Latter-day Saint Life

Insights from President Nelson Every Parent Should Read


Throughout his service in the Church, President Nelson has taught through word and example how to build a strong family. Here are a few of his teachings on the topic, excerpted from the new book  Teachings of Russell M. Nelson.

This is part of an ongoing series where we highlight the teachings of our prophet weekly.

When our youngest daughter was about four years of age, I came home from hospital duties quite late one evening. I found my dear wife to be very weary. I don’t know why. She only had nine children underfoot all day. So I offered to get our four-year-old ready for bed. I began to give the orders: “Take off your clothes; hang them up; put on your pajamas; brush your teeth; say your prayers” and so on, commanding in a manner befitting a tough sergeant in the army. Suddenly she cocked her head to one side, looked at me with a wistful eye, and said, “Daddy, do you own me?”

She taught me an important lesson. I was using coercive methods on this sweet soul. To rule children by force is the technique of Satan, not of the Savior. No, we don’t own our children. Our parental privilege is to love them, to lead them, and to let them go.

The time to listen is when someone needs to be heard. Children are naturally eager to share their experiences, which range from triumphs of delight to trials of distress. Are we as eager to listen? If they try to express their anguish, is it possible for us to listen openly to a shocking experience without going into a state of shock ourselves? Can we listen without interrupting and without making snap judgments that slam shut the door of dialogue? It can remain open with the soothing reassurance that we believe in them and understand their feelings. Adults should not pretend an experience did not happen just because they might wish otherwise. . . .

Parents with teenage youth may find that time for listening is often less convenient but more important when young people feel lonely or troubled. And when they seem to deserve favor least, they may need it most. (“Listen to Learn,” Ensign, May 1991)

Parents and teachers, learn to listen, then listen to learn from children. A wise father once said, “I do a greater amount of good when I listen to my children than when I talk to them” (George D. Durrant, “Take Time to Talk,” Ensign, April 1973).

5 Suggestions to Build a Stronger Family

May I offer five headline hints, along with comments about each, that might be helpful to someone you love.

1. Establish good communication at home—husband and wife, parents and children. Listen carefully to understand; speak carefully so others can understand, and plainly so that you cannot be misunderstood. Use words that always show love, and remember to think before you speak or act.

2. Establish prime time to cultivate this prime relationship in life. Place family appointments first on the planning calendar. Let mealtimes be happy-memory times for the family. Consider the merits of at least one night a week reserved for the family. We have generally kept Monday nights free for our family, and now our children do the same.

3. Attack the problem and not the person. Parents have a duty to give necessary protection and correction. But when discipline is needed, we have applied the rule to correct in private and praise in public.

4. Build a foundation of common values. Try to answer behavioral questions not with “knee-jerk” behavioral answers but with reasoning based upon enduring principles and doctrine. Build a base of spiritual competence and confidence that will stand through the generations. Those enduring values include feelings of deserved self-esteem, which would include the importance of chastity, avoidance of addicting, harmful substances, along with loyalty to family members, commitment to common goals, and respect for the laws of God and man. Speaking of enduring values, turn to your own roots of family history—your parents, grandparents, and beyond—and learn along with the children. Knowledge of one’s ancestors engenders loyalty and an identity that can come in no other way.

5. Build faith—faith in God, faith in the family, faith in oneself. Help each person to understand that he or she is a child of God with divine attributes and potential. The wondrous inborn capacity to heal one’s own wounds and the incredible capability to grow and achieve are evidences of these divine gifts.

Make it easy for children to love their parents, who will even help with homework, at least for a little while. Be interested in children’s activities and participate as appropriate. Enjoy family outings and vacations together. Share quality time one on one.

No doubt you can improve upon these five headline hints and develop suggestions that will be applicable to your own particular circumstances. (“Remarks to Delegates,” Third Annual World Family Policy Forum, July 18, 2001)

Looking Heavenward for Guidance

“Honor thy father and thy mother; that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee” (Exodus 20:12). The importance of honoring parents extends beyond your own father and mother. This scripture implies that we honor the father and the mother of children that might yet be born to us. We considered this implication while dating and in the early years of our marriage. But I fully understood that concept only later as I watched Sister Nelson cradle those children in her arms as they arrived one by one. Each time she reassured herself and her newborn baby that no blessing was ever withheld from that child because of any act of impurity in her life that could have deprived that infant of its full potential in any way. To honor father and mother means to honor fatherhood and motherhood and the divine provision for procreation and all that pertains to it. (“Begin with the End in Mind,” BYU Fifteen-Stake Fireside, September 30, 1984)

Facing upward is crucial for successful parenting. Families deserve guidance from heaven. Parents cannot counsel children adequately from personal experience, fear, or sympathy. But when parents face children as would the Creator who gave them life, parents will be endowed with wisdom beyond that of their own. Wise mothers and fathers will teach members of their family how to make personal decisions based upon divine law. They will teach them that “this life is the time . . . to prepare to meet God” (Alma 34:32). They will teach them that decisions of a moral and spiritual character cannot be based on freedom to choose without accountability to God for those choices. With that understanding, parents and children will be rewarded with strength of character, peace of mind, joy, and rejoicing in their posterity. (“‘Thou Shalt Have No Other Gods,’” Ensign, May 1996)

Lead image from Newsroom

Read more profound insights from our prophet in Teachings of Russell M. Nelson.

Internationally renowned as a surgeon, teacher, and man of great faith, President Russell M. Nelson has dedicated his life to healing hearts and ministering throughout his medical career and his Church service. This definitive volume of his teachings presents excerpts from his speeches and writings spanning more than three decades as an Apostle of the Lord, including many from his recent world tour and other unpublished addresses. Alphabetically arranged by topic, these teachings on more than 100 subjects provide a perfect, easy-to-use resource for talks, lessons, and more. 

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