We had a fun Sunday morning yesterday. And by fun, I mean frustrating and humbling.
One child did not want to fast and one child was “sick” and did not want to go to church.
We had a few discussions and a few lectures, and the kids were still holding their ground.
This opposition gave me time to reflect on what kind of parent I wanted to be.
And I came to the conclusion that I want to be a God-like parent. Afterall, He is the perfect parent and perfect example. So before I turn to blogs, books, friends, or even my own parents, I wanted to look to God to see how He parented. Whenever possible, He should be my mentor.
So how would God have handled my Sunday morning?
First and foremost, God honors our agency. “Agency is the ability and privilege God gives us to choose and to act for ourselves.”
In fact, God values agency so much that a war in heaven was fought over this principle. He let His children chose whether they would accept His plan or not, even though the consequences of choosing wrong were severe.
So when it comes to parenting, I doubt He threatened. I doubt He screamed. I doubt He bribed. I doubt He manipulated. I doubt He demanded.
Instead, I bet He taught. I bet He testified. I bet He led by example. I bet He allowed consequences. I bet He loved. And then, I bet He taught again.
And because He honors agency so much, I am sure He cried. I am sure He wept. I am sure He got frustrated. And I am sure He felt loss and sadness as He watched many of His children make wrong choices.
As I thought about God’s parenting example in the premortal world, I had a moment of clarity where I understood my role as a parent in this world.
I understood that I will be accountable for what I teach my children and what I reteach them about the gospel. I will be accountable for how I nurture. And I will be accountable for how I lived the gospel.
But I will NOT be accountable for how my children live the gospel.
THEY are the ones who will be accountable for their actions.
I sat the kids down on the couch and basically said to them:
“It is my job as your parent to teach you about fasting. It is my job as your parent to teach you about the importance of going to church.I think I have done that and will continue to do so. However, it is NOT my job to force you to do these things. This is your life and your choice and your accountability.” And I walked away.
I’m not going to tell you what their final decisions were. Their choices are not the point of this post. The point of this post is to remind us as parents to let them have that choice. We are not asked to force. We are to guide and teach and testify, but ultimately we must allow our children to govern themselves.
Turning the reigns over to our children is primarily difficult because we want what is best for them.We love them. We know what is right. We know that obedience to God’s laws brings the most joy. We want them to be successful and happy and have as easy as life as possible.
But it is also difficult to give up control because our egos are involved. We are too tied to the results instead of the process. (Remember, my german chocolate cake?) We fear what others will think of us as parents if our kids make wrong choices. We fear other’s judgement because we may have judged a parent whose child took a different path. I see it and hear it all the time — respect for those who have obedient children and a judgment on those who don’t.
But let’s looks to God again. Let’s remember that the perfect parent lost 1/3 of His children before they even came to earth because He allowed them to choose. And he has lost countless more since coming to mortality.
God’s worth or measure as a parent is not based on the actions of His children. Heck, with serial killers, child molesters, and terrorists, God could be considered a failure as a parent. But we still know He is a perfect parent.
His children’s actions do not define His parenting skills or ability. His children’s actions do not define His parenting heart.
Neither do mine.
And neither do yours.
The mark of a God-like parent is how we nurture and how we love and how we let our children use their agency. It is not in the actual choices our children make.