Thursday, September 27, 2012

A Parent's Guide

A while back, we finished reading A Parent's Guide, the LDS Church's 1985 guidebook on how to talk to your kids about the body and sex.  Although it was so old, I'd never heard about it until maybe year ago.  At first I figured it would be a nice, well-balanced approach to human development, then after hearing so much negativity online toward so many things that the LDS Church does, I worried that it might have some non-PC stuff in it, but when I read it, I was pleasantly surprised and learned some good things.  (See, don't trust what you read online. Don't even trust me.  Go find out for yourself.)

I thought I'd jot down a few quotes I liked (I admit, it ends up being waaaay more than a few).
Intimacy does not occur in a vacuum, isolated from other human relationships, from values, or from our perceptions of ourselves and others. It is only one part—although a very important part—of our relationships with others (5).
Amen to that.  I think we're trained in our culture to think that intimacy/sex is this focal point of our lives, but it's just a part of a whole picture.

***
If we are to emulate the love of Christ, we must have the same objective: “I do what I do because I love you, not because I have any selfish gain in mind or any anticipation that credit shall come to me.
This one reminded me of a story my husband told me from when he was in an institute class.  In some dating discussion, another student commented that if he took a girl on a date and bought her dinner, he expected something in return at the end of the date, namely, a kiss.  Really?  Entitlement, hmmm.  What if she didn't like him?  Why is this all about him and his desires?  Isn't dating about getting to know another person?

***
While many of the responsibilities of men and women are the same, the Lord has assigned to his sons the responsibilities of holding the priesthood, of providing for their families, and of presiding in righteousness over them. The Lord has assigned to his daughters the responsibilities of helping to create earthly bodies for his spirit children, of nurturing and caring for those children, and of sustaining and counseling with her husband (8).
The predecessor to The Family: A Proclamation to the World?

***

Help your young children understand that being a man or a woman is part of a pattern of life established and approved by their eternal Creator. You teach your children to be proud of being a boy or a girl primarily by being secure and happy yourself with your masculinity or femininity and by demonstrating love for your spouse. As a child interacts with parents who are secure in these ways, he learns that men and women have a natural and complementary affection for each other and that each parent contributes in unique ways to his or her comfort and security. The child learns that both masculinity and femininity have value and develops a sense of happiness and security in being a boy or a girl.
The following ideas may help you understand the weighty assignments the Lord has given to his sons. He has given them the priesthood, which is his power given to men to act in his name. But this power is not given to men merely to give them authority. On the contrary, the Lord makes clear that “no power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned” (D&C 121:41). The purpose of having the priesthood in the home is to bring the powers of heaven into the lives of the family members. Through his priesthood, the father is able to receive revelation, inspiration, and understanding in behalf of his family. He can perform sacred ordinances for his family and bless them in many ways he could not if he did not hold the priesthood. He has been given this power so that he can bless his family (8).
It goes on to say that a woman's greatest assignment is to give "mortal tabernacles to the spirit children of God," which complements, as quoted above, men's responsibility to "bring the powers of heaven into the lives of the family members." This reminds me of and fits well with Kels's post recently.

***
A mother, when without a husband, presides. In the absence of a father, she is the head of the family. She must make every effort to magnify her role as mother and head of the home and fulfill her responsibility to teach her children (11).
I've known some women who have lost husbands who were unsure what their leadership role was if there wasn't a father/priesthood holder in the home.  One wondered if she should allow her teenage-priesthood-holding son to lead the family.  That didn't make sense to me, so I was glad to see right there, that no, she's the mom, she's the head of the family.

***
“As important as our many programs and organizational efforts are, these should not supplant the home but support the home” (address delivered at Regional Representatives’ seminar, 1 Oct. 1970) (15).
I've heard a lot of argument on whether or not YM/YW activities are really mandatory.  I know I was strongly urged to go as a youth, and I admit, I did pass (unrighteous) judgment on others who were not there.  But, bam, here you have it, these activities should "support the home."  So if you have a family event that is more important, then, it's more important.

***
Teach them that their gender influences their goals and that, depending upon their gender, their goals are to become effective fathers or mothers. . . .
In homes where the mother feels good about her role as a family builder, she will make the child feel well accepted. The mother and child are constant companions [birth to 3 years]. Mother is a coach and tutor, involved in the numberless trials, errors, and successes of this developmental period. The father, on the other hand, comes home from his employment and tends to interrupt the routine. Often he interrupts with play, sometimes with duties, and on occasion with discipline. . . . .
“Keep the mother of your home at the ‘cross roads’ of the home. There is a great danger today of homes breaking down because of allurements to entice mothers to neglect their being at home as the family are coming or going from the home. Now I recognize the necessity of some mothers being required to earn sustenance for their family. I am recognizing that, but [we all] should take care lest [we] fail to lend all aid possible to permit the mother of small children to be with them, if possible, in planning the nature of work or the schedule of time” (“Woman’s Glorious Purpose,” Relief Society Magazine, Jan. 1968, pp. 12–13) (20).

