Wednesday, May 19, 2010

In which I prostrate myself before you

I almost said "prostate." Thank goodness for spell check.

Anywho, I'm convinced that alls y'alls are much smarter than me in all things smart. I take every word of advice to heart, and I'm the better for it (I hope.)

So I decided to exploit you further by asking you a semi-deep question.

How do you teach your children to be morally clean?

I'm looking for advice, here, people, so think hard and elaborate.

I want to know how you instill values in them - how you incorporate the scriptures in their lives - how you stand to send them out into the big bad world every day.

And this discussion is not limited to Mormons. Whether you worship Christ, Buddha, Zeus, or just a general sense of right or wrong - how do you do it? And if you don't have children in the home, how do your keep your own spirit of peace?

Since I never ask a question I myself won't answer, I'll give you mine.
  • We read the scriptures and have family prayer every night - and we're trying to be better about having prayer in the morning.
  • We pray over every meal.
  • We have Family Home Evening every Monday.
  • Recently we started reciting (one) Article of Faith at dinner every night until we memorize it - once we're done, we'll move on to the missionary scriptures. So far so good.
  • We act out the scripture stories a lot. This isn't a set-schedule type thing. It's more spur-of-the-moment-let's-be-Jonah-and-the-whale gig.
  • When things are getting reallysupercrazy in the house (which happens, oh, several times a day), I sing or play primary songs to tone it down a bit. Sometimes this is more for my benefit than theirs. ("I'm tryyyyyyyyyyying to beeeeeeeeee like JEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE-SUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUS!"!)
  • I always take the kids with me when I'm serving someone. They also write frequent thank-you notes of their own.
  • I'm all about blatant brainwashing. Have you heard of the Brite tapes? Awesome CDs on different character values. We won't go in the car without them.
  • We also love the Living Scriptures DVDs. They truly bring the scriptures to life.
  • Just this week we began having a "reverence time." Every morning we read "kid" scriptures (we read the adult ones at night), and then have five minutes of quiet time. They get a chocolate chip at the end if they're reverent the whole time. (It's an attempt to better their reverence during sacrament meeting on Sunday. Because right now, it's non-existent. I'll let you know if it helps.)
My kids still fight and hit and whine and lie occasionally. So, in fact, they're still kids. But the way I figure it, all of our efforts take a half hour TOTAL all day. And the adversary is working 24/7. So I better get going.

So - what do you do?


gina said...

Hi, I read often but haven't commented in a while. I think you may be forgetting the most important thing you can do for your kids (which I think you do a pretty good job of) that is 24/7, which is be a good example. That said, a few other things popped into my mind (which I am pretty sure you already do), such as having meals together, getting to know their friends, be involved in their lives. And of course, attending church happily and willingly every Sunday. I also have lots of conversations with my kids about things I notice or think about. For example, there is a wonderful post someone did that compares Lady Gaga and Michelle Dugger. It really made me think, so I shared it with my kiddos and asked what they thought, and put my two cents in. I found the post on MMB, I am not a good linker but if you haven't already seen it I am sure I could find it again. I guess what I am trying to say is that although I only know you from your blog, I bet you are doing a great job of teaching your kids, probably better than you think. Carry on!

Erin said...

One thing my parents did whilst the 6 of us were (are) growing up was to find "teaching moments" in everyday situations. After a while it became a bit of a family joke that my mother could turn just about any situation into a Sunday School lesson (seriously. It's some kind of gift). We'd have conversations in the car on the way to school, in line at the grocery store, anywhere an opportunity presented itself. And while we joke about it, I honestly feel that those discussions made an impression. It helped us see that living the Gospel wasn't something we "did" on Sunday but was a part of who we were/are as a family and as individuals. We learned to recognize the constancy of gospel principles and it helped us to make good decisions when our parents weren't around.

Kazzy said...

We do the same kinds of stuff you do, and now that my kids are older we have very blunt and frank discussions about intimacy, keeping your body private, etc. I got nothing to hide! And I have lost all shyness having older kids. It needs to be talked about and I want to be the one talking to my kids about it!

