Family Resources
Guidelines for the Instructor

“Guidelines for the Instructor,” Strengthening the Family: Instructor’s Guide (2006), v–xi

“Guidelines,” Strengthening the Family, v–xi

Guidelines For The Instructor

Marriage and family life is ordained of God (see D&C 49:15). Regarding marriage and families, the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles stated: “Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. ‘Children are an heritage of the Lord’ (Psalms 127:3). Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, to teach them to love and serve one another, to observe the commandments of God and to be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives—mothers and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations.”1

Strong, stable families are essential in these latter days to withstand the temptations and challenges that confront parents and children. Speaking of our time, President Gordon B. Hinckley stated: “The family is falling apart all over the world. The old ties that bound together father and mother and children are breaking everywhere. … Hearts are broken; children weep. Can we not do better? Of course we can.”2

This course has been created in response to the need for better parenting and stronger families. It contains gospel teachings and parenting skills to help fathers and mothers successfully rear their children. As parents learn and prayerfully apply the gospel teachings and skills, forming a partnership with God in the raising of His children, He will bless and help them in their efforts (see 3 Nephi 18:20–21).

Use this instructor’s guide in conjunction with the resource guide for parents. It provides supplemental information to help you conduct class sessions successfully.

Several ideas in this introduction to the Instructor’s Guide and in the appendix were adapted from Principles of Parenting, a guide written by H. Wallace Goddard and published by the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service.3

Administering the Course

The course should typically be taught to groups of 20 or fewer participants by professionals at LDS Family Services agencies or by volunteers in wards and stakes. A typical course will last nine to twelve sessions. Sessions are usually 90 minutes long. The Strengthening the Family: Resource Guide for Parents includes nine topics that may be used in group meetings. While you will select the topics you think will best address the needs of group members, session 1, “Parenting Principles and Practices,” should be the first session taught in the course. Some topics may require two or more sessions to be addressed adequately.

Consider the following suggestions for administering the course:

  • Follow agency guidelines for charging group fees when the course is sponsored by an agency of LDS Family Services. When the course is sponsored by a stake or ward, participants should only be charged enough to cover the cost of materials. Participants should pay the fee to the instructor at the beginning of the course to help encourage attendance.

  • Encourage couples to attend sessions together when possible. The principles they learn are of greatest value when both parents understand them and apply them. The principles can become a divisive wedge if one person is uninvolved or unsupportive. When only one parent can attend, try to ensure that the nonattending parent supports the spouse’s involvement in the course and is receptive to new information on parenting.

  • Keep track of the number of sessions attended by each participant by taking roll each time you meet (seepage 102 in the appendix).

  • Contact the nearest LDS Family Services agency if you have questions about teaching the course. Agency locations and telephone numbers can be found at

Announcing the Course

When you share information about the course, describe the benefits parents can gain by participating. A list of the benefits of learning parenting principles and skills—for example, increased unity and better communication in the family, or a greater ability to resolve conflict without anger—will more readily motivate parents to participate than a list of topics to be discussed.

Parents will be taught how to listen to their children in ways that invite the children to share personal feelings. They will be taught how to share their own feelings effectively, even when they are upset at their children. Parents will also learn how to teach their children responsible behavior, resolve conflicts, and foster confidence and healthy development. They will learn how to impose disciplinary measures that will help their sons and daughters learn to behave responsibly. They will gain a better appreciation for the eternal significance of family relationships and of what it means to be successful parents.

Parents who apply the principles and skills taught in this course will create a better home environment in which the Spirit of the Lord can dwell. They will enjoy happier and more harmonious relationships.

Consider using the information sheet on page 100 in the appendix to share information about the course.

Qualifications to Teach This Course

This course may be taught by any adult who has developed good relationship skills and who is knowledgeable about rearing children. Keys to effective teaching include sensitivity to others and an appreciation for the sanctity of family life.

The most important qualification for teaching this course is your personal preparation to receive the guidance of the Holy Ghost. The Lord said, “The Spirit shall be given unto you by the prayer of faith; and if ye receive not the Spirit ye shall not teach” (D&C 42:14). Most people have had the experience of stumbling through a lesson in which thoughts seem disconnected and the message is lost on a disinterested audience. Contrast those experiences with the times when the Spirit was present, when information and impressions came to mind, when words flowed more readily and the Spirit communicated truth to the hearts and minds of others.

Effective Teaching

You will be most effective as you seek inspiration and bring your own knowledge, ideas, experiences, and personality to the class. Take time to think about your life, and consider how you can use your experiences in teaching and reinforcing the concepts in this course. Put your heart into your teaching, and you will find great joy in your interaction with class members.

The wealth of experience of each participant is a great asset to you as you teach the course. Recognize the responsibility each parent has for his or her family, and share your knowledge and expertise as guided by the Spirit. You should also understand that your responsibility is to open the door to new possibilities, not to dictate to course participants. The class is a collaborative effort, with you and the class members sharing ideas and insights and offering support.

