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Church Ladies

By Justine Dorton

Alright, so I’ve made the ladies at church upset. Sunday during church, we were talking about raising strong and righteous children. I said (as it mentioned specifically in the manual) that we shouldn’t over-shelter our children from the world and we should teach them to make tough choices. I said something about how we need to prepare our children for the difficult choices that lay ahead of them, and by hiding them away in a closet until they were adults was doing them a disservice.

Well, I got totally lambasted from several of the ladies in the room. Some of them said we need to “cocoon” our children from the evils of the world. We need to protect them from pain, suffering and difficult choices until they are adults. Someone else said how glad they were to live in Utah where they were sheltered from the big bad world (HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!! – ok stop laughing now). That was the point I almost exploded into a million pieces on the nice church carpet. Are these women aware of what’s going on in their children’s schools? Surely they must know that there’s just as much sex, drugs, and porn as everywhere else in the world. Surely they weren’t saying that only in Utah were there good people.

I tried all afternoon to reconcile it in my mind. Surely we were just having a difference in semantics. The language we were speaking only served to belie our true opinions, which must be similar, right?

I couldn’t do it. No matter what scenario I created in my head, it wouldn’t jive with what was said. The women who spoke are women I love and respect. Could I be wrong? Could they be wrong? Could we both be right? Is there just a difference in parenting style, with little or no difference of real quantifiable substance? At the end of the day, will our children all be as equally well equipped to deal with the world, even with such vastly different beliefs as to how they are raised?

I still don’t have the answer. It’s too easy for me to always assume that I am right (because I foolishly tend to always assume I am.) My tendency to be bull-headed tells me that I have all the answers, but my practicality tells me that I can’t possibly be right all the time. With this kind of issue, I feel like I need to get it right. Our children really are facing issues more weighty and of greater import than previous generations. The responsibility to rear them requires my constant communication with the Lord.

He just hasn’t clued me in on this one yet. Alright smart ladies… HELP.

About Justine Dorton

Justine is a mother to five children, and has a husband lodged somewhere (probably in the den). She is not very fond of speaking of herself in third person.

35 thoughts on “Church Ladies”

  1. If you do not prepare your children for the world than the world will do it for you.

    We're still IN the world. Sheltering our children without the tools to handle what goes on in the world is like feeding them to the lions. I think 'disservice' is a staggering understatement.

    We had better be raising strong children because the Lord needs them to accomplish the work. This is no time for coddling–the water is just going to get hotter.

  2. Can we define the semantics here?

    What does sheltering our kids look like to you?
    What does exposing them look like?

    My thoughts even without answers to those questions are:

    1. We are here to help them use agency. Therefore, to me, that means that if we are making all of their decisions for them, we are not helping them learn by their own experience what good and evil are.

    2. That said, I think it's foolish to deliberately expose them just so they can learn (and I don't think that is what you meant at all, but there is a pendulum here that shouldn't swing either way, imo).

    This reminds me of something from Pres. Packer. Worth mulling over (although it's certainly not specific, it's definitely instructive). (I hope it's not too annoying to include the quote here…if it is, tell me and next time I will put a long quote on my blog instead):

    When I was in the seventh grade, in a health class, the teacher read an article. A mother learned that the neighbor children had chicken pox. She faced the probability that her children would have it as well, perhaps one at a time. She determined to get it all over with at once.
    So she sent her children to the neighbor’s to play with their children to let them be exposed, and then she would be done with it. Imagine her horror when the doctor finally came and announced that it was not chicken pox the children had; it was smallpox….
    Parents now are concerned about the moral and spiritual diseases. These can have terrible complications when standards and values are abandoned. We must all take protective measures.
    With the proper serum, the physical body is protected against disease. We can also protect our children from moral and spiritual diseases.
    The word inoculate has two parts: in—“to be within”—and oculate means “eye to see.”
    When children are baptized and confirmed (see D&C 20:41, 43; D&C 33:15), we place an eye within them—the unspeakable gift of the Holy Ghost (see D&C 121:26). With the Restoration of the gospel came authority to confer this gift….
    This shield of faith is best fabricated in a cottage industry. While the shield can be polished in classes in the Church and in activities, it is meant to be handcrafted in the home and fitted to each individual.
    The Lord said, “Take upon you my whole armor, that ye may be able to withstand the evil day, having done all, that ye may be able to stand” (D&C 27:15).
    Our young people in many ways are much stronger and better than we were. They and we should not be afraid of what is ahead.
    Encourage our young people. They need not live in fear (see D&C 6:36). Fear is the opposite of faith.
    While we cannot erase wickedness, we can produce young Latter-day Saints who, spiritually nourished, are immunized against evil influences.

