Monday, July 20, 2015

Teach Me to Walk in the Light | Teaching children about the spirit and bringing Jesus into our daily routine

While Edwin was standing near me the other day, Kate, who had just woken up from a nap, sat on the couch and leaned over the arm rest to grab Edwin's shoulder and push him down. I reacted quickly saying, "Don't do that! Why did you push Edwin down??" She stared at me unblinking, until her face fell into a frown and eyes filled with tears that she hid into the couch cushions. Mom fail.

 Edwin, who had since stood back up, scooted around the edge of the couch to stroke his sister's leg. He is only 15 months old, but he could tell she was sad and wanted to comfort her.
(I learn so much from one-year-olds!)

I mean really though, the interaction here now involved the whole family who was at home (Jon was at work) and I knew that the next moments would be critical for teaching, both in word and example. Edwin could see what was going on, and although he had been the one initially pushed down, he was now comforting his sister. Immediate forgiveness.

I took a breath and waited a few seconds for emotions to cool. I leaned close to Kate and explained that we needed to be nice to one another, and that included me being nice to her. I wasn't happy that she had pushed Edwin, but I also wasn't happy with myself for reacting hastily, and I told her I was sorry. She was still grumpy, so I let her lay on the couch a while longer, but explained that when she got up again we all needed to be nicer to one another. Our conversation ended with a hug and a kiss. I told her I loved her.

This excerpt of our day was just three minutes of the 24 hour cycle of crazy. There are many moments like this throughout the week where there is screaming, crying, frustration, and grumpy attitudes. But there are also just as many moments of laughter, giggling, exploration, and hilarity.

When broken down, there are many facets to this experience. What I initially thought was just another frustrating hiccup in our day, turned out to be the perfect way to bring the spirit of Christ into our home. In small and simple ways, I believe there are 5 traits of the Savior that can be easily adapted into our daily living.

John 13:34 "A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another."
This may seem like "no duh" advice, but it is so much harder to put into practice than we sometimes think. I know I'm supposed to love people, but what about when they're mean? or dirty? or head-butt me in the nose? (as happened yesterday in our church Sacrament meeting...) But I really think it comes down to the example we set. Will our children's outstanding memory of us be that of loving interactions, or harsh and disappointing criticism?

When Kate pushed Edwin down, I was upset. Addressing the issue was necessary. Teaching was important. But it was imperative that the interaction end with making sure that Kate knew I loved her.

The commandment even extends outside our immediate family interaction. Do our children see us love God and our fellowmen? How do we talk to others, or about others? Do we invite people into our home with love? Do we act kindly toward strangers at the grocery store? Are we honest in the checkout line at Target? I definitely don't mean this post to feel guilt ridden and chastising, in fact I mean quite the opposite! There is probably so much that you're already doing that you don't even realize which helps your children see the light of Christ and want to draw near unto it.
As Christ is part of OUR daily routine, it will instinctively become part of THEIRS.

Let us give praise and love, speak kind words, build friendships with our children, and serve others genuinely. Above all else, let us remember that "in family relationships love is really spelled t-i-m-e... Taking time for each other is the key for harmony [and a Christlike spirit] at home"

There really isn't any interaction that more respects Jesus Christ's atonement than when we take advantage of the ability to repent and be forgiving. On a regular day at home with children, there is AMPLE opportunity for practicing this gift. I have never even counted how many times we say "I'm sorry" and correct behavior to try and do better again, but I would say it's upwards of 50 times a day.

When I shared the experience of Kate pushing Edwin down, I realized that there are plenty of chances for me to discipline,

but what I'm really teaching is how to feel remorse for actions, show love for others, and have a renewed heart for going forward with good intent. What better way for them to understand the true nature of Christ's atonement than when we expect the same at home?

Ultimately let us not as parents forget that we are imperfect too. Admitting to a child that you were wrong is a big action of humility, especially when they don't even know that you were in the wrong, but you still make the effort to point out your error to them and correct it. It builds so much trust and understanding when the forgiveness and repentance goes both ways. We are all working to strengthen each other.

In our family we are here to COMPLETE each other, not COMPETE with each other.

Luke 20:19 "And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me."
When Jesus Christ instituted the first sacrament, he asked that we do it to remember him always. Every week in our church worship services, the prayer repeats the words "that they do always remember him, that they may have his Spirit to be with them." (Doctrine and Covenants 20:77)

I can't say that I am the best at having Christ in my thoughts 24/7. Especially when I am putting Kate in time out, but I do always try to fill our home with uplifting scriptures and affirmations that help bring the day back into perspective when things go awry. For quite a while I had a large sign on the inside of our apartment front door that read, "How have you put the Lord first today?" When I caught glimpses of it in between my rush from living room to kitchen it would slow me down and was a good checkpoint for evaluating the progress of my day and if I was focusing on the things that really mattered most.

