How to parent

No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;

By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—

Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy.

Doctrine and Covenants 121:41-43

Lately, I have thought of this scripture as the ultimate guide to parenting. I’ve read parenting books that have much more complicated guidelines and suggestions. Those books have been helpful, yet they have sort of missed something that I feel this scripture captures perfectly.

Parenting isn’t complicated in principle, though it can seem extremely complicated in practice. I can’t control my children. I will never, ever be able to control my children. And this scripture tells me to give up control and go at it a different way.

Persuasion. Pure knowledge. I shouldn’t physically force my kids to do things. I shouldn’t command without another thought. I should persuade, explain things to my kids, give them reasons. I should help them make their own decisions. I need to teach them truth more than anything.

Gentleness. Meekness. Kindness. There really aren’t a lot of reasons to raise your voice and yell. A soft, kind word does a lot more than a loud, scary word. The other day, I was sort of frustrated with my daughter, and frankly hadn’t been a very good parent. My daughter was getting increasingly frustrated. But I took a step back and we went into my room together and we just talked, softly and gently with each other. The day after, when she was having a bit of a hard time, she asked, “Can we go in your room and talk again?”

Long-suffering. I think of this as patience. My kids do the same things wrong over and over again, even when they know better. But I can have patience! I can listen. I can keep trying with and never, ever give up on them. They’ll get it, even if it takes a long time.

Without hypocrisy or guile. My kids copy what I do. No matter what I tell my kids, they learn a lot more from what I do. I cringe when I see my own weaknesses, my own lack of self-control, sometimes reflected in my children. But they pick up on the good things too, and they know when I practice what I preach.

Reproving betimes with sharpness. I never have to accept bad behavior. Often, a child needs to know that what they did was wrong. They need someone to say no to them. They need limitations and rules, because those limitations and rules will keep them safe and actually give them more freedom in the long run.

Love unfeigned. Increase of love. Love is the most important. Sometimes when I tell my children they are doing something wrong, they fall apart on me. They don’t usually mean to do it wrong; they are just doing what they want. But even though I should correct bad behavior, afterwards I believe in lots of hugs, kind words, and forgiveness. A child should always be loved, and should always feel that they are loved, not matter what.

I am always striving to be a better parent, to treat my kids how they deserve to be treated. I still have a lot of work to do, but these simple words help me keep in mind the mother that I want to be.

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