Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson: “Keeping Our Balance”
Contributed By Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson, Young Women general president
- Opportunities for children to be involved in worthwhile activities are nearly endless.
- When children are too overprogramed they often begin to feel stressed and sometimes neglect the very things that are of most worth.
- Parents teach children what is most important by what they model in their homes and in their lives.
“Sometimes it is a good idea for parents to take a step back and ask themselves, ‘What are the most valuable experiences I can be providing for my children that will have eternal worth?’” —Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson, Young Women general president
I have often heard my husband talk about his Grandpa Brown, who was a farmer and owned several milk cows. My husband used to watch him as he milked his cows twice a day sitting upon an old three-legged stool. His three-legged stool worked well because all three legs were the same length and gave him the stability and balance necessary to do his work.
Can you imagine how uncomfortable and unsteady it would have been had one of the legs of that stool been much shorter, much longer, or even missing? He would have been so busy trying to stay upright that he could not possibly have done a proper job of milking that cow. We can compare the three legs of that old stool to our lives and the importance of staying balanced with the many things in life that demand our attention.
As I talk to youth and the parents of youth I often hear about the busyness of their lives. It seems that opportunities for our children to be involved in worthwhile activities are nearly endless. They have sports teams, dance, theater, music lessons, voice lessons, school clubs, choirs, and all of this on top of full days at school with the attending homework and perhaps a part-time job. I haven’t even mentioned seminary, Mutual activity night, Personal Progress, Duty to God, Scouting, and Church attendance!
When a family has multiple children, the number of activities increases proportionally. Parents’ lives are busy, as well, with jobs and Church callings. All of these activities in and of themselves are worthwhile and enriching, but when our children are too overprogramed they often begin to feel stressed, overburdened, and sometimes begin to neglect the very things which are of most worth and lasting importance.
Parents have the biggest influence on helping children maintain the right balance and priorities in their lives. As we consider the types of activities our children spend the most time doing, it would be good to also remember what the Lord taught us in Doctrine and Covenants 93:40: “But I have commanded you to bring up your children in light and truth.”
It is easy for parents and children alike to get caught up in a competitive culture of feeling like they are somehow failing if their children are not involved in five or six different programs or activities like the kids down the street. Sometimes it is a good idea for parents to take a step back and ask themselves, “What are the most valuable experiences I can be providing for my children that will have eternal worth?”
In October 2007, Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles gave a talk called “Good, Better, Best” in which he taught this principle in a powerful way. He said: “The amount of children-and-parent time absorbed in the good activities of private lessons, team sports, and other school and club activities … needs to be carefully regulated. Otherwise, children will be overscheduled, and parents will be frazzled and frustrated. Parents should act to preserve time for family prayer, family scripture study, family home evening, and the other precious togetherness and individual one-on-one time that binds a family together and fixes children’s values on things of eternal worth. Parents should teach gospel priorities through what they do with their children” (Ensign, Nov. 2007, 105).
What an important reminder Elder Oaks gives us for remembering those things that are of the greatest value to our children. We as parents teach our children what is most important by what we model in our homes and in our own lives. In our home, we expected our family to gather together each evening for a family dinner; we wanted to teach our children that there was nothing they could be doing that was more important than strengthening our family relationships.
If family home evening, family scripture reading, and family prayers are nonnegotiable activities, we can teach our children that their spiritual well-being and testimonies are more important priorities than dance lessons or sports. When we help our youth manage their homework and study schedules in such a way that allows them to attend Mutual activity night, it teaches that supporting and serving others through participation in Church activities is important in fulfilling our responsibilities in accomplishing the Lord’s work.
We all want our children to have opportunities for growth and experience in many different areas of their lives, and the Lord has given us a promise: “Wherefore, seek not the things of this world but seek ye first to build up the kingdom of God, and to establish his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Joseph Smith Translation, Matthew 6:38 [in Matthew 6:33, footnote a]).
The Lord needs us as parents to stay grounded and to use our influence to help our children maintain a balance in their lives between the spiritual, the secular, and the recreational. That implies that we also need to keep a balance in life, prioritize among the many valuable choices we all make, and keep an eternal perspective.
Just like Grandpa Brown’s three-legged stool helped him stay on firm ground as he performed his daily milking chore, we need to keep a balance and steadiness in our lives and help our children do the same. We as parents are the ones who teach them to make good choices, prioritize, simplify, and stay connected to the Spirit.
As President Boyd K. Packer taught, “Parenthood stands among the most important activities to which Latter-day Saints may devote themselves” (“Parents in Zion,” Ensign, Nov. 1998). There are no more important lessons for our children to learn than those which will be taught in righteous homes by parents who are directed by the Spirit of the Holy Ghost.