    I think we can teach them to make tough choices without exposing them unnecessarily. To me, that means lots of talking about what-ifs and role playing and giving them lots of opportunity to see how the gospel principles can help them face the many kinds of hard decisions and situations they will face.

  3. I guess what I would like to know from them is what does "sheltering your kids" mean? What do they mean when they do that? How do they put their thoughts into actions? Perhaps you are talking about the same things but just in different ways; I'd rather talk about concrete examples than vague things like "I have to shelter my children".

    For example, one parent I knew stated that they don't have the internet in their home because it invites "evil". To me, I find that difficult because at some point their child will be asked to use the internet for benign things. Like registering for college classes or doing research for school papers. How will they reconcile the fact that they don't teach them to use the internet at home with the fact that computers and the interent are here to stay? For me, I would rather teach my children how to make responsible choices at home.

  4. Another comment. My parents belived (and still believe) that we shouldn't shelter kids and that censorship is wrong, etc., etc… They really didn't give me much guidance on picking good books or movies and we also didn't have a good, close relationship. For example, I was a big reader and often picked up things I don't think I should have read. When I was about 12 I got on a big Judy Blume kick and read everything, including Forever, which is a sexually explicit book about teen romance. The feelings it inspired in me were confusing becaue I didn't know what to do with them. It really caused a lot of angst and struggle with stuff I'd been taught at church, other sexually explicit material I encountered, etc. I spent a number of years as a teenager convinced that I was dirty and unworthy and evil, because I thought I could talk to no one about it. So I'm trying to change that with my children.
    I figure I'll start by being more aware of what they are doing and reading and watching. They're still pretty little so that's easy right now. At the same time, I know that they aren't going to be perfect and that their lives won't be perfect. So I'd rather try and meet the problems somewhere halfway; I think assuming you can "shelter" your kids can lead you to ignore problems by assuming that they just aren't happening. I think we teach our kids a greater lesson by teaching them explicitly what good choices are ("I wouldn't recommmend that book because it has sex in it between teenagers. What do you think about that?") as well as being there for them when they do make mistakes or are exposed to things that they don't know how to handle (like harassment at school or sexual content in movies or pressure to smoke). I feel like I'm rambling, but I feel like there has to be a middle ground between the "mama bear" instinct that wants to put our kids in a bubble and ignore any problems and the "everything goes" approach.

  5. I think the important term you use in your post, Justine, is "over-shelter." I realize that it's difficult to talk in generalities, especially about something that can be as specific as parenting (e.g. "how many cans of soda can a child have in his or her lifetime before they, and you, are marked forever as horrible human beings?" should have been the headline of an article I read recently.)

    I've had a week where a number of wonderful grown-ups I know have been dealt some serious blows. For some, I think the idea of over-sheltering as protection has continued from childhood to adulthood, and sometimes the worst part of their trials is their honest belief that nothing really difficult would visit them if they kept the commandments with enough vigilance. Intellectually most adults wouldn't admit to this feeling–they know in their heads that bad things happen to good people–but on an individual level, I've known a number of people who have spent a lot of time and energy not only over-sheltering their children, but themselves. And when, in spite of all that time and energy, life sweeps in and kicks them in the gut, they feel extremely betrayed by God. And it seems to me that the feeling, "I thought this wasn't supposed to happen to people like me?" can drive a wedge between a person and God just as effectively as some of the sins out there in the wicked world.

    Of course we shouldn't be forcing our kids to smoke cigarettes so they can see how bad they taste (when I was in Jr. High, a friend's dad did that). We should get internet filtering software and make sure we know our kids' friends. But when we give our kids the idea that we "over" shelter them because it will keep them from disappointment and fear and even the evil they will most certainly encounter someday, I think it does them a disservice that can do real damage in adulthood.