As you share your knowledge, experiences, and insights, encourage class members to think about their own experiences and strengths. Help them identify principles that can help them improve, and encourage them as they develop skills to apply those principles. As you practice these same skills, you will grow in your ability as a teacher.

You can organize your presentation by considering what individual class members need to learn about the subject you are teaching. Try asking yourself, “What do class members need to learn today?” You will likely come up with one or two main ideas. Then consider what supporting ideas will help class members understand the main idea. Once you have identified a main idea and supporting ideas, determine the best way to present them. The following teaching strategies may help you as you plan.

Using Stories to Illustrate a Principle

To begin a session, you might write the main idea or principle on the chalkboard and then tell a story that illustrates it. Stories are effective because they can touch hearts and change lives; they can illustrate abstract principles and make them easier to understand. Life is made up of stories, and people easily remember stories and the principles they teach.

The Savior taught powerfully through the use of stories. Try to keep the stories you tell short and as simple as possible. Be careful not to tell too many personal stories. They may invade the privacy of your family and offend others as well.

Class members will have difficulty relating to personal stories if your family seems too perfect. Too many of such stories may discourage class members in their own efforts to change. If it seems appropriate, share some stories about challenges you have faced and struggles you have had as well as stories about your successes. When you share these stories, explain what you have learned from those experiences. Be positive and explain what you have done to improve. If your stories disclose too many problems, you may lose credibility and participants may get the idea that the principles you teach do not work.

Role Playing

After you have taught class members how to apply a principle, you might reinforce the principle through role play. The best role playing often occurs when you start by saying, “What usually happens in this situation?” Have someone act it out. Class members can then discuss the mistakes of parents in these situations. After the discussion, you might say: “Let’s role-play the situation again and this time apply the principle we’ve been discussing. Then we’ll see what worked and where additional improvement is needed.”

This method of training is often an effective way to help parents learn principles and change their behavior.

  • Teach a principle and how it can be applied to a parenting situation.

  • Invite someone to role-play typical behavior.

  • Discuss the role play and how parents could apply the principle in this situation and in other similar parenting situations.

  • Invite someone to role-play a better application of the principle.

  • Discuss the role play and how the parenting approach could be improved.

  • Continue the process of role play and discussion until parents are familiar with effective ways to apply the principle.4

Participants should not be expected to perform perfectly. They may discover that they do some things well but need to improve in other areas. They may also see that they do not have to be perfect right away; they can improve over time. As you observe things they do well, point out their strengths. Other class members may want to role-play the same situation as the session progresses, or they may want to choose one of their own. Participants can continue to practice applying a principle until they understand the skills they need to learn.

If class members seem uncomfortable with role playing, engage them in a discussion on how to apply the principle in a variety of situations, either in personal situations or in situations involving couples they know (without disclosing identifying information or indulging in gossip).

Inviting and Guiding Group Discussion

Group discussion is a valuable teaching tool. When you invite discussion, you show that you value the insight and experience of others and that you do not feel you have to know all the answers to every problem. You also show that challenges can be resolved in many ways. Rely on the Spirit to help you teach, and recognize that the Spirit will inspire others as well. Ask class members for their suggestions. They will benefit from hearing a variety of ideas.

Some class members will immediately feel comfortable enough to participate in class discussions. Others are more reserved and tend not to offer their opinions and insights. The course will be most meaningful for individuals if they have an opportunity to participate. Other class members will benefit from their insight as well. Make the class environment safe by showing respect for all class members. Show that you value the opinion and experience of each individual, and do not permit anyone to make fun of the comments of others.

The following guidelines will help you invite and guide group participation and will help make the class environment comfortable for class members.

  1. Set clear ground rules to help each person feel safe in participating. Include the following:

    • Confidentiality. Personal information shared in the class remains in the class.

    • Brevity. Comments from class members should be brief.

    • Balance. Class members may speak as often as they wish as long as they allow other class members to have an equal opportunity.

    • Patience and kindness. Participants will need time to learn and integrate new skills. Parents should be patient and kind with each other and with themselves.

    • Encouragement. Class members should encourage each other as they apply course information in the home.

    • Forgiveness. Everyone makes mistakes, even after being taught new ways of doing things. Each participant needs to understand the importance of forgiving oneself and others.*

  2. Ask questions that invite opinions rather than a single correct answer. For example, you could ask, “What do you think are some of the most important qualities of a good father or mother?” instead of “What is the most important quality … ?” People will be more willing to share their ideas when they know you are not searching for just one response.

  3. Respect everyone’s comments. Consider writing a short summary of each comment on the board, showing that you acknowledge what was said. Look for opportunities to give sincere compliments, such as “These are great ideas.” Thank those who offer comments, even when the comment may be questionable.

