A Matter of Priorities: A Case in Point

A Matter of Priorities:

“As the father of five children, I notice my teenage son has become so involved with his activities at school, church, etc., that he has almost ceased to take care of his duties in the home. The younger children resent the fact that he doesn’t do what they think is a fair share of work. In the past he was always willing to accept his part of the home assignments, but he was less involved then.

“I know he is very busy in activities I approve of—athletics, speech, church, music, school clubs. He feels he needs to rest when he comes home and acts irritated and resentful when asked to do work. He has a good attitude about the Church, although I’ve noticed some slipping in his church assignments because of this high activity load. I’m in a quandary as to what course of action to take.”

This is a not untypical situation in a family where the older children become quite involved with their peers in socializing activities. But what does a parent do in such a situation? How does a parent use the concept of leadership to maintain harmony and yet allow for individual growth and development as well as encourage a sense of responsibility in family members?

To sound out parental opinion, the Ensign gave this case study to a number of member families. The following suggested solutions are representative of the responses received.

It would appear to me that this problem is one of priorities in time. In this context I would consider by analogy something that my father used to say about money and expenses: “In this house, every want is not a need.” In other words, when there is only so much money, the necessary things must be purchased first; after that, in order of descending priorities, the remaining money is spent.

In a similar manner, it would seem that there are only 24 hours in a day, and each of those 24 hours can only be used once. Furthermore, there are some things that must be done, and until these essential duties are taken care of, those less essential should not be undertaken.

I suggest the following concept in order to attempt to teach the wise use of time, a lesson that eventually must and will be learned by everyone. Explain and demonstrate to the teenager that his time is limited and that certain things, because of their greater importance in the overall picture, must be taken care of without fail. This means that some things must be done before other things may be done, and those that may be done have to be earned by first taking care of the essentials.

Some priorities I would suggest are: (1) obedience to gospel principles and fulfillment of Church duties; (2) honoring family responsibilities; (3) completion of school (or employment) requirements in order to prepare for the future; (4) recreation, hobbies, diversions, extracurricular school activities, etc.

In summary, I would attempt to instill the idea of limited time and the need for judicious choice in the use of time. Then I would come to a clear and joint agreement about the particular relative priorities involved, with the understanding that the privileges of item number 4 are to be earned by fulfillment of items number 1 through 3.

Gary M. Blake Salt Lake City, Utah

I would make it clear to the older son that attendance at sacrament and priesthood meetings and doing home teaching are part of the well-rounded life for Latter-day Saints and, therefore, for all members of our family. While we expect him to carry some home duties, we can adjust home chores and consider his cultural and athletic participation as part of the family’s responsibilities. However, he will have to make the choice as to which activities to cut in order to have a more balanced participation in church and other programs.

To the younger members of the family I would explain that their older brother, by his participation, is representing the family and his church. In turn, they too will have this opportunity to represent the family by their involvement. We will all make adjustments in work loads just as we would when a member of the family is called out of the home to serve a mission. By honoring the priesthood and fostering full participation, we can grow in our ability to share and support each other.

Floyd T Waterman Omaha, Nebraska

As the father of nine children ages five through twenty, and having worked with youth for the past twenty years, I have discovered that youth prefer problems to be presented on a frank and open basis. Therefore, I think the most plausible solution would be to sit down with this teenage son and say something like this:

“Tom, your mother and I are thrilled with the wholesome activities you’re involved in. However, two problems have arisen that I would like to present to you and see how you feel about them. One, the other children apparently feel that they have to carry your share of the family chores, and they are beginning to resent that fact. The other problem is that you seem to be sloppy in some of your church assignments. I am not being critical, but these two situations seem to have come up, and I would like to know how you feel about them, and what solutions you have to offer.”

Let Tom tell you how he feels, and then work out the solution together. I have found that if you present your concerns to your children, they often will come up with better solutions than will we as parents.

Garth P. Monson Ephraim, Utah

These suggestions are not presented as the final word on how to handle this problem, and parents who may be faced or have already been faced with a similar situation within their own families might like to ask themselves what steps they would take. In fact, why not make this case study the basis for a family home evening discussion?