A very wise man once said: “Teach correct principles and then let them govern themselves.”
This is the way I think God teaches and deals with us; and this is the best way to parent your children as they grow and mature.
How do we teach our children to be guided by the Holy Spirit?
The best way to do this is in the framework of the gospel of Jesus Christ. When our children come to know and understand Him, learn to feel His Holy Spirit in their lives, and learn to obey His commandments; they will learn a morality that can be a governing tool in their lives.
We teach this most effectively by living our religion ourselves. An old adage says, “Actions speak louder than words.” We can tell our children not to act out in anger, but if they see us respond and act in anger, then they will likely do the same. If we see behavior in our children that we do not like, one of the first places to look is at ourselves as parents and ask, “Am I modeling that behavior in my actions?” Doing this takes a lot of humility and introspection. When you find that you have not been modeling the behavior that you want to see in your children, then attempt to change it and point it out to your children by apologizing and stating your resolve to change. Parents do not have to always be right, and children can learn much from our modeling the example of humility, repentance, and the desire to change.
Another way we teach correct principles is by finding family teaching moments. I am a big advocate of daily family prayer, daily family scripture study, and a weekly family night with a spiritual lesson. These practices seem simple and on a day-to-day basis may not feel like they are making a difference, but if consistently practiced over time will help to build a basis of faith in our children’s lives. I also think it is important to attend church together as a family, to have family meals together as often as possible, to work together around the home, and to participate in wholesome family recreational activities. These practices create unity in a family, allow children to see positive examples, and provide unique teaching opportunities.
Individual teaching moments are also key. We need to take time to build one-on-one relationships with our children. These parent/child moments can provide key times for children to share things that are pressing on their minds, and for parents to provided needed counsel. Being there at the crossroads is important if at all possible. When I say crossroads, I mean when they leave the home or return and prior to bed and when they wake. These are moments when children are more likely to share the worries of the day. Take the time to have conversations with them, and you will find key teaching moments.
How do we let children effectively govern themselves?
When I refer to self-governing, I am not advocating a laze-fare parenting style or an absence of parenting, but I am referring to active parenting that requires the parent to guide the child to look inward at their core values and judge their own behaviors as consistent or not consistent with those values. I am referring to a parenting style that implores love, patience, and natural consequences. Children who are practiced at feeling and identifying the Holy Spirit can, with parental direction and guidance, use its presence or absence to self-govern.
One of the most important things to teach your children is how to feel and identify the Holy Spirit in their lives. I believe that when we are doing what is right, the Holy Spirit can be with us and impart feelings of peace, joy, and comfort. The Holy Spirit can also be a guide to our actions, often putting ideas in our minds, or promptings, to act in ways that God would like us to act, such as showing for kindness, or being honest. Identifying its presence and absence is key. When we are having a spiritual family teaching moment and I feel the Holy Spirit, I often stop and say to my children, “Do you feel that? That is the Holy Spirit.” When I see a child make a choice to do something that is Christ-like, I often say, “I think you were prompted to do that. Good job listening to your promptings.” We talk a lot about the need to have the Spirit in our home so that we can make good choices and be happy. When contention arises in our home or words are said in anger, I will point out the absence of the Holy Spirit and how that behavior drives it from our home.
When children are young, we limit their choices to protect them and to help them learn to make correct choices. We teach them these principles and as they mature and practice them, we expand their ability to choose. Just as we first hold on to a child’s hand to help them walk, we at first guide our children through the decision making process. Eventually however, we have to gradually step back and let them stumble so that they can be independent of us. At times they will make mistakes, but if a parent is there to help them understand the preset and natural consequences of their actions, these times of stumbling will be times of learning.
We cannot prevent all of the bumps and bruises that will surely come if we want to teach our children to someday be able to run. As they go through the stumbling process we can guide them by identifying uneven surfaces and letting them know that our hand is always there reaching out to them in love–but if we catch them every time, they will never learn to catch themselves.
First and foremost we need to remember that our children are God’s children first. He loves them, and He has a plan for their lives. Sometimes that plan allows them to go through some rocky times, but there is always a plan for those lessons to help them to come back to choosing the right. Sometimes we just have to love them, have faith, and trust God.
Copyright © Veronica Clarke, Moms of Faith®, All Rights Reserved