Mainstream parenting experts tell us our job is to control our children, and they are full of secrets and tricks to get our kids to do what we want (whether it’s fear and shame and coercion, or bribes and rewards).
But I’m not buying it.
The scriptures and counsel from modern-day prophets make clear that coercion is not the Lord’s way nor His desire for our relationships.
“Next to the bestowal of life itself, the right to direct that life is God’s greatest gift to man.” –David O. McKay
I firmly believe that our job is actually to connect and nurture and inspire. To lead by example and to guide. It’s to create an environment where they are safe and free to learn and make mistakes and try again, to feel encouraged and supported rather than ashamed or afraid. Our job is to set personal boundaries and to ensure everyone feels safe in their home and gets their needs met, to protect property and the rights of every family member, but always to do so with kindness and firmness and clarity. Our job is to work with our children, to solve problems together, to treat them as people worthy of respect, and to trust them to make good choices when they are given the conditions they need to thrive. Essentially, our job is to build and strengthen relationships with our children, and then live how we want them to live. Treat them how we hope they will treat others. Nurture and support them as they become the people they are meant to become, not try to force them into the people we think they should become.
It struck me recently that our children were individuals before they came to this earth. They had and have unique strengths and weaknesses, talents and gifts. They had agency and they have already used it wisely. They are not blank slates for us to make something of (or worse, naturally bad people that we have to “civilize” and make good) — they are people who chose to keep their first estate, to follow the Savior and come to earth to gain experience and become more like Him. They are so capable of becoming greater than they already are, by His grace and their free will. They are so capable and have so much potential to continue choosing Him. They don’t need us to force them to choose Him, or to choose for them. They need us to provide an atmosphere for growth and learning and light, opportunities to learn of Him without compulsion or fear, so they can feel of His love and His spirit. Then they will be motivated to choose Him again and again.