I hesitate to write this. It’s about parenting. Do I hide this from my children so they don’t laugh at just how much I need what I’m writing? Let’s try to learn together.
“Spare the rod, spoil the child”. No one wants a spoiled, entitled child. No one. Yet I cringe at the idea of a rod. Maybe it’s how I was raised, or because we’re exhausted, and it could stop behavior..most of the time. I’ve recently had a inspiration on what I shouldn’t spare with my children.
Early in the Book of Mormon there is a father trying to get his children to do some chores and having various rates of success. There was fighting and and back talking and whining. In one particular case the entire family was working together gathering seeds. We have no record of how that family work was going in this effort. We do have a record of what the dad was thinking about and pondering about…which led to a vision. The vision of the tree of life. He walks along a path towards a tree. As he walks along the path to the beautiful, fruitful, tree, he holds to a rod. This rod, Nephi later identifies, is the word of God.
My mind flashed back to the rod that should not be spared in parenting. Am I sparing that rod? What if I put aside that other rod, I’m not sure I have the wisdom to use, and focus on this rod? What if I focused on the word of God? How could I do this? As I pondered how I could more liberally apply the word of God in our home I had some thoughts:
1. Share what you know, even if it is little-
In teaching moments with my children, I don’t have the luxury to press pause and research. I need to have the scriptures already on my mind…instead of what I’m binge watching on netflix or the song of the week.
I hesitate to start here though. A few years back I gave a talk about a fabulous conference talk from Neil Anderson in 2010. The talk was about how we can share the stories of Jesus in our homes. I realized I didn’t know the stories of Jesus as much as I wanted. We immediately started reading the New Testament as a family. As we struggled along the first bits of the learning process, I remember a friend asked me if I was living up to my talk. I replied a solid no.
I have frequently thought back to that. I wish I’d been more gentle with myself. We had begun. We were talking about them, even if I wasn’t as familiar with them as I wanted to be. We are now almost through the New testament for the second time since that talk. I have read it another 2 times on my own. Yet, the more I read, the more I realize I don’t know.
The scriptures can be overwhelming, so even as I am trying to be more familiar with the stories of Jesus, I find hope in Nephi, “And I said unto him: I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.” Can you think of a single problem your children have that wouldn’t be eased a little by knowing that God loves them and we love them? Even when we just know that…sharing that is everything.
I keep reading. Read until you are overflowing, but, share what you know from the scriptures even if it is little.
2. Be the change not the consequence –
As I was considering what the scriptures could teach me about parenting, thought about the prodigal son. Sometimes as parents we feel the need to dole out consequences. The child has done something wrong and we need to make them feel it. Here’s the thing…they DO feel it. When you fall down, you don’t need someone to drop things on you so you better feel the consequences of gravity. When we are learning anything we fall a lot.
Perhaps this means we shouldn’t be trusted to carry some things, and perhaps roller blades aren’t the best option. We need space and time to grow, or to learn. In some cases, the natural consequence will be a lack of trust…which may involve less privileges. But it is not our job to dole out artificial consequences. We may need to get out of the way to allow them to feel the natural consequences and love them through those.
When we make a mistake…even a major one. We are already feeling badly. We don’t need other people to make sure we feel worse. Sometimes we can correct the mistake on our own. Sometimes we need more information. All of the time we need to be loved along the way.
We can be and inspire the change by providing love and teaching. Sometimes children and youth aren’t ready to be taught. Sometimes we have to protect them from themselves. But it is not our job to make them feel bad. Helping a person obey is different than making sure they feel badly when they don’t.
Think of the prodigal son. He had eaten with pigs. He had lost everything. He had lost all of those he thought were his friends. He had come back to beg from his own father. He felt the consequences of his experiences. His father did not stop him on the way in and ground him, or take away anything or create more consequences. He welcomed him back. It’s heartbreaking to let a child feel consequences. It’s so hard to keep your heart open. One minute at a time…try.
Be the change not the consequence.
3. Seek and recognize the blessings of the scriptures in your family.
What will happen if we use the scriptures more fully in our parenting? Will we have the peace of 4the Nephi when there were no divisions and fighting…no “ites”?
The first prophet I remember is President Benson. His love for the Book of Mormon inspired me. I still remember him quoting “Our beloved brother, President Marion G. Romney, who celebrated his eighty-ninth birthday last month and who knows of himself of the power that resides in this book, testified of the blessings that can come into the lives of those who will read and study the Book of Mormon. He said:
“I feel certain that if, in our homes, parents will read from the Book of Mormon prayerfully and regularly, both by themselves and with their children, the spirit of that great book will come to permeate our homes and all who dwell therein. The spirit of reverence will increase; mutual respect and consideration for each other will grow. The spirit of contention will depart. Parents will counsel their children in greater love and wisdom. Children will be more responsive and submissive to the counsel of their parents. Righteousness will increase. Faith, hope, and charity—the pure love of Christ—will abound in our homes and lives, bringing in their wake peace, joy, and happiness” (Ensign, May 1980, p. 67).”
I haven’t filled in all of the pieces. How do I get from family devotional which frequently involves wrestling, a fight over which verse which child reads, children who want to read 1 or all of the verses, and then some loud bored child or children…how do I get from there to the spirit of contention departing? I keep trying and hope. Truly God is a God of miracles. If the red sea was parted, Jesus walked on water, and the 5,000 were fed…surely some how this can happen. At least it is an ideal and a new perspective that I love. The word of God. That’s a rod I LOVE to not spare.
Britt grew up in a family of six brothers and one sister and gained a bonus sister later. She camped in the High Sierras, canoed down the Colorado, and played volleyball at Brigham Young University. She then served a mission to South Africa. With all of her time in the gym and the mountains and South Africa, she was totally prepared to become the mother of 2 sons and soon to be 9 daughters. By totally prepared she means willing to love them and muddle through everything else in a partially sleepless state. She is mostly successful at figuring out how to keep the baby clothed, or at least diapered, though her current toddler is challenging this skill. She feels children naturally love to learn and didn’t want to disrupt childhood curiosity with worksheets and school bells. She loves to play in the dirt, read books, go on adventures, watch her children discover new things, and mentor her children. Her oldest child is currently at a community college and her oldest son is going to high school at a public school. She loves to follow her children in their unique paths and interests. She loves to write because, unlike the laundry and the dishes, writing stays done. Whenever someone asks her how she does it all she wonders what in the world they think she’s doing.