  4. Tactfully direct questions to others when one person tends to dominate a discussion. This redirection is not always easy because some participants want to talk extensively about the problems they face. While their intentions may be good, you should not allow them to use up needed instruction time or deprive other parents of a chance to share their experiences. Listen carefully and acknowledge feelings, but move the focus to other group members. You can say something like this: “That sounds like it has been a real challenge for you. I’ll be interested to know how the principles and skills you learn during this workshop help you. Who else has a situation or challenge to share?” or “You have raised some difficult questions that might be better addressed in later sessions.”

  5. Some participants may recommend unacceptable behavior. Rather than condemn the approach and cause embarrassment, help the person explore new ideas. You may also say: “That sounds like a real challenge. Later, I’ll share some ideas on that subject that you may find particularly helpful. The group also will have some ideas.” Do not debate with class members about different approaches.

  6. When participants feel safe, valued, and respected, you can help them become more sensitive to the feelings of their children. As they describe experiences they have had, ask questions such as “If you were your child in this situation, what do you think you would have felt?” “What might your child have been thinking?” or “Why might this situation have been difficult for her [or him]?” Ask these questions in a nonaccusatory way. As individuals relate the feelings of their children to their own experiences, they may understand their children better.

  7. Ask questions that help you assess the needs of participants. Guide the discussion in ways that are relevant to their needs. Adapt the program and learning activities to their abilities.

  8. Help parents discover the situations in which they behave inappropriately or ineffectively. Have them discuss and write a plan for responding differently in those situations.

  9. Use appropriate humor and be enthusiastic and energetic.

  10. Break up lecture time with a variety of activities—invite group discussion, tell a story, or have a group activity to keep the pace lively.

  11. After each session, thank those who have participated.

Following a Schedule

Discussion can sometimes become so dynamic and interesting that you may have difficulty moving the class on to the next activity. Once class members have understood a principle and know how to apply it, additional discussion may waste time you need for other activities. Redirect the discussion or move on to the next activity when it is time to do so.

A schedule written on the board can sometimes help you maintain a good pace. The schedule could be as detailed or as general as is useful. You could write something like the following.

  • 7:00 to 7:15—Review of past concepts and learning activities

  • 7:15 to 7:30—Need for nurturing and ways to nurture

  • 7:30 to 7:45—Steps to help parents nurture their children

  • 7:45 to 8:30—Practicing nurturing skills5

If you are ready to move to the next subject of instruction and class members still want to discuss the previous subject, you might point to the schedule and say: “You have some great ideas and insights. Maybe we can discuss them later. For now, let’s go to the next topic.” However, if you feel that class members will benefit from further discussion on a topic, you can change the schedule.

Using Media

When it is appropriate, select short media segments from CDs, DVDs, or videocassettes to help you teach concepts and to focus the attention of class members. It is recommended that Church-approved media be used. Short segments are better than long ones in holding the interest of participants. Make sure that you do not violate any copyright laws. If you have questions about usage, call the Church Intellectual Property Office at 1-801-240-3959.

Modeling What You Teach

The goal of this course is to teach effective skills and encourage parents to use those skills to create a warm, caring environment for their children. The class setting is a good opportunity for you to model, as well as teach, the principles, attitudes, and skills of good parenting. Teach fathers and mothers to be kind and gentle by treating them with kindness. Be sensitive, empathetic, and caring, especially when participants need redirection. Use good communication skills. Some individuals seldom encounter another person who will listen to them carefully. The way you interact with them may be as significant as the information you provide. Your positive example can help them change the way they relate to their family members.

Some class members may, on occasion, be frustrated or even angry and hostile. Your manner of response may make all the difference in how much these class members gain from the course. As you respond with kindness, you will demonstrate good listening and problem-solving skills. Do not allow someone who is angry to take over or to dominate class interactions.

Starting and Ending the Course

The suggestions that follow will help you begin and end the course effectively.

Getting Started

To help the first class go smoothly, you may want to do the following:

  • If the building is unfamiliar to class members, consider placing signs to mark the way to the classroom and to restrooms.

  • Bring copies of Strengthening the Family: Resource Guide for Parents for the participants. You could also have name tags and markers or pens available so class members can make name tags and wear them until they get to know each other by name.

  • If the class is sponsored by an agency of LDS Family Services, give participants the agency’s telephone number so they can call if they have questions.

Be sure to allow 15 to 30 minutes at the beginning of subsequent sessions to review the concepts and learning activities that were presented in the previous session.

Follow-Up and Evaluation

During the final session, you may want to do the following:

  • Distribute copies of the Program Evaluation Form (see page 103 in the appendix), and have each participant complete it.

  • Recognize the efforts and progress of participants. (Page 104 in the appendix contains a certificate that you may want to use.)


  1. “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Ensign, Nov. 1995, 102.

  2. In Conference Report, Oct. 1997, 94; or Ensign, Nov. 1997, 69.

  3. “Parent Educator Training: A Guide for Instructors,” Principles of Parenting, Circular HE-711, Alabama Cooperative Extension Service, Auburn University, Alabama.

  4. Outline adapted from “Parent Educator Training,” page 8.

  5. Adapted from “Parent Educator Training,” page 6.