Tuesday, January 24, 2012

When children are the teachers

Years ago I worked at Sears Regional Credit Card Center as a collection agent A.K.A. bill collector.  One evening I made a call to a gentleman who, as you can imagine, didn't want to talk to me.  His very young daughter answered the phone.  I asked for the customer by name and she said, "He's here I'll get him."  A moment later he answered the phone.  In order to verify who I was speaking with before divulging information about his delinquent account I asked if it was him?  At this moment he realized I was not someone he wanted to talk to and he replied, "Oh sorry, he's not here."  In the background I heard his daughter say words that I've never forgotten,  "Daddy, you're lying!"  He stuttered, confused about what to do.  I took that moment to help him make a decision and resolve the internal conflict within him.  I verbalized what he was probably thinking, "You are about to teach your daughter a lesson.  If you hang up she'll learn through your example that it's okay to lie in order to get out of something difficult.  If you own up and talk to me she'll see the importance of being honest even when it causes discomfort."  Another pause and then he said, "I'm am sorry.  How can I help you?"

I've chuckled about this experience before, a father trying to be sneaky who ended up humbled by his daughters simple confusion at his choices.  In thinking about this situation, I've been able to gather some information from the mere fact that the little girl was surprised at his actions.  One, she'd clearly been taught that lying is wrong and two, she had a good impression of her father- I'd imagine she thought of him as a man with integrity-which is why the confusion when he went against those things he'd taught her.  Even as parents we make mistakes.  Sometimes our children are witnesses and question our actions and motives or remind us of those very things we've been preaching and we are brought to repentance- hopefully.

Something stood out to me yesterday as I read the scriptures for this weeks Gospel Docterine lesson.  To quickly bring us up to my point, you'll remember that in 1 Nephi chapter 16, Nephi and his brothers had the responsibility of providing meat for their large family who were journeying through the wilderness.  Nephi's bow broke.  Laman and Lemuel's bows weren't working either.  The family was hungry when no food was brought home after at least one hunting trip.  Then we find that not only were Laman and Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael angry with Nephi and murmured against the Lord but so did Lehi, his father.

Nephi could have gotten snappy with them or gone off and pouted, after all, his wasn't the only bow out of commission.  He was just as hungry as they were.  He was not only dealing with the worry and frustration of how to feed his family like they were but he had the added afflictions they were causing him.  As it was Nephi talked to them as he'd seen his father do previously- with the energy of his soul, those things which humbled them.  Then he made a bow and an arrow out of wood.

Now we come to the part I've been thinking about this week.  Nephi went to his father and asked him where he should go to hunt for food.  They had been using the Liahona for direction.  Through it the Lord directed them to "the most fertile places".  Nephi could easily have gone to the Liahona himself.  After all, we know that the Lord had worked through Nephi already.  He'd seen angels and received revelation.  I believe this was a choice to showed Lehi that Nephi was not only forgiving but acknowledging to his father that he recognized and respected his place as patriarch and prophet.  I'm touched by this act that shows the love Nephi had for his father.

If Lehi wasn't already humbled enough, going to the Lord to ask for directions put him right back where he needed to be in order to fulfill his duties as father and prophet.  It says "he was brought down into the depths of sorrow.  Lehi felt true Godly sorrow.

This was a good lesson for me.  I think it's imperative that as parents we not only teach with example the principles we are trying to instill in our kids but when we make mistakes we own up.  Our children need to see us humble ourselves, admit we're wrong, seek forgiveness and make up for our wrong doings.  I think it will help them trust and respect us, just like Nephi who went to his father for advice once he'd humbled himself.  Isn't that what we seek- a relationship with our children full of forgiveness, trust and respect?  And just as Lehi had taught Nephi those things which were pleasing unto God, we teach our children those ideals and principles as well.  When my kids grow up I pray that they'll feel they were raised by "goodly parents."

What have you learned from your kids?


  1. And when I grow up I hope to become a goodly parent just like YOU! I think you amazing, Trina. and would love to be taught by you every Sunday.

  2. I love this, Trina! I've really felt like I was missing out by not being able to attend your class on Sunday and now I can at least get a little bit of that wisdom from you!
    It truely is humbling to have children constantly looking at our examples as parents--and we often don't notice it. However it is always painfully obvious to me when I hear Ruby or Forrest scold their younger siblings. I immediately hear the language and tone that I've used with them. And it's not pretty. :( It's a powerful reminder for me.

  3. Trina this is such an eye opener to the way we sometimes act around our children. We want them at times to be better then ourselves. It's hard to show them the hard things we have to do to teach them. You are such a wonderful teacher and Mother! Thank you for wriing this!

  4. Beth, you are a grown up, silly girl. You just have a fun side. And I know you enough to say you ARE a goodly parent. One of my examples!

    Cynthi, thanks for sharing something with me that you've learned from your kids. I'll look forward to your comments since rather than being in my class to make them you are faithfully teaching those sweet kids in our ward.

    Andrea, Thanks! You're pretty awesome yourself you know.

  5. Patience... definitely patience.

    My little Monkey is the child my mother "cursed" me with - to be exactly like me. This means I understand him very well. I know what motivates him, and why he does things (most of the time). However, it doesn't make his energy any less exhausting!

    Occasionally, I'll be on the couch with my laptop, reading or writing, and he'll come grab a finger and start leading me away... this is a great reminder for me that he is much more important than anything online, and that I should make more of an effort to be in the present with him. <3

  6. Thank you- thank you for this reminder. It is easy to get in the mind frame that I am the parent the end- but yes, what will that teach. Thanks.

  7. Trina I'm so glad u found my blog cause it brought me to yours! What a great lesson and story to be reminded of! Patience has been one of the biggest things I have been taught from my child! I am constantly reminded on a dailybasis of our fathers love for me and my family by being a mother! I never knew that you could love someone as much as you love your children and families! It reminds me that I need to be more aware of the things I say and do cause they are constantly watching every move you make and learn from what you do.

  8. Thanks you for a very thoughtful and inspiring post. I really enjoy reading it today and know that I have had similiar experiences in my own life. I love that story of Nephi and Lehi. We can learn so much on how to be better parents and also children in that marvelous Book of Mormon.

  9. What a wonderful message! Thanks for visiting! Love your blog! :)


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