We had the privilege of having a wonderful empty-nester lead the discussion for our mother's group this week. Mary Hall brought two of her daughters along and we got to hear from all three of them about their ideas about teaching children responsibility.
When I asked Mary to lead, I had in mind the "teaching work" part of responsibility and expected to hear lots of ideas about chore charts, chores, and the like. I was pleased to hear instead many ideas I'd never considered that were an important part of teaching children responsibility.
Here are a few of the points that stood out to me:
* Mary opened with this quote from President James E. Faust: "In my opinion, the teaching, rearing, and training of children requires more intelligence, intuitive understanding, humility, strength, wisdom, spirituality, perseverance, and hard work than any other challenge we might have in life."
* Teaching children responsibility ideally requires both a father and a mother working in partnership. "Nothing compares with a father who is responsible and in turn teaches his children responsibility. Nothing compares with a mother who is present with them to comfort them and give them assurance." (by President Boyd K. Packer)
* Mary Hall's family would use different chore charts each Saturday to teach work. At the bottom she would include different activities they could do together to celebrate finishing -- things like going to the library, riding bikes, or making brownies. Her grown children remembered that being an effective way to teach responsibility.
* Mary encouraged us to recognize and thank our children for the help they give the family.
* It's important to let our children feel responsible for their choices and allow them to experience the consequences. When one of Mary's grandsons comes home from school after having experienced a consequence, she listens compassionately and is encouraging. Mary shared another story where a grandson was riding his bike on a camping trip. The path was rough and gravelly and his mother wanted him to wear a helmet. He insisted he wouldn't crash and agreed that if he did so, his bike would be put in time out. Sure enough, a little bit later, his bike did fall over and he scraped his legs. His grandma was with him, but he didn't even let out a whimper. He just picked his bike right back up and kept riding. It was a great way to let him learn from his choices.
* One mom shared a story of trying to constantly keep her young child out of some water when they were on an outing. Finally, she decided that since the water wasn't deep enough to be a real danger, she would simply warn her daughter and let her experience the consequences of not listening when she fell in a bit later. It was a way to safely let her daughter understand the need to listen to her mother.
* We need to let children experience the effects of their choices when they're young because as they get older, the stakes are higher and the need to choose well is much more important. One mother suggested that sometimes it's better to have kids be really challenging when they're young because they learn more quickly and then are easier when they're older.
* One of Mary's daughters is the mother of four teenagers. She shared how they've handled the internet at their house. They use Safari as their browser and it allows them to set helpful controls, such as only allowing the internet to be used during homework time and filtering out questionable images.
* Teach children how to repent and listen to the still, small voice of the Holy Ghost.
* We need to teach our children in positive ways about human intimacy and modesty. More than a few of us mentioned that we had received very little teaching about the subject in our homes. It was wonderful to hear from Mary Hall's grown children about the training they'd received. Mary was a nurse so she was able to teach her children in appropriate, respectful terms about the way the body works and kept an open dialogue with them.
* One mother said that in preparation for a recent discussion with two of her children about the subject, they watched some videos of when the two of them were born. It brought the Spirit in and they felt the beauty of life and its sacredness and it was a special way to introduce the importance of guarding the powers of creation that God has entrusted to us.
* We can start when our children are young to teach modesty and respect for our bodies and let them know that there are private parts of their bodies that other people shouldn't touch.
* Four suggestions Mary gave for teaching children: 1. Reading the Book of Mormon together daily teaches about the wise use of agency and the consequences of it. 2. Tell your children the stories of Jesus. 3. Family Prayer should happen morning and night. 4. One-on-one interviews with each child.
* On Sunday evenings when Mary's children were young, they would put the kids to bed and then Mary would sit down and consider each child. She would think through what they needed to learn physically, what they were doing well at, what challenges she was having with them and what she could do to help each one. She said that there were no computers back then to turn to for answers so it was easier for her to turn to the ultimate source of help, our Heavenly Father. He knows our children and wants to help us help them.
* We have what we need in the gospel to teach our children. We can count on the Lord's help and inspiration as we look to the many different sources of help in teaching our children.
Mary suggested a few additional sources for reading about this subject:
* Reward Them and Teach Responsibility (talk by Eugene Mead)
* A book by Brad Wilcox called Growing Up is a great resource for teaching children about human intimacy.
* Teaching Gospel Principles to Children Part 1 and Part 2 from the Marriage and Family Relations Manual.
* A Parent's Guide
What ideas do you have for teaching children responsibility?
If you were at the meeting, what points did I miss?