There is a young woman in my home stake who asked me for some help with her personal progress. Specifically she wanted help with the project in Divine Nature #2 –
As a young woman you are blessed with divine feminine qualities. Increase your understanding of and appreciation for womanhood. Read Proverbs 31:10–31 and two talks on womanhood from a conference issue of the Church magazines. Review what “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” (see page 101) says about being a wife and a mother. Then ask your mother or another mother you admire what she thinks are important attributes for being a mother. List the attributes in your journal. Then choose one of those attributes and strive to develop it. After two weeks report your success to a parent or leader.
So I’ve been pondering for a few weeks about attributes of a good mother. As I thought about it, you can’t be a good mother without being a good wife first, so I’ve somewhat expanded my advice to be things that are both attributes of a good wife and good mother, and some of these things might not fit as “attributes” but more as “things you ought to do”, but I’ll try to get them to fit into attribute categories if I can.
Anyways, I thought before I sent this on to this young woman that I should post the things here and see if I could get some good feedback on other items I should add or modify before sending it on. After all, one of my best parenting secrets so far has been to ask for help when I need it! I’ve gotten so much good advice from Facebook friends and blog commenters that I’m sure has influenced what I’m posting here, and I’m hoping I might even get a few more good ideas for myself 🙂
So, without further ado –
- Put the Lord first – Some people will say that your marriage goes before all else, and this is true for everything except the Lord. As you draw closer to the Lord you will grow closer to your husband and children. Heavenly Father knows better than we do how we should be parenting our children. Find a man who is willing to do the same. Look for a man who is willing to be faithful to the Lord above all else and you know that he will also be faithful to you.
I believe this is one of the reasons the church requires all young men to serve missions. It shows their dedication to the Lord and they gain such an incredible amount of experience that helps them in their marriages. They learn to deal with companions, even if they annoy them. They learn how to work hard (and trust me, marriage is hard work!). They learn how to seek the guidance of the Spirit and follow it. Most importantly, I believe they are blessed in ways you can’t see in their marriages for their faithfulness. Be willing to make this kind of sacrifice to the Lord, and expect the same in any man who wants to marry you.
- Obedient – Your children will pick up on things you don’t even realize. Even at one year old I’m FLOORED by the things that Sam picks up on and mimics. If you want your kids to be obedient to you the best thing to show them is how you are obedient to the leaders you say you sustain. If you hear them give you counsel, just do it! Even if it doesn’t make sense to you have faith that the Lord wouldn’t be giving it to us if it wasn’t for our benefit. If you are willing to obey church leaders you will find the blessings of obedience in abundance in your life, and usually you will best understand why they give the counsel they do when you live it. It is such a strong example to your children and it will ALWAYS bless your life.
- Constructive – Never criticize your spouse or children in mean ways. Even if it is in joking, don’t call people names or belittle them. This is something I’ve had to work on. I am sarcastic by nature, but whenever you say something in sarcasm, generally you mean some part of it, and people know that and it hurts.However, this isn’t to say that you need to always be sunshine and rainbows towards others. One of the things that I learned in institute was the meaning of the word “betimes”. It means often and immediately. So when you read in D&C 121:43 – “Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy; ” it means that we need to correct people quickly, immediately, and clearly. You don’t do someone any favors by allowing them to continue doing things that hurt others. But it also points out that afterwards you need to show increased love. Be sure that whenever you point out someone’s shortcomings you do it in the spirit of love because you want to help them, not because you want to tear them down.
Also, if you have criticisms of someone tell it to them and not to someone else. Gossiping doesn’t help anyone. The person at fault doesn’t know your feelings so they can’t do anything about it and it just makes you feel worse. However, if you’re going to give praise to someone I believe you should do it where others can hear. It will build their self-confidence and make them want to be even better. Praise publicly, criticize confidentially
- Prayerful – Pray to the Lord for your family. In April General Conference just before I married Eric I came into conference with the question of what I needed to do to be a good wife. I listened intently to the speakers for things that I should be doing as a wife and didn’t really come up with anything. Then in the very last talk by President Hinckley he gave this advice – “May there be peace and harmony in your homes. Husbands, love and treasure your wives. They are your most precious possessions. Wives, encourage and pray for your husbands. They need all the help they can get. Parents, treat your children with great kindness. They are the coming generation who will bring honor to your name.” (full text here). It was the most powerful advice I’ve heard. Pray for your husband in everything he does. Whether it’s big things or small things. The Lord is so mindful of our families and children and want the best for them. Pray for guidance with your children. You will need it every single step of the way. Children are such an incredible adventure and most of the time there’s no way you could know what you ought to be doing without the guidance of the Lord. Remember that He loves them more than you do (although as a mother, it’s hard to fathom how that’s even possible) and He is willing and wanting to help you guide them through this life. You absolutely cannot raise your children without His guidance, so seek it out constantly.