  6. I think m&m hit it on the head when she wrote the pendelum.

    I have a friend who was ridiculously sheltered –as a teen, she was humiliated over and over because of the things her parents would not allow her to do, mostly having to do in the relationship area (not being allowed to date, talk to boys, etc.). It's taken her years (12-14 of 'em) to learn what most people learn in a few awkward teenage dates. And she's very bitter toward her parents.

    Then again, I have another friend whose parents didn't want to shelter her (and yes, I love that I have these examples to draw from!). She was exposed to all kinds of things, and opposite of my other friend (incidentally, we were all very close in HS), she has had many sexual relationships, left the Church while young, and is going through a very messy divorce from a man twice her age.

    I love both these girls. In fact, I'm still friends with both. But the glaring difference is obvious, and I think it's safe to say that they are both extremes. Not every parent will (or should!) raise their children in such polarized thinking. FoxyJ was right –there has to be middle ground. We have to prepare our children for the challenges and choices they will make, but we shouldn't throw them to the wolves, eh?

  7. P.S. I want to clarify that I'm not happy my friends had a hard time, nor made hard choices when I said "I love that I have these examples to draw from!" –I just mean it's kind of nice to learn about this stuff from real life; i.e. I'm not just makin' it up. That is all.

  8. I recently had an experience where I witnessed first hand what happens when people are over-sheltered and too naive to deal intelligently with the big bad world. I was chaperoning some kids from Utah on a tour in another state. One of the girls in the group gave her room number to a group of boys whom she did not know but who were staying in the same hotel. Even after she was reprimanded for the trouble this inevitably caused (let's just say it involved some indecent exposure–but it could have been much worse) she still had no clue that in the real world the message she had sent meant something much, much more than simply, "I think you're cute."

    For what it's worth, Justine, I think you're right on.

  9. Pendulum is indeed a good way for me to look at this. I'm not advocating sending my kids to the wolves, or locking them out of the house every day for 10 hours, but Azucar actually got me thinking about this again when she recently wrote about free-ranging her children. (sorry, I don't remember how to link to her discussion!)

    Over-scheduling, over-managing, micro-involvement…these are all part of my thought process. I see some wonderful women who won't let their 10 year old children choose what to wear, or let them even walk two blocks to school alone. The discussion centered on teenagers, and how the older they get, the fewer choices they should be allowed to make alone. That seems exactly opposite to me.

    I should be choosing my two year old's clothes and food and viewing. By the time that baby is 16, however, if I haven't taught him how to choose on his own, it's pretty much too late.

    You've all helped me immensely! Keep telling me more!

  10. I have a different perspective about protecting children now that I'm raising my US born teenagers overseas. Mostly, I'm learning that I was naive to think that I could control most of what they experience or protect them from some of the harsh realities of the "world outside." Consequently, my children either need to develop the strength they need to cope with the challenges they face or risk combusting. Here's a little anecdote.

    Several months ago, my twin daughters were invited out with a group of friends from their international school. They were supposed to go to Hard Rock Cafe on a Friday night, primarily with kids that I don't know. After we worked out the logistics of transportation, safety plans etc., my girls went downtown and I waited. And waited and waited. Anxiously. We live in a large city (a bit over 8 million people) that has a reputation for having a wild club scene.

    Around midnight the girls came home–completely safe, having had a different evening than what they'd planned on. Hard Rock had been too crowded so they ended up going to a hookah bar where most of the kids they were with ordered drinks and smoked hookah. My daughters knew that they could pick up their cellphone and their YW leader (who lives close by the street where these places were) would be there in five minutes. Instead, they chose to stay and talk with their peers. The plan-gone-awry actually gave them a lot of opportunities to share their standards and provided some of their peers with the "out" to not drink. There were quite a few kids that evening that developed genuine respect for my girls and came to a better understanding of the church; my girls, confronted with a situation that they very well may face as adults, came through with flying colors.

