Parenting is my passion. So, every conference I find myself listening for good parenting counsel from the leaders of the church. In recent years, strengthening the family and building good relationships has been an important conference topic. We live in the last days, when Satan is attacking us where it really matters--in our homes. He encourages us to be selfish and short tempered. He sets our hearts on worldly projects instead of eternal ones. During these difficult social and economic times we can find peace and joy by focusing our best efforts on our eternal family relationships.
Here is what I learned from conference, about parenting, this year:
Sister Jean A. Stevens
Jean A. Stevens told us to learn from the children. She reminded us that children are born good and usually exemplify good characteristics naturally such as humility, compassion, and believing hearts.
We need to trust in that goodness as we parent. If we trust that our children want to do good, then we can stop ourselves from judging their behaviors and actions. When we judge our children harshly it is usually because we are being selfish. A selfish parent cannot change the heart of a disobedient child. Parenting is really about connecting parents and children on a heart to heart level.
Sister Stevens also said we should follow Christ's example and “Behold [our] little ones.” She explained that to behold means to appreciate, value, care for and teach. She admonished us to really connect with our children. She suggested that many parents don't pay close attention to this important connection. She quoted M. Russell Ballard as saying, “...notice he [Christ] didn't say...occasionally take a look in their general direction...see and appreciate them for what they really are; spirit children of our Heavenly Father with divine attributes.”
If our relationships with our children don't feel connected, we need to put establishing that connection as a high priority. Talk often with your children. Schedule your day with a purpose to connect and share meaningful conversation and experiences. As we deliberately plan to read our child's heart each day and ask the Lord for help with that, we will make the right opportunities to encourage a relationship, and heart change.
Elder Quentin L. Cook
Elder Cook reminded women of their divine nature and heritage and joint partnership with their husbands in raising and rearing families to be spiritually prepared for these times we live in. He promised women that even though there are many challenges facing women these days, “The Lord helps faithful women.”
I have found this counsel especially helpful in this selfish world. If we can keep our priorities straight and focus our efforts on our eternal purposes and divine natures, the Lord strengthens us and inspires us with the hardest and most rewarding of all callings; being a parent.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks
Elder Oaks taught us that we desire good things and bad things too. And, no matter if we are going toward our good desires or our destructive desires the process is the same. Desires lead to priorities, which lead to choices, which lead to actions. We should “over-ride” our evil desires with our righteous desires.
As Latter Day Saints, we desire to be good parents and have eternal families. This is a righteous desire which is worth working toward. We can set our priorities in line with our desire. Then each day we can make choices which lead us to the appropriate actions to accomplish our desire.
President Thomas S. Monson
President Monson said parents who have willful or spirited children are blessed.
Even though every parent wants an obedient child, some parents are blessed with children who are more difficult. These children have strengths and special gifts which will be the driving force for them to do good instead of bad if nurtured correctly. I know, because I was one of these kinds of children. I gave my parents many of their gray hairs. But, they never gave up on me. They kept loving and teaching me. And now I use my strong spirit and energies to fight for the Lord and His plan and purposes. Love your strong willed children. Teach them how to channel their emotions and energies. Teach them the communication skills they need for family and relationship success.
Elder D. Todd Christofferson
Elder Christofferson told us that we are held to high expectations, but that through the atonement and correction we can become perfect. He said we don't always get what we want and often times, just as bushes, pruning back wild growth is necessary for our spiritual development. He explained how correction is desirable even though it can hurt.
Elder Christofferson instructed us to correct our children and teach them to accept correction as well. He explained that only after learning how to be corrected, and why it is necessary, can a person get to a point where they constantly engage in self-correction, which leads them closer to perfection.
This counsel is drastically needed in today's society. Many parents have bought into the idea that children will somehow naturally see the right choice and go toward it. And, that whatever a child chooses must be right. I wish this easy parenting method were true, but it is wrong. It seems organic, but in reality is not.
True organic, from the beginning type, parenting requires nourishing and training. Just like a small seed, a child needs nutrients and stability. You give a seed the best nutrients for proper growth just as you give a child truth, virtues, and exposure to goodness in all of its forms to nourish their soul and inspire them to grow spiritually strong.
Small seedling plants cannot weather large storms without stability and support. Children are no different, and these are times of great storms. Just as a gardener surrounds a small tree with sticks and line to keep it growing strong in a storm, our children must also be braced for the rough weather ahead by learning skills in a supportive, structured environment.
Elder Christofferson mentioned the need to correct children. He did not give specifics on how to do this for obvious reasons;
In my book Parenting A House United, I explain an effective way to correct another person: Make sure you are calm, describe what just happened, explain what was wrong about the choice, describe what the right choice would have been and why, explain consequences earned, and practice doing the situation the “right” way.
Elder Christofferson also mentioned teaching our children to accept correction. This is one of the Four Basic life skills all people should learn for relationship success and happiness. Think for a moment about how many people you know who can't accept the fact that they have done anything wrong. This is a serious character flaw. Unless a person can admit they’re wrong, they are not able to progress.
It's one thing to give your child correction and a consequence when they have done something wrong, but it is another entirely to not even allow your child to have the opportunity to begin their consequence unless they have chosen to accept their consequence.