Every weekday, our youngest daughter does a packet of math problems. She notes the time she begins and the time she ends her work on each packet. Once a week, she meets with a tutor to review her progress.
When she first began this program, the tutor reviewed each packet, noted the time it took her to complete the work at the top of the packet, then wrote a box around this time. Eventually, I did this step myself, to save the tutor time. The last few days, I’ve noticed that my daughter has begun to do this herself, adding the same box — not a circle or a star — surrounding the time taken!
As I went about my errands this morning, this small act of “monkey see, monkey do” wouldn’t leave my mind. Through no prompting, my youngest daughter simply saw what I’ve done over time and copied my actions. Just as I copied the actions of her tutor, even copying the boxing of the time!
We influence those around us, even without intending to
The tutor had no idea his style of boxing in the time would be copied. He did not think to himself, “Ah-Ha! If I do it like THIS, it will influence them! They will be followers of MY design!”
Just as my snazzily-dressed sister doesn’t get herself ready every day thinking about how I’m going to look for a similar style of shirt after seeing how flattering it is on her. She is getting herself ready for her day, giving little to no thought about me at all!
People around me constantly influence me. Mention Chick-fil-A? I’m probably going to be there within the week for some yummy waffle fries! Mention a great book you’ve read? I will add it to my “Books-to-Read” list. (If you don’t have such a list, may I suggest that you start one? Invaluable!)
Because I am so easily influenced, consciously and unconsciously, I try to surround myself with literature, music, social media, and people who bring out the best in me.
In April 2016 General Conference, Bishop W. Christopher Waddell said:
The peace we all seek requires more than a desire. It requires us to act—by learning of Him, by listening to His words, and by walking with Him. We may not have the ability to control all that happens around us, but we can control how we apply the pattern for peace that the Lord has provided—a pattern that makes it easy to think often about Jesus.
Yesterday morning, this inability to control all that happens around us was very evident in our home. My youngest two daughters bickered nonstop! I sat at the computer, trying to communicate with my missionary son but their fighting in the background was impossible to ignore. In desperation, I told my son what was going on and asked for his advice.
His advice was to make them missionary companions—they needed to pray, study scriptures, and serve together. Laughingly, I agreed to follow his counsel.
I called together all three of my daughters for a family meeting. (We do these often, so they knew to come straightway to the kitchen table.) The youngest child alternated between glaring at her offending sister and pathetically looking at me for sympathy. Meanwhile, the middle daughter threw herself angrily into her chair, while glaring at everyone present.
I explained that we were going to pattern our home after the life their big brother is living. Every day we would wake up extra early to pray together and study scriptures in companionships. Since my companion (the oldest, non-offender daughter) was in seminary, I would study privately. However, the youngest two were companions and would need to start their day by praying together, then reading scriptures together. Just like their big brother, we were going to do our best to be patient and serve our companions, even when it was difficult.
Immediately, requests for transfers occurred. “I can’t be her companion! She annoys me to death!” “I can’t be with her, she’s always mean to me!”
Suddenly, I feel empathy for my son’s sainted mission president who probably deals with this kind of complaining every transfer!
We separated into different rooms for our prayers and scripture study. The fighting continues: “I want to pray in my room.” “No way, your room is a mess! We’re praying in my room.” “Your room is a bigger mess than my room. Mooo-ooom!”
My middle daughter comes to me in tears. “Mom, this won’t work. She is too annoying!” I give her a hug and tell her to look for ways to serve her sister. Glaring at me through her tears, she stomps away.
My companion and I start our scripture study. The next half hour in our home begins with punctuated yells from upstairs, “You’re supposed to read all of it, you’re older!” “No, we both read! I’m already reading 22 verses, you only have to read 19!”
Then, “You’re reading too slowly! We’re going to be here forever!” “You keep interrupting me and I didn’t want to read at all!”
The Power of Good Example
They finished reading a full twenty minutes after our companionship finished—even still, there was a better feeling in our home! This is definitely a parenting pattern I will use again. Barbed comments still flew throughout the day between the youngest two. By dinnertime, the middle daughter made a complete turnaround with helpful acts of service throughout the day. However, the youngest lay face-down on the carpet, moaning about how hard it is to have everyone boss you around. Perhaps this is a half-win following the missionary pattern?
This morning, I woke my middle daughter up half an hour earlier than usual and let her know, as senior companion, she needed to wake up her sister and lead out in prayers and scripture study. I went downstairs to study my own scriptures and waited for the yelling to begin.
“Time to wake up for companionship scripture study. Do you want to pray in here?”
“I’m so tired, I didn’t sleep all night!”
“I know you’re tired, but if you get up, you can hold the cat during scripture study and I’ll read the whole chapter out loud, okay?”
Within a few minutes, I saw my two daughters wrapped in blankets, sitting together at the kitchen table, reading scriptures together. What a difference from the angry fighting of the morning before! What a beautiful, sacred moment for our day to begin with! We are good about starting the day with family prayer and our days end with family scripture study and family prayer; however, this missionary pattern of companionship prayer and scripture study may become a new addition to our family’s pattern of righteous living!
Growing up all over the world gave Emlee Taylor an opportunity to see the incredible differences the Lord created in humanity; and even better, the passions we all share as members of the human race: love for family, faith, & a desire to make a difference. Emlee lives life with passion—focusing her time now on raising four children and teaching them to recognize truth and to live true to that truth, regardless of others’ expectations. Emlee is passionately in love with her bestest friend and husband of more than 20 years.