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Can "Perfect Parents" Kill Faith?


KevinG

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We all know them. The family in the church that appears (remember that word) perfect in all things. Takes the church rules to a higher level. Enforces them thoroughly with the kids. Protects the family from all evil influences including "unworthy" LDS children from less than perfect families.

Molly wears three camasoles under each summer dress to prepare her for temple standards. Peter was not allowed to go to prom because he would be out past midnight. Mom only serves meat two times a week because vegetarian meals are more in line with the Word of Wisdom. Media is limited to living scriptures, the Ensign and Friend and Disney Movies (only the G rated ones). They never miss Church and even came the day after Dad's heart attack.

Of course the kids are the first to achieve their young womenhood and Eagle awards. They memorized the articles of faith at age 4. Mom defended them from the evils of literature and made sure they didn't have to read naughty books in class thus giving all LDS students a reputation with the English Teacher.

In all things they achieve the appearance of perfection and they are quick to preach advice on how to achieve their superior brand of Latter-day near-perfection.

This is the architypical TBM family. The children of which are insulated from the reality of their own world, even their own ward.

- - -

Imperfection in such families is hidden away. Pregnant youth are shuttled off to distant relatives in another state. An act of public sin that embarasses the family is treated with a kind of shunned disapproval so that others know this is not the family way. There is a hierarchy created in the family where the most perfect children are the chosen ones and the others, frankly are an embarassment to be fixed or hidden away.

Imperfection is met with the threat of damnation and repent is used as a code word for "don't embarass us any further".

- - -

So what happens when these sheltered children leave the nest and get to try their agency for the first time? It is either full on cultural orthodoxy or rebellious apostacy.

It results in Saints who are never wrong, as were their parents and their parents before them unto the generation of perfect pioneers.

-or-

It results in the blinders coming off of the children, resentment and apostacy. Children who speak of their "TBM" parents as though "True Blue Mormon" were an insult.

- - -

So how do we avoid this cultural ill? Perfection is not for this life. It never was.

I try very hard to make my reasons for disciplining children good reasons. Keep them from imminent harm or preventing them from harming others. Help guide them in their growth as human beings.

If I am ever tempted to discipline because I'm embarassed by their actions that is a red flag for me.

I re-read the 121st section of the D&C again and again. It is a good reminder of how to parent. Longsuffering, love unfeigned...

Some of my children have come up with some whopper mistakes. A good test of my faith in Christ's mercy and repentance. When the Bishop says to me- I'm glad they are in your family I don't know if others would have handled it so well it frightens me. I get hints when a child who is worthy of going to the Temple is not deemed worthy to date another family's children.

I hope and pray I'm doing it right.

- - -

Does striving for the earthly appearance of perfection cheat our children of the very mistakes and experiences they need to build faith in God? Are we as a people honoring their God given agency?

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- - -

Does striving for the earthly appearance of perfection cheat our children of the very mistakes and experiences they need to build faith in God? Are we as a people honoring their God given agency?

I don't know. I know with my family taht I make a boat load of mistakes and I am not trying to live a perfect life. I tried that when I was younger and it made me more frustrated than anything. Instead what I realize is that when I make mistake, I need to acknowledge that I messed up then I need to fix it. I take one issue at a time. I teach my kids in a similar fashion. Of course the biggest thing here is that it seems that sometimes when people act like, who you described in your story, it would seem that they care an awful lot about what people think of them. I can tell you right now I don't give to craps what people think of me, one way or the other. I think working at guitar center helped me with this.

Hopefully this is of some value.

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DaddyG:

God is the perfect parent, and still over a third of his children reject him, and what he teaches.

God is perfect. In that we should try to emulate his perfect characteristics. But we as Saints are far from perfect. In striving to be "perfect" rather than "perfected in Him" do we sometimes do our children a disservice?

Ultimately it is up to our children to receive or reject the Gospel of Jesus Christ as agents unto themselves. But to do that they need space to excercise their agency and be guided. Not be guided from ever using their agency. A fine distinction I admit- but one that concerns me if the response to mistakes is embarassment, shaming or shunning in stead of correction (in the time therof) and increased love.

