Parents, Are You Listening?
February 1971

“Parents, Are You Listening?” Ensign, Feb. 1971, 54–57

Parents, Are You Listening?

The following comments by young persons from throughout the Church may help parents and other adults to get a feeling for some of the attitudes and ideas held by the youth. Youth from various parts of the world were asked if there were any sentiments that they would like to express to their parents or other adults. It may be that if other young persons in the Church have something important to say to adults, this feature will be repeated. As a note of interest, several parents who had something to say to teenagers are speaking out in the New Era.

I have a pretty good level of communication with my parents. We don’t often argue, but when we do, we settle our differences fairly easily. But there’s one thing I never talk to my parents about. When I do something wrong, I’d like to be able to go to my parents and say, “Look, I’ve done this and I’m really sorry I did. What can I do to repair the damage?”

But I can’t do that. I’m so afraid I’ll disappoint my parents’ faith in me, and I end up getting a new, long version of an old lecture instead of the advice and sympathy I need. So I go to a friend or a teacher and ask their advice, and then try to settle it on my own. And I usually come out OK. But I really wish I had enough faith in myself and in my parents’ trust to admit my errors to them. If I were sure my parents could love and respect me, in spite of mistakes, I’d be even more confident that my Father in heaven could do the same.

15-year-old girl
Everett, Washington

In five weeks’ time the annual examinations at the university will begin. To pass the first year, one needs to be in the top sixty percent, and I am not confident that I will be in this group.

My parents have always been pushing me on and lecturing me about the importance of a university education, and I was worried about their attitude if I failed. Recently, however, we discussed this possibility and they suggested that it might be well to repeat the first year, if necessary. This took a load off my mind. I am pleased that my parents suggested and advised rather than ordered. Most young people like to be treated as an adult, as this does not get their “back up.” More tolerance and understanding would do a lot toward helping parents and teenagers to get along together.

17-year-old boy
Perth, Western Australia

Primary, Sunday School, MIA—these church activities have always been a very important part of my life because of my mother. I’m very thankful for this, because the gospel has taught me that ours is not a Sunday-go-to-meeting type of religion, but a way of life, to live each and every day.

The problems of teenagers communicating today with parents is probably greater than it has ever been before. I hear of campus riots, sex scandals, and racial disorders, but the one thing I would like to be able to talk to my parents about more than anything else is the gospel. To have a family united with the gospel has always been one of my fervent desires.

I know it’s true that we often take for granted the things we have, so that the important things that mean so much to us and that we must do without come to mean even more. I would give anything in the world to have my father an active member of the Church, to be able to talk with him about the things that have grown so important to me. But this has become impossible. I often see my friends wishing their parents wouldn’t make them go to church, wouldn’t care whether they had anything to do with it or not. And I feel sorry for them. Maybe if both my parents had been active in the Church, I would have felt differently about it too.

And so, I’m sorry my father will not listen. I’m still hoping that maybe someday he will. I’m also very thankful that from this experience I have learned what type of life I must live so that my children will have a united family.

18-year-old girl
Casper, Wyoming

When people talk about communication gaps, it seems that parents are always to blame for the gap being there. I know, however, that in my family the small gap that is there is there because I have made it.

The thing I would like most to talk to my parents about is the love and appreciation I have for them. They have given me so much that I have never shown appreciation for.

I am sure that if I were to tell them how much I appreciate all that they have done for me, we would be able to be closer and we would be able to talk about more things together.

It is only by telling others how much you appreciate them that you grow closer. It seems as if gap-closing comes only in small and unused packages. It’s too bad the packages aren’t used and given more often.

17-year-old girl
Salt Lake City

I’d like to have my parents understand my feelings about the way I wear my hair. We have discussed this many times, and they have allowed me to wear my hair the way I like it. I realize, however, that they do not really approve. I do not like to go against their wishes, and I respect and love them very much. I always feel free to go to them with all my problems. Yet I truly wish that they as well as many other parents would not make such a fuss about the way we like to wear our hair.

It is true that there is a very undesirable group of young men today who wear their hair too long and untidy. This is not the hair style that I am referring to. I see nothing wrong in wearing a neat mustache and sideburns and having the hair a little longer and thicker.

I do not think parents should insist that their sons should wear their hair short just because they, the parents, like it best that way. We do not want to wear our hair longer to follow that group I mentioned, but simply because we like our hair longer. I do not mean shoulder length!

