“Strengthening Our Children,” Ensign, Sept. 2000, 30
While Church leaders and teachers often use the pamphlet For the Strength of Youth to help children learn about standards, parents are uniquely able to teach their own children how to live these standards. They do this by helping them find applications and implications in their own cultures, families, and lives. Using the pamphlet as a handbook, you may choose to adapt some of the following suggestions as you share time with your children. Many of these ideas come from the booklet A Parent’s Guide (item no. 31125), which you also may want to review.
In planning these discussions and/or experiences, consider that your goal is not only to teach for understanding but to come to a general agreement on righteous values and standards and how they will apply in our lives.
Over the course of several evenings, read together and discuss with individual children each section in the pamphlet, perhaps at bedtime.
Have a “family council” devoted to the teachings in the pamphlet where parents and children discuss, listen, and ponder—striving to arrive at righteous agreement.
During one-on-one time, counsel with children concerning those standards you feel impressed to share. To counsel with our children means to listen to them, give advice to them, and teach them.
Plan a family home evening where you pose the question “How are you going to protect yourself from the destructive forces Satan has turned loose today?” As responses are considered, lead a discussion about what modern prophets have told us in the pamphlet that can help protect us.
Try to be consistent in your response to how each child lives the standards. Even as Heavenly Father “is the same God yesterday, today, and forever” (D&C 20:12), so will our children be more likely to believe our teachings and follow our examples if we strive to be consistent.
Plan a family home evening where you go through all of your home media together (books, magazines, tapes, CDs, TV listings, videos), discussing how each fits (or doesn’t) with the standards of the pamphlet and why.
Invite home teachers to share specific messages concerning the standards of the pamphlet. Visit with them beforehand, outlining the kind of help you desire. This could be especially helpful in a single-parent family.
Plan a dance for a family home evening. With appropriate music and dancing instruction from past generations, children can see, try, and learn a new approach to dancing.
Focus a family home evening on appropriate language. Encourage a discussion of the kinds of language you and your children hear on TV and in videos, movies, work, and school. Ask each one how such language makes them feel, and contrast that with how they feel when they are reading the scriptures or praying. Encourage a commitment to speak and listen to uplifting language.
Plan a family activity where your children can invite a nonmember friend and his or her family. By treating guests with kindness and dignity and helping them feel welcome and wanted, children can learn how to treat good friends.
Invite your children to share with you their experiences that relate to the standards outlined in the pamphlet. As the Savior demonstrated that it was important for Him to report to His Father in Heaven honestly and humbly, you too can work to have this same kind of reassuring relationship with your children so they will come to you with honest and trusting reports.
Our children can learn to be responsible for their behavior. After giving them guidance in the form of clear counsel from the pamphlet, let them practice following that counsel, feeling the weight of decision making and, at times, the pain of error.
Never forget the power of teaching by example. In family prayer, parents can pray for specific blessings to help family members live the standards outlined in the pamphlet. By genuinely and sensitively praying for outcomes, parents can teach powerful lessons to listening children.
When giving a priesthood blessing to family members, fathers (or home teachers) can include special blessings and promises to children relating to their commitment to live the standards taught in your home.
Don’t wait until your children are teenagers to begin teaching about the values, principles, and standards described in For the Strength of Youth. Younger children can easily understand and accept these values, making it easier to help them live righteously as they mature.
What you do will likely have more impact than what you say. Your own standards (dress, honesty, language, media preferences, Sunday behavior) speak louder than your words. President Brigham Young observed: “Parents should never drive their children, but lead them along, giving them knowledge as their minds are prepared to receive it. Chastening may be necessary betimes, but parents should govern their children by faith rather than by the rod, leading them kindly by good example into all truth and holiness” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young , 174).