1. Thinking that preparing and eating food is the goal at mealtime
Sometimes we slip into thinking that our need for nutrition is the objective of preparing and eating food. We grab breakfast, if at all, on the run. We eat lunch over work or alone to escape the hustle and bustle. We eat dinner in haste or whenever we are able.
Eating meals together during the week has all but disappeared in our society. President Ezra Taft Benson taught that “mealtime provides a wonderful time to review the activities of the day and to not only feed the body, but to feed the spirit as well” (“Strengthening the Family,” Improvement Era, Dec. 1970, 51).
Barbara B. Smith, former general president of the Relief Society, said, “Let us make our kitchens creative centers from which emanate some of the most delightful of all home experiences” (Ensign, “Follow Joyously,” Nov. 1980, 86). May I suggest that preparing and consuming food ought to be done with family relationships in mind, from start to finish. Children can help make a salad, butter the French bread, set the table, or stir a pot. Food preparation is an excellent time to talk to each other. The time we use to prepare food can and should be a family affair because preparing and eating food is not the primary objective of mealtime. Building relationships and fostering love is.
2. Having fuzzy rules and expectations.
There is sometimes a tendency for families to be cautious or even fearful about creating restrictions, rules, and expectations. On one hand, you don’t want to stifle creativity or prohibit growth by having too many limits. On the other hand, some people can be afraid that if they institute rules family members don’t like, then those family members will rebel against the rules.
We live by daily traffic laws, city ordinances, rules, expectations, and commandments. They are a part of life! They bring order to a world that would be chaos without them. Think about it! No parent would take their child to the top of a 10-story building and turn them loose to discover the law of gravity on their own.
Wise families will not have too many rules but will always have clearly defined boundaries which revolve around the commandments of a loving Heavenly Father. People, young and old, need to know their family loves them. They need to know that love gives guidance and expectations which will bless them, even if they may not like the rule.
David O McKay once taught:
“Parents who fail to teach obedience to their children, if [their] homes do not develop obedience, society will demand it and get it. It is therefore better for the home, with its kindliness, sympathy and understanding to train the child in obedience rather than callously to leave him to the brutal and unsympathetic discipline that society will impose if the home has not already fulfilled its obligation” ("The Responsibility of Parents to Their Children," p. 3. Pamphlet n.d.).
Make rules and boundaries crystal clear and always consistent. Adjust them as family members demonstrate their ability to choose the right on their own.
Learn more about raising a righteous family in Parenting Principles: 31 Teachings to Raise Children in Righteousness
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3. Thinking that ‘quality time’ with the family is the goal
Sometimes families can get sucked into thinking that ‘quality’ time somehow excuses us from being too busy to pay attention to each other. They will find themselves saying “let’s go have some ‘quality time’” by doing some exotic or fun thing once in a while. While there is a place for “special time” and “memory making” in our children’s lives, “quantity time” trumps those moments we sometimes call “quality time.” President Uchtdorf taught, “We build deep and loving family relationships by doing simple things together, like family dinner and family home evening and by just having fun together. In family relationships, love is really spelled t-i-m-e, time. Taking time for each other is the key for harmony at home. We talk with, rather than about, each other. We learn from each other, and we appreciate our differences as well as our commonalities. We establish a divine bond with each other as we approach God together through family prayer, gospel study, and Sunday worship” (Ensign, "Of Things That Matter Most," November 2010).
Busy lives make it difficult to make “quantity time” the main goal. Doing our best to take the time to walk, talk, play, and be with our family doing small and simple things will always pay important dividends. Infrequent and exotic “big” moments may make us feel better and may give the children a memory or two, but in the end, it’s the accumulation of frequent moments doing simple and fun things which will pay the biggest dividends.
4. Enabling Our Children to Avoid Work
In our desire to give our children things we didn’t have, we can enable our children to avoid the need to work. We rationalize that because homework, sports, music lessons, and other outside demands take so much of their time, we should go soft in requiring our children to work.
Elder Marvin J. Ashton taught, “ ‘In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread’ is not outdated counsel. It is basic to personal welfare. One of the greatest favors parents can do for their children is to teach them to work. Much has been said over the years about children and monthly allowances, and opinions and recommendations vary greatly. I’m from the ‘old school’. I believe children should earn their money needs through service and appropriate chores. Some financial rewards to children may also be tied to educational effort and the accomplishment of other worthwhile goals. I think it is unfortunate for a child to grow up in a home where the seed is planted in the child’s mind that there is a family money tree that automatically drops ‘green stuff’ once a week or once a month” (One for the Money, 8).
Helping our children understand that work is important to their development will bless them. In For The Strength of Youth, your teens are reminded “Work is honorable. Developing the capacity to work will help you contribute to the world in which you live. It will bless you and your family, both now and in the future.
“Learning to work begins in the home. Help your family by willingly participating in the work necessary to maintain a home. . . . Set high goals for yourself, and be willing to work hard to achieve them” (For the Strength of Youth, 40-41).
5. Being too casual in our gospel living
Being too casual in our gospel living can be costly. Elder Holland once taught “I truly believe there can be no casual Christians, for if we are not watchful and resolute, we will become in the heat of battle a Christian ‘casualty’” (BYU Speeches, The Bitter Cup and the Bloody Baptism, Jan. 13, 1987).
Elder Richard L. Evans reminded us “Sometimes some parents mistakenly feel that they can relax a little as to conduct and conformity or take perhaps a so-called liberal view of basic and fundamental things—thinking that a little laxness or indulgence won’t matter—or they may fail to teach or to attend Church, or may voice critical views. Some parents … seem to feel that they can ease up a little on the fundamentals without affecting their family or their family’s future. However, if a parent goes a little off course, the children are likely to exceed the parent’s example” (Conference Report, Oct. 1964, 135–36).
If families develop the habit of casual living or become even slightly cynical in their observance of the commandments, there will certainly be a heavy price to pay. Elder Holland explains, “Parents simply cannot flirt with skepticism or cynicism, then be surprised when their children expand that flirtation into full-blown romance. If in matters of faith and belief children are at risk of being swept downstream by this intellectual current or that cultural rapid, we as their parents must be more certain than ever to hold to anchored, unmistakable moorings clearly recognizable to those of our own household. It won’t help anyone if we go over the edge with them, explaining through the roar of the falls all the way down that we really did know the Church was true” (Ensign, "A Prayer for the Children," May 2003).