Monday, December 30, 2013

A Recipe For Good Parenting...

...is going to look familiar to those who read the Doctrine and Covenants (A book of scripture from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints). For those who haven't read it; the section, or chapter, that I'm going to talk about really is a nice little reminder of how to succeed as a parent. Also, this stuff doesn't come from me, I wish I was this wise!

In the book of Doctrine and Covenants there is a section that is well known in its application to missionary work. That is: the work of sharing the knowledge that there is a God and that He is loving, caring and has a plan for His children. To learn more about that message here's a great link: http://www.lds.org

This post is about what that particular section says (Doctrine and Covenants Section 4). I'll provide a complete copy of the section at the end of the post. On here, I'll break it down by verse to show that this does not only apply to missionary work but also to parenting.

While serving a full-time mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints I memorized this section and listened to its guidance to apply everything I have to finding people who were looking for God and desired to learn more about Him.

Though I am still ready and willing to speak to anyone looking to have an uplifting conversation about God's love, I now spend most of my time in a different environment. I work with at-risk youth, mostly girls, who struggle with drug abuse, the effects of sexual abuse, honesty, trust, perspective and a nearly endless list of other hardships. I work at a lock down facility and only see them within the walls of the facility, only in the clothing we give them and only as I am monitoring their every move. I've caught myself thinking "If only I was your therapist. We could work on things AND you would have a chance to apply it in your normal life, then come back and we could track your goals." I then found myself thinking "No, that wouldn't be enough, I wish I was there more, to actually see the application happen, like maybe a tracker caseworker or something" then I realized that that wouldn't be enough, I would want to be available at all times for the youth, see them in their difficult times and have my life organized to be available when I was needed.

I realized that I wanted to be their mom.

There are a few commonalities among the youth I work with and while it doesn't apply to every one of them, poor parenting (which doesn't have to be intentional; it can mean negligent parenting, ignorant parenting, lazy parenting) is a frequent factor in the path the youth have taken. Anything from abuse (emotional, physical, etc.), not following through on consequences given for inappropriate actions, actually supplying the material of weakness (drugs), etc. There are a lot of ways to set your child up for failure. Now I want to talk about what kind of parent it takes to set them up for success.

Doctrine and Covenants Section 4 is divided up into 7 verses. Verse 1 says:

 Now behold, a amarvelous work is about to come forth among the children of men.

What more marvelous work is there than to raise children? Nothing is more fascinating, challenging and impactful. From watching my sister and her husband raise my niece I am often marveled by what it takes and how huge an influence a parent has on a child. That girl will repeat ANYTHING she hears! Problem solving and parent conflict style are often passed down and become part of the identity of the child (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com.erl.lib.byu.edu/doi/10.1111/j.1475-6811.2012.01420.x/full) Every time another child is born another marvelous work begins and a new identity begins to build. 

 Therefore, O ye that embark in the aservice of God, see that yebserve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand cblameless before God at the last day.

If you have a child, planned or otherwise, and you plan to keep and raise that child, the lesson is quickly learned that the job is one that takes all of your heart, might, mind and strength. It is no easy task to raise a child. Knowing this, it is heart breaking to see parents who can't or aren't willing to give everything to their family. This does not mean to ignore yourself and your needs, but when deciding between sending your child to school or sending them to pick up your next fix, the priority needs to be clear. I particularly like the last part of this verse where it talks about standing blameless before God. This is also mentioned in another document released by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints called The Family: A Proclamation to the World (http://www.lds.org/topics/family-proclamation). I believe that we will one day stand before God and be held accountable for the caliber of parent we were. By setting your children up for success you allow yourself to stand blameless before God at the last day. 

Therefore, if ye have desires to serve God ye are acalled to the work;
 For behold the afield is white already to bharvest; and lo, he that thrusteth in his sickle with his might, the same layeth up in cstore that he perisheth not, but bringeth salvation to his soul;

If you desire to be a mother or father then you are called to do so, which is a nice thought. This, of course, may not mean with your own children, but addresses the influence you can have on the young people around you. They are FULL of potential and if you thrust in your sickle you will reap something spectacular. Spend time with them, encourage them, give them support to fall back on! By working to build the youth we build a better future, we are putting money in the bank and laying up in store, investing in salvation. 
And afaithbhopeccharity and dlove, with an eeye single to the fglory of God, gqualify him for the work.
 Remember faith, avirtue, knowledge, btemperancecpatience,dbrotherly ekindnessfgodliness, charity, ghumilityhdiligence.

