Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Thoughts on Parenting


Mama Denton of Sanatorium fame has an interesting blog hop going on today. Jen has asked for her readers' thoughts about the most important things parents need to teach their kids. She wants to hear everyone's ideas about which principles will lead children to become productive, independent, spiritual adults. I've decided to answer her question, but please understand that what I say here must be placed in the context of my personal paradigm and religious views. I realize that my answers are unique to my experience and products of my own belief system.

(Hope that clears the air. Parents are sensitive people with minds of their own, and a fellow traveler can never be too careful, especially when she might seem to be spouting unsolicited advice!)

Okay. As it happens, my children are productive, independent, spiritual adults, so I should know the answer to this question, right? Oddly, however, the older I get the more I realize that my teaching techniques and agendas didn't have as much to do with that outcome as I once imagined. These people I call my children are forces to be reckoned with in their own right, and I think they pretty much came that way. As parents, our main contribution was to love them thoroughly and to anchor them in a family of our making, one that offered the security they needed to grow into all of that magnificent potential they brought with them.

Speaking of magnificent potential, I guess the most important thing parents teach their children is where and from Whom that magnificent potential comes. The understanding that they are not simply our children but the children of a loving Heavenly Father is essential to their growth as spiritual beings, and we have a responsibility to share what we know with them. With that in mind, I have spoken many words for many years to my sons and daughter about what I think and believe, but I'm convinced that most of what they have learned from me (good and bad, by the way) has come from watching what I do. Parenting is no exception to the adage that example is the best teacher, and actions really do speak louder than words.

In a perfect parenting world (one which none of us will ever inhabit, by the way), we cultivate our children's independence by stepping back where feasible and allowing them to develop that trait. We encourage their productivity by being productive ourselves and inviting them to join us at an early age, while they are still enthusiastic about doing so. We resist doing too much for them, respecting their right to experience the thrill and empowerment of doing things for themselves. We don't always catch them when they fall or keep them from falling in the first place, for it is the act of getting up that instills confidence and self esteem. We expect them to do good things, and we consistently take the time to apply consequences (positive and negative) that help them nurture their inherent goodness and master their inherent worldliness.

Mostly, we cultivate a sense of family belonging and identity that makes them want to be part of everything we do and are. (Note to parents: This means making sure that most of what we do and are is worthy of emulation.)As they realize that they can count on us, come what may, a natural desire to return the favor is instilled. Act by act, example by example, unity is built...and unity is a powerful force in good parenting.

Of course, children are free to choose, and some will make choices that bring them (and their loved ones) untold days, months, and even years of grief. In the darkest days, mothers and fathers would do well to remember how deeply the seeds of a strong family can be planted in the heart and spirit, so deeply that they are never fully eradicated. If you build a good family, your potential for building good children is sky-high.

Here's what I believe: Being the kind of person you want your children to be is usually a self-fulfilling prophecy. Sooner or later, on your preferred timetable or one that makes you want to scream with impatience and frustration, the seeds you plant will almost certainly sprout and bear fruit. In this life or the next, a well-loved child is likely to become the person he or she was meant to be...a son or daughter of God who acts the part.

(In the meantime, and in all of my inadequacies, it's always been a comfort to me that He loves them even more than I do...and far more perfectly.)

=)

15 comments:

karen said...

Beautiful Sue! And I can see from how close your family is, and all they've accomplished (and are still accomplishing) that the lessons you've taught have been good and valuable.

Jocelyn Christensen said...

well-put! Try as I may (by yelling!) my words will never speak louder than my actions do to my children! :)

jen said...

Thanks, Sue. I think I was unsuccessful in voicing what I really felt this time. You did it perfectly.

Stef said...

Oh, Sue. This is profound and intimidating all at once. I guess as long as my kids see me trying and repenting and trying again. AS long as they can know...it's NEVER to late. EVER!!

Becky said...

Beautiful thoughts! And my children continually amaze me too. I am SO excited to see how their children turn out. Example really is the best teacher.