I know that those paragraphs could potentially offend some, but nevertheless, I'm still trying to do them for the most part.  I think my parents very much lived this -- even down to when dad comes home, he may interrupt with discipline.  My mom did what she could, but my dad was definitely more of the discipliner.  In our home, I think it's pretty even.

***
Teach your children to accept and understand that basic differences between men and women are complementary in nature. To understand their role identity, children need to understand that each gender completes the purpose of the other’s creation (23).
Love it.  What a great starting point in teaching our body differences.

***

Among the traits Christ revealed as proper for men and women alike are faith, hope, charity, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, kindness, godliness, humility, diligence, and love. These virtues transcend gender. They are Christlike attributes to which both sexes should aspire. (See D&C 4.)
Spiritual gifts, as described in Doctrine and Covenants 46, are not restricted to one gender either. Included are gifts of knowledge, belief, administration, organization, healing, and discernment. Some females are gifted organizers, some are not. Some males are gifted teachers, some are not. There are all manner of character traits for boys and girls, men and women, to develop if they are to become righteous in all they do, in both their intent and performance (25).
I love that the booklet points out these traits and gifts that apply to both men and women.  So often we label one sex one way and the other, another.  I need this reminder.  I fall into the stereotyping, too.

***
You should provide opportunities for your children to develop talents in various directions unhindered by improper stereotypes. But you should respect the divinely mandated roles special to the respective sexes. . . .
Girls ought to be taught the arts and sciences of housekeeping, domestic finances, sewing, and cooking. Boys need to learn home repair, career preparation, and the protection of women. Both girls and boys should know how to take care of themselves and how to help each other. By example and by discussion, both sexes need to learn about being male or female, which, in summary, means becoming husbands and fathers or wives and mothers, here or hereafter.
There are, of course, realities to face also. Boys must learn basic domestic skills, and girls must be able to earn a living if necessary. In this imperfect world there are the widowed and divorced and those without the opportunity to marry. Their lives need to be as secure and complete as anyone else’s. But for all of the children of God, this life is primarily a probationary existence designed to prepare them for the eternal roles of husband and father, wife and mother. . . .
Sometimes we focus on how boys and girls should be taught differently, but I deliberately emphasized the things that we're taught to teach both sexes.  I need to learn from this one.  I admit that sometimes I've let my son slide in his table-setting duties because he's a boy; but, I'm more persistent in getting my daughter to set the table.  I've felt guilty about that (my mother would have never allowed for such behavior), so I've kind of stopped pushing anyone to set the table.  I just set the dishes on the table and they eventually get distributed.
Parents, by aspiring too much outside the home or through too much self-focused achievement, risk teaching their children that the roles of father and mother are not very desirable-desirable—or less so than the attainment of material goods, the honors of men, or even educational diplomas. . . . (26)  
I absolutely loved that last one.  I have the tendency to long for that grass that's greener on the other side, but I don't want to give my kids the wrong impression, either.


Mothers work along with daughters to bake bread, sew, and plan family menus and budgets. Mothers perform compassionate services with their daughters as companions. And mothers and daughters engage in various mutually enjoyable activities. They sing, play musical instruments, compose music, write poems, and develop artistic talents in all their varieties with their daughters.
Fathers work with sons in repairing things around the house, maintaining the yard or car, and planning the budget. Fathers invite sons to help them perform service and let them observe priesthood blessings. And fathers hike or play ball or engage in other mutually satisfying activities with their sons.
Of course, mothers also teach sons and fathers teach their daughters. If a girl is intrigued with a saw and hammer, the father should help her become proficient. If a boy enjoys cooking, the mother should teach him to be a good cook. Parents should organize all these experiences around the child’s future role as either a mother or a father and should help their children develop their gifts to the highest degree, whatever those gifts may be (29).

***
The future ability to adhere to eternal roles depends on how well the child learns to be Christlike with others. A child should learn to be courteous to all people, affectionate with many, and intimate with a special few, all the while being true and reliable. Future social and emotional security depends on how clearly the child learns a gender role. True role definitions teach the girl that she is a daughter of God, working toward the roles of wife and mother here or hereafter. The boy learns that he is a son of God, working toward the roles of husband and father here or hereafter. These gender-based roles provide the perspective for successful future sexual intimacy (33).
I don't know that I fully understood this one, but it sounded good.

***
Parents can mistakenly attribute adult characteristics to adolescents who look like adults but are largely children. They need more time and experience before being expected to act and think completely as adults.

You can say that again.  So very often we think teens are more mature, but they're just big kids who are starting to understand all this!

