Some years ago I was out at our mailbox when my neighbor and friend came to see what was in his box. We struck up a conversation and it turned to family. He asked me for some advice on families and the raising of children. It was a general question and I always think that behind a general question lies a more specific question, so I just answered him in generalities, hoping to get to the real point. He finally came to it. He wanted some specific answers on why (in his perception) my children had turned out so well.
I think they have turned out well but I’ll leave that judgement to others. My wife and I have eight children, seven living. We saw our second daughter die at 4 months old, so we have raised seven. All are now adults and are fully functioning people in society and are happy. My neighbor has a smaller and younger family. His desire was that he would like his children to turn out like ours, if possible, and wanted to know what he should do.
“You’ve got to have a plan. These kids don’t raise themselves, although many of them think they can and far too many parents leave them alone to do just that. No, you have to plan to be an intentional parent. You have to be a parent with a purpose.”
It really is a two-part plan that you need. I think every parent of a newborn looks at their infant and feels like they have a plan: “I will love them and provide for them and guide them and all will be well.” That is a good start, but just as the old military maxim “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy” is true, so initial plans of parents rarely survive contact with a cranky, screaming 2 year old or a 12 year old with a defiant attitude or a teenager determined to make every wrong choice possible. In those 3 cases the kids are bare likeable, let alone loveable. Surface plans are a beginning, but they have to be supported by a deeper more fundamental strategy.
“What’s yours?” he asked.
“Ours is and has been to raise our children in the light of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.”
He was curious and invited me to expound. I told him that the gospel provided the principles, the teachings, and the context that was applicable in all situations and at all times. For example, I paraphrased to him from the 13th chapter of the book of Proverbs, the passage that essentially says if you spare the rod, then you are not loving your children. But the rod is not a stick for beating your children. It is, as prophets in the Book of Mormon have taught, the “word of God” which is found in scripture. So we as a family studied scriptures on as regular a basis as we could work out. We prayed as a family to thank God and petition His blessings on us. We worshipped together in church and associated with good people who strengthen us. We tried to have good, wholesome family activities which were sometimes work (not always appreciated by everyone) and sometimes play. We supported one another.
“But what did you do when things went wrong?”
They often did, and still on occasion do but there is more help available. Another Book of Mormon prophet had a son that went seriously astray. His response? Assume that he needed re-teaching. Assume that this is a child of God who has failed to understand. So he was re-taught and as a result he self-corrected. Now that doesn’t work all the time, and it doesn’t always work quickly, but it is a starting place, a part of an overall plan. I have had to teach and re-teach my children many times which initially was frustrating until I remembered how many times I have had to be taught and retaught. We are all susceptible to it.
We carried on our conversation for a bit longer. He was most grateful for the help. I have been most grateful for the constant help I have received in raising my family and the source of it has been the restored gospel as found in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.