    Now don't misunderstand this–I'm not saying this was a positive, lovely night out that I'd like repeated anytime soon. I almost threw up after hearing the story imagining all the scary things that could have happened to my daughters. That being said, they now know that they can handle this kind of situation without being ashamed of their standards. This has given them a certain amount of confidence. They don't go out with this group often, mostly because they don't love being put in the uncomfortable situations that inevitably arise, but there have primarily been positive consquences from that evening.

    I'm not advocating throwing our kids into the sewer so they understand some of the icky realities out there, but I have seen first hand–here in Europe and raising my oldest daughter exclusively in the US–that denial and cocooning kids doesn't necessarily "protect them."

    We can have the best intentions and do all we can to control the variables that we can control as parents. Pragmatically speaking, as soon as they walk out our door, they are subjected to circumstances and forces we can't control. How to help a child gain the strength and wisdom necessary to cope with the unexpected is a process that is best figured out, IMHO, between the parent and the Lord. For myself, I have found that I trust my children more and a fear less now that I know that they are capable of facing the unexpected.

  11. I grew up in northern Illinois, two hours west of Chicago. There was a good, solid Mormon family there in my ward. This family decided that they wanted to move to Utah so as to get away from the evils of the "world." Mind you, this is largely rural midwestestern America we're talking about, not the south side of Chicago. This was little pink houses country; very Americana.

    So they move to a big house on (or near) Osmond Lane in Provo. And the family promptly just falls apart. The mom, whom I remember as a slightly frumpy, middle aged RS sister, slimmed down quickly, started wearing designer clothes and got into sex, drugs and rock and roll. (A mutual friend who works at the County Jail has seen here there on multiple occasions.) They are now divorced. The kids also got into drugs and are a mess.

    Moral of the story: moving your family to Happy Valley is not guarantee you're going to evade the evils of the world (such as, in this case, materialism).

    Which is to say, I agree with the OP.

  12. Justine – I love your post and totally agree with you. When I think of trying to prepare my kids (13 months old and one on the way) for the challenges of life I think about open, honest discussions in the home.

    One thing that has been particularly on my mind lately is the topic of sex. It makes me really uncomfortable when I hear members of the church talking as though they're kids will have no interest/knowledge in sex if they never mention it at home. Or they decide that they will have "the sex talk", but only when their kids are in their teens. Back in the 1980s, I heard about sex on the playground when I was seven or eight. I am forever grateful that my mom also started talking to me about where babies come from at about this age. When I look back on our conversations about physical development and sex, I am glad that she didn't wait until I was a teenager and the topic was really uncomfortable, but that she brought up these things when I was young and curious and gave me accurate information. She knew that ultimately, decisions about sex would be mine to make and not hers.

  13. This has been a great discussion–just what I needed. My oldest is 7, going on 8, and I really struggle with what to share and when.
    Earlier this week she came home asking me what a word meant, a crude word for a female body part–she'd heard it on the playground.
    Nancy R–when I was 8 years old my mom told me everything because I asked her what the F word meant. And I totally blocked it out. When I was 11 I asked her when she was going to explain stuff to me, and she said she had! I had zero recollection–I think probably it was too much info, and probably, knowing her, her anxiety was so high it was as upsetting for me to hear as for her to tell. I'm sure she didn't do it in the way I hope to do with my children.

  14. Just yesterday my 8 year old daughter called me. We're at this guy's house, she said. What guy? That guy with the cactuses in front of his house. Basically, my 3rd grade daughter and 1st grade son were at a stranger's house – 50 year old guy, single, who invited them and their friend in to "look at his fish" and he offered them a Coke (my kids declined). We told her to get out of the house immediately and my husband raced down the street to collect them and met the guy. We told them we needed to have a serious talk.

    While I didn't want to introduce them to such topics quite yet, I felt that it was imperative that I told them WHY they couldn't befriend older single men who invite them into their house. I taught them what a pedophile was and we play acted all the different ways a friendly stranger might get them to come in to his home or car. It bugged me that I had to do it, but "cocooning" them isn't going to protect them from some friendly neighborhood pervert.

  15. Here is a quote from an amazing devotional By Elder Glenn Pace that discusses this very issue:

    "Every spring at our home in Bountiful, Utah, we plant flowers. We go down to our local garden center and painstakingly pick out the cartons containing the healthiest flowers we can find including many already blooming. We come home and carefully plant them in the soil, fertilize them, water them, and sit back to watch them grow. Much to our dismay, after a few days they start to wilt.