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My little monsters are aged 2 and 9 months.

So here's my parental philosophy in regards to the Gospel. It's an open canon. ;)

1. Punish rebellion and not mistake making. Let the consequences of the mistake be the teacher and me the catalyst for them to fix their mistakes and learn those life lessons.

2. Lead by example. Children who see me reading my scriptures, praying fervently with them and their siblings, treating their mother with the highest respect and love, and holding and exercising the priesthood (yes, I do my home teaching ;)) will remember that example when it comes time to choose to emulate it.

3. Remind them, over and over and over and then a few times more after that, that a testimony is something that is personally sought for and given by God to the seeker. How the answers come, and when they come, will be up to them to discern.

4. No matter what they do or what they choose, I will always love them and attempt to salvage the relationship in the hopes that should they depart from the straight and narrow, I'll be there to help them grasp the rod again.

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More to the point of the OP...

Does striving for the earthly appearance of perfection cheat our children of the very mistakes and experiences they need to build faith in God? Are we as a people honoring their God given agency?

I think so, yes. Especially with the definition you gave.

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I don't know. I know with my family taht I make a boat load of mistakes and I am not trying to live a perfect life. I tried that when I was younger and it made me more frustrated than anything. Instead what I realize is that when I make mistake, I need to acknowledge that I messed up then I need to fix it. I take one issue at a time. I teach my kids in a similar fashion. Of course the biggest thing here is that it seems that sometimes when people act like, who you described in your story, it would seem that they care an awful lot about what people think of them. I can tell you right now I don't give to craps what people think of me, one way or the other. I think working at guitar center helped me with this.

Hopefully this is of some value.

You describe an intrinsic drive to become more perfect as opposed to an external threat of embarassment if appearances aren't kept. I think that does a good job of approaching what I'm trying to get at.

Yes, yes... Embarassment for our family is not a Gospel principle. Faith, repentance, atonement, charity, love, endurance... all of which require agency.

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My little monsters are aged 2 and 9 months.

So here's my parental philosophy in regards to the Gospel. It's an open canon. ;)

1. Punish rebellion and not mistake making. Let the consequences of the mistake be the teacher and me the catalyst for them to fix their mistakes and learn those life lessons.

2. Lead by example. Children who see me reading my scriptures, praying fervently with them and their siblings, treating their mother with the highest respect and love, and holding and exercising the priesthood (yes, I do my home teaching ;)) will remember that example when it comes time to choose to emulate it.

3. Remind them, over and over and over and then a few times more after that, that a testimony is something that is personally sought for and given by God to the seeker. How the answers come, and when they come, will be up to them to discern.

4. No matter what they do or what they choose, I will always love them and attempt to salvage the relationship in the hopes that should they depart from the straight and narrow, I'll be there to help them grasp the rod again.

A recipe for success and love I think. Remind me to work on #2 more fervently!!!

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We all know them. The family in the church that appears (remember that word) perfect in all things. Takes the church rules to a higher level. Enforces them thoroughly with the kids. Protects the family from all evil influences including "unworthy" LDS children from less than perfect families.

Molly wears three camasoles under each summer dress to prepare her for temple standards. Peter was not allowed to go to prom because he would be out past midnight. Mom only serves meat two times a week because vegetarian meals are more in line with the Word of Wisdom. Media is limited to living scriptures, the Ensign and Friend and Disney Movies (only the G rated ones). They never miss Church and even came the day after Dad's heart attack.

Of course the kids are the first to achieve their young womenhood and Eagle awards. They memorized the articles of faith at age 4. Mom defended them from the evils of literature and made sure they didn't have to read naughty books in class thus giving all LDS students a reputation with the English Teacher.

In all things they achieve the appearance of perfection and they are quick to preach advice on how to achieve their superior brand of Latter-day near-perfection.