Wonder Woman said...

I don't have much to offer. Honestly, you're much more consistent with all that we're supposed to do than I am. But the thing that seems to have made an impression on my kids is repetition. We read the stories of Nephi and Ammon over and over and OVER. My oldest has them memorized. He's always talking about how we have to be nice to everyone, even people who aren't nice to us, because that's what Jesus wants. "Nephi was nice to his brothers even though they were mean to him." "Ammon was a missionary because he told people about Jesus."

We've made a point of explaining church stuff to our kids. Like when Superman goes to meetings, we tell them that dad is going to learn how to be a better missionary and teach people about Jesus.

Stuff like that. Ish.

Wonder Woman said...

p.s. my kids still hit and fight, too.

Sarah said...

You know one thing I think really makes an impact on our kids is how we speak. One quality I have been admiring in others and hoping to cultivate is myself is being soft-spoken. Like, not yelling when I'm frustrated (total failure here), answering people thoughtfully, speaking with sincerity, and keeping my voice level low. I'm mostly admiring it these days and not even coming close to succeeding.
Also, as for sacrament meeting, your ex neighbor and one of my most favorite and admired people in the world (Betty P.) once talked about this in sacrament and made such great points that I asked for a copy of her talk. She obliged and also sent me some of her referance material, most specifically and essay by Orson Scott Card called "Does Civilization Begin in Sacrament Meeting." It was an eye opener, to say the least, and we have implemented many of his suggestions and points into our sacrament experience and it has made a world of difference. I can email this to you if you would like, or a google search will probably bring it up.
Finally, I agree with the others that your example is the greatest teaching tool. Kids do what they see, mostly. I also 100% think that means they need to know we all make mistakes but we can make them better. Teaching our children perfection is a JOURNEY and not a STOP is critical.

As a side note, I just finished Elantris and I am amused it is on your reading list. Please let me know what you thought since I don't know anyone else that has read it.

Lara said...

We do a lot of what you do.

The main thing I want to do is make my home a haven. Make family friends. I want my kids to want to be with us at home. Not that they'll never go out with friends, but that they'll be happiest at home. We're trying to make sure we have fun together and to be here for one another.

Recently my eldest daughter had some issues at school, and I realized I don't find out enough about what's happening in her day. Afternoons are so insane, and once she's been home for a while, she kind of forgets about it. So I've been trying to work on that part.

Morgan -Ing said...

My children are VERY VERY little still. And one day I was literally fretting about this, A LOT. And I prayed, and the answer that came was "testify daily." It was the most powerful, flooring feeling. I needed to be turning their little boy hearts to Christ DAILY. That is in addition to what I was already doing (scriptures, prayers, etc.) So, even though some days are crazy and I forget, most days I take a moment to remind them that Heavenly and Jesus are real, whether that be by saying, "Look at the BEAUTIFUL tree! Heavenly Father made it" or "Jesus loves it when you share with your brother. Jesus wants you to share!" and it's just made our home much more Christ-centered. I have no idea how we'll do this when the boys are older. But for now, it is doing the trick.

DeNae said...

You've received some great advice here so far, and I'm not sure I could add to it. Be careful about what you watch on TV, the kinds of jokes you laugh at, movies, books, etc. But you know all of that.

So instead I'll take you to the other side of it. First I want you to know I don't know what my older kids' experiences have been; one of the hardest things to accept as your kids get older is that their private life really is private - no matter how consistently you've been open and honest with one another. That is not to say that the openness and loving communication you maintain doesn't pay great dividends. It's just that no one, no matter how much they love their family, tells everything.

So my advice, along with all of the preventative suggestions you've received, would be to teach your kids about the power of repentance.

Make it real, by apologizing and forgiving and making it a natural part of your relationship with your kids.

Talk about your respect for your bishop and those who could step in and help when the transgressions require it. Emphasize that they're kind of like doctors: their whole job is to help make things better.

Carefully, and with discretion, share your own experiences with repentance and forgiveness. Let your kids know that everyone makes mistakes, and that there are few feelings as beautiful as knowing you've made things right.

