Mothers Day is one of those bitter-sweet holidays. Each year, when I sit each year in church listening to the ideal mother being honored (she never raises her voice, she cooks amazing daily meals, cleans her house incredibly, goes to every sporting event, always looks beautiful, and a bunch of other things I am not good at) I always feel a little uncomfortable. I was relieved and amused today when the final speaker was a grandma who was able to let us know that despite the only baking done in her home came from the local bakery, and that she was often LESS than patient with her children, they all are close to the Saviour and turned out well (I know one of her sons and have to concur that he is indeed a neat person). This brought me to wondering what it is that makes a mother a good mother, or a father a good father.
A while ago I came across a department in Berkley University called the Greater Good Science Center. This department of the university studies the science of happiness (what a fun job). There is a blog written by one of their faculty, Christine Carter, Ph.D, who is a sociologist and happiness expert at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center. She writes about science based parenting. I have this thing about me that LOVES it when science backs up gospel principles. My soul says this is how it should be. Since we are created spiritually and temporally, it makes sense that all commandments have a physical and spiritual blessing or punishment attached to them.
Christine wrote a great post on being a great mother. She gives us 10 pieces of advice on how to the best parent ever. I loved them all! Here is my paraphrasing of her suggestions with a few scriptures to back them up (I call this science and scripture based parenting)
1-Be Happy. When mothers are happy, sciences shows, that they are better parents. 2 Nephi 2:27 states “Adam fell that men might be and men are that they might have joy”. The gospel is a gospel of joy. It is important that we remember that and work to feel that joy and happiness that comes when you are living the gospel principles to their fullest.
2-Simplify your life. Try to cut out things that cause stress or make you overly busy. As we simplify our lives we are better able to enjoy the moment and be patient with our children. Elder Scott said that “Satan has a powerful tool to use against good people. It is distraction. He would have good people fill life with “good things” so there is no room for the essential ones.”
3-Be Romantic with your spouse. There is great security felt for our children when their parents are openly attached and romantic with each other. As children see peace and love emulated in their own homes between their own parents, they are able to have greater faith in the term “Families are Forever”. There is a reason the scriptures tell us to “become one” in marriage.
4-Unconditionally love your children. Let them know that you love the unconditionally even when they are misbehaving. When they are acting out can be one of the best times to hold your kids close (instead of using timeouts, or other negative parenting methods). Jesus loves us unconditionally. He died for everyone of us, the good, the bad and the ugly. His arms are continually held out for us to run to-unfortunately we sometimes put our own selves on ‘time-out’ and refuse to seek comfort in his love.
5-Set boundaries. Be a parent not a friend. A parent can be a friend, but it is important that being a parent comes first. Children feel safe when they understand what their boundaries are. Heavenly Father sets boundaries for us all the time. He gives us commandments that keep us safe. When we obey the word of wisdom, we do not struggle with being addicted to alcohol or cigarettes. ( We save money too 🙂 ) All commandments keep us safe, provides blessings to our lives and helps us experience life to it’s fullest.
6-Set Family Habits of Gratitude. Psalms 100:4 says “Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.”Helping your children become aware of their blessings (prayers) greatly increases their enjoyment of life and help combat selfishness and a sense of entitlement. The more any of us practice thankfulness, the more we tend to notice in our lives that we should be thankful for, and the happier we are. (So says Science and Scripture). Some of these habits could be a gratitude journal, saying thank-you first in your prayers, or telling each other what was great about each day.
7-Be supportive to your children and encourage independence. Help them understand who they are by teaching them correct principles and then encourage them to govern themselves. Have faith they will choose the right.
8-Embrace mistakes. As Benjamin Zander says … if you make a mistake, throw up your hands and exclaim, “How fascinating!” Teach your kids to do the same. Mistakes are not scary, bad or something to cry about. We all make mistakes-that is not what is important, it is what we do once we realize we made a mistake which matters. Do we hide it like Cain tried to do, or admit our mistake honestly like Eve? Jesus is the only one who did not make a mistake, for the rest of us he gives us the wonderful gift of repentance. Teaching your children to understand and be grateful for the ability to repent is vital to being happy (and having eternal life).
9-Enjoy working hard. The more positive you are about hard work, the more your children will learn to work hard and even enjoy doing it. This is definitely a positive thing because as we all know, life is full of hard work!! As illustrated in the creation story, work is not something that is just a part of this world, it is also part of the next. Even our Father in Heaven works “For this is my work and my glory, to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of mankind”
10-Realize that you are not perfect, and never will be in this life. Allow yourself room to grow towards this lofty goal, and remember that God is so kind, so loving, so forgiving and there to help us in all our struggles. It is important that we are always striving to follow in Jesus’s footsteps, but is important to realize that our life is a journey and failing in one area does not mean we are failures. “It is not meet to run faster than you have strength” is a good scripture to remember, along with “there is a season for all thing”. These scriptures say to me that Heavenly Father does not expect us to be perfect in all areas at all times right now. He realizes, and so should we, that we “all fall short of the glory of god”. Yes we should strive to live up to the ideal (the Savior) but should not beat our selves up when we do not.
Reading this list helped my “not a ideal mother” guilt dissipate somewhat. As I read it I realized that while I am not perfect, as long as I continue trudging along (or preferably skipping with joy ) in the right direction, I can trust that the Saviour will have power to make up the difference. For that I am eternally grateful.