One of my blogging buddies and I have been talking (er, writing) about how the answers to all of life’s questions can be found in the scriptures. At least, the starting point is there. After reading from the divine text, you might get further instruction about what to do or where to look.
One of the biggest questions I faced as a younger mother was exactly what discipline approach to use. I’d characterize our parenting style as authoritative, meaning that we had high expectations and were firm but fair. The children knew they’d receive a reward or a punishment based on their behavior, and I think we were pretty consistent. At the same time, we were aware of their developing minds and bodies and were willing to listen and negotiate rules as the situation warranted. We weren’t authoritarian parents whose philosophy is “my way or the highway” and who often use harsh physical punishment to control behavior. Nor were we permissive…well, sometimes I was and am a softie. Nor were we uninvolved, the fourth and probably most damaging type of parenting.
Most psychologists agree that authoritative parenting is the most effective style to raise responsible, confident, respectful children. Here’s where the scriptures come in. As we were studying Alma the other evening, the missionaries directed our study to the 39th chapter where he’s disciplining his son.
Corianton has been guilty of some pretty serious transgressions, but instead of Alma blasting him and telling him what a jerk he is and how angry he is with him, he talks in a straightforward manner and lets him know that he’s disappointed in his behavior. Alma encourages him to mend his ways and to turn to the Lord with all of his mind, might, and strength; never does he threaten, belittle, or bash him. What impressed me so much is that in nearly every verse, Alma says “my son,” and to me that’s significant. He’s reminding Corianton of the nature of their relationship and letting him know that as his father he has the right and obligation to correct him. At the same time, saying “my son” signifies a loving relationship much like our Father has for us.
Isn’t this a great example of authoritative parenting? The child is “in trouble,” but rather than get beaten or disowned or yelled out, he’s duly punished and then given reminders of how special he is and what his potential is. This is pretty much like our relationship with our Heavenly Father. He loves us, and when we break the rules, He’ll forgive us and encourage us to get back on the straight and narrow.