    Why does this happen? These plants had lived their whole life in a greenhouse where conditions were ideal, and suddenly they faced the real-world shock of our flower garden. We may get a late snowstorm or a heavy rain; dogs run through the flower beds; grandchildren kick their soccer ball into them or pull the whole flower up and proudly present it as a gift to my wife; deer come often to dine on the tender shoots and nip off the buds or pull the whole flower up and spit out the roots. Last year I trapped and transplanted nine squirrels that delighted in feasting on every new blossom our petunias produced. Our plants had left the greenhouse where all of the elements were ideal and entered the real world.

    However, the miraculous thing is that after a few weeks the plants sank their roots deeper and you would see new and stronger growth emanating from within the plant that could withstand the storms of the real world.

    (Here's the entire talk:

  16. I have observed children who were sheltered by their parents when they left their protective homes…they then used their greatest gift God gave them, their free agency…and they seemed to go a little nuts and made some bad choices. I feel they need to know the dangers and they need to be the shining light and example for others to follow. Times are so hard and scary all we can do is pray and pray hard!!!

  17. I've thought a lot about this. I tend to overprotect. But my kids are young still. I hope that in this season I'm allowed to let them not experience the world in the way that they will inevitably have to. I walk my son to school most days. He likes me to–I've asked if he wants to go by himself, and he says he'll be old enough next year. Which is fine by me. It won't be too long before I'm an embarrassment, so I'm glad he still wants my presence.

    By the time they are teenagers, though, what I deeply hope is that my kids will own their choices–I want them to somehow choose the right not because I've forced them but because they have grown to love it for themselves. My parents managed to teach that to us, and it's what I pray for, almost every day: that my kids will gain testimonies of their own so that they can be strengthened to choose the right when they are face with temptation. Is that like praying to win the lottery? I don't know. But if my prayers are answered in the way I hope, I will feel as though I'd won the lottery, and much more.

  18. I really do think that this means different things for different people. One person might not feel their five year old is ready to attend public school, so homeschooling is the right choice, while someone else sends their child gleefully into the world to Kindergarten without so much as a hand holding to school. I don't think there only needs to be one right answer. I do however, really feel that on the whole, the freedoms and choices we allow our children need to be ever increasing, not decreasing.

    I'll always remember a film shoot my husband was on, filming two teenage boys skateboarding down a hill. Both mothers were there watching. One mother kept telling her son to be careful and to take care not to fall. The other mother just sat and watched. Guess which kid face-planted half way down the hill.

  19. Great discussion! This reminds me of the time in RS when the lesson was on the Law of Chastity, the ladies couldn't talk about it! It was not surprise since when I was in YW some of their daughters didn't know what birth control and abortion were. I wasn't about to tell them–that's a parents job. But the topic came up from some of the other girls. These kids need to know! They need to know what they are up against! I can't help but think that sometimes parents sometimes shelter their children, somehow not wanting to acknowledge themselves the very scary world we live in.

  20. I do however, really feel that on the whole, the freedoms and choices we allow our children need to be ever increasing, not decreasing.

    Do you mean increasing over time as they get older, or increasing relative to previous generations?

    I totally think that since we are supposed to be raising children who can be strong, independent adults, we had better help them figure out how to make more adult-like choices as they mature. I guess to me, the question ends up being how much freedom to give how soon, and how much to try to control to help them learn principles so they are equipped to make those choices and have enough experience with the Spirit to do so.

    I know I am probably considered overprotective by some…I won't let kids cross busy streets by themselves, am a fanatic about the buddy system, won't do sleepovers, etc., but I'm also a very open mom. Sex is not one talk, it's something we talk about repeatedly (and my oldest is 9). We talk about friends and choices and temptations and agency and the Spirit and peer pressure and this kind of stuff constantly. We are a doctrine-loving household and I talk to my kids like they are grownups in that way a lot of the time (the sex talk is not super specific yet, so not in that category). I figure that while they are young, it's my job to protect them, to control their environment to some degree. But to give them experience with choices and consequences and the Spirit so that they understand what 'good' feels like and know enough of the doctrine to recognize 'bad.'