- Consistent – If you say you’ll do it – do it. This was something I was shown is in the scriptures as the way the Lord deals with us (and what better example could we have as parents than our Heavenly Father?). In the book of Mosiah we read about the story of Alma and Abinadi. When Abinadi comes to the people he tells them – if you don’t repent now you will be put into bondage. No one listens to him and he is finally burned at the stake. However, after Abinadi is burned Alma realizes that the words Abinadi spoke were true and is converted. He then goes about preaching the gospel and baptizing and converting others. They get a whole bunch of people together that are now followers of the gospel and they leave. And what happens to them? They’re put in bondage, just like Abinadi said they would be. (see Mosiah 11 – 18, 23-24 for full account)When you read this at first it doesn’t seem fair. I mean, these are the good guys! They’ve repented and got baptized, why are they now put in bondage?!? It’s because they didn’t obey the commandments when they were told to and now they have to suffer the consequences. This is very important to realize when raising kids as well. If you give them instructions and affix a punishment with their failure to comply, if they fail to comply then you need to follow through with that punishment. This is HARD to do. You may have said that they would be grounded for a week, but then they’re really good during that week and there’s a big party that they want to go to that weekend – you need to stand firm. If your kids don’t expect that you will follow through on what you say then they can’t trust you. The other thing to realize with this is to be careful with what you say. Don’t dole out punishments in anger that you don’t really want to follow through on.
- Peacemaking – Contention can destroy your home. Don’t raise your voice or say unkind things. Don’t fight in front of your kids. Show a united front with your husband, even if you have to wait to answer a child’s question until you have discussed the solution and come to an agreement on a course of action.
- Treat kids according to their needs – Every child comes in their own way and you can’t expect each of them to have the same needs. When I was in high school I was shy and a bit of a homebody. I was MORE than happy to stay at home on Friday nights with my family and play games and just be with them. So my mom had to encourage me to do the things that were hard for me and encourage me to go out to football games and to parties. On the other hand, my sister Taylor is a self-proclaimed (and rightly so) party in a box. She is outgoing and fun and naturally wanted to be out with friends all the time. My mom had to limit her amount of going out so that she would have time at home with the family. This can apply to everyone, each person you meet will have different needs so be sure to treat them according to those needs.
- Assume best intentions – Before you get married make sure your spouse isn’t someone that would say mean things or do mean things towards you. So, if you are hurt by something he does or says assume that he doesn’t intend to hurt you and approach him that way. Don’t attack him for missteps he might take, but approach him with kindness and explain why his actions hurt you so that you can work together to fix the problems. I’ve found this to be a good way to approach most situations. Generally, people aren’t going out of their way to do mean things towards you. So if they do something that hurts you approach it calmly and peacefully – attacking the other person only makes things worse.
- Read scriptures and pray daily – All of the answers that you will need as a parent, spouse and person are in the scriptures and available as we have the Holy Ghost with us. Be sure you are always in a position to feel His promptings and obey them.
- Bear testimony often – Find ways to teach your children through everything you do. Make sure they see you supporting church leaders, paying your tithing, saying your prayers, going to church, reading the scriptures, attending the temple etc. It will be a vital part of their own testimony. Teach them the principles of the gospel as you come across any situation that presents itself.
- Humble – Realize that you don’t know everything. There are so many people around us who want to help you be successful. Listen to their guidance and try to act on it.
- Remember and keep covenants – Don’t settle for less than a temple marriage, it’s not worth it. Children have a right to be born into a family that has been sealed together forever. The covenants that you will make in the temple will strengthen you against all the evils in the world and help you become the best you can be. I can’t imagine trying to be a mother without the protection and guidance I have received through my temple covenants. Marriage and parenthood is hard enough even with these blessings, you deserve nothing less than marriage in the temple to a young man who is worthy to take you there.
- Forgiving – Be willing to apologize and forgive quickly, especially with your kids. If you realize you are in the wrong don’t just try to hide it, apologize and let them know it. You will gain their respect and trust as you show them how to apologize and forgive.
- Patient – Motherhood requires immense patience. Your kids will undo all of your housekeeping the moment you do it. Everything you will want to do will take twice as long just by taking your kids along. You will even need patience just to keep from decking the lady at church who states that she “can’t understand parents who can’t get their kids to sleep through the night, just put them to bed and let them sleep!” when your own 14-month old *still* won’t sleep through the night… or anything like unto through the night (not that this happened to me… last week… at church :P).