Friday, February 25, 2011

The Concept of Self Government

About a week ago, I posted a blog about My Parenting Philosophy in which I promised this follow up (along with another yet to come), so here it is!

In that first post, I wrote about wanting to raise responsible, self directed self governed people(actually, we are hopefully "directed" first by God, and then by Prophets and Apostles and other leaders appointed by Him). In a nutshell, I believe in freedom, not forcing. But I also believe in having order, not chaos...

Looking back through history it is clear that in a government where anarchy is the rule (if you can say that, since with anarchy there are no "rules"...) chaos is the product; just imagine children doing what ever they want and the dangers they would put themselves in without being governed -especially concerning things they can not understand... then you can imagine adults causing chaos in their own lives over even larger issues.

In a government where tyranny is the rule (or rather, there is no end to rules, regulations, or the horrible consequences to breaking those rules), the people have no peace, no growth, no progression, their property is taken from them, they are oppressed, they probably experience very little happiness... they are in essence dammed to progress by the lack of initiative produced by such over governing, and hate their tyrannical leader so much that throughout history it was not uncommon for many of these tyrannical leaders to be killed by their own trusted cooks poisoning them.

By the way, tyranny is exactly what God cast Satan out of heaven over...

3. "Wherefore, because that Satan rebelled against me, AND SOUGHT TO DESTROY THE AGENCY OF MAN, which I the Lord God, had given him, and also that I should give unto him mine own power; by the power of mine Only Begotten, I caused that he should be cast down;

4. And he became Satan, yea even the devil, the father of all lies, to deceive and to blind men, and to lead them captive at his will, even as many as would not hearken unto my voice."
Moses 4:3-4  (emphasis mine)

The People's Law
I have struggled with finding balance between the two, labored mentally over these things, and wondered why it is so hard for me. But this morning I read about the frustrations Thomas Jefferson went through as he read 6 different drafts to be considered as a constitution for the state of Virginia in 1776 (excellent preparation for the writing of the Declaration of Independence... much of which came from Jefferson's own draft of the Virginia constitution he was working on). In essence, these men were like disciplinarians for our entire country. These were amazing, intelligent men (John Adams, Richard Henry Lee, Meriwether Smith, George Mason, Carer Braxton, Patrick Henry, and others). I applied the Jefferson's discipline frustrations to my own as I read the words of Cleon Skousen;
"It was obvious that the best minds of the country were still struggling to find a proper formula for the efficient self government of a free and independent state." (emphasis is mine)
When I read this it hit me. That's what I've been struggling with, and what every other parent or caring leader of any group of people struggles with... finding a proper formula for self government... For me, this means not only personal self government, but also the responsibility of teaching my family in such as way as to encourage and promote self government of family members - the smallest, yet most important institution in the world. My husband and I are the leaders of a family - A family which hopes to have neither anarchy or tyranny; and my husband and I have the responsibility to make it happen!

As I think of the work and accomplishment of our founding fathers in creating a system of government which made it possible for the first successful free government in the history of the world... I am again renewed in my excitement about the parenting challenges that face me. These challenges make life an amazing and great adventure! :D

We as parents can act as tyrants to keep our children under control... The justice system of our government can also take measures to keep them under control... But because we love them, what we really want is for them to be able to be in control of themselves.

How do you let them have control over their lives, without creating an environment of anarchy?

In order to answer this, it is necessary to take a close look at the opposite extremes of government and what makes them so.

With tyranny, we have total law... Lots of rules, and all are forced to obey. There is order, but no freedom, growth, or happiness that comes from that freedom and growth. With tyranny, the government have TOTAL CONTROL.

With anarchy, we have freedom, but no laws, no order, and total chaos. And it must be difficult to enjoy your "freedom" if there are no laws to protect it, and others believe they have the "freedom" to steal or destroy your property... and even kill you if their anger justifies it, or if you are a minority without protection in numbers. With anarchy, there is no government to control the people, but also no incentive for self control... there is NO CONTROL.

So, back to the question... How do you let your kids have control over their lives, without giving them so much control that you end up with anarchy?

I could be wrong, but I think the answer lies in NOT being extreme in our leadership (no laws vs. tons of laws... no consequences, vs punishment for every wrong doing.) We need reasonable laws with reasonable consequences... and consequences need to be enforced; but obedience to the laws should not be forced.) Another key in avoiding anarchy comes with teaching, as the prophet Joseph Smith did with the people he lead...

