looking to heaven for parenting tips
I know many of the readers here are not parents, but since “young Mormon” is part of the name, I’m sure many of us are. I am. I have two kids, ages 4 and 2. They make life oh so very interesting. My two year old is really into drawing right now. His latest subjects include poop, circles, and Team Umizoomi. Thankfully his medium is still crayon. My four year old is a self declared fashionista who often makes up songs about her daily activities as she is doing them like a Disney Princess. She is already skilled in many different forms of getting her own way, varying from outright tantrums, to flat out refusals, and more discreet manipulations. I hope she keeps her power. Even if it is causing me all sorts of extra parenting work right now, I hope she continues to know her own mind and stick with it.
I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about parenting this week. I swore as a child that I would never be a “because I said so” parent. Not because mine were, but I saw some in a movie and swore that that would not be me. Lately though, with my requests being challenged constantly, I’ve been questioning my dedication to that ideal. I’ve been really struggling with finding the balance between extinguishing exuberance and being respected as a parent. I have to remind myself time and again that my children are not out to get me. The spills, injuries, squabbles, and messes are their way of figuring out the world. How I respond to them teaches them how they should respond.
If I want them to learn how to own their feelings and process emotions without tantrums, I have to teach them how. I have to supply them the tools to respond to triggers in their environment. I have to teach them how to set and maintain boundaries for themselves. People don’t just naturally learn these things. We learn different ways to cope with negative stimuli, and some are admittedly healthier than others. I want to teach my kids healthy ways to respond to negative situations. I have to do all of this by modeling it myself. And when I inevitably mess up, I need to show them how to ask for forgiveness.
The most important part of parenting is unconditional love.
I’d reminded myself of that important rule this weekend and then I saw this quote on Facebook:
“The love of God does not supersede His laws and His commandments, and the effect of God’s laws and commandments does not diminish the purpose and effect of His love. The same should be true of parental love and rules… God’s love is so perfect that He lovingly requires us to obey His commandments because He knows that only through obedience to His laws can we become perfect, as He is.” – Elder Dallin H. Oaks
I’m not even going to dissect the quote, but it launched me into thinking about our parents in Heaven.
In Brene’ Brown’s book Daring Greatly she dedicates an entire chapter to whole-hearted parenting. To sum it up: “Who we are and how we engage with the world are much stronger predictors of how our children will do than what we know about parenting. In terms of teaching our children to dare greatly in the “never enough” culture, the question isn’t so much “Are you parenting the right way” as it is: “Are you the adult that you want your child to grow up to be?”
Since we are all trying to become like God, our view of God does more than define our behavior, by this definition it is the strongest indicator of who we are as people. Something that I have seen in my own life is that when I believed in a sexist non-inclusive God, I was sexist and non-inclusive. I bought into the scarcity model God, one who valued us more when we were obedient, and I modeled that behavior in my own life.
I forgot about the story of the shepherd leaving the 99 sheep to find the one. I forgot that the Atonement was for everyone. I “loved the sinner and hated the sin.” I found ways to measure my righteousness against others. But then I slipped up. I broke a rule, a big one, and I got lost. I avoided praying. I avoided church. I avoided old friends. I separated myself from the Gospel and tried to convince myself that I was better off.
learning to ask god to show me who he/she is
My faith journey started with a few simple questions. And the thing about questions is that once you honestly ask one, a plethora of questions that have been ignored no longer stay quiet. I was discovering that certain things I’d been taught didn’t feel right to me. I was deeply uncomfortable with the idea of a sexist God, one that apparently valued his son’s salvations over his daughter’s. The more I looked at inequality in the world, often in the name of religion, the more my faith in this God was challenged. The single most important part of my faith journey has been asking God to reveal himself/herself to me. I couldn’t depend on second-hand witness of the Almighty. I had to let go of everything I had been taught about God and start from scratch.
It can be terrifying to let go of beliefs. Part of me is still frightened that through my questioning I will conclude that there is no God, and that is an unsettling thought to me. But still I ask and pursue a relationship with the God whose presence I have felt in the little things. A God who loves all of us equally and unconditionally.
My heavenly parents no longer resemble a strict and severe couple focused on appearances. They listen after a long day, they love me when I’m angry, sad, or discouraged. As I continue to develop this new relationship with God I am constantly reminded that I am worthy of love and acceptance. I am learning to practice this same love and acceptance in my life, and in my style of parenting. I am learning to extend that same love and acceptance to those around me.
Post Script: My heart is aching over Kate Kelly’s excommunication. My prayers are with her, and I hope that she is able to find peace and love during this extremely difficult period. I hope that someday she will be able to have the conversation with the church leaders that she is requesting. She is one of many who want to know the answer, but one of the few brave enough to ask.