Anyone who has children knows that parenting is an adventure. There are highs and lows, good days and bad. Parents need to find strength from various sources. Of course the ultimate source of strength for parents is Jesus Christ. Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf in “Jesus Christ is the Strength of Parents” declares this message. This is especially true when parenting is hard.
Parents Aren’t Perfect
No matter what anyone thinks, parents aren’t perfect. There is no playbook that will give you answers to every situation. One of the things that every parent knows is that no matter how long you’ve been parenting, you’re still trying to figure it out. In fact, not only are you trying to figure out how to be a parent, but also, you’re trying to figure out how to be the best you. Elder Uchtdorf states:
“God has given parents the ‘sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, and to teach them to … observe the commandments of God.’
That’s enough to keep even the best parents awake at night.”
Cheryl and I have been parents for over 22 years. In that time we have seen a lot things come and go with parenting. We’ve had unique experiences. We’ve failed and succeeded. However, we still are kept up at night over our children. They are each at a different stage in life, and even though a couple of them are in stages we have parented in, we find that we can’t parent the “same”. Each child is unique and presents their own unique set of challenges and blessings.
This leads us to search for help when we don’t have the answers readily at hand. We have books, blogs, and experiences, but sometimes that just isn’t enough. We need more. That is where Jesus Christ comes in.
A Message to Parents
Elder Uchtdorf reminds us of Christ’s message to us as parents:
“[I love] you.
[I am] with you.
[I stand] beside you.
[I am] your strength in guiding your children to make righteous choices.”
This means that if we will turn to Him, we can receive “parental revelation” for each of our children. “And the Savior will help you, guide you, and encourage you. Seek His help. Inquire of the Lord!”
I can’t tell you how many times we have inquired of Him to help us. I also can’t tell you how many times He has answered and helped, guided and encouraged us as parents. I know that he loves us, is with us, stands beside us and is our strength in guiding our children to make righteous choices.
One of our sons doesn’t attend church. He just doesn’t like it and doesn’t want to go. We invite him, but he still stays home. Recently there has been some change. We have a weekly review of what we will be reading nightly for scriptures from the Come Follow Me lesson. Our son has started to participate in this and in the nightly scriptures we read and discuss.
He also used to hide whenever the missionaries came over. He now comes in and listens to their message. I believe that we have been blessed because we haven’t forced him to attend church. I know he is feeling the spirit and that is why he is participating more in our home.
A Parent’s Love
“A parent’s love for a child is one of the strongest forces in the universe.” Any parent will tell you that their love for their children runs deeper than almost anything else. It is a special kind of love.
This love we have for our children leads us to believe in them, even if they make decisions we don’t agree with. It’s a love that leads us to support them and help them, but does not mean we condone all their actions.
A parent’s love also leads to appropriate boundaries and rules. If those boundaries are crossed or the rules are broken, appropriate consequences are doled out. This does not mean we stop loving our children. It does mean that we love them enough to help guide them and correct them so that they can be happy.
Of course this means that we have to be ready for the “it’s not fair” or “I hate you” comments that come when consequences are applied. Cheryl and I have received these statements several times when we’ve taken our children’s phones away. I’d like to say we’re immune to these, but it still does affect you, even when you know they are saying it to try and guilt you into not following through with the consequences of their actions. But because of our love for them, we have the strength to overcome feelings of hurt.
One of the things I resolved to do early on as a parent was to not let a teaching moment go to waste. I learned to watch for opportunities to present a lesson or moral whenever possible. This has led, I hope to me being “the most constant, steady influence in [my] child’s life.”
These moments of teaching are usually small and simple. My hope is that they add up over time to help my children learn and grow. I try to feed them “daily bread” and pray that they will remember the things I have shared with them.
“Brothers and sisters, daily bread is best prepared and served at home. Faith and testimony are best fostered in normal and natural ways, one bite at a time, in small and simple moments, in the constant flow of daily living.”
We therefore teach our children in small and simple ways that consistently feed them with good things. We need to remember to “be not weary in well-doing , for [you] are laying the foundation of a great work” (Doctrine and Covenants 64:32-33). What greater work do we have as parents than helping our children build a strong foundation for life? To teach them the good things of life and help them make decisions that lead them to happiness.
