Friday, January 27, 2012

What do I do now?

I've been reading an excellent book called Increase in Learning by Elder David Bednar.  It's incredibly insightful, it's one of those books that I want to recommend to everyone I know.  If you want a glimpse into what he has to say, I highly recommend this article:

Understanding is the Well-Spring of Life

Anyway, one of the points he made in his book (and in the article) is that we are not admonished to "teach our children", we are admonished to "teach our children to understand", then the Holy Ghost can be the teacher (who does a much better job than we do):
"I believe, brothers and sisters, that these verses in section 68 are a powerful admonition for parents to create a home wherein the Spirit of the Lord can reside. Within a Christ-centered home, love, trust, and confidence invite the presence of the Holy Ghost. In such a home the Holy Ghost can teach children to understand. Ultimately, it is not parents who do the teaching. Certainly, parents must diligently and effectively explain basic gospel doctrines, teach true principles, and share sacred experiences. But who truly does the teaching and certifies the truthfulness of what we come to know? The Holy Ghost, the third member of the Godhead. He is the Comforter who knows all things. He is thereby able to search the minds and hearts of all of us and then tailor a blessing to us, according to our individual needs and circumstances. And it is teaching and certifying by the Spirit that produces understanding. Parents in Zion have the responsibility to establish and maintain that type of Christ-centered and spirit-filled home."
So my job is to create a home where the Spirit can teach.  I've been thinking about this in regards to how I discipline my children.  We all have certain rules in our homes and certain systems to make sure that that those rules are followed.  For example, one of my "systems" is to put two children in time-out if they are being contentious with one another and then have them try again.  It works well for the most part because it teaches them that it takes two people to create contention in the home, but what if one child has changed his heart and is trying to be good but is still in time-out because their sibling does not want to forgive?  It may be good to let them both stay in there to teach the changed one that there are consequences to our actions even when we have repented.  Maybe it would be better to take the unforgiving one aside quietly and ask him some introspective questions to help him find his motive? There are other possibilities as well...

Another example is the "10 item pick up".  I use this as a tool to get children to do their jobs well and avoid having to practice cleaning even more.  If they don't do a job well, they get to practice cleaning by cleaning more.  What if a child is struggling with emotional issues that day and giving them more work will just add to their load?  What if they really just need to feel loved and heard for a while instead of disciplined? But what if they actually need the discipline to learn that it is important to contribute and work regardless of our personal emotional state?  It can be hard to discern...

Here is what I've realized lately - the question I should ask myself when facing these situations with my children is not "What does this child need to learn?" or "What lesson should I teach right now?"  It's not "Who is right?" or "How can I stop this behavior" or "What consequence will teach the right behavior?"  The real question to ask at those times ought to be, "How can I invite the Holy Ghost?"

As I've tried this, I have found that sometimes the answer is to give a gentle answer to a stubborn demand, sometimes it's to ask a child to go to a quiet place until they feel more peaceful and ready to deal with others (not phrasing it as a consequence, but as a need that they have). Sometimes the answer's been to turn on some peaceful music, or to ask a child a question to help them figure out their motives.  The answer has even been to give the belligerent child a hug (isn't that an interesting "consequence" for bad behavior?)  As my motive has become to let the Holy Ghost do the teaching, I have found more answers to those perplexing moments.

Of course that means that I need to be in tune myself and therein lies the challenge ;-)

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Kindness (a look at our devotional)

I studied the word "kindness" today so we'll be talking about that during devotional.  I'll have the kids look up a couple of scriptures and the definition and then tell me in their own words what those teach them about kindness.  I'll have them read a couple of quotes from a talk or two, we'll look at a picture or video that represents the word and then I'll ask them to give me their definition of kindness.  Afterwards, I'll tell them mine.

That is how I've been doing our devotionals lately.  I've been learning so much and I think the kids have too.  It helps to do my scripture study in the morning knowing that I'll be teaching about it later.  Then I learn so much as I teach and let the children teach me.  I've really enjoyed it.

Here is our lesson on kindness today:
Children will look up:
-Kindness in the 1828 dictionary
-Jude 11:22 (One reason for kindness)
-John 13:35

Talk I'm having them read quotes from:
The Virtue of Kindness

"Kindness is the essence of greatness and the fundamental characteristic of the noblest men and women I have known.  It softens hearts and molds relationships that can last lifetimes. Kind words not only lift our spirits in the moment they are given, but they can linger with us over the years."

"Kindness is the essence of a celestial life. Kindness is how a Christlike person treats others. Kindness should permeate all of our words and actions at work, at school, at church, and especially in our homes."

"The things you say, the tone of your voice, the anger or calm of your words—these things are noticed by your children and by others. They see and learn both the kind and the unkind things we say or do. Nothing exposes our true selves more than how we treat one another in the home."

