Thursday, February 17, 2011

My Parenting Philosophy

Parenting is absolutely the hardest thing I have ever done. I don't consider myself a natural disciplinarian; I have to really think things through, and work hard at parenting. I fall on my face a lot, and haven't learned to enforce consequences consistently. There are things I am struggling with right now as a parent. Writing helps me with this, so I decided to write out the principles that I believe I must use to help me with my current parenting struggles, then sit down apply the principles to help me with a discipline plan.

I anticipate one blog post of principles and theories, and another describing my current struggles, and application of these principles for a solution. Any insight and encouragement you can give is welcome and appreciated. :D It is my hope that we as parents and leaders of youth, can bounce ideas off of each other and help each other out!

I want my kids to have happy, successful lives. To do this, they need to be able to discipline themselves. Self discipline means that they direct govern themselves... to be responsible, polite, etc... to make good, wise choices. And you know the saying, "Practice makes perfect!" The more they do it, the better they will get at it! "Teach them correct principles and let the m govern themselves." Joseph Smith

I want my kids to have the knowledge and skills they need to make wise choices so they can continue to make wise choices while away from me. Giving a child permission to direct govern his own life and make wise choices implies that the child has ALREADY been TAUGHT what he needs to know to be able to make that choice. Thus, until a child understands the implications and consequences of an action, he is not yet ready to make decisions concerning it.

Letting kids take the helm of their own life ship means that they will make mistakes. Just analyze any opportunity for success, and you will see that there must also be the possibility of failure to have the possibility of success. This means that no success in life can be made without risking failure... without taking chances.

And we all know that ultimately, the helm will be handed over. If it isn't handed over until after they leave home, the risks are pretty big - they are in serious trouble if they still haven't learned how to steer their lives by then! But if you hand it over before they are ready, while they are tiny little kids who aren't yet capable of steering a safe course, they are also in serious trouble! Thus, there must be a gradual increase in freedom given as children develop the knowledge and skills to make safe choices.

How do I apply these principles to REAL LIFE? First, when kids are very young AND don't understand the importance or consequences of a choice,

(1) I make the choice by making sure they follow the rules (hold their hand across the street) and

(2) teach them both the rules and guidelines (that we cross only when the light is green, and it is safe), and in addition

(3) teach them why the rules and guidelines are there - (IE... how obeying the rules and guidelines keeps them safe and ultimately happy - not just now but in the long run based on consequences to follow...)

As kids learn and grow, I wait until I am absolutely sure that they know the rules guidelines and reasons for them, and then,

(4) after these first three steps are thoroughly accomplished... stop holding their hands. By this time, they are ready to be given the opportunity to make safe choices on their own. They know the importance of following rules, but don't rely solely upon rules; they have common sense as they consider guidelines, and are mindful of the dangers grey areas pose; they understand that they must weigh risks carefully; stay far from danger; and they know that there are consequences to their actions.

In other words, once they have learned and grown, and fully understand between right and wrong, and know the consequences of a choice, I let them make that choice (Note: freedom to make choices to every decision in their lives are not given overnight in the same day; they are given line upon line, when ready; parents are to keep their children safe and prepare them to keep themselves safe).

And last of all, once a child makes a decision and takes action, I

(5) stand back and let them either suffer or enjoy the consequences of their actions. If they make a choice that has good consequences, I let them bask in those consequences and really enjoy them. If they make a choice that brings negative consequences, I don't bail them out. IE. If they brake it, let them fix it. This does not mean we should be over concerned with justice and have no mercy. There are times when it is good to be a merciful support and help to carry part of the burden. But this must be very carefully and prayerfully done. It is very important that kids feel the effects of the choices that they make.

Once kids know what they are doing, I don't believe in forcing them to obey the rules (laws, commandments etc) to try to insure my children succeed at everything.

I believe we need to give kids the tools (knowledge, practice making choices, and ability to recognize the Holy Ghost) they need so they can succeed; and then let them succeed or fail by letting them make choices - now - while the stakes are low.

And if when they fail, let them suffer the consequences of their choices. Experiencing failure and or poor choices takes belief that there are consequences, and turns it into sure knowledge. Suffering the consequences of foolish decisions helps to encourage wisdom in the future; more importantly, succeeding at recognizing and experiencing the positive and joyous consequences of wise decisions made - may be the best motivator for making wise choices in the future.

This post is long enough. I now anticipate two more posts to follow. (:O) One about a couple of challenges parents face when they don't know how to balance giving freedom to make choices with disciplining. The other will be my own personal brainstorming for ways to apply these principles with my own current parenting issues of needing to help my teens get off of the luring path of technology obsession, (which I believe is one of Satan's greatest tools in these last days to distract us from doing the things we came here to earth to learn, do and become).

Until then...

UPDATE: May 27, 2012

I have also learned that it is even more important to see to it that youth experience the consequences to the GOOD choices that they make than it is to see to it that they experience the consequences to their negative choices. Often in our irritation or concern we point out mistakes in hopes that they will improve; but do we give enough attention to what they do right and help them to like themselves and see themselves as capable and good? We are all more inspired and motivated to do better by the knowledge that we can succeed than we are by failures.

NOTE: If you like this post, you may also enjoy reading the post The Concept of Self Government


  1. Well I think you about covered it. I think you listed everything my mother gave or did for me. :)
    Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

  2. I think you did a great job on this one. I am right there with you. I could definitely use some help with the teen years though. You would think by now i would be good at this, but the one thing I know for sure is that every child is totally different.

  3. Thanks! :D I hoped this wouldn't be be boring.

    It really is shocking how truly tricky the teen years can be - even with really great kids! Keep reading; maybe we can help each other! :D

  4. This was put so well!
    Thank you also for the comments on my blog. You have left some great inspiration for me on many posts. Thank you


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