Families, communities, and nations are stronger when parents nurture their children with love. President Gordon B. Hinckley of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints encourage parents to nurture their children: “Rear your children in love, in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Take care of your little ones, welcome them into your homes and nurture and love them with all of your hearts” (Church News, March 1, 1997, 2).
Nurturing means to respond to a child’s needs with love and kindness. It includes nourishing children physically, emotionally, and spiritually. It means “loving, teaching, protecting, helping, supporting, and encouraging” (Strengthening the Family Instructor’s Guide, , 33). Through the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Lord said, “I have commanded you to bring up your children in light and truth” (Doctrine and Covenants 93:40). Strengthening the Family suggests the following forms for nurturing.
· Teaching true doctrines of salvation to children.
· Fostering spiritual development through scripture study, prayer, family home evening, and participation in Church activities.
· Providing children with food, clothing, shelter.
· Speaking and listening to children in a Christlike manner.
· Teaching appropriate behavior.
· Imposing consequences for misbehavior.
· Showing love, respect, and devotion.
· Setting a proper example.
· Teaching the value of work and providing work opportunities.
· Teaching financial discipline and money management principles, including tithing and savings.
· Providing fun and wholesome recreational activities.
Children need nurturing at all times, but they particularly need help when they face problems.
Children need help from parents during troubling times because parents should be most concerned about their children. In addition, parents have the opportunity and obligation to help their children.
Psychologist John Gottman of the University of Washington conducted a 20-year study of 119 families. The results of the study showed that “couples who had the greatest parenting success were able to help their children when their children needed help the most – when they were distressed and upset.” The successful parents completed five steps or nurturing tasks, which Gottman called “emotion coaching.”
[Gottman] found that the nurtured children learned to understand and handle their feelings better, to get along with others, and to solve problems in appropriate ways. They also had better physical health, higher academic scores, better relationships with friends, fewer behavioral problems, more positive feelings, and better emotional health.
The five steps used by Gottman in his emotion-coaching process are as follow: Step 1: Be aware of the child’s emotions. This means that the parent is able to recognize and respond appropriately to the feelings of their children.
Step 2: Recognize emotion as an opportunity for closeness and teaching. When children have troubling emotions, this is an opportunity for bonding and growth with them.
Step 3: Listen empathically and validate the child’s feelings. As the child discloses emotions, parents should practice active listening and allow the child to feel a sense of control over the situation.
Step 4: Help the child identify and name emotions. Children are not born with a vocabulary for their emotions. They need their parents to provide words to transform vague, undefined, uncomfortable feelings into descriptive words.
Step 5: Set limits while helping the child learn to solve problems. With the parent’s help, a child can learn to deal with troubling thoughts and unpleasant feelings. Parents may have to do most of the problem solving with young children, but they should help older children and teens learn to solve their own problems.
The pattern to solving problems is (1) identify the problem by asking questions, (2) ask the child if they have an idea of how to solve the problem, (3) brainstorm for possible solutions, (4) express confidence that the child can solve the problem, (5) remind child of previous times when they solved a problem – maybe the same approach will work with the current problem, (6) evaluate the possible solutions.
Parents should help the child decide on the best solution because they have more experience and wisdom. If a child insists on trying a solution that will likely fail, parents can allow the child to learn from the experience as long as the outcome will not be harmful or burden the child with major problems.
Strengthening the Family suggests three principles that can guide parents wondering if they should become involved in their child’s problem: (1) Parents have a responsibility to help their children. (See Mosiah 4:14-15; D&C 68:25; 93:40.) (2) Children who can discern good from evil are accountable for how they use their agency. (See 2 Nephi 2:27; Moroni 7:12-17; D&C 58:27-29.) (3) As children progress toward adulthood, they must learn how to take care of themselves. As adults, they are to be self-reliant, meeting their own “social, emotional, spiritual, physical, or economic” needs.
There is an eternal value to nurturing children. As parents nurture their children with love, kindness, and sensitivity, children will usually respond favorably. President Gordon B. Hinckley gave another reason for loving and nurturing children:
Never forget that these little ones are the sons and daughters of God and that yours is a custodial relationship to them, that He was a parent before you were parents and that He has not relinquished His parental rights or interest in these His little ones (Church News, March 1, 1997, 2).