This is the architypical TBM family. The children of which are insulated from the reality of their own world, even their own ward.

- - -

Imperfection in such families is hidden away. Pregnant youth are shuttled off to distant relatives in another state. An act of public sin that embarasses the family is treated with a kind of shunned disapproval so that others know this is not the family way. There is a hierarchy created in the family where the most perfect children are the chosen ones and the others, frankly are an embarassment to be fixed or hidden away.

Imperfection is met with the threat of damnation and repent is used as a code word for "don't embarass us any further".

- - -

So what happens when these sheltered children leave the nest and get to try their agency for the first time? It is either full on cultural orthodoxy or rebellious apostacy.

It results in Saints who are never wrong, as were their parents and their parents before them unto the generation of perfect pioneers.

-or-

It results in the blinders coming off of the children, resentment and apostacy. Children who speak of their "TBM" parents as though "True Blue Mormon" were an insult.

- - -

So how do we avoid this cultural ill? Perfection is not for this life. It never was.

I try very hard to make my reasons for disciplining children good reasons. Keep them from imminent harm or preventing them from harming others. Help guide them in their growth as human beings.

If I am ever tempted to discipline because I'm embarassed by their actions that is a red flag for me.

I re-read the 121st section of the D&C again and again. It is a good reminder of how to parent. Longsuffering, love unfeigned...

Some of my children have come up with some whopper mistakes. A good test of my faith in Christ's mercy and repentance. When the Bishop says to me- I'm glad they are in your family I don't know if others would have handled it so well it frightens me. I get hints when a child who is worthy of going to the Temple is not deemed worthy to date another family's children.

I hope and pray I'm doing it right.

Does striving for the earthly appearance of perfection cheat our children of the very mistakes and experiences they need to build faith in God? Are we as a people honoring their God given agency?

I would not be surprised to find many LDS folks like this. What do you think these TBM-types you have described would say in their defense? And what do you think they would say if asked to critically describe families like your own?

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The "perfect family" you initially discribed is a fairly obvious straw man. Sure it is easy to poke fun at a "perfect family" and then assume that they are "hiding" the pregnancies, etc.

Lets look at reality: If you, as a parent, try to teach correct principles, have Family Home Evening, read scriptures both as a family and individually, have Family Prayer, attend your church meetings, set a good example, attend the temple, etc, you are probalby going to be more likely to have kids who will follow that example.

I'm reminded of a conversation with a friend who home taught a less-active individual. This individual claimed that he was inactive because "my dad forced me to go to church." I've heard that argument a lot. But the truth of the matter is, if this brother had wanted to go to church, his dad wouldnt have been forcing him. The apostacy didn't come from his fathers insistence that he attend church, rather his rebellion revealed the apostacy that had already happened.

A few weeks ago, my wife and I were on a trip to visit relatives. The trip occurred over a weekend. My teenage daughters weren't given any instructions regarding attending church. No one checked up on them. They went because they wanted to go.

Am I a perfect parent? No. Do we have problems in our family? Yes! But the prophet wasn't kidding when he said that the key to raising children was Family Prayer, Family Scripture Study and Family Home Evening.

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I know a family who fits this scenario fairly dead on. The Dad was a Bishop and a tyrant IMO. His oldest son is about 4oish and still has strap scars on his back as I have seen them, among other tyrannical behaviour. They had 7 kids, 6 of whom are living, the oldest who was still active passed away. Of the 6 remaining 4 are totally inactive and 2 are active. The parents made all their decisions and as my Mom said the girls were bred to be mothers and the boys were bred to be missionaries and that was it. The 3 sons wwere served who aren't active went off the deep end and the dad abandoned the one son and we don't know where he is but assume homeless? which is horribly, horribly sad. One of the daughters, when she turned 18, moved to Alberta and got pregnant and came back and the dad was serving as Bishop at the time and he exed her. That killed it for her. The extended family is more or less the same, keeping up appearances until they turn 18 and see what happens next.

