God's plan for me and my family that I am able to get up every morning, set my feet upon the floor, and know that even if it's a bad mothering day, everything is going to be okay.
"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...
"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).
The real key to all of these expressions of love is to do them in love and righteousness. Don't monitor your teenager because you want to control them, monitor them because you want to help them learn how to self-regulate. Don't let your pride tell you that you, as the parent, are always right. Listen to your child's opinions and encourage them to express them in a non-confrontational way. Communicate with your child as Christ communicated with those around Him: always encouraging them to be better while helping them understand the consequences of their actions.
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...
When you start to view motherhood as an opportunity for you to grow and learn along with helping your children grow and learn, it helps you be a more effective, kind, understanding, and loving mother. At least, that is what I have come to find out as I have adopted that perspective over the nearly 20 years of my experience as a mother.
"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.
In "The Family: A Proclamation to the World", we learn that "by divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families" (The Family para 7). That's a big responsibility, but I know that as father's turn to the Lord for guidance and follow five fundamental principles of fathering, they will not only meet this responsibility, but they will flourish in their roles as fathers.
THE FIVE FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES OF FATHERING
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). It's not enough to just be physically present in the same room as your child. Your child needs you to be in their consciousness as well, to be engaged in conversations and experiences with him or her.
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
"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.
It is my prayer that in this world riddled with selfishness, ignorance, pride, and greed, that we will recognize this power that comes from living a righteous life. Righteous living brings hope to the hopeless, love to the unloved, and sunshine in the midst of the storms that engulf you.
"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.