“So, how did your writing assignments go?” Stephanie asked me at my last session.
“Good!” I answered with a smile.
“Tell me what you learned,” she smiled back.
I related my thoughts and discoveries to her and she nodded, made some observations and then moved on to my second writing assignment.
“So, what are the two principles you want your children to learn?” she asked and then waited.
“I want them to learn obedience to God’s will and compassion for others,” I answered.
She paused and then said, “Let’s talk about that… Why do you obey God’s will?”
Uh… Because we’re supposed to?
I blinked again.
Noting my blank stare, she offered another question, “When you obey your mother or father, why do you do it?”
I looked off and pictured my parents. I saw them smiling at me and asking me to do something. Then I saw myself smiling back at them and doing what they asked.
“Because I love them,” I suddenly answered.
Stephanie’s eyes lit up, “Exactly. Because you love them. We obey someone because we love them.”
Understanding dawned and a warm feeling spread through me.
I obey God because I love Him… I love God!… And I want my children to love God, too!
From that moment on, my perspective on the Gospel changed dramatically. It wasn’t a bunch of rules and commandments. It was a Father and Son who love me and whom I love.
And from that moment on, my perspective on how to teach my children the Gospel changed dramatically. I wasn’t teaching them a bunch of rules and commandments. I was teaching them how to love God and the Savior. And how to feel Their love.
I struggle to describe the profound difference this has made for me. Now, when I pray, I try to take time to feel that love for my God. And when I do, I talk to Him differently. It’s more meaningful and reverent and grateful. And I can feel the Holy Ghost so much easier. And I feel joy and peace.
The night after this session, I excitedly told my husband what I had learned. His eyes lit up as he realized the same thing as me. It’s so easy to focus on the rules and forget our relationship with Heavenly Father. But if we focus on our relationship, keeping the rules comes naturally.
“I want to change the first principle I want our children to learn,” I told my husband.
“What do you want it to be now?” he asked.
“Instead of learning obedience to God’s will, I want them to love God,” I stated.
He nodded and said, “And instead of learning compassion for others, you want them to love their neighbor as themselves… Those are the two greatest commandments!”
“You’re right!” I laughed.
And thou shalt love the Lord they God with all they heart, and with all they soul, and with all they mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.
And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.
“Yes,” I nodded with conviction, “That is what I want us to learn. And that is what I want us to teach our children.”
During that session, Stephanie and I also had a wonderful discussion about parenting and I solicited her advice on some of my theoretical concerns. These are some notes I took and wanted to remember…
When asked how to prevent children from feeling like they need to perform for praise or love, Stephanie said:
“Performance is good for developing talents, but they shouldn’t feel like they need to perform for praise or love. Give your children praise that is action focused. Instead of telling them they are great at loading the dishwasher, tell them specifically what they did, “You put all the plates in, great job!” This allows them to make their own conclusions on what they’re good at, instead of you making the conclusion for them.”
“Tell your children every day, “You are a blessing. You are loved. You are wonderful.” Then they will know you love them no matter what, even if you had a rough day with them.”
When asked how to prevent ourselves from comparing our children to each other or peers, Stephanie recommended:
“Compare them to themselves and let them compete against their own record. Say, “Look! You couldn’t do that six months ago, but now you can! Way to go!””
Some of my other favorite quotes:
“Don’t take my word on it, go look it up for yourself.”
“Every age has its gifts.”
“Just remember you’re working for Heavenly Father. No matter what you’re doing, even if you’re changing a diaper, think, “I’m working for Heavenly Father!” When you do that, it changes how you feel about it.”