    My husband and I were talking about this a little the other day, and one of the conclusions we came to is that one of the most important things we can do is not coddle them too much. We create an atmosphere of love, but we also hold lines with choices and consequences (in an age-appropriate way, of course)…the trick is finding that balance of love and firmness so they learn boundaries and that choices have consequences, but they learn it in a context of love and safety and the Spirit. We guide, not force.

    I'm rambling. It's late. …just like to 'think out loud' about things like this, as it's a constant process to try to figure this all out!

  21. And, btw, I know that I'm probably annoyingly overprotective for some parents' sensitivities, but really, I really think there are lots of ways to raise responsible, mature children, and you don't HAVE to let them ride the subway on their own or walk alone somewhere to do that. 🙂

    And I have to say that cul-de-sac living makes free-rangeish life (some freedom to play, explore, etc.) a lot more doable in a controlled way. I am grateful for that blessing in our life.

  22. I've thought a lot about free-range child raising since we've moved around a lot and there are different levels of acceptance in each culture we live in. When we moved to DC, there was no wiggle room to let them have freedom. And so we moved to the country so that they could wander and explore. I rode buses and hiked and explored when I was young and I wanted to give my children that opportunity. And it's funny because now we live in a very safe city in Austria and I see children ride public transportation to and from school, alone. They often walk farther than I do when I go for my 20 minute 'run' in the morning to get to school. Alone. And it seems like I've gone back in time. It's lovely. I'd love to be able to replicate this situation in the states. I'd love for my boys to be as free as I see the children here being. And yet still, when I put my kid on the private 'school' bus that picks him up every morning, I worry about the 30 minutes that he rides it. I worry about him being bullied by the high schoolers on the bus. I worry about his safety. And it makes me wonder if we as parents are capable of free-ranging our kids, if the often very-real threats in society have lessened our capacity to let them grow up the way we did.

  23. yes, m&m, I was talking about each individual child as they age. And I do agree that there isn't just one correct way to do this. I think I am protective in some respects, but my parents were very very open (they may well have been hippies…) and I tend toward their example. Capable adults come out of all types of homes, but I worry about the general trend of over-managing and coddling our children.

  24. So, I'd be interested in more specifics. What do you think is over-managing or coddling? I'm interested in what other parents do and how they define freedom…this is all still feeling a little vague for me.

  25. This is a really interesting subject. As to the original post, I have to wonder, is it possible the sister who was glad to live in Utah is employing a very different tactic in the discussion? I've seen it happen before when the subject becomes hard for them to think about either their children or any children dealing with. A deflection type of technique that includes or begins with how blessed they are for having what they do – in reality what they are think is usually "I am glad I don't have to deal with that." or "I really can't think about that." and they have no idea they've essentially said others aren't as blessed 🙂 It's a coping mechanism.

    The other comments though, every child is such an individual that even within one family the amount of choices given one won't necessarily be given another. Some may have more freedom than others because they demonstrate that they are ready for it. (I don't believe in teaching my children that life is fair. Now there is one concept that I think parents need to do away with!)

    I think the main thing is how much do we protect our homes? How much do we teach them the standards and why they are what they are? Do we talk with our children? Do we have fun activities together? Are we ready when they want to talk? And when decisions are being made, do we give them a voice so they learn to make decisions?

    I've seen families who homeschooled their children where the children were well educated and social and taught to choose. Not always making wise choices, they're teenagers, but they're doing well. I've also seen families in the same circumstance where the children seemed to struggle more either academically and/or socially. I've seen children in the public schools who exibit each of those qualitites as well. You can add in private school, pick a state, rich and poor. At some point children have to go out on their own, make their own choices and either reap or face the consequences of those choices.

    Thankfully, I know I'm not alone in trying to get my own children to that point. There are WAY too many variables and far too many things completely out of my control.

  26. I'll tell you what is overprotective. A family in our neighborhood will not let their daughter swim in the deep end of our neighborhood pool.

    The girl is 9. And the deep end is 5 feet.

