Families, communities, and nations are stronger when children are parented intentionally and with unconditional love. Numerous studies show that the best parents function more as guides than authority figures or best friends. Good parenting is accomplished when the parents understand and live correct doctrines and principles.
The above statements are just some of the knowledge that I gained while taking a class on parenting. This knowledge is coming too late for me to use while parenting my children because my youngest child left home more than 16 years ago. Yet, I can pass along the learning to other parents who are in the trenches of child rearing at the present time and those who will be soon.
The foundation of my new knowledge that good parenting comes from knowing and acting on correct doctrines and principles. Then-Elder Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints taught this principle in the October 1986 General Conference.
True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior. The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior. Preoccupation with unworthy behavior can lead to unworthy behavior. That is why we stress so forcefully the study of the doctrines of the gospel”
This statement is extraordinary but true. True doctrines and principles can be found in both sacred and secular writings, but they originate with God and come to us through His prophets and apostles. Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles enlarged on the statement in his book titled Increase in Learning.
Two important words in President Packer’s statement should be highlighted. First, true doctrine changes attitudes and behavior. True suggests doctrine that comes from God and is correct and accurate. The sources of such doctrine are the authorized teachings of the Lord’s anointed servants and the scriptures. False doctrines, personal opinions and speculation, and gospel “hobbies” do not and cannot produce the same righteous effect upon our outlook and conduct.
Second, true doctrine that is understood changes attitudes and behavior. Interestingly, President Packer did not teach that simply knowing true doctrine changes us. Rather, doctrine must be understood. … the word understanding in the scriptures frequently is linked to and associated with the heart and refers to a revealed result or conclusion. Thus, true doctrine confirmed in the heart as true by the witness of the Holy Ghost changes attitudes and behavior. Knowing true doctrine is necessary but is not sufficient. Understanding true doctrine both in our minds and in our hearts is essential to righteous attitudes and actions.
To change attitudes and behavior, true doctrine must be understood. To gain understanding of true doctrine, one must learn. For someone to learn true doctrine, someone else must teach true doctrine. Once true doctrine is taught and learned, understanding must take place for it to change our attitudes and behavior. However, we must act according to our knowledge and understanding of true doctrine if we are to be an influence in the lives of our children and other people.
The statement by Elder Packer and the enlargement on it by Elder Bednar was the foundation for the knowledge that I gained. This knowledge and understanding were added upon by information from secular sources. One of those sources is a book titled Why Gender Matters by Leonard Sax, M.D., Ph.D. The book details numerous differences between girls and boys, information that is important if parents are parenting intentionally and unconditionally. This statement from the back cover describes some of the material in the book.
Forget everything you think you know about gender differences in children. In recent years, scientists have discovered that differences between girls and boys re more profound than anybody ever guessed. Recent research shows that girls and boys see the world differently – not only figuratively but literally. A girl’s retina is built very differently from the retina of a boy. When a girl and a boy look at the same landscape, they are seeing very different images. Girls and boys hear differently as well. These differences have major implications for best practices in education – and also for effective parenting.
The chapters that I read in this book opened my eyes to why my husband is different in many ways from me, and this knowledge gave me greater understanding. Another book that helped to open my eyes is a book by Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D. that is titled Mindset – the New Psychology of Success. The information in this book has the potential to help us “learn to fulfill our potential” in “parenting, business, school, and relationships.” The following statement from the back of this book gives a good summary.
After decades of research, world-renowned Stanford University psychologist Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D., discovered a simple but groundbreaking idea: the power of mindset. In this brilliant book, she shows how success in school, work, sports, the arts, and almost every area of human endeavor can be dramatically influenced by how we think about our talents and abilities. People with a fixed mindset – those who believe that abilities are fixed – are less likely to flourish than those with a growth mindset – those who believe that abilities can be developed. Mindset reveals how great parents, teachers, managers, and athletes can put this idea to use to foster outstanding accomplishment.
I learned in this book that the way I speak to other people will affect whether they have a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. For example, if I praise my child for his intelligence or talent, he will be less willing to try more difficult problems than if I praise him for his efforts in solving a puzzle or problem. The way I talk to myself will affect my mindset for the better or worse.
Still another book that had a big impact on me is The Anatomy of Peace – resolving the heart of conflict by The Arbinger Institute. The following statement is from the back of the book.
What if conflicts at home, conflicts at work, and conflicts in the world stem from the same root cause? What if we systematically misunderstand that cause? And what if, as a result, we systematically perpetuate the very problems we think we are trying to solve? Every day.
From the authors of Leadership and Self-Deception comes an international bestseller that instills hope and inspires reconciliation. Through a moving story of parents who are struggling with their own children and with problems that have come to consume their lives, we learn from once-bitter enemies the way to transform personal, professional, and global conflicts, even when war is upon us.
From reading this book, I learned about a heart of peace and a heart of war. I learned about the “boxes” that I put myself in, and I learned how to get out of the boxes. I learned the importance of treating our children and others as people and not as objects. (When we treat them as objects, we put ourselves in a box about them.)
Two other books that aided in my learning are The Ten Basic Principles of Good Parenting by Laurence Steinberg, Ph.D., and Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn. Both these books are full of principles that apply to parenting but are useful in other situations. One such principle is that discipline is teaching and not punishment. It is all about what we do with a child rather than what we do to a child. This principle can be applied other situations, such as teaching or supervising other employees.
I strongly recommend that teenagers, college students, and young adults take at least one parenting class before they have children. Such a class can be helpful at any time, but the information will be more useful if parents have the knowledge as they embark on their journey to parenthood. I know that a parenting class will help parents to learn to parent intentionally and unconditionally and that such parenting can strengthen families, communities, and nations.