Families, communities, and nations are strengthened by parents who follow appropriate parenting principles and practices. The family is the core unit of society and central to Heavenly Father’s plan for our happiness. Satan knows that the family is vital to salvation, so he does everything possible to destroy families. Heavenly Father put us in families to help us reach our full potential. He also gave us the remedy for the attacks of Satan: “I have commanded you to bring up your children in light and truth” (D&C 93:40).
Society has several attitudes about parenting that are not appropriate or good for children. Some people believe that children are innately evil because of the Fall of Adam and Eve. Some parents with this belief think that they must “beat the devil” out of their children.
Some people believe that children are innately good and well-motivated, but they are corrupted by adult society. Parents with this belief allow their children to learn from experience and to follow their own inclinations. This or similar beliefs were held by French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau as well as humanistic psychologists Carl Rogers, and Abraham Maslow.
Some people believe that children are like a blank slate and neither bad nor good. John Locke believed that children are shaped by their experiences. John B. Watson and B.F. Skinner agreed with Locke, and they asserted that children can be conditioned or molded by controlling and altering their environment.
Some people believe that children are more than a blank state at birth and that early differences between individuals can be explained to a degree by biological factors. This idea diminishes the role of individual agency.
Some people believe that individuals have the ability to interpret – or even to construct – their environment. This belief recognizes agency and suggests that individuals can modify the effect of biological and environmental influences.
Most or all of the listed attitudes contain some truth. It is true that children are born pure and innocent into a fallen world. It is also true that we are all affected by our environment, biology, and personal agency. However, none of these perspectives offers stable guidelines for moral behavior, but the gospel of Jesus Christ does. The scriptures tell us that children are pure and innocent because of the Atonement of Christ, and prophets teach us about the age of accountability and about our dual nature – spiritual and natural.
We know that each child is individual and unique in both genetic composition and individual interests, talents, personality, desires, and abilities. We know that parents, siblings, and other people influence the development of each child. We also know that scientific research suggests biological characteristics affect the dispositions and temperaments of children.
Social scientists have discovered that parenting techniques fall into four general approaches: authoritarian, permissive, authoritative, and uninvolved/neglectful. Authoritarian parents try to control and shape the behavior of their children. They show firm control but little warmth. Snowplow parents, helicopter parents, drill sergeant parents, tiger mothers, and stage mothers may all fall within the authoritarian approach.
Permissive parents usually show warmth and love toward their children but offer little guidance or direction. They allow their children to regulate their own activities, avoid the exercise of control, and do not insist on obedience to external standards. This approach has little or no control as well as little guidance and teaching. Free-range parents may fit into this approach.
Authoritative parents, like authoritarian parents, expect much from their children. However, authoritative parents show a high degree of warmth and responsiveness. They are loving and supportive, but they guide their children and exert firm control as needed. Authoritative parenting is most consistent with the scriptures and gospel teachings.
Uninvolved/Neglectful: Uninvolved or neglectful parenting is characterized by few demands, low responsiveness, and little communication.
In 1995, the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints published a document titled “The Family – A Proclamation to the World.” They stated the following in their proclamation: “Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities.” The authoritative parenting approach encourages parents to adopt and live these principles.
Parenting is difficult, but the rewards of good parenting are worthwhile. Parents do not need to be perfect, but they should be good-enough parents. Prophetic counsel tells parents “to do the best they can in their own family circumstances,” (James E. Faust) and “you fail only if you fail to keep trying” (Spencer W. Kimball).
Parenting is the most important work that we can do, and God will hold us accountable for how we parent our children. However, He will look at all aspects of the situation. When parents do their best to rear their children in love and righteousness, they can strengthen their family, community, and nation.
Ideas for this post come from the manual for a parenting class, Strengthening the Family, published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.