This was the name of a talk from General Conference that I loved. I felt like it was written just for me. In reality, there are so many others, especially parents, who can get a lot from this talk. Here is the piece that I've focused on and that has changed me and is continually changing me. I'll talk about why at the end of this quote. Elder Lynn G. Robbins says,
"When children misbehave, let’s say when they quarrel with each other, we often misdirect our discipline on what they did, or the quarreling we observed. But the do—their behavior—is only a symptom of the unseen motive in their hearts. We might ask ourselves, “What attributes, if understood by the child, would correct this behavior in the future? Being patient and forgiving when annoyed? Loving and being a peacemaker? Taking personal responsibility for one’s actions and not blaming?”
How do parents teach these attributes to their children? We will never have a greater opportunity to teach and show Christlike attributes to our children than in the way we discipline them. Discipline comes from the same root word as disciple and implies patience and teaching on our part. It should not be done in anger. We can and should discipline the way that Doctrine and Covenants 121 teaches us: “by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; by kindness and pure knowledge” (verses 41–42). These are all Christlike be’s that should be a part of who we, as parents and disciples of Christ, are....
Alma discovered this same principle, that “the preaching of the word had a great tendency to lead the people to do that which was just—yea, it had had more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword” (Alma 31:5; emphasis added). Why? Because the sword focused only on punishing behavior—or do—while preaching the word changed people’s very nature—who they were or could become." (You can find the entire talk here. If you want to watch it, scroll down a little and click on the link on the right side that says, 'watch'. )
One day I took Elisabeth to Michael's Arts and Crafts. She must have been under 18 months because she was our only child.I needed a cake decorating item and soon. It was nap time, I knew that, but I really needed to get started on my project. She may have been hungry too, or have just been fed fishy crackers or some other non-nutritous snack that acts like sugar in the body(remember, this was in our early married life when we ate junk and didn't know any better). Either way I remember that day at Michael's very clearly because it was bad. It started with whining and grabbing everything in sight. Then it turned to crying, and more crying and she would not stop. She got louder and eventually just laid on the floor and screamed. And then she'd start with the head banging. The head banging was nothing new(Only Elisabeth did this. This was child number one and I didn't know what I was doing so I'd tell her to stop and give her loads of attention. I should have ignored her or left the scene). Women stopped to stare. Some with children, some without, and I'm sure they were thinking all sorts of negative thoughts about this young mom and her crazy daughter. I learned from this experience(and unfortunately several others like it) that a child needs to be well fed, and well rested. Even now, when Elisabeth gets home from school, and just before dinner, if she walks in the kitchen and starts mouthing off or annoying a sibling, we ask her to kindly refrain from speaking until she's eaten something. And it's not just Elisabeth. We definitely have more tears and more misbehavior from all of our children when they have a low blood sugar or if it's close to bed time.
Over the years I've learned some things through my experience and through the experience of others. You'd think after nearly seven years of practice that I'd really have the discipline stuff down. Sometimes I do. But kids are continually growing and changing, and then when you have another one, even though you've already been through that age and stage before with another child, this child is completely different. I'll admit to occasionally losing my cool. Sometimes I get so frustrated with having to repeat things over and over and over again(times 100) that it finally gets to me. The thing I've found that helps the absolute most with my parenting is the guidance I get from Heavenly Father and our Savior. Countless times I've gone to them in prayer or through the scriptures to find answers, or just for comfort. They know all of us so well and they would know best how to parent each individual child. This talk was a reaffirmation that we need to be disciples of Christ, especially to those closest to us, our spouses, parents, siblings and children. I'm glad I have these words printed because I can remind myself when the kids are quarreling, that perhaps there is a Christlike attribute I can teach from this situation(and of course I need to be an example of it too). The home is actually the perfect place to practice and develop these skills. I guess I should be grateful for all the quarrels the children have at home because we get lots and lots of practice at refining our characters to become more Christlike.
Lastly, I included the quote about preaching being more powerful than the sword because I've also found that to be true. I'm not a spanker. I never have been and I never will be. I believe that children follow the example of their parents, whether good or bad and that hitting will only teach them to hit. Just as anger and using a loud voice will teach them to do the same(which is something I'm working on). I also don't believe that time-out is the solve-it-all answer. Yes, it's a simple solution, but not always the best choice. Sometimes one of our kids really does need to cool off and be alone for a few minutes. But other times, that child just needs to talk with a loving and patient parent, one-on-one. But that does require that the parent is being Christlike, selfless and in tune with the spirit so that they can follow those promptings. I know it's harder for me to feel that way when we are in a hurry, or when I'm hungry or tired(just like my kids) or if I'm too involved in whatever I want to do(reading a book or something of that sort). Parenting isn't easy. But just like all good things in life, with work and selfless service it can be the sweetest most cherished gift ever. And it truly is. It can refine and build your character in such an amazing way that it's almost unbelieveable. Nearly seems impossible. And I'm sure it would be if I didn't have the Lord by my side guiding me each and every day.