Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Parenting with Love, Limits, and Latitude

Parenting has been one of the most fulfilling responsibilities I have ever experienced.  It has also been a source of sadness and frustration.  I love my three children and would do anything for them, but sometimes it's hard to know when I am doing enough or too much.

Joseph Smith said, "I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves."  We as parents have the challenge and opportunity to apply general principles from inspired sources and adapt them to our individual family circumstances as we diligently strive to meet our children's physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.  

We all come to this earth with distinct and unique personalities and characteristics.  The First Presidency of the church said, "All people who come to this earth and are born in mortality, had a pre-existent, spiritual personality, as the sons and daughters of the Eternal Father"(Statement of the First Presidency, 1912, p. 417).  

President Joseph F. Smith said, "the character of our lives in the spirit world has much to do with our disposition, desires and mentality here in mortal life (1916, p. 426).  The way individual children respond to their earthly environments is also influenced by their spiritual identity and the spiritual gifts cultivated in the pre-mortal realm.  

Should we parent each of our children differently?  President James E. Faust (1990, p. 34) observed, "Child rearing is so individualistic.  Every child is so different and unique.  What works with one may not work with with another."  As parents, we should work to adjust, relate to, and raise each child in a manner that is tailored according to the needs as parents and children learn from each other.
As much as we would like to control our children and make them do what we ask, that is not the best way to parent.  The proclamation admonishes respect for the divine and individual nature of children as parents love, teach, and guide them with an emphasis on teaching and preparing children rather than unrighteously controlling their wills.

I love this talk given by President James E. Faust called "The Greatest Challenge in the World - Good Parenting.

 Brigham Young counseled, “If you are ever called upon to chasten a person, never chasten beyond the balm you have within you to bind up.” (In Journal of Discourses, 9:124–25.) Direction and discipline are, however, certainly an indispensable part of child rearing. If parents do not discipline their children, then the public will discipline them in a way the parents do not like. Without discipline, children will not respect either the rules of the home or of society."  

Of each of the several styles of parenting identified by scholarly research, the authoritative style of parenting is most consistent with the proclamation and the words of modern prophets and scripture (Hart, Newell, & Sine, 2000;Haupt, Hart, & Newell, 2005).  You can learn more about the different styles of parenting here. 

The three characteristics of authoritative parenting is love (connection), limits (regulation) and latitude (autonomy).  My husband and I have tried to be authoritative parents with our three children. I think the hardest part of parenting this way is latitude, especially when they are teenagers.  It is hard for me to be flexible with teenagers.  I know it's important to give them more freedom and independence, but it is hard to see them fall and make mistakes.  I am still learning this as I have one more teenager at home.

Rearing children in love and righteousness, as the proclamation admonishes, requires the best efforts parents have to offer.  The rewards of such well-placed time and attention are eternal.  I have seen this in our family.  It isn't always easy, but the rewards are so worth it.  President Gordon B. Hinckley (1997b, p. 421) said,

"Of all the joys of life, non other equals that of happy parenthood.  Of all the responsibilities with which we struggle, non other is so serious.  To rear children in an atmosphere of love, security, and faith is the most rewarding of all challenges.  The good result from such efforts becomes life's most satisfying compensation."

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