Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Love (part 1)

My last point is also a long one so I have it split into two parts as well.  In my opinion, the most important of all the points is to make sure your children know you love them.

The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “Nothing is so much calculated to lead people to forsake sin as to take them by the hand, and watch over them with tenderness. When persons manifest the least kindness and love to me, O what power it has over my mind, while the opposite course has a tendency to harrow up all the harsh feelings and depress the human mind” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 240).gb

I cannot express enough the importance of this principle.  Your children should never wonder if you love them.  Express your love in words and actions.  Both are essential to building a relationship where your children will love and trust you and want to follow the teachings you lay before them.

I've seen this very principle work in my own home.  Eli has been a tough cookie for me to crack.  He has such fire in his spirit! Literally from the day he arrived on this earth I knew he had passion and fire in him and I was a bit dumbfounded about how to help him control it.  One day Mike gave me a blessing telling me to show more love to my children and I'd understand how to parent better the way the Lord parents and I'd see my boys in turn wanting to do all in their power to make me happy.

I think I was kind of hurt and confused, and a little embarrassed.  I thought I had been showing them love.  Was I not?  Did they not know I loved them?  Was I too harsh?  I spent a lot of time thinking about my responses to their behavior.

I remembered watching my sister-in-law discipline her son at a family reunion.  She took her son to a quiet corner, bent down to his level, and quietly (and that is the key word) talked to him about his behavior.  It was such an example to me of kind parenting.  What stood out to me about her behavior was that there was no intimidation in her behavior.  There was a quiet correction away from everyone else allowing him to be disciplined without the humiliation of having everyone aware and watching (I was watching but they didn't know that...).  To me, the way she treated him when he was misbehaving showed that she both love and respected her son.

With a lot of practice, I've slowly gotten better at showing this kind of love to my own children.  And what a change I've seen in Eli!  Two years ago we sat in Laila's room having a discussion about his behavior.  He was so angry, fists bawled up and a severe scowl on his face.  I told him that his behavior made Heavenly Father unhappy.  His response was, "I don't follow Heavenly Father.  I follow Satan."  And then flashed a triumphant grin--so slight and then back to his scowl.  I saw in his eyes a searching of my face to see if what he had said had hurt me.  He knew just where to attack!  I was shocked that such a little boy could say such big things.  And hurt, yes.  But amused also.  I tried to repress my laughter.  Where did he come up with these things?!  I don't remember what I actually said to him at the time.

But then, a year later, we were in the car and again, Eli was in trouble.  He said from his seat, "Mom, I'm so mad I feel like I want to punch you.  But I won't because I know it's wrong."  Amazing!  What a change.  I told him that was OK to feel that way and I was proud of him for not following through on his desire to punch me and for instead, listening to the spirit tell him that punching me would be wrong.

And now, just a few weeks ago at church, I went to feed the baby and when I came back I couldn't find him.  Isaac said he had been naughty and the girl helping me had to talk to him and he got mad and refused to go to class.  I went looking for him and found him coming down the hall with the Primary President, the familiar scowl on his face.  When he saw me the scowl immediately disappeared and the tears started to flow.  I could see the sorrow on his face because he knew I was disappointed in him.  We went quietly to a corner (look, now I'm acting more like my sister-in-law!  It only took five years...) and talked about why he had acted naughty and he just cried and cried and said he knew he had made a wrong choice.  Finally he was in control enough to go to class and after church he ran up to me and said, "Mom, today something happened that made me sad. We sang, Families Can Be Together Forever and then I started thinking about being with you and remembered that I have to go to Kindergarten soon and that I wouldn't be able to stay home with you and I felt so sad."

If only you could imagine how my heart feels when I hear those words.  We've both grown in love together.  I've learned to be softer and respond in a much more loving and understanding manner and Eli has learned to respond in kind.

I know that loving our children is essential in teaching them to follow the principles of the Gospel.  Eli knows that I don't follow Satan.  I follow Heavenly Father.  And he wants to do the same because he knows I love him and he loves me.

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