"One way you can measure your value in the kingdom of God is to ask, “How well am I doing in helping others reach their potential? Do I support others in the Church, or do I criticize them?”
If you are criticizing others, you are weakening the Church. If you are building others, you are building the kingdom of God. As Heavenly Father is kind, we also should be kind to others."
“But,” you ask, “what if people are rude?”
Love them.
“If they are obnoxious?”
Love them.
“But what if they offend? Surely I must do something then?”
Love them.
The answer is the same. Be kind. Love them.
Why? In the scriptures Jude taught, “And of some have compassion, making a difference.”

My definition of kindness: The outward expression of the charity in our hearts

Friday, January 6, 2012

High Expectations with Unfeigned Love

I ran across this great article today:
What do the scriptures and latter-day prophets teach about disciplining our children?
He mentions high and firm expectations along with unfeigned love.
If our hearts are not right toward our children, we may find ourselves exercising firmness without love or trying to be loving without being firm. For example, our “loving” firmness may become punitive and cruel rather than helpful. As a result, we may convey to our children a message of low expectations: “You won’t do the right thing unless I get after you all the time.” In this case we are giving our children harshness, not firmness.
Similarly, if we are overly permissive, our “loving” indulgence may also convey an unloving message: “If I don’t pamper you, you won’t do what’s right on your own.” What we end up giving our children in this case is indulgence, not love"
I found it interesting that constantly getting after our children for not living up to our high expectations is a form of showing low expectations - we don't believe they will live up to our expectations without our constant reminders.  It reminded me of a previous post I wrote about Keri Tibbet's parenting article.  It seems we should teach often, then give consequences when appropriate.

When I notice a wrong behavior, I need to ask myself, "What doctrine does my child not understand that he would act this way?" (See Elder Bednar's Increase in Learning).  Then I need to teach that doctrine often - not after they have misbehaved, but throughout the day.  Then when they get a consequence for a misbehavior, they will understand.

I'll give it more of an effort today.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Parenting Advice

Someone asked me a parenting question the other day and I told her some of the "methods" I use and recommended some parenting books.  As I drove home after that discussion, I realized I didn't really tell her really what I have learned, so I wrote her an e-mail.  I'm going to paste it here for anyone else that might be struggling with a parenting question:
" I got thinking about it on the way home though, I realized that I didn't say what has really been opening my eyes lately about how to parent.  I think the resources I mentioned are good [ and the headgates parenting article] and they might give you some ideas, but if you really want to know the thing that I have found to be most helpful, I would say studying leadership - especially in the scriptures.  As I have done this, my mind has been receptive to the Holy Ghost to guide me and teach me how to teach His children in a very personalized manner.  Ideas will flow into my mind about how to handle specific situations and I've received personalized plans for my particular children. 

Here's an example of what I've been studying lately-
I've been working on teaching the children "charity" so I study talks and scriptures about it, write insights in my journal and then teach them something I've learned during our morning devotional. 
Anyway, I learned that the only way to lead effectively and righteously is with charity.  I was lead to the scripture in D&C 121 about how "no power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood (authority) only by persuasion, long-suffering..." etc.  I wanted to be this kind of leader in my home (leader as in leading souls to Christ) so I began to study each of the words. 
I started with persuasion.  I looked it up in my handy 1828 dictionary, looked up some of the scriptures about it in the topical guide, read some talks about it. I learned about reasoning and inclining people's minds without force.  We talked discussed it as a family.  The kids better learned how to lead each other to Christ by persuasion and I learned from their comments and insights.  Through the process I gained so many personalized insights about how to parent my particular children at this time in their lives.  The Holy Ghost gave me customized ideas.

Next I studied "long-suffering" and THAT was amazing, the truth that poured out from Heaven as I asked and searched for it was incredible.  Heavenly Father really does want to help us if we are willing to seek Him and His word. 

Anyway, that is what I am finding the MOST helpful as I try to parent.  Truth flows into my mind and sometimes things that I would have never thought of come to my mind at certain moments based on some truth I've learned and I know what to do right when I need it. 

I just wanted to make sure I gave you the best advice I knew instead of the more superficial 'method' type stuff I mentioned last night. "
That is what I wrote to my friend, but I'd imagine that the same thing would happen regardless of what you chose to study in the scriptures.  It doesn't necessarily have to be "leadership" although it's a good one.  The scriptures are so full of truth that they open your mind to more truth.  I think if we pick any attribute that we want to develop, we will be led to more and our eyes will be opened.  I guess what I'm basically saying is that the scriptures really are the best parenting manual that there is - not just because of the words or principles in them, but because of the truth that is in them.  They connect us to the source of all truth.  I love my scriptures more and more each day.

I've been thinking about writing on this blog short little excerpts of insights I have gained.  I don't know because my insights will probably not mean much to those who haven't taken the time to study something of what I am talking about, but I know many who read this blog are studying and learning about these things often and I do find that as I share insights I understand them better.  I also gain a lot from comments people make about what they have learned about a particular principle. 

So maybe I'll give it a shot.  It won't by any means be a complete list of insights I've gained in my studying - I don't have time for that, but probably just short "a-has" that help me.   We'll see how it goes.