Many parents today are too strict and cause their sons to become indifferent toward them and the Church because of it. I believe young men today love the gospel and hold to the Church standards just as much as our parents did at our age.

Please, parents, don’t think your sons are losing their faith just because they like to wear their hair a little longer than you did.

17-year-old boy
Salt Lake City

I often found it difficult to talk over problems with my father, but this was not always the case. For there was no problem when we saw eye to eye on the solution. But the problem arose when I knew that the answer that my father would give me would be in opposition to my own views. It would anger him if I decided to act on my own decision, if it opposed his. For this reason I would only consult with him about a problem if I knew we would both be thinking along the same lines. I always felt uneasy if I thought our opinions would differ, and therefore I would act alone.

I feel that my father felt that because of his greater experience and knowledge, his decisions were correct, and I should learn from others’ experience, rather than by my own mistakes; but I felt differently.

As long as my solution was not illegal or immoral, I could not see why I should not do my own thinking and learn from my own experience.

This attitude often caused friction between us, which in turn upset other members of the family.

There seemed to be a wall between my father and me, and it was a pity. Maybe if we both had shown more tolerance and understanding, it would have made life more harmonious.

When my parents moved east, I remained behind, so as to be independent of my father’s thinking. The result was that we get on well now.

I think that the next time we are together, I will not feel dominated by my father and that he will leave me to my own reasoning.

20-year-old boy
Perth, Western Australia

Our parents were brought up in a world where they were sheltered from many realities of life. Their world was shut off from discussing such things as immorality, crime, and drugs.

Today, everything is out in the open. No man is hushed when the conversation begins to turn toward the darker side of life. Crime and drugs are everywhere, and everyone knows it. As a result of being faced with this situation, many young people are bewildered about how to make something of themselves while fighting through the mass of confusion.

If parents would realize the problems facing today’s youth and then try to understand and do something about them, maybe the two generations could come closer together to battle the problems, rather than forming a gap and drawing further away from a solution.

18-year-old boy
Salt Lake City

You are your own personal ambassador of public relations, and how you get along with your parents depends upon how logical and mature your behavior and attitude are at home and in public. Communication takes cooperation, but what if this cooperation is lacking? Sometimes we youth find this cooperation missing in our own lives: consequently we find ourselves in an all-out war with those who gave us our earthly bodies.

In talking with some of my friends who have thoughts about trying marijuana or other stronger drugs, they seem to lack a line of communication with their parents. Kids are always talking to my parents about their problems when they should be talking to their own parents, but their parents aren’t flexible enough or interested, nor do they listen.

Just the other day, after seminary, I heard a girl say that she can’t talk to her own mother about her friends because her mother feels that it is her obligation to tell her friends’ parents about their conversation. Things like this shoot us down when we try to talk about our problems with you as adults. Remember, communication takes cooperation.

Whether it has been the influence of my parents or just me, I have been able to realize that they are human too, and are capable of mistakes. Besides, this is their first time around. Sure, we have our differences of opinion, but so far we haven’t created a gap, as such. The line of communication has always been open, in my opinion. However, there is one area of misunderstanding. My mother is always telling me to get my hair cut, even when it’s too short to comb. And my father doesn’t like the “clanging” of guitars and the “banging” of drums in today’s rock music; but these are just little things that aren’t worth getting in a big hassle about.

Parents, treat your youth as an adult, even if he doesn’t act like it. This is our “first time around” too, remember?

16-year-old boy
Everett, Washington

Turning Point

A father, atop a wagonload of grain, approached an outer gate to the farm home. The grain was sacked, piled high, and ready for market in another community some miles away. A full day was needed for this trip. The father called to his son nearby to open the gate. The boy, muttering something in the spirit of resentment and frustration, walked away without responding to the request. The father, known for his patience, left the load of grain and labored with the boy to discover the reason for his conduct. … the team and wagon stood inactive for some considerable time, and … the wheat was not delivered to market until the following day. There was no raising of voices, no punishment—just father and son struggling for understanding and the fulfillment of love between them. The son has remarked several times in his mature years that this was the turning point in his life. It opened up to him an understanding of his father and the nature of responsibility. … He honors his father for his love and patience.

—Wilford W. Richards,
The Instructor
February 1968, p. 61