In a more practical vein, kids need to know about STDs and the way they're transmitted. Kids "hear" more about this stuff at younger and younger ages, and you don't want your children to pay for a first-time experience with their health and safety.

Above all, relax. Never underestimate the power of the intuition and access to the spirit that are part and parcel of the parenting gig. And don't allow yourself to buy into the myth - Satan's favorite, by the way - that moral transgression is the end of the road for your kids. It absolutely is not, and they need to know that YOU know that there is life - and hope - after transgression.

Kimberly said...

One thing we do that isn't on your list (but that you probably do anyway) is we talk to our kids about things we see in movies, real life situations, etc...We talk about how bad guys are just good people who made some bad choices, and that Jesus loves them too. When someone hurts someone in a movie we talk about how that wasn't a good choice and what else could they have done? When someone falls down or has something else unfortunate happen to them, we verbally express sympathy for them (i.e. While watching Sesame Street today a man carrying two pies fell down - "That poor man, he must be so sad that the pies he made got wrecked. I hope he didn't get hurt.").

We also talk about Jesus. A lot. Our girls say goodnight to a picture of him every night. We talk about the things he taught us, not just during lessons, but sporadically throughout the day.

We don't listen to popular music. We try to listen to music that invites the spirit, and also joy into our home.

Melissa Bastow said...

My husband has always been like, "we MUST do it, it's a rule." And I've always been like, "that particular rule is just obnoxious and will not be followed YOU CANNOT MAKE ME." And seeing as our kids seem to fall all over in between both categories I figure the best way to help them make morally great choices and live in the ugly ugly scary world is to tell them that they have to decide for themselves what they think is right. Not that I want them to run around like hooligans or skip out on church and stuff. I try to provide all the good things to show them how I believe and how I'd like the family to act (key word "TRY" although a good portion of the time that word can be substituted with "fail".) But hopefully, in the end, they'll figure it out themselves, and be happy moral people because they want to be. I'm just praying that I have the sanity and endurance to get to the end, especially since I'm still very much working on myself. :)

Happy Mom said...

It was a surprise to me that the conversation about intimacy starts when their very young, and continues until they leave home (and beyond). As a youth, I always pictured it as a one time event.

I think the best thing we've done is to make a point of having the conversation on a regular basis. That way the subject isn't taboo, they've always known they can ask us questions (and do).

Last piece of advice (since you asked!): The world NEVER mentions what you give up when intimacy is casual. That subject became a big part of our conversations once they were in their teens. A handshake isn't special because it's shared with everyone and anyone. Likewise, intimacy becomes commonplace, which is by definition to say, no longer special when it's casual. Sex is sweeter, more beautiful, brings you closer, when it's between two people who have pledged before God and man to love and care only for each other (BTW, the only scenario that is manifestly not purely selfish). Knowing that they wouldn't, haven't ever, with anyone else, allows a level of trust and closeness that cannot ever be achieved by those who practice casual sex.

Stepper the Mighty said...

Well, I was known as The Prude to my peers during my teenage and young adult life. I wore that scarlet P proudly. And so, even though you are trying to sabotage me, I will tell you what made a difference with me.

It was watching my parents and their solid relationship as I grew up in their home. They were (are!) so ridiculously in love, and it emanated from their pores. There was no PDA - for which my teenage sensibilities were grateful! - besides frequent hand-holding and kitchen towel fights.

But they treated each other with kindness, respect, and clear adoration. They loved spending time together. They talked to each other like dear, old friends.

And they did not tolerate any mistreatment of each other from any of us kids. If we spoke back to mom, Hoo boy!

I never had any doubt that their relationship was deeply anchored in something real - something eternal - and I never had any doubt that that's exactly what I wanted. And I wouldn't settle for anything less.

Which is why it took me until my 26th year to get married. Bill was ever so worth the wait.

But while I was out searching for him, I didn't mess with any of the shenanigans that crossed my path. Because thanks to Mom and Dad, I knew that contrary to the popular opinion, it wasn't normal, wasn't inevitable, wasn't acceptable to 'fool around'.