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I would not be surprised to find many LDS folks like this. What do you think these TBM-types you have described would say in their defense? And what do you think they would say if asked to critically describe families like your own?

I already know what they think of me. They have taught our ward over the pulpit that they are more blessed for their strivings. They have told their children not to date mine. One tried to hold up my eldests Eagle Award because he wasn't deferential enough to her when she put his records together (a copmmon theme with most other boys in the troop as well). Others spread gossip about a pregnancy when my daughter was seen at the OB office (she has chronic conditions that need OB/gyn care).

There is no shortage of nibblers who will eat at others to make themselves feel superior. Pride in a word. They can hurt our feelings but the damage done when that is turned on their own families is terrible to contemplate.

It has not determined my path with God or my children's but it has caused pain. The sad part is that it has driven friends of ours from the Church either from offense or because they didn't feel they could live up to the perfect image presented.

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I'm reminded of a conversation with a friend who home taught a less-active individual. This individual claimed that he was inactive because "my dad forced me to go to church." I've heard that argument a lot. But the truth of the matter is, if this brother had wanted to go to church, his dad wouldn't have been forcing him. The apostasy didn't come from his fathers insistence that he attend church, rather his rebellion revealed the apostasy that had already happened.

I am not sure I understand the above, I was forced to go to church as a boy, I went inactive as soon as the opportunity presented it self, and even now many years later, I go, but I am still not converted....so what does the above mean?

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Not to boast whatsoever but growing up LDS with two LDS parents we never had FHE, scripture study, family prayers all that stuff. We went to seminary, church, YM/YW but my dad wasn't active but he is now and all my family is active even now with spouses and kids. I don't tell everyone that but it is kind of a surprise that everyone is active.

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The "perfect family" you initially discribed is a fairly obvious straw man. Sure it is easy to poke fun at a "perfect family" and then assume that they are "hiding" the pregnancies, etc.

Lets look at reality: If you, as a parent, try to teach correct principles, have Family Home Evening, read scriptures both as a family and individually, have Family Prayer, attend your church meetings, set a good example, attend the temple, etc, you are probalby going to be more likely to have kids who will follow that example.

I'm reminded of a conversation with a friend who home taught a less-active individual. This individual claimed that he was inactive because "my dad forced me to go to church." I've heard that argument a lot. But the truth of the matter is, if this brother had wanted to go to church, his dad wouldnt have been forcing him. The apostacy didn't come from his fathers insistence that he attend church, rather his rebellion revealed the apostacy that had already happened.

A few weeks ago, my wife and I were on a trip to visit relatives. The trip occurred over a weekend. My teenage daughters weren't given any instructions regarding attending church. No one checked up on them. They went because they wanted to go.

Am I a perfect parent? No. Do we have problems in our family? Yes! But the prophet wasn't kidding when he said that the key to raising children was Family Prayer, Family Scripture Study and Family Home Evening.

There was no false event in my description... I've witnessed them all. No straw man.

Please understand that I am not arguing against doing the things that build faith. Your list is fantastic and prophetically inspired. There are days when I force my kids out of bed to go to church. The problem I have is with those who strive for the appearance of perfection to the point of alienating their own children. I hear the echos of this a lot from Apostates. The "Polyanna perfect" and "don't embarass us" approach to raising a family. (this is not uniquely LDS issue by the way- I see it a lot with Baptist and Evangelical kids here in the South. Its called preachers kid syndrome).

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Does striving for the earthly appearance of perfection cheat our children of the very mistakes and experiences they need to build faith in God? Are we as a people honoring their God given agency?

Striving for the earthly appearance of perfection cheats our children, period.

I believe that we as a people we are honoring our children's God given agency.

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I believe that we as a people we are honoring our children's God given agency.

Fairly stated. I should use a less broad brush. A plurality of Saints are doing a fine job raising kids in faith. I should have stated that.

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I hear an axe grinding somewhere...

Of course you do. It is my own grinding away as well as exploring others motivations for apostacy.