"Teach them correct principles
and let them govern themselves."

Think only of "and let them govern themselves" and you have anarchy. But add the "Teach them correct principles" and you have a people who are capable of governing themselves with respect to others. If they do not choose to govern themselves, consequences to breaking laws will discipline them...

Jesus Christ set the perfect example of leading in this very way. He leads his followers with love, patience (this is an amazing example to me... He lets people grow and change at their own rate...), kindness, and by teaching the gospel. Examining his ministry while he was on earth, we can see that the only fear He may have encouraged would be fear of the natural consequences of evil doing (some call this the "fear of God"... which doesn't mean being afraid of God, but means being afraid of the consequences of disobeying Gods laws/guidelines for safety).
More about Tyranny - Ignorance and Fear
Another point worth making about tyranny, is that people are kept ignorant and afraid as a means of making it easier to control them. Looking through history, we can clearly see that Hitler and other tyrannical leaders all used ignorance and fear to control people.

As you know, there was also a time when the Bible was not made available to the general population. The people could not read the Bible for themselves; it was kept strictly away from them, so they would have to rely upon those in power to interpret the Bible - and tell the powerful leaders tell them what to do and how to live... thus keeping the people in a state of ignorance and dependency upon those in power; these people couldn't govern themselves without it leading to anarchy.

In contrast, the answer in creating a people who could govern themselves was very simple - Print the bible, and make it available to everyone; let the people study and learn God's word, and teach them to strive to develop a relationship with Christ and to be in tune with the Holy Ghost... to get their own interpretations of the Bible from God as He answers their prayers, and then they will be able to safely govern themselves. As people began to establish personal relationships with the lord, the world changed. Inspiration and light replaced darkness. The world advanced more in freedom and prosperity in 200 years, than it had in the previous 5000 years before... as as result of a group of God loving men, who with God as their leader and inspiration, established a government in accordance with the will of God - avoiding both tyranny and anarchy.

The Holy Bible opened the way for this... We now have the blessings of other scriptures in addition to the Bible, which greatly encourage developing a relationship with Jesus Christ; reading the Book of Mormon has invited the Holy Ghost into our home in great abundance.

Therefore, another definition I like for discipline is this...

 Discipline, is lovingly Teaching correct principles, so they may  have the tools they need to safely govern themselves.

In other words, teach them, and allow them to exercise Self Discipline/Self Control. When they don't exercise self discipline, don't force  them to obey or do right,  let the consequences of their actions teach them. And since some consequences are so huge, or so far in the future that some consequences must be fabricated to help youth learn SOON, before it is too late... (and since we don't want the chaos of anarchy) we as parents and leaders have the opportunity of prayerfully and lovingly provide and lovingly enforce, a few (not too many!) clear rules and clear consequences for breaking those rules - *as well as rewards for keeping them. This makes possible such wonderful blessings as boundaries, security, guidelines, and order. It stimulates relationships, learning, growth, and happiness.

I would love to tell you more, however, this post is already long enough, so I will continue this thought at a later date.

Until then...
Happy Balancing! ;)
Corine :D

A few thoughts added to the last section - April 2, 2011
* This sentence in purple was added on Jan 19, 2012 as I came to link up this post to my Love and Law.


  1. Corine, you know I do not have children but I have worked with children. The biggest mistake I always ran into with parents was they under estimated their children. I sure pray your balancing works out.
    But honestly this should be taught to humanity not just children :)
    Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

  2. Corine, I so agree with all of this. There is a website called "Love and Logic" that teaches those principles in ways that are easy to understand and I have many of their books and tapes. I also read everything I can get my hands on about this because every kid is different and sometimes you need a little extra help. The biggest part about self-governing that I like is that you don't have to yell. The kids know the consequences. They are more of a "real life" type consequences. And I love the fact that you actually want them to make mistakes so that they learn before they make bigger mistakes as adults. It is a joy to watch them learn to self-govern and learn to make great choices. Thanks for the great article!!

  3. Jules... thanks for the follow up email! :D And, for the permission to BLOG IT! I will do that soon. You rock! :)

    Patty Ann - I read the Love and Logic book when my kids were little and LOVED IT! I totally agree with it. There are so many comforting principles there; aren't there? I suppose that is how Heavenly Father can bear to watch us all mess up so much. Thankfully, we learn, we grow, and we are blessed to become better people as a result of it all! :D

    Thank you both for your comments.
    Corine :D


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