18 Valuable Parenting Tips and Stories from Church Leaders

Sister Patricia T. Holland 

Former First Counselor in the Young Women General Presidency

Cut the Apron Strings

My daughter is a musically talented young woman. For many years I felt that this talent would not be developed unless I loomed over her at the piano and insistently supervised her practice like a Simon Legree. One day, sometime in her early teens, I realized that my attitude, probably once useful, was now visibly affecting our relationship. Torn between a fear that she would not fully develop a God-given talent and the reality of an increasingly strained relationship over that very issue, I did what I had seen my own mother do when faced with a serious challenge. I sequestered myself in my secret place and poured out my soul in prayer, seeking the only wisdom that could help me keep that communication open—the kind of wisdom and help that comes from the tongues of angels. Upon arising from my knees, I knew what action I must take.

Because it was just three days before Christmas, I gave to Mary as a personal gift an apron from which I had conspicuously cut the apron strings. There was a tiny pocket on the apron in which I tucked a note. It read: “Dear Mary, I’m sorry for the conflict I have caused by acting like a federal marshall at the piano. I must have looked foolish there—just you and me and my six-shooters. Forgive me. You are becoming a young woman in your own right. I have only worried that you would not feel as fully confident and fulfilled as a woman if you left your talent unfinished. I love you. Mom.”Image title

Later that day she sought me out, and in a quiet corner of our home, she said: “Mother, I know you want what is best for me, and I have known that all my life. But if I’m ever going to play the piano well, I’m the one who has to do the practicing, not you!” Then she threw her arms around me and with tears in her eyes she said, “I’ve been wondering how to teach you that—and somehow you figured it out on your own.” Now, by her own choice, she has gone on to even more disciplined musical development. And I am always nearby to encourage her.

As Mary and I reminisced about this experience a few years later, she confided in me that my willingness to say “I’m sorry, I’ve made a mistake, please forgive me” gave to her a great sense of self-worth, because it said to her that she was worthy enough for a parental apology, that sometimes children can be right. I wonder if personal revelation ever comes without counting ourselves as fools before God? I wonder if reaching and teaching our children requires becoming more childlike ourselves? Shouldn’t we share our deepest fears and pain with them, as well as our highest hopes and joys, instead of simply trying to lecture and dominate and reprove them again and again?

From the fireside talk “Parenting: Everything to do with Heart

Elder Robert D. Hales

Member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

Teach by Example and Testimony

As I think about these relationships with my own family, I cannot help but return to the example I received from my own parents. Our children will remember us by our example. From my earliest childhood, I remember experiences which taught me about the priesthood which I hold and to respect and love the relationship my father and mother had with one another.

Father was a commercial artist for a large advertising agency in New York City. On one occasion he was under tremendous stress to produce an advertising campaign. He had come home on a Friday evening and worked most of the night. Saturday morning, after a few hours working in the yard, he retired to his studio to create an advertising campaign for a new product. My sister and I found great delight in chasing each other round and round the dining room table, which was situated in a room directly over his head. He had told us to please stop at least twice, but to no avail. This time he came bounding up the steps and collared me. He sat me down and taught a great lesson. He did not yell or strike me even though he was very annoyed.

He explained the creative process, the spiritual process if you will, and the need for quiet pondering and getting close to the Spirit for his creativity to function. Because he took time to explain and help me understand, I learned a lesson that has been put to use almost daily in my life.

My point in telling these stories is that we, as parents, have the privilege and the responsibility of teaching gospel principles by our example and testimony to our loved ones.

My father has been gone for seven years, but I remember him with love and respect. Examples become memories that guide our lives:

Memories of Mother and her tiny, slippered feet on top of Father’s feet as they danced around the kitchen and their expressions of love for each other.

Memories as a young boy sitting on the floor by Mother and Father’s bedside while they took turns reading aloud from the scriptures.

Memories in later years of going to the Salt Lake Temple and watching Mother and Father participate in the presentation of the endowment ceremony.

It helps children to see that good parents can have differing opinions and that these differences can be worked out without striking, yelling, or throwing things. They need to see and feel calm communication with respect for each other’s viewpoints so they themselves will know how to work through differences in their own lives.

From the talk “How Will Our Children Remember Us

Pay Attention

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I remember as a young man asking permission to play baseball through dinnertime. “Just put my meal in the oven,” I said to my mother. She responded, “Robert, I really want you to take a break, come home, be with the family for dinner, and then you can go out and play baseball until dark.” She taught all of us that where family meals are concerned, it’s not the food but the family interaction that nourishes the soul. My mother taught that the greatest love we give is within our homes.

For our interactions with youth to truly touch their hearts, we have to pay attention to them just as we would pay attention to a trusted adult colleague or close friend. Most important is asking them questions, letting them talk, and then being willing to listen—yes, listen and listen some more—even hearken with spiritual ears! Several years ago I was reading the newspaper when one of my young grandsons snuggled up to me. As I read, I was delighted to hear his sweet voice chattering on in the background. Imagine my surprise when, a few moments later, he pushed himself between me and the paper. Taking my face in his hands and pressing his nose up to mine, he asked, “Grandpa! Are you in there?”

Mother, Father, are you in there? Grandpa, Grandma, are you there? Being there means understanding the hearts of our youth and connecting with them. And connecting with them means not just conversing with them but doing things with them too.

From the talk “Our Duty to God: The Mission of Parents and Leaders to the Rising Generation

Sister Cheryl A. Esplin

Former Second Counselor in the Primary General Presidency

Teach in the Moment

I’m reminded of a phone call I received several years ago from our daughter, Michelle. With tender emotion she said, “Mom, I just had the most incredible experience with Ashley.” Ashley is her daughter who was 5 years old at the time. Michelle described the morning as being one of constant squabbling between Ashley and 3-year-old Andrew—one wouldn’t share and the other would hit. After helping them work things out, Michelle went to check the baby.
Soon, Ashley came running in, angry that Andrew wasn’t sharing. Michelle reminded Ashley of the commitment they had made in home evening to be more kind to each other.

She asked Ashley if she wanted to pray and ask for Heavenly Father’s help, but Ashley, still very angry, responded, “No.” When asked if she believed Heavenly Father would answer her prayer, Ashley said she didn’t know. Her mother asked her to try and gently took her hands and knelt down with her.

Michelle suggested that Ashley could ask Heavenly Father to help Andrew share—and help her be kind. The thought of Heavenly Father helping her little brother share must have piqued Ashley’s interest, and she began to pray, first asking Heavenly Father to help Andrew share. As she asked Him to help her be kind, she began to cry. Ashley ended her prayer and buried her head on her mother’s shoulder. Michelle held her and asked why she was crying. Ashley said she didn’t know.

Her mother said, “I think I know why you’re crying. Do you feel good inside?” Ashley nodded, and her mother continued, “This is the Spirit helping you feel this way. It’s Heavenly Father’s way of telling you He loves you and will help you.”

She asked Ashley if she believed this, if she believed Heavenly Father could help her. With her little eyes full of tears, Ashley said she did.

Sometimes the most powerful way to teach our children to understand a doctrine is to teach in the context of what they are experiencing right at that moment. These moments are spontaneous and unplanned and happen in the normal flow of family life. They come and go quickly, so we need to be alert and recognize a teaching moment when our children come to us with a question or worry, when they have problems getting along with siblings or friends, when they need to control their anger, when they make a mistake, or when they need to make a decision. (See Teaching, No Greater Call: A Resource Guide for Gospel Teaching [1999], 140–41; Marriage and Family Relations Instructor’s Manual [2000], 61.)

From the talk “Teaching Our Children to Understand

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