What in the world am I teaching my children?

(I gave this talk at Stake Conference last month but wanted to remember it so I stuck it in here in my blog so that I will not forget this really important principle.)

What am I teaching my children? - NOT by what I SAY, but by what they see me DO.


There are countless examples in the scriptures of children who learn a great deal by watching righteous parents. 

As Lehi left his home, “the land of his inheritance, and his gold, and his silver, and his precious things and took nothing with him save it were his family, and provisions, and tents and departed into the wilderness…” Is there any doubt that Lehi’s sons knew exactly where worldy possessions ranked in his value system?

What about Isaac?  What did he learn about his father, Abraham by watching him?  There are many examples of Abraham’s obedience to the Lord’s will. I like the one in Genesis.  We learn that God commanded Abraham to circumcise every male in his household. Upon receiving that commandment, Abraham did not say, “Ok, I’ll be sure to get right on that the early part of next week.” Instead of procrastinating his obedience, Abraham went out and complied “in the selfsame day.” Isaac learned it was important to not only heed commandments but to heed them quickly.
(secretly, I wonder if Isaac would have preferred Abraham procrastinate THAT one.  OUCH!)
(oh...and they don't have a picture of Abraham circumcising himself or Isaac in the Gospel Art Picture Kit, in case you were wondering.)
What about Noah’s posterity?  They watched as their father was mocked and ridiculed  for his propethic warnings.  I'm sure everyone in the community thought that Noah was crazy.  Ark.  But did he let the world’s opinion of him stop him from building an ark?  What the world thought of him meant nothing to Noah, what he was more concerned with was honoring and obeying his GOD.
Lest we think that children only learn from their Father’s examples, Let’s ponder upon the apostle Paul’s words to young Timothy,  who wrote in praise of Timothy’s “unfeigned faith … , which dwelt first,” he said, “in thy grandmother Lois, and [in] thy mother Eunice.”4 “From [the days when thou wert] a child,” Paul said, “thou hast known the holy scriptures.”5 To be sure, Timothy – who went on to become a great missionary for the church in the OT grew up in a home where a love of the scriptures and faith in God were priorities.
You and I are the same.  Whether we want them to or not, out children are watching us.  They learn much  more from what we DO than what we SAY.
It has been said that three greatest teachers are example, example, and example.
Our children watch the way we deal with adversity, the way we resolve conflict with others, how we spend our free time, what we spend our money on, the attitude with which we serve in callings, how we speak of others, and how we heed counsel from priesthood leaders.
In October Conference, Sister Elaine Dalton (General YW President) taught us this concept.  She spoke to Fathers of daughters in particular and said this: 
“The most important thing a father can do for his [daughter] is to love [her] mother.”1 By the way you love her mother, you will teach your daughter about tenderness, loyalty, respect, compassion, and devotion. She will learn from your example what to expect from young men and what qualities to seek in a future spouse. ....Did you know that your testimony has a powerful influence on your daughters? I knew my father had a testimony. I knew he loved the Lord. And because my father loved the Lord, I did too. I knew he cared about the widows because he took his vacation to paint the home of the widow who lived next door. "
Actions speak louder than words.
Emerson said: “ What you are thunders so loudly in my ears, I cannot hear what you say.”
 IT gives MUSCLE to our teachings and testimony when we can back  it up with action.  Alma knew this when he counseled his son, Helaman.  In Alma 36,  Alma shares a beautiful testimony of his experiences and exhorts his son by saying, “I would that ye should do…” but if you read this passage of scripture, notice that almost every time Alma expresses hope that Helaman will do these things he follows it up with “As I have done” or another phrase that is suitable to that situation. 
If our children see us engaged in personal scripture study, fervently praying, selflessly serving others, turning off questionable media that offends the Spirit, opening our mouth as member missionaries, making temple worship a priority, and facing the challenges of life with faith and hope – chances are excellent they will do those things too.
Likewise, we should never permit ourselves to do anything that we are not willing to see our children do. If entertainment is not suitable for our children, it is not suitable for us.  We should refrain from gossip, murmuring, filling too much of our free time with meaningless activities, the use of profanity, and stirring up contention.
We are commanded to LEAD the way, not POINT the way.
Satan wants to neutralize the power of righteous parents.  He works overtime trying to limit the amount of influence we have on our children, in particular – our teenagers.  And he has some very effective ways of doing it. Because teenagers have an especially low tolerance for hypocrisy, he knows if that if our youth see us making choices that are contrary to the way we tell them to live, it nullifies the effect what we have taught has on them. 
Perhaps this is what the Prophet Joseph Smith meant when he spoke of the qualities of Priesthood leadership in the Doctrine and Covenants 121 when he said:  that influence can be maintained ONLY  “without hypocrisy and without guile”. 
Another effective tactic Satan uses is to get our youth’s time so tied up with technology, peers, and extracurricular activities and OUR time so tied up with work, worldly obligations, and yes – sometimes even church commitments – We don’t have any time to spend together.  The amount of time we spend with our children is directly proportional to the amount of influence we have on them.  The world is an intense place full of mixed messages that generally run contrary to what is taught in gospel centered homes.  Persuasive marketing pervades and confuses them about where TRUE happiness comes from.  The more time they spend out there listening to those messages, the more we compete to influence their lives.
As an example,  when Brent was Bishop he was gone Tues, Wed, Thurs. nights and all day Sunday.  Friday evenings were reserved for our date nights.  That didn't feel like enough time with the kids who were only 7, 6, 2, and 1 for Brent.  So we started the "daddy dates".  Every Monday night after FHE he would take turns taking one of the kids out on a one on one date for about an hour.  They would go get ice cream, play at the park, ride bikes, go to the church and shoot hoops.  Whatever that child wanted to do with Dad.  It was the highlight of their week.  And his, I think.  
In reality, one of the BEST examples we can set for our children is when they see us make mistakes but then activate the principles of repentance and the power of the Atonement – they see us change and become more like our Savior. 
Here is  the true story of a young 7th grade girl who wrote this for the Ensign magazine.
““One day while we were reading our scriptures, we talked about how important it is for each of us to have our own knowledge and testimony—and that we must not put off asking Heavenly Father for this. That night I went to my room and shut the door. I waited until everything was very quiet. Then I knelt down by my bed and prayed. I asked Heavenly Father to please send me an angel to tell me for sure if the gospel was true. He answered that he would, and I was to get in bed and wait for the angel to come. I felt very peaceful and happy, and I waited.
“The house was very still, and I think I had dropped off to sleep. I woke up when I heard a voice. It was Mother. She was kneeling beside my bed praying. She was praying for me. I listened, and when she finished I touched her hair so she would know I was awake. She put her arms around me and held me and her face was wet. She told me I had a Father in Heaven and that he loved me. She said she was glad he had let me come to live in our family. She told me he sent his own Son here to give his life so we could return to live with him if we obeyed his commandments. She told me to always remember that the gospel had been restored, and I must live it so I could go back to my Father.  “We held each other for a while,” Stephanie continued, “and then Mother left. After she left, Father in Heaven said to my mind, ‘I sent you your angel.’”
(“Living By The Spirit” , Ensign August 1984, p. 15)
I'm thinking  of a list of ways I want to be a better example to my children.  Starting today.

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Comments

Amanda said…
Well we did not make it to stake conf....so I am glad you posted this gem!

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