I started this thread because of the frequent number of times I've been confronted with the "ignorance borne of TBM parents" reason given for aspostacy.

Are there things we can do culturally as Saints and parents to help our children grow gentle as lambs but wise as serpents?

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Of course you do. It is my own grinding away as well as exploring others motivations for apostacy.

I started this thread because of the frequent number of times I've been confronted with the "ignorance borne of TBM parents" reason given for aspostacy.

Are there things we can do culturally as Saints and parents to help our children grow gentle as lambs but wise as serpents?

I know it happens, but why any offense by another would really cause someone to give up their precious, God-given covenants is beyond me—a certain grounding in these covenants must be missing in the giver-upper. This grounding, or spirituality, is developed as faith, hope and charity are developed.

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I know it happens, but why any offense by another would really cause someone to give up their precious, God-given covenants is beyond me—a certain grounding in these covenants must be missing in the giver-upper. This grounding, or spirituality, is developed as faith, hope and charity are developed.

The grounding needs to be accompanied by unconditional love. What a tragedy it is for a child to sing "I have a family here on earth, they are so good to me" if the words dont' match their experience.

I had done some research into the value of a father figure (a book that was never published but will be shared with my sons/son in laws) where after exploring the factors that led to children adopting the values of their parents. Security, prosperity, discipline, education, civilizing behaviors all had an influence but the #1 predictor of children adopting their parents values was the amount of affection or love expressed towards the child buy the father at a young age.

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I would not be surprised to find many LDS folks like this. What do you think these TBM-types you have described would say in their defense? And what do you think they would say if asked to critically describe families like your own?

I'm sure there are a few of the OP type of family in every ward, but my experience is that by far they are the exception rather than the rule, and it's a good thing. They do more harm to their chldren and others than good with sad results.

My experience has been families with a more balanced approach... TBM (as I now consider myself) without going overboard or "beyond the mark" so to speak.

When my step-dad first converted and we became an active family, my folks touched on the edges of this type of behavior, but thankfully mellowed as they became more understanding of the gospel and genuine faith. But they never were close to the family you described.

My own inactivity was my own doing, not because of them. But, my reactivation was more because of them and their example of living the gospel with true faith, along with the promptings of the Spirit through the years, and several very specific answers to prayers when I cried out to Heavenly Father.

Your brush is too broad, that's for sure... I'm thankful to say.

GG

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Thank you Garden Girl.

Your story brings up another good point. If children stray do they know that their family loves them unconditionally and will be there for them without recrimination when they want to return? I think that is important.

Yes - again my brush was not intended to paint the Saints as a whole, just explore a particular destructive and thankfully minority behavior. (And grind my axe a bit - c'mon who out there who posts doesn't do that? :-p

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There is one family in our stake that may fit the description in the OP, with the added characteristic that they never, ever go swimming. Not to the beach. Not to the local city pool. Not in any private pools. Not at Scout camp.

No swimming.

I don't know why. Has anyone ever heard of anything like this?

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I already know what they think of me. They have taught our ward over the pulpit that they are more blessed for their strivings. They have told their children not to date mine. One tried to hold up my eldests Eagle Award because he wasn't deferential enough to her when she put his records together (a copmmon theme with most other boys in the troop as well). Others spread gossip about a pregnancy when my daughter was seen at the OB office (she has chronic conditions that need OB/gyn care).

There is no shortage of nibblers who will eat at others to make themselves feel superior. Pride in a word. They can hurt our feelings but the damage done when that is turned on their own families is terrible to contemplate.

It has not determined my path with God or my children's but it has caused pain. The sad part is that it has driven friends of ours from the Church either from offense or because they didn't feel they could live up to the perfect image presented.

I was with you until i read this post. After i read it though, the OP seemed more like a chance for some old fashion venting about families you perceive as a judgeming your family unrighteously than honest refection on how we can be better parents.

I agree that we can overparent and i agree that some people are just plain snobby and rude. It's impossible to call such people to repentance by saying bad things about their parenting and charging them with ruining their children though.

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