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 ;-)


  1. Thank you, thank you! This is just what I needed to hear (read) right now. I have had so many situations where I am asking myself what in the world I'm supposed to do (like when two are fighting - I send them to a room together to work it out, and only one makes an effort) and your idea of asking "how can I invite the Holy Ghost" feels like such a good answer. I like that in each different situation, the answer might be different - so many times I feel like I am failing if I am not consistent, and yet I can't find one way that works every time.

  2. Have you read "Through His Eyes" by Virginia Pearce? I've been recommending that one to everyone, it's a short read but sooo great. I'm going to put this one on my list, thank you!

  3. Hi Karen, I wanted you to know that I was thinking of you even though I don't get on the internet hardly at all any more. Soon I will be back on line and then we can be "friends" again and "talk" all of the time! : ) I can't wait to catch up on all your great posts. I love reading them.

    Love, Deanna : )

    P.S. I loved Elder Bednar's book also.