Families, communities, and nations are strengthened by parents establishing and lovingly enforcing family rules. The family is the basic unit or organization of society and must be strengthened in every way possible. The strongest families I know operate within the framework of family rules. Even though each family is unique and has its own set of rules, there are some rules that every strong family has adopted.
The freedom of establishing family rules has recently been challenged in court. Two days before her eighteenth birthday, RachelCanning, an honor student in northern New Jersey, decided that she would no longer live under the rules established by her parents and moved out of the family home. She apparently did not know or understand the consequences of her actions. When she left the family home, her parents stopped giving her financial support. Now she is suing them. She is asking for $650 in weekly child support plus tuition for her remaining year of high school and college expenses. She obviously wants the freedoms of adulthood but not the responsibilities.
I am grateful that Judge Peter Bogaard is questioning the consequences of giving this young woman what she wants. “Do we want to establish a precedent where parents live in basic fear of establishing rules of the house?” Bogaard cautioned legal counsel that issuing such an order “would represent essentially a new law or a new way of interpreting an existing law. A kid could move out and then sue for an Xbox, an iPhone or a 60-inch television.” A hearing will be held next month to determine if the parents are responsible for their daughter’s college expenses. If Rachel Canning is wins this law suit, families across the nation will be damaged as rebellious children use the court system to get around family rules.
Every family can benefit from reading and adopting “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” On September 23, 1995, President Gordon B. Hinckley of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints introduced this proclamation to the sisters of the Church in a general Relief Society meeting: “This proclamation from the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles declares to the world the Lord’s standards and doctrines concerning the family. The proclamation also provides counsel for strengthening families and a warning about the consequences of the disintegration of families.” (Emphasis added.)
President Joseph F. Smith and his counselors introduced a weekly home evening program to the Church in 1915. They urged parents to use the time to instruct their children in the world of God. President Smith later asked families to “spend an hour or more together in a devotional way – in the singing of hymns, songs, prayer, reading of the Scriptures and other good books, instrumental music, family topics, and specific instructions on the principles of the Gospel and on the ethical problems of life, as well as the duties and obligations of children to parents, the home, the Church, society, and the nation.”
President Smith believed that a “great and important duty devolving upon this people is to teach their children, from their cradle until they become men and women, every principle of the gospel, and endeavor, as far as it lies in the power of the parents, to instill into their hearts a love for God, the truth, virtue, honesty, honor and integrity to everything that is good.”
In 1917, two years after the introduction of the family home evening program, President Smith reported that home evenings were “being observed by many families, and very interesting and profitable evenings [were] being spent.” The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints continues to emphasize the importance of family home evening.
What should parents teach in family home evening? President Smith believed they should teach the following: (1) Parents should teach their children to love God and the principles of the gospel. “The very foundation of the kingdom of God, of righteousness, of progress, of development, of eternal life and eternal increase in the kingdom of God, is laid in the divinely ordained home.”
(2) Parents should teach their children to walk uprightly before the Lord. “We counsel the Latter-day Saints to observe more closely the commandment of the Lord given in the 68th section of the Doctrine and Covenants (25-28): `And again, in as much as parents have children in Zion, or in any of her stakes which are organized, that teach them not to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Son of the living God, and of Baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands when eight years old, the sin be upon the heads of the parents;
“`For this shall be a law unto the inhabitants of Zion, or in any of her stakes which are organized;
“`And their children shall be baptized for the remission of their sins when eight years old, and receive the laying on of the hands.
“`And they shall also teach their children to pray and walk uprightly before the Lord.’
(3) Parents should discharge their duties faithfully. “We should look well to our ways, and see to it that we discharge our duties faithfully as parents in Zion. The wives should be united with their husbands, and the husbands with their wives, in exerting their influence over their children in this direction…. My children must not and will not turn away with my consent. If they do turn away, it must be over my protest, and against my example. I will plead with my children; I will endeavor with all the power I possess to have them as true and faithful to this Gospel as it is possible for me to be; because without all of them in the kingdom of God I would feel that my household was not perfect….
“I would like my children, and all the children in Zion, to know that there is nothing in this world that is of so much value to them as the knowledge of the Gospel as it has been restored to the earth in these latter days through the Prophet Joseph Smith. There is nothing that can compensate for its loss. There is nothing on earth that can compare with the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Let, therefore, all the parents in Zion look after their children, and teach them the principles of the Gospel, and strive as far as possible to get them to do their duty – not mechanically, because they are urged to do it, but try to instill into the hearts of the children the spirit of truth and an abiding love for the Gospel, that they may not only do their duty because it is pleasing to their parents, but because it is pleasing also to themselves. My dear brothers and sisters, take care of your children; teach them in their childhood the principles of truth; teach them to live pure lives, to have faith in God, and to call upon the Lord in faith that they may obtain full fellowship with the Lord and become heirs of salvation in His kingdom.”
When children are taught by the words and examples of righteous, loving parents and understand the principles contained in the gospel of Jesus Christ, they are more likely to follow the rules of the family home. We can strengthen our families, our communities, and nations by establishing righteous family rules and teaching the rising generation the importance of obedience to them.