Anyway, my point is that teaching by example is the most effective way. It acts like osmosis. And you and your Man have got a solid, wonderful relationship. That's a major gift to your kids! They'll want to find a gal just like you! No riffraff!

And I remember things now that I'm not a dumb kid that I didn't understand, then. So my folks' example in my youth is STILL teaching me. Which also means you may not reap the fruits of your stalwart labors until your boys have already traversed the terrors of teenage/YA-dom and are bending over to kiss your cheek and whisper, "thanks, Mom."

So, yes, I'd agree. Start young. Satan is good at what he does. So be vigilant, and be consistent with the things you're already consistent with. Scripture. Prayer. FHE. Stories. Frank discussions about right vs. wrong.

I, for one, am not worried about your boys at all.

I hope that whomever is raising Daphne's future husband is as diligent as you.

Stepper the Mighty said...

Wow. DeNae's advice is wonderful! I'm glad I read that.

Jamie said...

And something kind of special to me is as a teenager, I had a Young Women adviser encourage me to pray for my future husband. And I did. And I actually wrote him letters. When we got engaged I gave them to him and told him I had been praying for him since I was about 12. I know it helped because I have one great guy who was able to make it through adolescence without any moral scars!

Melanie J said...

I love this idea for the Articles of Faith. I've been trying to think of how to get my son to memorize them for his Duty to God award with sparking a fight, but this could do the trick. We read our scriptures right after dinner, so that's a nice fit.

Lisa S said...

I have a 20 year old and a 16 year old ...both girls. As they entered preteens and then teenagers..I always took advantage of everyday teaching moments to discuss our values, and why we hold these values. As we were driving I would ask them what they thought of this or seen out the car window. When the conversation would wind down I would include in my comments...and I still do just "remember that you will always be happy when following the commandments and heeding the council of the Prophet." It's a no fail choice.

Qait said...

DeNae gave valuable advice...I avoided reading all of the previous comments because it could cloud my own ideas! My advice may not be too original, but it's heartfelt.
Always keep the Spirit with you--ALWAYS. Singing is one of the ways I try to keep myself in check, too! It can be hard some days. The Spirit will guide you and help you to become a better mother and know just how to handle each situation as it comes up.
Someone commented on finding teaching opportunities in all things. Likewise, find ways to share your testimony with your children. I don't doubt you already do! My mother would share hers very simply, all the time..."isn't that a beautiful flower? I love to see things like that, and it makes me feel so grateful for Heavenly Father. He knows I love flowers, so this is a gift to me." She helped me and my siblings look at life with gratitude, connecting all good things to a loving Heavenly Father.
There are a lot of things I could say, I suppose. It's the kind of topic that makes for really uplifting LONG conversations between friends...not so much in little comment boxes on Blogger. :D
But I will say one more thing.
A sort of "theme" that has been appearing in my mothering is helping my son to recognize the Spirit. And when he's cranky or throwing a tantrum, I try to help him bring things back to a level where he can feel the Spirit again. Mostly, I talk with him a lot. He's very little (2), but he understands so much. We have conversations about everything, and I actually talk with him almost like he's a peer--not QUITE, because he just isn't, but I give him my attention and respect because it feels like the most honest way I can communicate with him and actually connect.
*sigh* well...I don't know how well I said things here compared to how I would if we were talking in person, but I hope it adds to the mountain of wisdom you've already acquired from the dear readers of your wonderful (and so uplifting) blog.
Thanks for YOUR example to US!

Perpetual Mommy Exhaustion said...

Since I love the Book of Mormon and learning to liken it to myself saved my life, I read to my kid from it at least once a day, sometimes twice. They love it. I don't think its the scriptures themselves that they love yet...they love being close to me and they love when we talk about it after. I'll read a few verses, then we'll talk about what it means, then we'll talk about how it applies to us. We use specific examples from their lives. We find answers to their problems. My oldest is only 6, but I know he feels that power already. I have missed a couple of days reading to him before he gets on the bus and he told me this morning, "Mom, please read the scriptures to me. I never have a good day when you don't."
Scripture Power indeed!