Friday, July 05, 2013

Teaching Gospel Principles to Your Children: Love (part 2)

This is my last post about teaching gospel principles to your children.  And actually, it's not about teaching them at all--it's about how to respond to them after you've taught them and find them using their agency in a manner that is contrary to the things you've taught them.

In my last post I mentioned Eli and how I believe that part of his change in behavior has to do with my own change in learning how to be a more loving parent.  I acknowledge that some people might read that post and say to themselves, "Right.  Wait until you have a teenager."  And I'd agree that the naughty choices my children make right now are just that--naughty choices.  Will is 8.  Isaac turns 7 this month and Eli is 5.  The choices they make now probably won't have life-threatening or life-altering consequences. But within a few years they will make choices that  very well could have much more serious consequences.  

And I want to be prepared, not caught in the moment without ever considering how I should respond and therefore, reacting in a way that I don't want to respond.  So when I consider how I hope to respond, there are three examples I hope to follow.  (and interestingly enough, they all involve fathers.  But I think they can apply to mothers just as well)

The first example is from Elder F. Enzio Busche of the Seventy:  
“One day when circumstances made it necessary for me to be at home at an unusual time, I witnessed from another room how our eleven-year-old son, just returning from school, was directing ugly words towards his younger sister. They were words that offended me—words that I had never thought our son would use. My first natural reaction in my anger was to get up and go after him. Fortunately, I had to walk across the room and open a door before I could reach him, and I remember in those few seconds I fervently prayed to my Heavenly Father to help me to handle the situation. Peace came over me. I was no longer angry.
“Our son, being shocked to see me home, was filled with fear when I approached him. To my surprise I heard myself saying, ‘Welcome home, son!’ and I extended my hand as a greeting. And then in a formal style I invited him to sit close to me in the living room for a personal talk. I heard myself expressing my love for him. I talked with him about the battle that every one of us has to fight each day within ourselves.
“As I expressed my confidence in him, he broke into tears, confessing his unworthiness and condemning himself beyond measure. Now it was my role to put his transgression in the proper perspective and to comfort him. A wonderful spirit came over us, and we ended up crying together, hugging each other in love and finally in joy. What could have been a disastrous confrontation between father and son became, through the help from the powers above, one of the most beautiful experiences of our relationship that we both have never forgotten” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1982, 98–99; or Ensign, May 1982, 70).
I think the thing about this story that most made an impression on me was that he started out by first expressing his love and then he talked to his son about the behavior that was offensive.  In my own experience, when love is shown first, I am more able to accept the correction and want to make things better with the person I've offended.

The second example was shared by a friend of mine in college.  One night he shared with me an experience he had with his father.  My friend had been participating in behaviors that required repentance.  One night he found himself sitting next to his father at a Priesthood session of General Conference.  As he listened to the speakers the Holy Ghost urged my friend to repent.  My friend, ultimately a good person who just found himself making a bad choice, heeded the prompting and leaned over to his father and whispered, "Dad, I need to speak to the bishop.  Could you set up an appointment with the bishop for me?"  I've often wondered about my friend's dad and what he must have felt when his son whispered those words to him.  Was he shocked?  Disappointed to realize his son was sinning? Did he also feel joy and relief in the knowledge that his son trusted him to help him?  My friend explained that his father quietly said he would set up the appointment and then directly did so.  His father never asked him any more questions about this conversation.  He never said, "I can't believe you are doing things serious enough to have to speak to the bishop!"  He never made him feel guilty or embarrassed--just supported and loved.

The final example is that of the father of the prodigal son.  The parable of the Prodigal son in Luke 15 tells of a son who asked for his portion of his inheritance, only to waste it all through living a riotous life.  The scriptures tell us that "he came unto himself."  The prodigal son repented, sought forgiveness, and came home.  And when he came home he didn't find his father angry and ready to make him feel guilty.  Instead, the scriptures tell us that when his father saw him, he had compassion and ran to his son and hugged and kissed him and celebrated his return. 

I hope that if Mike and I find our children on a path leading them away from the Lord, they will find us acting like the fathers in these three examples.  I hope my children will know that when they "come home" they will find us with arms outstretched and that our lips will kiss them not berate them.  I hope they will know that there is nothing they can do that will make us stop loving them and that through our actions of love towards them, they will want to return.  But mostly, I hope we can teach our children that while we love them, their Heavenly Father loves them even more and that He will always invite them home with love.  

1 comment:

Nancy said...

I loved reading this series. Thank you for sharing your experiences.