Families, communities, and nations are stronger when parents and other adults teach correct principles to the rising generation and help them become self-governed adults. Children and youth need to be taught to think about their actions and the consequences of those actions. They need to be taught to consider what is right and what is wrong and why they should choose the right.
A news article out of Florida today shows that parents are always teaching principles to their children – but not always correct principles. A mother and father took their seven children, ages 3 to 13, into a ToysRUs store in Boca Raton, Florida, and taught them how to become criminals. A surveillance camera caught the family’s capers on tape; the video showed the children actively helping their parents steal two expensive tablets. The video did not show any instruction taking place inside the store; therefore, the tutoring sessions must have taken place before the family entered the store.
This article illustrates clearly that parents can teach good or bad, right or wrong, principles. Parents who desire to rear responsible children and to help them find happiness as adults will teach correct principles by precept and example. I found the following articles, one from a secular source and one from a religious source, that included several good ways to rear responsible children.
Bestselling author Andy Andrew suggested two questions for parents to consider as they rear their children because “no one will change their behavior without clearly understanding why they should.” These two important questions are: 1) “How does this affect me?” 2) “Is there proof beyond a reasonable doubt this is true?” [Emphasis added.]
According to Andrews, a “better course of action” is to explain “why behaving differently is actually in their best interest.” He said that parents need to forget about “how to raise great kids,” and think about “raising kids who become great adults.” “We need to teach them how to think, which includes why we believe as we do, and why we make the decisions that we do, and it’ll all be wrapped up in what is in it for them.”
In an article entitled “Teaching Children to Govern Themselves” the author wrote the following: “To raise responsible, faithful children we must teach them to govern themselves. Children who have learned to govern themselves take responsibility for their feelings, thoughts, actions, and decisions. This includes controlling their emotions and expressing them appropriately. [Emphasis added.]
“`President David O. McKay taught that `the best time for the child to learn rules of conformity is between the ages of three and five.…
“`If mother does not get control of the child during those ages, she will find great difficulty in getting control later. …I do not mean to push and drag or confine – just let the little child be perfectly free to develop until he goes beyond the bounds of safety. Then let him feel the gentle but firm hand of restraint.’ (Stepping Stones to an Abundant Life, Comp. Llewelyn R. McKay, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1971, p. 38.)
“Since our children will not always be under our supervision, we want to equip them as early as possible to use sound judgment and understand how to evaluate the consequences of their own choices.” The author then listed several “ideas about how parents can teach and encourage their children to govern themselves.”
1. “Explain the reasons for your decisions. In his early years, a child has a very hazy idea of cause and effect. He needs to be taught the nature of things and why certain decisions garner certain results. Experience is a good teacher in this respect, but parents need to make sure that the experiences are safe for the child and that they explain to him the consequences, both negative and positive, of his behavior….
“If your child understands the reasons for a rule or a decision, he is much more likely to accept the rule or to make the same decision on his own when you are absent. Furthermore, he will be more apt to see you as a person with whom he can talk over his problems and decisions….”
2. “Teach correct principles. When the Prophet Joseph Smith said `I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves’ (quoted by John Taylor, Millennial Star, 15 Nov. 1851, p. 339), he gave us a formula for teaching our families….
“We teach correct principles in many ways. One of the most important ways is our example. While there are no guarantees, there is impressive evidence that children tend to govern themselves according to the way their parents govern themselves. Parents interested in teaching self-government to their children would do well to begin that instruction with a careful self-analysis to determine how well they govern themselves….
“Sit down with a pencil and paper and take stock of your own desires, appetites, and habits. Are there any that you feel you do not control? How can you gain greater control in these areas?
“Help older children with a similar inventory taking. Show them of your interest in their self-mastery….”
3. “Encourage discipleship. Those who have mastered self-government have disciplined themselves. Likewise, children who have learned self-government have been disciplined. That doesn’t mean their behavior is so strictly enforced by punishment that they are afraid to enjoy life. Discipline is not punishment….
“Children become disciples of their parents as they learn to trust their parents’ decisions, admire their integrity, and feel their love. As that happens, children hopefully will adopt their parents’ values and govern themselves according to those values. For this reason, it can be said that children will become disciples when their parents become disciples of Christ.
“Children have much to teach us, as every parents knows but does not always remember. Becoming disciples together in the quest for better self-government may be one of the most unifying experiences we can have as a family. It will deepen our love for one another and for the Savior, who was perfectly self-governed.
“By following the Savior’s example on teachings, we become sensitive to the promptings of the Holy Ghost, who can show us everything that we should do. (See 2 Nephi 32:5.) By teaching our children to listen to the promptings of the Spirit and to rely on the Lord in making decisions, we help them gain the freedom of righteous self-government.”
Our world is in desperate need of parents who will act as parents by loving, teaching, training, and preparing their children to become responsible adults. Our families, communities, and nation will be strengthened when the rising generation is taught correct principles and how to think through the consequences of their choices.