While most parents try to do the best they can in rearing their children, they might sometimes wonder if they are effective teachers of the gospel in their home.
A Parent's Guide, a publication for the Church's family relations class, lists 10 principles for teaching children that many parents will find helpful:1. Share responsibility. "Parenthood is a shared responsibility of a united husband and wife. . . . Together you should ask for and receive inspiration for the family, form family rules, supervise children's work, create learning opportunities for each child and correct your children. . . .
"Effective, loving parental teaching can be done by a single father or mother, even though it is more difficult. But single parents do need help. The Church organization exists to organize our brotherly and sisterly efforts to strengthen each other, and this extends to help with teaching and setting examples for children. When one of us is weakened by a failed marriage or the death of a spouse, we may expect by right of eternal covenants that the Savior's Church, through the natural affection of our brothers and sisters, will help us."
2. Teach by example. "Behavior that a person has learned by example during early formative years has a powerful influence on his behavior the rest of his life. Parents have the power to set children on a course that is likely to influence them through each succeeding stage of their development. Through personal agency, children may later modify the consequences of a good or bad example, but they will respond most often according to the example they observed in their homes."
3. Be consistent. "We all fall short of perfection. We intend to react with calmness to spilled food, a poor grade in school, or a late arrival after a party. Yet we sometimes become angry. But there is a reliable antidote to our own occasional immaturity in dealing with immature children. It is striving to be consistent in responding properly. If, in the spirit of love, we can be as predictable as possible in doing good, sooner or later, we can minimize the effects of our weaknesses."
4. Counsel your children. "To counsel with your children means to listen to them, give them advice, and teach them. This is very important, for as your children mature, your words become almost as important as your example. By giving your children spoken or written instructions and advice, you can prepare them to exercise their agency wisely, answer their questions, and help them understand the things they see in the world."
5. Pass righteous judgment. "Your role as a parent requires that you pass judgments on your children and correct them as necessary. . . . Without excusing or minimizing the problem or sin, you can react with concern, candor and practical steps to correct the error or help your child repent of the sin."
6. Provide a positive emotional climate. "The emotional climate in the home establishes either a positive or a negative learning environment. Climate means `the weather you can expect in a certain place.' What is the `weather' in your home? Is it warm, comfortable, secure; or is there too much thunder, lightning and cold? Occasionally a teaching moment will arise out of an atmosphere of tension and anxiety, but most effective teaching moments occur in loving, peaceful, respectful circumstances, when the `feeling' is right and when the climate in a relationship is peaceful."
7. Hold family home evenings regularly. "A well-prepared but relaxed family home evening presentation is one of the most effective ways for you to teach your children. . . . Outlines of lessons, resource materials and numerous suggestions for family home evenings are available in the Family Home Evening Resource Book and Church publicationsT. Of course, the scriptures are the most important written resources. Make a plan to use and study them. Family time together in family home evening activities is precious. Do not allow it to be tampered with by any other people, activities or distractions."
8. Share your thoughts and feelings. "Children . . . need to report their efforts. They enjoy telling us of their success, but they also need the comfort that comes from telling their failures to a sympathetic listener. It is impossible to overestimate the blessings a child receives who is able to report in some manner to interested, patient and accepting parents. If you deny this opportunity to a child, he may withdraw from you and stop communicating with you. You also need to share your thoughts and feelings with your children."
9. Break the routine. "Parents need an occasional break. Because parenthood requires so much time and energy, you and your children will benefit from regular breaks in the routine. You will be better able to teach if you regularly take time to refresh yourself. Dates for mother and father; weekends with a relative or friends for the children; solitude for each family member with a book, a hobby or a household task; and some form of recreation are very important in keeping perspective and emotional balance."
10. Express your love. "Love is the most powerful motivation in teaching the basic values of the gospel. . . . Your children must know that you love them. They will love you because they know (or in some sad cases, hope) you love them.
"At times you must express love in a firm and stern way. But even after you have rebuked your children, if you then make sure they know you love them, they usually accept the guidance and teaching they receive. . . .
"All parents know that they should teach their children with love. Yet some do not express love very well. Some are embarrassed or simply never bring up the subject. How do you express your love for each other in your family? Does everyone know that he is loved, and does he show that he cares for others? Is it possible for you to express your love more openly?"
Class valuable resource
Some important keys enabling parents and other adults to help raise happy children are resources found within the Church.
Roger Petersen, a manager in the Church's Curriculum Planning and Development Department, said the Church's family relations class is one of the most valuable resources available.
"This is an extremely fine course for parents who are looking to have some problems answered," he said. "The course is taught during a 12-week cycle during the Sunday School class period. The class has an orientation that leads parents to try to solve their problems spiritually before they try to attack them in other ways."
He said the class features 12 key articles from members of the First Presidency and Council of the Twelve, and "some of the richest articles that have ever been offered on parenting topics."
"In today's rapidly changing society, a parent needs to stay on top, and grandparents and other adults need to gain all the skills they can in helping young children grow up into happy adults. If we don't have these skills, some children are going to pay a heavy price. We have to know how to react to various life situations; if we don't somebody is going to suffer."
Brother Petersen said one of the most important things parents can do is to read the Book of Mormon as a family on a daily basis. "I can testify from personal experience how valuable this is," he said. "Four years ago, I was in a room with five other people when we were asked, `Are you doing what the prophet has said you should do - are you reading the Book of Mormon with your family?' None of us was doing that.
"I went home and we started reading together. The first year was hard. I think most families give up their reading effort during the first year because they meet stiff opposition, it's hard to get up early, it's difficult to get everyone together. The second year, new things started to happen in our family. The third year, a revolution sort of took place in our lives; the children started asking questions. I could tell the Holy Ghost was acting personally and individ ually in their own lives, teaching each child separately. I've had a lot of things happen, but never have had anything change my family as dramatically as reading the Book of Mormon together."