Momdar or Momgut
We have a thing in our family we call “Momdar” or “Momgut”. When our oldest daughter was eleven she wanted to go over to a friend’s house. This is someone she had spent time with before, we knew the parents and were very comfortable with our daughter spending time there. On this occasion, Cheryl got a feeling that she shouldn’t go. However, based on experience and confidence she ignored the feeling.
In the evening we got a call that Ellie had been stepped on by a horse. We didn’t think it was too bad, but an ambulance was called. Turns out, she wasn’t stepped on, but stomped on. The horse was spooked and Ellie was thrown off. The horse then stomped on her side (she still has a horseshoe mark on her side). The impact broke ribs, punctured a lung, bruised her heart, damaged her spleen, and separated her diaphragm from her sternum. She had to have laparoscopic surgery to repair the diaphragm and spent eleven days in the PICU.
Since that time, we have come to trust “Momdar”. When something doesn’t feel right to mom, we don’t do it. We have stopped children from going on camp outs, going to friends houses, and even parks or other amusement venues. Sometimes we don’t ever find out the reason why we weren’t to send them, other times something happened that would have been bad had it happened in the place they were to go.
“Momdar” is my wife’s personal revelation for our children. Elder Uchtdorf states “God is eager to pour out His Spirit to guide parents.” This has been true in our lives and something that we are thankful to receive.
A Change of Heart
As stated earlier, we as parents are still trying to figure things out. In order to do that we have to be willing to change. “The fact is, all parents worry about not being good enough” (emphasis added). As with all things, Jesus Christ “is the source of our mighty change of heart.”
“Through the Savior’s grace, little by little, you’ll develop more of the attributes parents need: love for God and His children, patience, selflessness, faith in Christ, and courage to make righteous choices.” As we work to be better and allow for the changes God wants us to make we will get better as parents.
The church has provided us with tools to help us achieve this. Two of them are the “For the Strength of Youth: A Guide for Making Choices” and the “For Strength of Youth” conferences. The guide is something we as parents should read and understand. The conference is something we should understand and encourage our children to attend. Both are given to help us with our children.
We have been counseled to expect miracles and to “let God work His miracle.” As a result, we must do everything we can so that when our children need a miracle, it can happen.
Our oldest son is currently at college. This is a miracle. He went to veterinary assistant school and had a horrible internship experience. This led him to not continue in that field. Eventually, he and his best friend worked in a building maintenance (janitorial) job and lived for a year in their own apartment. After a few months, our son realized that he didn’t want to do this for the rest of his life. We talked with him and began online college through BYU Pathways.
After a year of Pathways and Ensign college online, we took a trip up to Salt Lake City for Spring Break. As part of this trip, Cheryl and Levi visited the campus of Ensign college just to see what it would take to transition from online to in-person attendance.
Levi loved the visit. The people at the college were friendly and everything about the college aligned with him and his personality. The work then began to get him accepted for transitioning to in-person college and attend in Salt Lake City. A month after the visit and a couple of other miracles, Levi is attending in-person.
As Cheryl and I drove home from dropping him off, we realized, and gave thanks, for this miracle. Levi is thriving and having a great time. His confidence has risen and he is excited for the opportunities he will have in the future.
We are grateful that we “as [parents], never [gave] up, even if [we] are not proud of how things went in the past.” Again, the love of a parent runs deep and allows us to not give up on our children. This then allows for miracles to occur and lives to be blessed.
Parenting can be just as hard as it is rewarding. For all of its rollercoaster nature, it is worth it. The love a parent has for a child is unlike anything else in this world. Even though parents aren’t perfect, they can, through small and simple means become better. This happens as our hearts change and we learn to be more Christlike. Jesus Christ is a strength that parents can and must rely on as we try to help our children make righteous choices.
Tips for Teaching
Teaching about parenting can be a sensitive topic. Not everyone parents the same way and what works for one parent, may not work for another. As you lead the discussion on this topic be sensitive to how the class members may feel. You may want to consider discussing the following:
- Why is a parent’s love for their children so strong?
- What are some ways in which we can become better parents?
- What experiences have you had in recognizing and then following through on teaching moments?
- Have you experienced “Momdar”? Discuss how revelation plays a role in parenting and why being sensitive to the promptings of the Spirit can help us with our children.
- How can we be open to having our hearts changed as parents? Why should we seek and expect miracles with and for our children?
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