I never talked baby talk to my children. From the moment they were born, I talked to them as if I was speaking to an adult. I didn’t want to get in the habit of treating them as if they couldn’t understand. My experience had been that some adults didn’t give children enough credit for what they were capable of accomplishing. I didn’t want to underestimate my children. I believe that children are capable of so much more than we realize.
We must begin teaching our children from the day they are born how to survive in a world where they will constantly be surrounded by those who call good evil and evil good. They must be taught to recognize the promptings of the Holy Ghost. They will need the direction and comfort that the Spirit provides. Every child—no matter how young—has the capability of understanding what we teach through the Spirit.
Our children don spiritual armor as they establish patterns of personal daily discipleship. Perhaps we underestimate the abilities of children to grasp the concept of daily discipleship. President Henry B. Eyring counseled us to “start early and be steady” (Citing Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor, First Presidency, “Spiritual Preparedness: Start Early and Be Steady,” Oct. 2005 General Conference). So a third key to helping children become sin-resistant is to begin at very early ages to lovingly infuse them with basic gospel doctrines and principles—from the scriptures, the Articles of Faith, the For the Strength of Youth booklet, Primary songs, hymns, and our own personal testimonies—that will lead children to the Savior.
Creating consistent habits of prayer, scripture study, family home evening, and Sabbath worship leads to wholeness, internal consistency, and strong moral values—in other words, spiritual integrity (Joy D. Jones, Primary General President, “A Sin-Resistant Generation,” Apr. 2017 General Conference).
I have seen some parents wait until their children are teenagers to begin to teach them many important things because they don’t think small children are ready or capable of comprehending complex topics. I submit that children understand much more than we think. Don’t confuse a child’s lack of vocabulary to converse with her/his ability to comprehend. For instance, many people are capable of understanding foreign languages long before they are capable of speaking those languages. Satan’s tactics don’t allow us the luxury of waiting until our children are teenagers to arm them with spiritual power.
We all love our children, so we tend to want to keep them tiny forever, but that’s not the way it is supposed to happen. From the day they are born, they are learning and growing. It is our job as parents to prepare them to be responsible adults. We can’t do that if we are in denial. We are doing our children a disservice if we don’t prepare them for the world they will have to negotiate.
Children don’t suddenly leave us when they go off to college, or to begin their adult life in some other way. The truth is, they leave us one day at a time from birth. They teach us as much as we teach them. I remember many conversations with toddlers that made me come away feeling they had taught me more than I taught them.
Children notice everything we do, and they hear everything we say (even when they appear not to be listening). What example are we setting? I remember watching my parents and grandparents and wanting to be just like them. I didn’t want to do anything that would disappoint them in any way. They were my guide to responsible adulthood. I tried to please them and make them proud. I hope I’m the kind of person that my children and grandchildren can look up to and try to emulate.
[P]owerful teaching is extremely important to preserve the gospel in our families, and it requires diligence and effort. … It is not enough just to talk to our children about the importance of temple marriage, fasting, and keeping the Sabbath day holy. They must see us making room in our schedules to attend the temple as frequently as we can. They need to see our commitment to fasting regularly and keeping the entire Sabbath day holy.
If our youth cannot fast two meals, cannot study the scriptures regularly, and cannot turn off the TV during a big game on Sunday, will they have the spiritual self-discipline to resist the powerful temptations of today’s challenging world, including the temptation of pornography? … As families, we need to avoid any tradition that will prevent us from keeping the Sabbath day holy or having daily scripture study and prayer at home (Elder Valeri V. Cordón, Of the Seventy, “The Language of the Gospel,” Apr. 2017 General Conference, citation omitted).
It is so important to teach our children the gospel. It is imperative that we model good behavior and discipleship. We must never underestimate a child’s ability to understand and emulate. Don’t miss teaching opportunities because you think they are too young to understand. Our children and grandchildren deserve our best effort to teach them good from evil. They need role models in us that they can’t find in the world. Our children deserve our best efforts at discipleship. Don’t lose them by underestimating them.
Tudie Rose is a mother of four and grandmother of ten in Sacramento, California. You can find her on Twitter as @TudieRose. She blogs as Tudie Rose at http://potrackrose.wordpress.com. She has written articles for Familius. You will find a Tudie Rose essay in Lessons from My Parents, Michele Robbins, Familius 2013, at http://www.familius.com/lessons-from-my-parents.