{Just FYI- I reserve the right to have my Sunday posts wax religious, so feel free to skip this one if that isn't your thing.}

I never really write about parenting. There are lots of reasons for this, one being that I don't know how good of a parent I am, and the other being that since my kids are still so young, who knows if what I am doing is actually working anyways. I often feel that we won't really know how great our choices were and how good of a job we did until these little children grow into good adults with the attributes we tried to instill in them.

But, when I think of the kind of parent I WANT to be, I can not help but think of the example set in the scriptures by our Father in Heaven. I like to think of God as a Father rather than a distant, unknowable being. It makes him more personal, real and close. It makes Him sound like somebody I can try to emulate even though I have failings. And it makes Him feel like somebody who cares about me, just as I care for my children. The concept of fatherhood and motherhood is something that I "get."

And when I think of the way that He parents I notice things that I need to work on. They are in fact, some of the hardest things for a human parent to do.

I notice that He sets rules, (or guidelines or commandments) and then he lets us choose what we would like to do. He does not force us to do much of anything. He does however give consequences for our choices, good or bad. The scriptures talk about the man and woman Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. They were told not to eat of the fruit of a certain tree or else they would be cast out. But then their Father let them choose what to do. They were still able to make choices, there were just consequences for them. So they ate, and they had to leave the garden, but they were always still blessed and loved by their Father. He didn't take away the consequences, but he was there for them when they experienced pain FOR their choices.

I think this is one of the most beautiful lessons in all of the scriptures, and one of the hardest to emulate.

How angry do you get when you specifically tell your children NOT to do something? What if this thing is for their own good, even their safety? And then, when they disobey, not only is it worrying (like if they could have or do get hurt) but very frustrating that this child that you love, cherish and care for specifically did something they knew they should not do.

For me this is when patience becomes harder, anger and frustration flare up, and I struggle to figure out just how to handle the situation. I believe that there truly must be consequences. It is not fair to anybody to be taught that their actions have no consequences, especially when those actions could potentially harm them or others. And while it can be hard to be patient, it can also be very difficult to allow your child to have a natural or imposed consequence for something they have done, even if it really is necessary so that they don't continue to repeat a behavior that could hurt them, or those around them.

When I think about parenting this way, some things seem clear to me:

~One, all children (including ourselves) need some ground rules. Those ground rules should serve a purpose and not just be mindless. Often they will have something to do with protecting themselves, preventing them from hurting others, or teaching them to be good and decent.

~Two, children (including ourselves) might not always understand WHY these ground rules exist, but hopefully trust their parents enough to realize that they don't just make stuff up to be mean. (Of course a very young child will not understand why they can't run into the street at any time, but they must be taught not to do it, despite the fact that it will be beyond their understanding until they are a little older.)

~Three, parents must allow for some consequences for actions. This can be really hard. Maybe I tell my son that he will lose privilege X if he abuses it. Then he does it again. I hate to see him sad, BUT, I must allow him to have his consequences so that he can learn to obey and so that he can learn to trust me, because I mean it when I say something.


To me, this is when the concept of obedience comes in, and it is a difficult concept to wrap your head around. Is it fair to expect and teach obedience to our children? Must we really expect them to do things that they may not yet understand WHY we are expecting them? Must there be rules and standards of living? Why can't the just do whatever they feel like doing?

Again, I think of the way my Father teaches.

My religion, like many others, has a dietary law that members of our church are expected to live. It is honestly one of the things that makes other people think I am a little nuts. I don't drink coffee, alcohol, tobacco or anything else that is addictive- and I try to be healthy and eat grains and fruits and vegetables.

Well, everybody knows that it is bad for you to smoke three packs a day or drink a fifth of vodka every night, but why not the occasional glass of wine or cup of coffee? Moderation is the key right?!

Moderation is important, but my Father has asked me, and at some point I agreed, that I would live this law PERFECTLY, not moderately. I have been asked for perfect obedience.

He doesn't want me to have a cup of coffee, even if I am SUPER tired. I don't have a glass of wine even after a REALLY bad day. Not even ONE. I don't even ever have ONE cigarette (which isn't really enough to do any damage, is it?) No- not even one. Because what is required is perfect and strict obedience.