    The message she is getting, when all the other kids, including MY 4 YEAR OLD, were swimming in the deep end? Not "it's not safe", but "you're not good enough to do what all the other kids are doing."

    For me, I taught my kid how to swim early, so he can go into the deep end safely, so he knows what is safe and what isn't, so he knows when he can dive and when he can't, so he knows all the rules of swimming and can abide by them.

    Which kid is safer at the pool? Yup. The kid who can swim.

    There are scary and evil things in this world (and yes, in Utah, too. The only difference is that in Utah, the kids who are smoking and drinking are Mormon, too), and I am all for creating a safe haven in our homes from evil. But overprotected kids become fearful and anxious and introverted. I've seen it happen. It's a hard call to figure out where the line is between hand holding (m&m, my kid doesn't cross the street without holding my hand too, and he's 6) and teaching a child learned helplessness.

    And seriously, the Utah thing? When I was out of Utah, and I said, "I don't drink, I'm Mormon," people went, "Oh. Ok". In Utah, they say, "Well, me too."

    So give your kid the tools he will need to make it in this evil world, and provide a haven for him to retreat to when things get too ugly. And for heaven's sake, teach them how to swim.

  27. I've been reading all of the interesting comments and all I have to add is this: I think BECAUSE we live in (ha ha) Happy Valley we had better be very open in teaching our children some of the things they will face as they grow up in this crazy world. My parents were VERY strict with me and it just caused me to rebel the second I went to BYU. I grew up all over the world and my parents moved to Utah when I was 20, thinking that raising the last few kids in Utah would solve all their problems (I'm the oldest of 8). Well, because of GOOD mormon kids, one brother has had drug problems his whole life and 3 others want nothing to do with the hypocrisy of the people of the church. I am an active member who is very frank and open with my kids (all teens). I remember going to 6th grade maturation program with my mom, coming home and her asking if I had any questions. I was too embarrassed to ask any, and that was the extent of my learning about the birds and the bees.
    I decided if the Lord thinks kids are old enough to be baptized at 8 that they were old enough to start talking to them about anything. We are very open with them. If a word comes home they don't know, we explain it. We play with our kids alot. Go to concerts, and take them out in the world. If we see something, or hear something we don't like – we talk about it. Somehow we've raised kids that like to be with us, as do most of their friends because we don't really mince words. I can't tell you how many kids talk to us about life decisions. We try not to judge, and just love. I wish these other teens could talk to their own parents but I will listen and try not to preach, but to teach.
    I was in RS once where an older woman teaching actually said "I'm just glad I've raised my children because I probably wouldn't want to have kids now". It made me furious. This is a beautiful world created for us. How awesome is that! And to say that you wouldn't want to raise kids now just makes me sad. Yes, there are definitely many bad things out there, but also many good. We are bringing very strong spirits into the world now. It is up to us, as parents, to raise them – and raise them well, knowing good and bad, wrong or right. I must admit that sometimes I feel very overwhelmed by the responsibility of it all. I know my kids are so much better than me.
    All I can end with is this: Just talk to your kids, open the lines of communication early in their life, and for heavens sake, don't be embarrassed to talk about ANYTHING!

  28. Tonya, yes, yes, yes. Talk, talk, talk! I am always amazed at what comes out with enough conversation.

    And as far as specific choices, it's true that each kid is different. When my son was 8 years old and had a really rough fight with someone in the house, I suggested he get on his bike and ride the 1/2 mile down to the church pavilion and just read or pray or rant and rave — do something outside the house that he could do completely alone. It was exactly what he needed. But my 8 year old daughter wasn't ready for that freedom. But now that she's older, she's grown into herself more, and has earned more freedoms.

    We've always told our kids that they will be treated with freedoms and privileges accordant with the age they are behaving. When they make mature decisions, the world opens up for them more. When they make poor decisions, or decisions based on tantrums or anger, they are treated accordingly. At some point, each of our children has kind of "gotten it" that they are in charge of their own destiny. As they make decisions to be responsible with their duties at home, they are given leeway to stay up later, exert more freedom out in the world, choose their own activities and endeavors, etc.

    It doesn't always work, but we're getting there. Someday, right?

