Latter-day Saint Life

This unique parenting tactic works like magic for one family—and reflects an underrated Christlike attribute

Smiling mother and daughter in city
My aunt is masterful in her approach to motherhood.
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My aunt is masterful in her approach to motherhood. Her children are as busy and accomplished as they are different from each other, and she manages to ensure that each of them feels seen, heard, and inspired to pursue their passions.

As I’ve watched her over the years, I’ve learned the secret to how she manages it all: gentleness.

“I used to just yell,” she laughed recently. She’d come to visit me and hold my newborn daughter. Rocking the sweet infant in her arms she mused, “The house would get so crazy and loud that I’d try to be in control by shouting over all of it. As you can imagine, that never worked.”

She smiled conspiratorially, “Then I learned a trick. When I spoke quietly, everyone would listen. It took a while for them to realize I was talking, but then they’d realize, ‘Hey guys, Mom is pretty serious about this.’ And the quieter I was, the more serious they knew I was. And they knew they’d better listen.” Her eyes widened with that knowing seriousness that betrays suppressed laughter. I laughed—I’d seen that tactic in action. It worked like magic.

I’m years away from having my own joyfully chaotic house, but this mindset makes me feel so much more prepared.

▶ You may also like: Elder Andersen’s sweet advice to a young father fearing his children will leave the Church

Gentleness is a severely underrated virtue, perhaps because it holds such paradoxical power. It’s easy to admire strong speeches and formidable forces. I love a good mic-drop moment as much as the next person. But gentleness is often painted as passivity when in reality, it is an immense inner power that extends exponentially outward.

“A soft answer turneth away wrath” (Proverbs 15:1) and “power or influence can… be maintained… by gentleness” (Doctrine & Covenants 121:41). It’s how the Savior Himself works among us. Gentleness commands attention, disarms hostility, and inspires change.

Gentleness is a softness that softens whatever it touches.

My aunt is particularly perceptive. Her silent assessments of character, intention, and situational context are quick and accurate. If she wanted to, she could easily lay bare the innermost flaws and insecurities that people try so desperately to disguise. With her gift for discernment, she holds versatile power—she could devastate, or she could elevate. Her choice to be gentle not only harnesses that power, but it also magnifies it.

Often, I ache to approach conflicts in my life with disarming articulateness. Occasionally, I have—and I was ashamed of the results. Inspiring change instead of harm, gentleness is conducive to “[s]ound speech [that] cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may [have] no evil thing to say of you.” (Titus 2:8)

In short, it’s Christianity applied: “[T]he servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men” (2 Timothy 2:24).

“[B]e ready to every good work, to speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men.” (Titus 3:1-2)

Life’s collisions are inevitable. Conflict and chaos tumble around us freely, and each collision presents an opportunity to be chipped or smoothed, to become harmful or helpful, in turn. Gentleness absorbs those collisions, converting the energy into something creative, productive, and inspiring.

I think my aunt’s gentleness is founded in her understanding of the Savior, whom Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf referred to as “the gentle Christ.” Christ was immersed in the most intense conflicts Earth has to offer. With few exceptions, His response was always gentle—evidence of inner power and understanding that would reach far beyond the present moment, inspiring believers of every age and era to reflect and change.

His love inspired them to want to change their lives. Living His way brings joy and peace, and He invited others to that way of living with gentleness, kindness, and love.” (Sister J. Anette Dennis)

“Through Jesus Christ, we are given the strength to make lasting changes. As we humbly turn to Him, He will increase our capacity to change.” (Sister Becky Craven)

From where I stand, parenting multiple children, each different in their personalities and aspirations seems dauntingly complex. I’m sure I’ll make mistakes. I’m sure I’ll lose my temper at times. But perhaps, in a rudimentary sort of way, parenting is just gently nudging children toward change—toward Christ, the source of change—and discovering that, simultaneously, your Father is doing the exact same thing with you.

▶ You may also like: In honor of his final performance, Lloyd Newell’s advice on finding peace as a parent you’ve likely never heard

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