Intentional Parenting: Raise a Family in the Lord

IMG_2496We are here, then, to be happy—each one of us—and to find real joy, but there is no real joy in this earth outside of fulfilling this great commandment of raising a family in the Lord. We are here to raise that family (not just raise a family, but raise a family in the Lord). That will take the very best that’s in us. Yes, it will take sacrifice and it will take obedience. . . .

Elder Hartman Rector Jr. said this as part of a talk in 1973 but I think it’s even more relevant today. And besides the sacrifice and obedience he mentions, it will take a lot of patience, time, energy, love, prayer, faith, and inspiration; just to name a few. But all those are possible if we rely on Christ and teach our children to rely on Him as well. It is only with His help that we can successfully “raise a family in the Lord.” These attributes come as we grow, stretch, and faithfully parent our children; all the while teaching them to follow the same course with our precious grandchildren. Elder Douglas W. Shumway of the Seventy taught:

“Loving, protecting, and nurturing our children are among the most sacred and eternally important things we will do. Worldly belongings will vanish, today’s number-one movie or song will be irrelevant tomorrow, but a son or a daughter is eternal.”

''Dear Lord Jesus Please'' by Emily Schultz

”Dear Lord Jesus Please” by Emily Schultz

What an awesome assignment we have been given to raise an eternal family! I know my husband and I can’t possibly live up to that responsibility by ourselves. Without the Lord’s help, I have no doubt we would fail. But we can get all the help we need if we’re willing to pray, listen to the Spirit, and follow His counsel. Our Heavenly Father is the best source for help. He knows each of our children individually, in fact much better than we do, and He is willing to help us if we ask. Rather than deciding for ourselves what to do, or what’s worse, just reacting in the moment, we can turn to the Lord for help. He will bless us with increased love, patience, understanding, or whatever it is we need at the time we need it most.

One day my daughter came home very upset, her anger increasing with every passing moment. Very quickly she was beyond listening or calming down. As I watched her, I felt like I was looking at an angry cat, back arched, claws bared, and ready to strike. After trying to talk with her but getting nowhere, my first impression was to send her to her room until she calmed down. I hate to admit it but I did not want to deal with her temper right then. As I continued to watch her, I distinctly felt the inspiration to hug her. I’m embarrassed to admit it but this was the last thing I wanted to do so I ignored the prompting. Thankfully He didn’t give up and I felt it again, “Hug her.” Very reluctantly I reached out and put my arms around my daughter and, rather than feeling the claws digging in as I was expecting, she melted in my arms and her anger turned to tears.

Finally, I was able to break through that seemingly impenetrable shell and find out what was really bothering her. We were able to work everything out. If I hadn’t followed that inspiration, this experience would have ended with her in her room where the issue would never have been resolved. Instead it ended in working through the problem with love and understanding that I really didn’t think I was capable of right then. This experience was an eye opener for me. It really helped me realize how much God knows and cares about His children, and if I listen to the Spirit, even when it seems crazy, the results will always be better.

There are many instances when we may have no idea what to do. Those are times when perhaps only God has the answer and we can only find it through His help. If we come to Him humbly and prayerfully, we may be out of plans, patience, or good humor, but He will inspire us. He knows and loves our children and will help us raise them if we listen to His promptings. We shouldn’t feel like we are alone in this sacred responsibility; He wants to help us raise His children.

Intentional Parenting would be nearly impossible without our Heavenly Father’s help. My family needs those blessings which mean faithful, purposeful decision-making can’t be ignored. I want God’s version of successful Intentional Parenting.

Behold, it came to pass that I, Enos, knowing my father that he was a just man—for he taught me in his language, and also in the nurture and admonition of the Lord—and blessed be the name of my God for it.

When I first read this, years ago, I thought Enos must have been the perfect child, but that’s not necessarily true. He might have acted like he was not paying much attention at all as a teen. It may have taken years for it to sink in while his father could have felt like giving up numerous times. Our children may be that same way. Jacob, Enos’ father, didn’t give up and neither can we. When we really trust God and believe He will help us, we need to take that step of faith into the darkness where there is seemingly no heavenly help. Once He sees we are willing to do the work to follow Him, He will send His Spirit with inspiration and guidance, but first we have to take that step of faith on our own.

Intentional Parents put their children first. It takes a lot of time, effort, and patience to raise good children. If parenting is way down on the list of priorities, then it won’t be intentional and it also probably won’t be as successful. President Spencer W. Kimball warned us of allowing other interests to replace parenting:

Do not, however, make the mistake of being drawn off into secondary tasks which will cause the neglect of your eternal assignments such as giving birth to and rearing the spirit children of our Father in Heaven. Pray carefully over all your decisions.

Illustration by Harry Anderson 1906-1996

Illustration by Harry Anderson 1906-1996

C. S. Lewis understood this same principle, “The homemaker has the ultimate career. All other careers exist for one purpose only—and that is to support the ultimate career.” Somehow we have turned it all backwards. Today, families are to support everything else rather than everything supporting our families. Imagine the difference if we could restore the home and the homemaker to their rightful place.

-Jennifer Jensen (Author of “Raising Intentional Parents“)