Sometimes it is easy to think....well, that this sounds a little... harsh. But then I think of my children again....

I don't want my children to play in the street even when the traffic flow is really minimal. And even if they went in the street, without asking and didn't get hurt- I would still impose some type of consequence. Why? Because I want them to remember to NEVER do that without me- never. I want them to know how much I love them and how much I care for their safety and that this is such an important lesson that it must be followed perfectly.

Then I think of my children when they are a little older. I have a son and two daughters. Both can get into trouble after a certain time of night when they are teenagers, right? Some kids might be a little more...rebellious or wild than others. A parent might worry more about a girl out doing things. So will I have different "rules" for each kid? Will the boy get to stay out later? Will one of the girls be more trusted and allowed to do do things that the others are not? Is that even fair?

Hmmm....I may have different rules for different children based on past behavior and my own personal knowledge of them as their mother. Rules may change with age appropriateness or learning as a parent, but I think no matter the sex, trustworthiness or personality of my children, I will still hold every single one of them to the same standard. There will be behavior expectations that are UNIVERSAL despite the differences among the children. All children will be expected to be honest. All will be expected to be kind. All will be expected to be good people.

My understanding is that this too is how my Father works too. We all get the same standards to live by. Even people who struggle with anger are expected to be loving and not commit murder. The example I used above is the rule that I have agreed to not even take one sip of alcohol. It seems broad, even oppressive to be so strict and to demand the same amount of obedience for everybody. Surely some people CAN have a glass of wine every once in a while with no nose dives into being a raging alcoholic- so why should they be held to this same strict standard of NONE? I think that this is possibly to protect those who, for whatever reason, have a weakness in this area. Some people can do some things in moderation. The same thing (for example a substance) might be highly and quickly addictive for another.

So, all my children are expected to stay out of the street. The six year old probably is aware enough to hear and move out of the way when a car is coming. He is still, however, not allowed to play there! Why? Lots of reasons- one being that the little ones don't "get it" yet and would follow his example without any understanding of the danger. Another being that even if it is less dangerous for him, it is still dangerous, and I am interested in keeping EVERY single one of my children alive and healthy, not just some of them.

So that's what I think about obedience. That is the kind of parent I want to be- one that is loving and kind but firm and trustworthy and fair. A parent that allows choices and consequences and makes rules that protect my children. I want to be a parent who raises young children into good adults. I want to have children who look back and think, "I get it now, she just loved me."


Joy@WDDCH said…
Preach it sister! I read the first half and will have to finish when I'm not so tired. But so far, so good. I totally agree! And for the most part I don't FEEL like a good parent but others tell me otherwise. I must be doing something right... something!
Tori said…
I agree with almost everything you said... I disagree with trying to be fair. This has been a BIG issue lately in my own home, so I feel a desire to wax verbose for a moment with someone who might care and/or find it interesting.

I don't do fair. I believe God doesn't do fair, either. I try to do Just, which, as I see it and believe, is what HE does perfectly. I'm definitely NOT perfect, so I don't do it perfectly... but I'm trying.

I DO believe I want to be the kind of parent who is consistend with rules across gender lines. But the rules I feel are most important in that regard are those that guide my children to obedience to the TEN, the others Jesus has give us in His mortal ministry, the Word of Wisdom, and obedience that will keep them in line with the Articles of Faith as necessary.

So, I disagree about the curfew issue. I have a 7 year old, a 4.5 year old, a 2.5 year old and an 11 week old. I can imagine, based on the way the 4.5 year old is already, that I will give her an earlier curfew than the 7 or 2.5 year old because my 4.5 year old SEEKS our trouble, while the other two are simply more obedient out of desire to be so. The difference might be 1/2 to 1 hour, but still.

I can also see a time that I might require rent of one child to continue living at home while NOT requiring it of another. (I can't guess who on that one, really, but I can imagine that one or two may be more capeable and or need such a requirement.)

I believe that justice requires different rules based on character, past obedience (vs disobedience), etc.