***
Ideally, you should use the first eight to twelve years of a child’s life to prepare him for his teenage years. If you wait until adolescence to teach your children about the changes of puberty and about intimate relationships, you may not be able to influence them as easily. Children often retain their basic character traits through their teenage years. The kind, self-respecting child usually becomes a kind, self-respecting, and sexually well-adjusted young adult. The self-focused, unkind, self-indulgent child will often express these character traits in a sexual fashion during the teen years.
If this is true, I'm really excited for my 9 year old to be a teen!  This also boosts me in my resolve to be at home while my kids are young -- when I can have so much influence.

***
A girl who enjoys self-respect based upon development of a talent and esteem for her various womanly roles will be more inclined to appreciate spiritual truths. She will be less likely to desperately seek the attentions of lustful boys or accept the viewpoint of those who oppose marriage and the family (37).
We need our girls to have that self-respect!  (Here's even a recent article on the influence moms can have in helping their daughters not feel like they have to be sexy.)

***
Set the example of virtuous behavior in every aspect of your life. Obey the traffic laws, live within your income, keep your house and yard neat and attractive, be moderate in dress and in consumption of material goods, serve faithfully in Church callings, vote in each election, give regular service in Church welfare efforts, read the scriptures daily, hold family prayer, speak courteously, be modestly but openly affectionate, and be chaste in dress and language. Have daily prayers, give blessings to your children, fast, and bear your testimony (39).
I think that's a great way to live for anyone!

***
The intimate relationship between husband and wife realizes its greatest value when it is based on loving kindness and tenderness between the marriage partners. This fact, supported by valid research data, helps newly married couples recognize that the so-called sex drive is mostly myth. Sexual intimacy is not an involuntary, strictly biological necessity for survival, like breathing and eating. Sexual intimacy between a husband and wife can be delayed or even suspended for long periods of time with no negative effect (for example, when the health of one or the other requires it). Husbands and wives are not compelled to mate because their genes or hormones order them to do so. Sexual powers are voluntary and controllable; the heart and mind do rule. While sex drive is a myth, husbands and wives do have physical and emotional needs that are fulfilled through sexual union. . . . (49)
Honestly, I didn't expect to see that in writing anywhere.  Anything these days revolves around sex drive, so I'd love to have some backup data on this.  I like that it emphasizes again the emotional wholeness of a relationship, not just the part about sex.

Well, this ended up being a HUGE post, but it's fun to remember my thoughts and review this booklet. I can see why I procrastinated writing about it.  Definitely worth a read, though.

2 comments:

Raisin4Cookies said...

Thanks for this post. It prompted me to buy that American Girl book, The Care and Keeping of You, for my nine year old daughter.

Sometimes I feel like I'm not doing enough, and I worry that my efforts will fail, but after reading through that list it looks like I am doing ok. Whew.

kels said...

There were some interesting things here. I do struggle with the gender-divided household roles, and think it's funny that they're followed with the caveat: "basically, you should teach both genders this though, if they're interested." I'm not surprised that we don't teach gender-divided tasks anymore, since they really don't have anything to do with gender. Baking bread can be accomplished just as well by a boy as a girl, and a girl can work on a car just as well as a boy. Each is benefited equally by the skill, and the only time it wasn't that way was during time periods when society assigned one skill to one gender because of stereotypical norms. But really, there's no biological, emotional, spiritual, or other reason why we should separate those skill sets. In fact every skill set I can think of that is typically assigned to one gender, the other benefits from having it just as well. Homemaking tasks? Just as useful for boys to have. Fathers definitely need to know how to take care of a house. Repair skills? Definitely just as useful for girls-- moms need to repair things too. Educational achievements? Certainly both benefit equally. Leadership training? Definitely great for both genders. Employment marketability? In this day and age, both benefit equally (indeed, more women compose the job market than men). All of these skills benefit parents and their children, and I can't see any reason that we should segregate them by gender. As to the ultimate goal, they all benefit both fathers and mothers!

Basically the caveat that we should not allow our children to be hindered by "improper stereotypes" really makes me laugh. The idea that boys knowing home repair as a part of their "divinely mandated role" is just silly. If anything, a mom would be more likely to need to fix home issues on the fly. I just don't see any any actual divinely inspired elements to the gender-specific skills outlined in this pamphlet. None of them have anything to do with eternal responsibilities-- I'm pretty confident our Heavenly Parents are not dividing the sweeping of the house, or that Heavenly Father goes to his 9-5 while Heavenly Mother bakes some bread.

It sounds like I'm mad, but I'm not... I'm just laughing because the idea that these mortal tasks are somehow important to our eternal gender value is just silly. They're necessary for mortality, and we all need to know how to do them. Sometimes they'll be more useful than others, but we all need to know these skills for different times in our lives, and there's no use in subscribing to antiquated gender norms that are not relevant to our actual eternal stewardships.
:)