After a recent Sunday school lesson where we talked about Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10) I felt inspired to make a new sign the center of our living room focus:

Kate helped me paint and added the nice smudges and blob flowers near the bottom :) It's perfect.
"Is our home ready to receive the Savior?"

I thought, "If the Savior invited himself to stay at our house for the weekend, how would I feel about that? Does the attitude in our home reflect the atmosphere I would hope the Savior would feel comfortable in?" While I don't expect to literally see Jesus at my doorstep tomorrow, I do want our home to be filled with his spirit every day. And that's basically the same thing. If Christ wouldn't be welcome in our home because of our actions, then how could his spirit dwell there?

 Speaking of Christ is something that our family is pretty good at: His picture hangs on our wall, we have had Family Home Evening lessons about Him, it's not a strange name for the children to hear, and they can immediately recognize pictures of the Savior. I am glad that recognizing Jesus Christ is a regular part of our day, but I also don't want it to blend in so much that our home doesn't feel set apart for His spirit.

When we remember Him in all that we do, we are teaching our children that His way is a priority.

We teach our children that prayer is a key element of daily living.

Every day we ask for the spirit to be with us, that we'll feel the spirit in our home, that we'll have happiness throughout the day -- but there is another step after prayer: we actually ACT on it. I can pray for more patience all day long, but when the opportunity comes to exercise that patience and I just fly off the handle instead, then I'm not even attempting to rely on that strength that I asked for earlier. To pray in the name of Jesus Christ shows a willingness to listen for his Spirit when we run into a wall.

It is one thing to SAY prayers, it is another to genuinely MEAN them, and then takes real intent to MOVE toward those goals with purpose. The spirit can give us strength to overcome our shortcomings, but we also have to recognize them when they happen, and work to stop our actions, take the high road, or just plain say, "I'm sorry." (see traits 1-3)

By praying to our Heavenly Father and asking for help in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior, we will be endowed with power to help us lead. Prayer is one of the strongest tools of parenthood. In that way we are also teaching our children that we can't do it alone. Strength for life comes from strength in God. When they can learn to rely on the Savior at a young age, they will carry that hope through many challenging years ahead.

"In the home, the school, or the house of God, there is one teacher whose life overshadows all others. He taught of life and death, of duty and destiny. He lived not to be served, but to serve; not to receive, but to give; not to save his life, but to sacrifice it for others. He described a love more beautiful than lust, a poverty richer than treasure." -President Thomas S. Monson


Jesus Christ is the Master Teacher. Whose example would be more ideal to emulate as a parent? As we teach our children by example and with loving guidance, then we are truly teaching as the Savior taught, and if He is the Master, then I'm not about to argue with his methods.

After Kate pushed Edwin down, I had a moment of decision. I could let the situation ruin our day and lead to more negative actions and hurt feelings, or I could teach with love, forgiveness, and with setting the better example. By choosing to teach with loving guidance I set a pattern which we hope will be an example long remembered by our children past the end of the day. It truly brought the spirit of Christ into our home.


When I really stopped to take a look at our daily activities, I realized that we each invite the Spirit of Christ into our home in our own way. It is perfectly ok that I don't have a Primary Sharing Time level activity planned out every day with felt boards and songs and a game and a treat to get the kids excited about Jesus every morning after breakfast. I mean, and really, that is what church is for. We teach principles in the home first, have weekly lessons and fun activities for Family Home Evening bonding where we might focus on a specific aspect of the gospel, but otherwise I was able to realize that I didn't need to go over the top to help my children learn about the Savior.

Ultimately, the goal of bringing Christ into our daily routine and teaching children about the spirit is not a list of Pinterest level activities and does not require excessive craftiness. Anyone can do this, make it personal, and create a home that is ready to receive the Savior.

So we cultivate a spirit of love that can be tangibly felt and is talked about regularly.
We make Christ the central core of our everyday living.
We forgive each other and give second chances.
We say prayers together and work together in teaching by example.

As our attitudes more closely reflect the life of our Savior, so will our children's relationship with, and understanding of, Him and our Father in Heaven.

I sincerely leave these thoughts with you as my testimony that they are true and that having the Savior in our home is a wonderful blessing and an accessible goal, whether you are single, living with roommates, married and do not yet have children, currently have little ones running around, or you have moved on to empty nester status. There are life boosting truths in here for everyone.
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

1 comment:

Lita said...

What a beautiful post! I am not a mother yet, but as a nanny, I find myself constantly being reminded by these little ones, that love is the answer, not contention. Love is the bet way to teach these littles and to allow the spirit to reside within us and them. Thank you so much for the reminder :)