Sunday, April 13, 2014

Favorite parenting advice #1

I enjoy getting advice from others. I like it when strangers come up to me and give me advice. I always consider it and if nothing else I find it amusing. I will even ask strangers for advice if I feel they have may have something insightful I can gain. So I want to share with you some of the things I've learned (and am learning) and some of my favorite parenting "advice" (in no particular order).

Consistency is everything.

Our children our watching our every move. They listen. They observe. They internalize. They learn. They notice when we behave differently than we should or when we let something slide. As I have learned from observing other parents and families over the years, I have observed that consistency really is everything. When I analyze other parents and families that I find to be successful, happy families that are committed to the Gospel, I have discovered that they are consistent in those things that are of eternal importance. They do not waiver. They have made their decisions about how they live their lives, what media they will and will not be a part of, what influences they will allow in their home, what they will and will not do on the Sabbath, what they will wear, what words they will and will not say. Whether or not they will have Family Home Evening on Monday night is not a question. It has already been decided. Family and personal prayer and scripture study is not forgotten because it is not an option. They have "figured it out." They realize what matters most and what will really bring happiness. They realize that at the end of the days and weeks and months and years, what will matter is that they have bound their family together in the strength of something eternal that never fades.

My dad tells the story of when his family of seven children were on a camping trip with a few other families. It was the middle of the summer in the humidity and heat of Nebraska. It was well over 100 degrees and almost unbearable. All the children were miserable and begged their parents if they could swim in the lake. The parents collaborated and decided that, due to the heat, they would allow their children to swim. To my father and his six sibling's dismay, his parents did not waiver in the decision they had previously made that their family would not swim on the Sabbath day.

Years later my father remembers this occasion as having a great impact on him. As an impressionable child, he was taught a lesson he never forgot. It may seem like a small thing, but the small things are what define us. When we are consistent in the little things, the big things are easy.

I don't want to focus on the negative, but the families I have observed to sometimes make exceptions have struggled a lot more. Those who sometimes go to a concert on Sunday if it's someone they really like or sometimes watch a movie or television series that is questionable because ______ (insert rationalization here) or sometimes wear something that is immodest because they couldn't find anything else, etc. They have to make the decision about what they will do every time. It must be exhausting to not be able to stick to your guns because you don't know what they are. And surely exhausting for the children to not have that stability they can count on.

I want to be one of those consistent families. One of those families that people look at and just know. They just know we are believers. They know we are strong. They know how we will behave at all times and that we will be there at church on Sunday. They know we will gladly defend this Gospel and that we will never abandon our beliefs.