It's hard to imagine ever being qualified to be a parent but it was also hard to imagine being qualified to be a missionary. You CANNOT be an effective parent without a belief that you will succeed. A lack of faith in your effectiveness as a parent leads to giving up and can lead to apathy. THAT can lead to a child not receiving the guidance and direction that they need, which leads to higher levels of distress (http://www.sciencedirect.com.erl.lib.byu.edu/science/article/pii/S0890856709607863). Truly believing that your child will succeed will inspire the desire for you to sacrifice for their potential, which is exactly what God's glory is: seeing His children succeed. Keep your eye on the ball! 
Verse 6 is a list of characteristics to focus on that will, in general, lead to you being a better person. I could spend pages breaking thee down and talking about how important these are but I know I'm already rambling. So I'll just talk about my favorites- knowledge and humility. 
Knowledge- If you do not educate yourself then you will be filled with fear when your child approaches you with something. If you have not thought about and learned about life, the way that it really is, then you will be useless or even damaging to your child. When your child comes to you because they need help with their math homework, you help them by gaining knowledge to solve their math problem. When your child comes to you because they are depressed, involved in drugs, addicted to pornography, you cannot answer with fear. You must become informed so that your natural reaction when your child comes to you with something hard- you answer that you love them, they don't need to be afraid, they are no less of a good person and that you and God still love them more than they can imagine. If you want to give your child power to overcome hardship you have to have power first- and knowledge is power!
Humility- Humility in parenting means realizing that you are not always right. A parents quickest weapon is to say "Go to your room!" and when asked "Why?!" the answer tends to be "Because I said so and I'm the parent." I'm not saying that this is always a horrible answer- you are the parent and you do have the authority. But the amount of humility it takes to stop and explain why you are upset and use this as a learning experience is invaluable. Every situation is different and should be handled differently, but I do believe that there are far more opportunities to teach than we realize. Humility also means knowing that even a perfect parent is not guaranteed to produce a perfect child. When a child begins to make poor decisions it is very easy to take the credit for those decisions. While parents have a HUGE influence on their children, they are not the only influence and should not take hardship as a sure sign of their failure as a parent. Give your heart, might, mind, and strength and know that perfection is not expected. Hardship comes so that we can learn and grow! It is not the sign of failure! Your sincere efforts to improve are what make you an amazing parent! You are doing great!
 aAsk, and ye shall receive; bknock, and it shall be opened unto you. Amen.

I hope that this verse gives hope to all parents. If you have questions- ask them. This is also related to my thoughts on knowledge. You can always ask, learn and grow. This does not always mean that when you ask what to do you will wake up to a manual about how to raise your child but when you ask, you learn, you grow and all sorts of doors are opened to you so that you and your family can learn and grow together.
I wanted to write this post because there are so many parents out there who feel like they have no guidance, they are guessing as they go. I love finding ways that God has tried to alleviate these stresses. The family is SO important to God and would never leave us without resources. He's given us a formula for success. And at the end of the day, the biggest lesson to learn is that God loves us SO dearly, He wants us to succeed. He wants us to become like Him and that means learning how to enjoy the journey of life, and learning from our hardships so that we can be loving, well-rounded and wise. Much like Him! Go love your kids!!!
Doctrine and Covenants Section 4

 1 Now behold, a amarvelous work is about to come forth among the children of men.
 2 Therefore, O ye that embark in the aservice of God, see that yebserve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand cblameless before God at the last day.
 3 Therefore, if ye have desires to serve God ye are acalled to the work;
 4 For behold the afield is white already to bharvest; and lo, he that thrusteth in his sickle with his might, the same layeth up in cstorethat he perisheth not, but bringeth salvation to his soul;
 5 And afaithbhopeccharity and dlove, with an eeye single to thefglory of God, gqualify him for the work.
 6 Remember faith, avirtue, knowledge, btemperancecpatience,dbrotherly ekindnessfgodliness, charity, ghumilityhdiligence.
 aAsk, and ye shall receive; bknock, and it shall be opened unto you. Amen.