Caroline of Salsa Pie said...

Sue, of all the things I have read here, this is probably my favorite. And that is saying something. This is an important article for any mom out there to read.

Thank you for your wisdom. One of the reasons I have always been attracted to your blog is that you are the kind of person that I would like to be and so I can see how you have raised such fine children.

Karen said...

What a great post. You Rock!!

Brian Miller said...

i have had a devil of a time commenting on your site....

smiles. love this..i think the best thing we can do for our kids is love them, hold them accountable and pray for them...and guide them as we go...

Darlene said...

These are truly words of wisdom, Sue, and I totally agree with everything you have said. Our actions are so important, because little ones tend to want to be like Mommy and Daddy.

I know what a great influence my mom was to me and I have always tried to emulate her as much as I possibly could. She was a great woman who overcame a lot in her life and at the end became very comfortable with who she was. I know I can never be as strong a person as she was, but when the chips are down, I find that strenth comes from deep down inside of me and I can usually manage to overcome. Living can be such a struggle at times.

Just like us, our children have no real idea what life is all about until they get out on their own and sad it is if they haven't had the good parenting and hopefully the skills to face life head on. You have been a great Mom, Sue, and all of your children love and appreciate you and what you have taught them by setting such a good example for them.

Ⓙ @ $ € € ₦$ ₣®0₥... said...

That standing ovation you hear was started by me, Sue. I think young parents are afraid to accept the fact that a parent can do a great job...and that 'force to be reckoned with' could rob a bank or shoot someone or worse.

When I read the sentence about which parenting skills....the first thing I thought of was prayer.

Joy For Your Journey said...

Great advice. I think it is essential for a child to understand who he truly is (and where he comes from) before he can understand where he is going--and how he can get there. I love your comment about creating a sense of family as well. I was reading some books on parenting for a class I took several years ago and one of the things stressed there (non-religious author) was that children who can feel apart of something (as in family) and that they have a voice in that something are much less likely to get into trouble, and much more likely to have self esteem.

And I certainly understand the comfort that comes from knowing that God loves our children more than we do--and will always keep a watchful eye over those we love.

Thanks for your words of advice.

Grandma Honey said...

"...for it is the act of getting up that instills confidence and self esteem."

I didn't get this when I was a new parent. I thought the more good experiences and successes they have, the more self esteem they would have. It took me years to understand that self esteem comes from the 'getting up' after they fall.

Mormon Women: Who We Are said...

I'm so grateful for your perspective. I'm right at that point of parenting where I realize that there are things I simply can't go back and do better, and as they are growing up so fast, it's hard not to feel a sort of frenzied, panicked feeling of - am I doing enough?

But I *DO* think they know they are loved, and I do believe they know that God is real (and that we believe that), and so maybe that isn't such a bad anchor for them to enter the teen years with.

I just wish sometimes that parenthood wasn't so much about my own growth - I feel like they deserve to have someone raise them who has it all figured out! But then I remind myself that part of the plan is to be raised by imperfect parents.

I love reading about your family. Thanks.

Farmer's Wyfe said...

Thanks for your input. I REALLY needed it today. I'm tired and grumpy and can't seem to get ANYTHING done, except TRY to keep the baby from eating the sand in the sand box and enough water in the kids to keep them from dehydrating and I feel like I've gone round and round in circles and been TOTALLY unproductive, which is when I usually lose it and get grumpy and just want to run away for a nice LONG walk by myself. It's hard to teach kids the right way to react to pressure and lost expectations for a Saturday I thought was going to be productive when I am a bad example of it in it's most simplest form. Not sure why I let LITTLE things not getting done make me grumpy. But your advice here was perfect timing...perfect reminder...perfect moment to stop and BREATHE. Sorry I rambled. I hope you have the most SUPERB birthday with your family. You truly are a wonderful person and I'm sure you will be showered with love all around today!!! Happy Birthday, Sue!!! :) {HUGS}

Em said...

Beautiful.

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