  29. Just talk to your kids, open the lines of communication early in their life, and for heavens sake, don’t be embarrassed to talk about ANYTHING!


    And Heather O., I like your comment about learned helplessness.

    I have also been thinking about how this is all often tied to a parent's personality and risk/chaos tolerance. My sister and I have quite different parenting styles. She is more free-range like, I'm more protective. She is the type that responds when something happens, I'm the type that anticipates what could happen and tries to avoid it. Again, just like my earlier comment about pendulums, I think either could be taken to an extreme. But I also think that there is room for some personality differences as well.

    I also think that, at least for me, all of this also requires a great deal of self-reflection and honesty. Sometimes, I make choices on how to interact with my children simply based on what I can handle, rather than what might be best for them. I don't think that is always bad (can't give from an empty well, right?), but again, that's another thing that can often be out of balance, imo. Teaching well is rarely convenient, and I think we need to be willing to push ourselves a bit to figure out and execute good parenting techniques and patterns. If we don't, kids might end up manipulating, or being confused about how boundaries, choices, and consequences really work.

    I also think that both boundaries and freedoms can communicate love from a parent to a child. SO MUCH TO BALANCE!

    Justine, I like your paragraph about helping children understand that they are in charge of their destiny. Good thoughts. Even if my execution might be a little different, that is the kind of principle that we are trying to work toward, but I can sense from reading your comments and some practical ideas, that I can be more specific, more particular about it.

    This is a great discussion. It's giving me good things to think about. Thanks.

  30. I second and third was Azucar said, mostly because I love her, but she's right. Having grown up outside of Utah and faced with the prospect of raising my children here, I'm almost MORE nervous about making sure they are prepared to take on the world than I would be if I were raising them somewhere else.

    I love Utah, we have wonderful resources and amenities available here, especially when it comes to the Gospel. But you will find the same bad things here that you'll find anywhere else. Anyone who thinks otherwise is kidding themselves. We're here to teach our children the importance of free agency and to hopefully equip them with the right tools to make good decisions, it's up to them to take it from there.

  31. "So, I’d be interested in more specifics. What do you think is over-managing or coddling?"

    One thing that we've wrestled with is the media use issue raised by FoxyJ. Specifically, we have come across this regarding school-assigned reading and movie assignments.

    Some LDS parents we know are fanatical about protecting their kids from non-church-standard stuff. In my family we tend to consider that if it has enough merit to be assigned, we will also read/watch and discuss with them.

    But one family had their child disenroll from the International Baccalaureate high school program, which is a standardized curriculum around the world and thus has no possibility of substitution for books they thought objectionable.

    Last week my 9th grader asked me about the movie GATTACA, which she vaguely remembered her big sisters watching and which she had heard from a science teacher portrayed an interesting future (it's an excellent film). So I got the video, we watched together, I fast-forwarded through the gratuitous sex scene, and we talked about it.

    Also, in our house once a child turns 12, or hopefully by 14 at the latest, they no longer have to ask parents for permission to go anywhere. They do have to notify us where they are. I see that period up to age 18 as a time when parents serve as coaches to make their own decisions.

    For example, when a 16 y.o. called about 11 p.m. to say that he was at Pizza Hut and someone had ordered another round so he'd be a while, I just said, "Fine, whatever you want to do. If you think you can do well at your math competition tomorrow, whatever." He was home in five minutes, and we avoided a fight over whether or not he could stay (which I thought was not my decision at that point in his life).

    This principle was sorely tested when a daughter thought about going on spring break with some non-LDS girls her senior year of high school, but as we talked through the possibilities and consequences, she chose not to go.

  32. This has been such an interesting discussion. I tend to be on the overprotective side in certain situations, but in other situations, I let my kids have more freedom than other parents do.

    I'm not sure if either brand of parenting leads to kids making bad choices. My husband's parents were very laid back and encouraged their kids to make choices. My parents were much more restrictive. Both sets of parents had kids that really screwed up. But the difference I saw was that my husband's siblings actually talked to their parents and came clean. My siblings didn't. So perhaps the biggest difference I see is that parents who allow their kids to make choices and have freedoms are usually more willing to talk to their kids and their children are more willing to come to them when they've made bad choices.


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