God does not give you the same gifts He gives me for obedience to the Law of tithing. He gives you what you need or desire and me what I need or desire, which He desires to give at that time. So, because he doesn't give the same thing for the same thing, some (like my children) would say that's not fair. And they are correct. It isn't about FAIR, it's about Just. Our God is a God of perfect justice, not fairness. And I desire to emulate His Justice.

So, though I wrote a lot about it, that's the only thing of all you wrote I disagree with. :) I enjoy your blog very much and I hope you know my intent is simply to write about something that's been a big deal with my family lately to someone who might actually care. :)
Cherylyn said…
Thank you so much for this post! I struggle with parenting and being consistent, and I often wonder how I should approach things with my children. The imposed consequences are the hardest for me, especially as my children get older. Your post made me feel both better about my current parenting approach and also inspired to do better. Thank you :)
Mama Birth said…
Totally get that Tori and I think you are right- I guess I was just throwing out a possible example, but it was hard to think of a perfect one- thanks-
Mama Birth said…
I guess when I read over it I want to point out what I meant more clearly-
Some of my kids might have different rules (like because of age or past behavior or just because I am the mom and I know that child's weakness) but they will all have the same STANDARD. For example- lying will always be a bad thing. Now a kid who I know is good at lying might not be trusted as much as the one who I know isn't (I totally have a kid like that, can you believe that?!) The kid who always tells the truth will be trusted at face value, while I might need some corroboration for the story from the kid who lie easily. But both will be expect to be honest. Does that make sense? Same would go with when they are expected home or any other thing. Yes- just not fair-
Sara said…
I agree with a lot of what you have said here, but as a bible student and follower of Jesus I do not see any command to abstain completely from alcohol or caffeine. The bible repeatedly speaks of alcohol being a source of joy in moderation. Jesus even turned water into wine, and almost certainly consumed wine, as it was an important source of hydration in Bible times. I think it is important not to confuse commands that are in God's word the Bible with ones that men have interpreted for themselves.
Lani said…
So much great stuff here. I had suspected we shared our faith, but now I'm quite certain. :-)
Anonymous said…
Sara, not all religions believe that the bible is the only volume of holy scripture. The commandment to abstain from alcohol is in the doctrine and covenants, which is a different volume of scripture commanded by God and written by His prophets in the latter days. The commandment to abstain from alcohol is also in the Quoran, which is a volume of scripture sacred to a different religion. Mama Birth subscribes to a different set of religious beliefs than you do, but just because it isn't in the bible, that doesn't mean they are any less commandments from God as far as she is concerned. Especially when you consider how easy it is to become addicted to alcohol and how prevalent alcoholism is in our society and culture, it makes logical sense to avoid it completely. Even if I didn't also believe that Heavenly Father dictated that we avoid it in this day and age as well. :) Well said, Mama Birth.
Mama Birth said…
Sara- I am a Christian, but also believe in additional scriptures-
There are many faiths that encourage/discourage various food and or substances. These include: Orthodox Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Seventh Day Adventists, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (or Mormons) and probably some others that I am leaving out.
Truly, moderation IS important-

I don't expect others to subscribe to my belief systems. But having a dietary law is not foreign in the scriptures at all. Christ himself lifted some of the dietary restrictions that had been part of the law of Moses, as noted in the book of Acts. He himself lived that law growing up.
I do believe that part of the reason that we (in my faith) are asked to live the particular law of avoiding alcohol (for example) is to teach us obedience, in addition to protecting us from the possibility of addiction. That is why I used the example specifically when talking about obedience- because in moderation it would be fine- but we are asked to sacrifice our own will sometimes.
Dany said…
great post.

also thought you'd enjoy this:
Honey1 said…
Hi Sara, I am a Seventh Day Adventist and I don't drink alcohol. The reason I have chosen not to drink alcohol is because of a verse that speaks of doing something that may cause somebody else to fall. I think Mama Birth explained that perfectly. If I chose to drink, I don't know who I might have an influence on who might then go on to drink with disastrous consequences. It also talks in proverbs about it being wrong to get 'drunk' and there is also a verse about treating your body as a 'temple of God'. So I don't think it is necessarily a sin to have a sip of alcohol but I believe all of the above points are there to lead me away from it. Our church does have additional writings but I choose to make my decisions based on the Bible first and foremost, the other writings just back it up :)