This blog is the second in a series of four. In the last blog, I suggested that finding a balance between too strict or too lenient parenting can be found in the words and examples of God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. Finding the balance is not only important for the development of our children, it’s pretty important for the mental health of us parents. We can watch what He does and then try (and try again) to use it with our own children.

Mormon FamilyThe first piece of this parenting puzzle is knowledge. There are two basic things our Father in Heaven wants us to know before He gives us the next puzzle pieces of choice and responsibility. They are:

1. The Target – Where We are Going
2. The Rules of the Game – How to Get There

1. The Target

Our Father in Heaven helps us “begin with the end in mind” as Steven Covey says. He gives us a vision of our end-state of life and tells us what the point of life is to be.

For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. )Moses 1:39)

He wants us back with Him. He wants to share all that He has with His children. He then tells us who we are, so we aren’t completely overwhelmed and unbelieving that this is possible.

For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring. Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device. (Acts 17:28-29)

Jesus Christ then gives us a challenge – to strive for perfection.

Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:48)

It seems impossible! But Christ’s challenge keeps our sites on a target that is unchanging. He knows that we will not achieve the goal of perfection in this life, but we can work toward it every day.

This knowledge gives us confidence and direction. With the end in site, the standard high, and knowledge of our divine heritage, we can move forward, knowing that we can do hard things and that the reward is fantastic.

The same principles can be used with our children. We can help them visualize the end-state, whether we are talking about eternal or earthly things. When my son was eight, he went for about a two-month spell where he wouldn’t get out of the car at his violin lesson. Frustrated, I asked his wonderful violin teacher what she would do in my shoes. Should I physically drag him inside? Should I go home? Should I give him a punishment or bribe him? This mother of seven talented children told me, “Tell him that he can become a wonderful, gifted musician and this is what it takes to get there.” I tried it. I can’t say that he immediately bounded out of the car with a smile on his face, but he started coming back into the lesson and is still taking the violin years later. Because he stuck with it, he can now see that he IS a talented and gifted musician. This knowledge now feeds his interest. Visualizing the end-state is powerful and motivating. It keeps the standard high and the target in sight.

As a simple example, it can work with vegetable eating. Instead of pleading, bribing or punishing, we can help our children see the end goal. “When you grow up you are going to be a big vegetable eater. Your body needs the vitamins and you will find some that you love as an adult. At dinner, our family takes one bite of everything, even if you’ve had it before and even if you don’t like it. We need to see if those vegetable taste buds have kicked in yet – you never know when they will.”

We can also help our children to know who they are – that they are children of God and should act accordingly:

“You are a child of God and your body is a miracle gift. Smoking and drugs destroys that amazing body.”

“You are so intelligent. I know you can think of better words to use.”

“You can be kind, even when he teases you. Heavenly Father knows you have the power to choose how you respond.”

We can use this same principle in our own families. We tell our children they are the “Honest Ahlstroms” and that integrity is a family heritage. We share stories of grandparents and other relatives who have shown honesty during hard times. If they lie, we are firm but positive. “You are an honest Ahlstrom. We expect more.” Their potential is greater than they have shown and the standard is still high.

2. Rules of the Game

Once we know where we are going, we really need help in knowing how to get there.

We have more pieces of knowledge so we know what to do:

1. Commandments and direction
2. A mentor
3. A personal guide

Commandments and Direction

First, He gives us commandments and direction. The children of Israel had the 10 Commandments and the Law of Moses. With Christ’s coming, we have a fulfillment of the law and a higher expectation. After Christ gives the Sermon on the Mount where He outlines a new gospel, He tells us how to achieve the end-state.

20 Therefore come unto me and be ye saved; for verily I say unto you, that except ye shall keep my commandments, which I have commanded you at this time, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. (3 Nephi 12:20)

The scriptures contain a complete outline of the law with blessings and punishments that come with keeping or breaking the law. Prophets and apostles give more information about the law and warnings when the people start breaking the laws. If we had no law, then any behavior would be acceptable – there would be no right or wrong. He knows that any behavior will not get us to our end goal. The commandments are a generous plan that gives us guardrails for life. They are the most efficient way back to the target.

There is no question that we need family law. Bedtimes, manners, chores, and other rules keep order and progression in place. We tell our children to stay out of the street to keep them safe. We feed them nutritious food to keep them healthy. We have them brush their teeth to avoid pain and decay.

But at the same time, we don’t need to come up with a rule and corresponding blessing or punishment for every behavior – we can point our children in so many instances to the perfect law of Jesus Christ.

Swearing? Matthew 5:34-37
Morality? Matthew 5:27-28
Treatment of bullies? Matthew 5:44-45
Tattling? Matthew 7:3-5
Choosing friends wisely? Matthew 7:16-20
Sibling rivalry? Matthew 5:22-25

Thankfully, He has given us the basic laws and then lets us practice law-giving in our own families.

A Mentor

In God’s wisdom, He knew that we would need an example to follow. We have a mentor in Jesus Christ. The only perfect individual to walk the earth, He shows us the way.

32 Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God. (Moroni 10:32)

Just as Christ is a mentor for us and for our children, our Creator also places us in families. You are your child’s mentor, no matter how intimidating that responsibility may be.

A Personal Guide

We may call it our conscience, intuition, our “gut feeling”, the light of Christ, or the gift of the Holy Ghost. All of humanity is given the gift to known good from evil. (2 Nephi 2:5)

With this innate knowledge of right and wrong, there can be no plausible deniability that we did wrong because we didn’t know better. Kids seem to have an uncanny sense of right and wrong. They are the first to call out unfair treatment.

In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, known as the Mormons, we believe that the Holy Ghost can speak to all of humanity. We also believe that in order to receive the opportunity for constant companionship of the Holy Ghost, we must be baptized and confirmed, Then we must stay obedient and worthy to keep this magnificent gift.

38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. (Acts 2:38)

– and –

32 And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him. (Acts 5:32)

Whew. When our Father in Heaven gave us the ability to choose, He first prepared us well. This is a stunning amount of knowledge –

  • We are headed back to live eternally with God
  • We are His children
  • We have commandments to help us return
  • We have a mentor in the Savior
  • We can have a personal guide in the Holy Ghost

Talk about an amazing support system. Any other thoughts? I am sure that you have many more ideas and examples of knowledge given and used in your own families. We would all love to hear about your experiences with knowledge, so please comment if you would like.

Before we move to the next piece of the puzzle – choice, we need to first see that it is not given in a vacuum. Knowledge is first given to help the choices go well.

About Jenny A

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