There is a universe of parenting advice out there. Everyone has their own ideas - neighbors, relatives, scientists, psychiatrists, political leaders, you name it. Countless books and articles. Its easy to be swept away by an idea, but being open to new ideas is something I strive to be. Over the last week I've been fascinated by the national discussion sparked by the Wall Street Journal Article "Why Chinese Mothers are Superior" by Amy Chua, and another article I read online called "Mormons and the Kindergarchy," by Rebecca J. on www.bycommonconsent.com. Both present radical ideas about parenting, and their ideas have been rolling around in my mind. In my opinion, both have some good points: Chua's ideas of limiting idol time in front of electronic devices and Rebecca J's on the harm of hyper-parenting. Outside those two points however, I was incensed by the what I read.
In the end, both articles represent ideas that fly in the face of what is taught by the leaders of the church. You'll never hear a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles condone ever calling your child "garbage" like Amy Chua, or warn that parents give their children too much attention, according to Rebbecca J's article. For me, the only way to navigate the crazy world of parenting is to follow my conscience and listen to the word of God. After mulling over what I had read in these two articles, I could only think of things I had recently heard in General Conference or read from the prophet as rebuttal, quotes from which I have below:
"Clearly, those of us who have been entrusted with precious children have been given a sacred, noble stewardship, for we are the ones God has appointed to encircle today's children with love and the fire of faith and an understanding of who they are." M. Russel Ballard, "Great Shall Be the Peace of Thy Children," Ensign, Apr. 1994, 60.
"Parents must bring light and truth into their homes by one family prayer, one scripture study session, one family home evening, one book read aloud, one song, and one family meal at a time. They know that the influence of righteous, conscientious, persistent, daily parenting is among the most powerful and sustaining forces for good in the world. The health of any society, the happiness of its people, their prosperity, and their peace all find common roots in the teaching of children in the home." L Tom Perry, "Mothers Teaching Children in the Home."
Maybe my most favorite parenting talk was given by President Gordon B. Hinckley, in "These Our Little Ones":
"There once was a commonly seen bumper sticker that asked the question, "Have you hugged your child today?" How fortunate, how blessed is the child who feels the affection of his or her parents. That warmth, that love will bear sweet fruit in the years that follow. In large measure, the harshness that characterizes so much of our society is an outgrowth of harshness imposed on children years ago."
"Of course, there is need for discipline with families. But discipline with severity, discipline with cruelty, inevitably leads not to correction but rather to resentment and bitterness. It cures nothing and only aggravates the problem. It is self-defeating. The Lord, in setting forth the spirit of governance in His Church, has also set forth the spirit of governance in the home in these great words of revelation:"
He goes on to write that there is no exception to justify not "...making every effort in showing forth love, example, and correct precept in the rearing of those for whom God has given us sacred responsibility."
I can honestly say I am making every effort to show forth love to my two little girls, whether its by reading a book with them, making a meal, kissing a hurt, playing with them, teaching them words and ideas, or even just by being there for them. I'm doing this the only way I know how - and that's with every ounce of my energy and love. And I'm not doing it because I am driving myself crazy trying to be a perfect mom to create perfect children like Rebecca J's article suggests, I'm doing it because I love my children.
I don't feel like children are sent to us so we can mold them into whatever we want them to be (like Chua), but to give them the tools to survive this world with faith and charity. I fully intend to watch my children grow and flower into their own beings, listening to the Spirit, being attentive and caring but hopefully never over-bearing, along the entire way.