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“Experiment Upon My Words”

By Justine Dorton

I’ve always been a skeptic — critically thinking, cynical perhaps, un-trusting at the rotten core. I think it might be my parents fault, but I’m trying to blame everything on them, so I’m not sure if it’ll all stick.

So our family life has gotten a bit stressful lately. We have a daughter who (as I believe I’ve spoken about before) is painfully traveling through her life. My husband and I have taken parenting classes, read numerous books, spent countless hours on our knees, and shed not a few tears over this daughter. And lately, we’ve watched the entire dynamic of our once calm house fall into utter chaos. Waking up to screaming and yelling is not a good way to live a life.

Now, here’s where I’m really going to show my incompetency, but I’m going to divulge some weakness here. We’ve been mostly just trying to holler and punish our way to obedience and peace. Seriously, is it any wonder things have gotten worse? For all the prayers and diligent scripture study we’ve put into this situation, we’ve largely ignored the gospel in our attempt to help her.

Yep, I am just that daft.

But several weeks ago, something popped into that thick skull of mine (I’m quite certain it was the Spirit who had just had to work for 8 1/2 years to get through to me). “Get your daughter praying and reading her scriptures.” Revelatory? Hardly. In fact when the idea hit me, it was slightly underwhelming. I mean, we already study the scriptures and pray together as a family. I didn’t think the idea was anything stellar or new.

But it persisted with me.

So one Sunday afternoon, after a lovely afternoon of screaming, hitting, kicking, name-calling and tears, we went to her bedroom to de-compress and talk it out. My anger started to melt into some sort of pleading prayer directed to the Lord through my conversation with my daughter. He didn’t let me down. I was suddenly talking to her about personal and private prayer, done on her knees and alone. The kids had always said their bedtime prayers with a parent present, as if to consult or help. As I persisted in conversation about finding peace through prayer, my daughter started sobbing into my shoulder. “I need peace, mom… I’ll try it.”

So, two weeks have passed. This experiment has had time to incubate, and I have no idea how to adequately express my complete amazement at the results.

My daughter has found peace.

Her entire countenance has changed. Her focus is shifting. Her breathing seems slower. She’s doing secret acts of service for her one-time nemesis, her sister. My husband and I are completely floored. And by that I mean we are completely floored, no kidding.

This is not to say, of course, that she has been completely calm and pleasant all day, every day. She certainly has lost it several times in the last two weeks. But more important than the tally of fights and screaming is that I’ve learned some remarkable lessons in this experience.

The Spirit really speaks peace to each of us. Peace really can change behavior. The Lord’s promises are real. Experiment yourself! Don’t take my word for it.

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.

13 thoughts on ““Experiment Upon My Words””

  1. Justine, thank you. And thank you for linking your River piece to this. I have three daughters still within my reach–11, 8, and 5. Gratefully,I am tucking your words into the "parenting" chamber of my heart.

    I am a believer that when you post on Segullah, there should be an exchange of words and introspection. So here are some words for you. And I thank you for your words for us.

    I love how James Lenfestey captures the mystery of daughters with his words.

    ~James Lenfestey

    A daughter is not a passing cloud, but permanent, holding earth and sky together with her shadow.
    She sleeps upstairs like mystery in a story, blowing leaves down the stairs, then cold air, then warm.
    We who at sixty should know everything, know nothing.
    We become dull and disoriented by uncertain weather.
    We kneel, palms together, before this blossoming altar.

  2. you know Justine, I was making eggs this morning and thought, "Oh good! It's Saturday and I'll get to read Justine's words today!" And you surely didn't disappoint.

    Your obvious/not so obvious solution would have also come as a revelation to me. Parenting is such an emotional river that it's easy to lose our oars. The old Sunday School answers are where truth lies– pray, read your scriptures, practice charity. Thank you for the reminder of those powerful and simple habits.

  3. It constantly astounds me how much of parenting is experimentation. Shouldn't I have to prove my knowledge and worthiness before attempting to lead a child of God through life? It is another witness of the atonement. God knows that all can be healed through the sacrifice of his son and he depends on it as parents, the blind, lead our children, also blind, through life.

    Leslie, love the poem.

  4. I love this, and appreciate your willingness to share it. I only have one thing I would change in your post:

    Yep, I am just that daft.

    No, you are just that human. 🙂

    I love you, girl.

  5. justine this was a perfect post today. i've made tremendous strides in reading the scriptures with my children, and saying prayers with them every evening and many mornings, but personal prayer and study is still an elusive thing for us. i have one child for whom your answer may just be the missing link as well. now i just need to figure out a way to help them decide to do this for themselves…new habits are so hard to make. thanks for sharing your experience! ♥

  6. That was so beautifully written, and I am so happy for your daughter (and you) to have finally found some peace! My river daughter (age 6) is such a source of endless wonder…and worry.

    Your entry reminded me of one of my favorite quotes of Elder Packer:

    True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior. The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior. (May 2004 Liahona)

    I have felt impressed lately that I need to better take this challenge for myself. Thanks for another witness on how well this works.

  7. I read this to my hubby and we both cried. We have a child that fits this description. Given a 'my way or the highway' choice, he chooses the highway. Every time. And I think this course of action sounds like something that we should try. Thanks so much Justine.

  8. Darn it, you guys, I just love you all. That poem was really just so lovely. And the quotes, and the words of wisdom from everyone. So beautiful.

    There is just something so calming about a community of sharing together. Thanks for that. Honestly, you just don't know how much these shared experiences really really mean to me.

  9. Thank you for this. It is nice to know that I am not the only mother in the world that is struggling, although it feels like it most of the time. Why oh why does everyone else have to look so perfect at church?


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