To teach our children the principle of cooperation, we developed the idea of making a “family salad.” Everyone gathers in the kitchen, and each family member selects one item to prepare for our salad. Then, with Mom and Dad’s help, the children assemble our “masterpiece.”
Typical ingredients are peaches, apples, bananas, grapes, blueberries, cherries, and coconut for fruit salad; lettuce, carrots, celery, cucumbers, tomatoes, radishes, and olives for green salad.
Our family of six children—ranging in age from two to eleven—makes the project quite a challenge, but everyone has fun, and eating the salad is an added treat. We also take advantage of the opportunity to discuss how everyone helped and how good the finished product is!
Through preparing our “family salad,” our children are learning basic food preparation techniques—and that cooperation can be fun. We enjoy the project so much that we are planning to prepare other foods together, including pizza, a relish plate, and stew. We hope that when they leave home, our children will carry this tradition with them into their own families.—, Henderson, Nevada
A Moving Experience
Our family had lived for more than six years in the same home, and our children had developed strong ties to the area. So when my husband received a desirable job offer that would require us to move to another city, we tried to deal with the move in a positive way.
Before my husband accepted the position, we called a family meeting. We knew that if we said yes without the children’s approval, they might feel resentment. But because we presented them with the facts and gained their support before accepting, our family became unified in the effort.
My husband left to work at his new job, and I stayed to sell our home. I prayed for friends to be prepared for my children, for help in finding a good neighborhood, and for the strength to be cheerful and optimistic. I tried to think of moving as an adventure and to refer to it in positive, committed terms.
During the several months before our house was sold, I talked with the children openly regarding the new area we would be moving to and about their feelings about leaving home. We made lists of questions for my husband to answer when he returned from his commuting trips. We checked out books and pictures of Illinois from the public library and asked anyone we knew who had lived or visited there to tell us about it.
My husband also sent picture postcards home to each of the children, with positive statements about the area. He brought home newspapers, too, so our children could get a sense of styles and local news, and so we could scan grocery ads and house listings.
When at last our home was sold, we set certain priorities in selecting our new area, and committed ourselves to listen and follow the counsel of the Spirit. Some friends agreed to watch over our family while I joined my husband to look at houses. Before I left, the children and I talked about what we felt was most important in choosing our new residence. I explained that their father and I would take each of their feelings into account when weighing the decision.
In Chicago, when my husband and I made a decision on a house, we called the children to tell them about it. I attended church in our new ward, where I made a special point to meet the seminary teacher, the Scout leader, the MIA president, and the Primary president. I approached them with our current address and asked if they would write a letter to my son or daughter as a welcome to Chicago and to our new ward.
We took pictures of our new home—including several angles outside and inside each room—and of other “landmarks” such as the chapel and the schools our children would be attending. We also picked up information about recreational facilities and opportunities for community involvement.
Returning to our old home, I drew a diagram for the children showing the layout of the rooms in our new house. We gave each bedroom a number. First we assigned “roommates”—those who would be sharing rooms and then each pair drew a number from a hat to claim a bedroom.
We agreed on an assortment of things to part with, and the children helped organize and run a driveway sale. We made a “count-down” sign, and each day we tore off the next number, so each child knew how many days were left before our departure.
We encouraged our children to use the photographs of their new home for “sharing time” at school. We also took pictures of each of them with their special friends and made sure that even the little ones had their friends’ addresses so they could write during the next few months of transition.
For the most part, the children packed their own belongings. We left out a few personal items from which they could derive comfort during our travel time. We also numbered the boxes so that the moving men would know which room they belonged in.
Upon arriving in Chicago, we acquired several maps of the area and began unpacking. Using the yellow pages or newspaper ads to pinpoint where I wanted to go, I began exploring a little every week. I didn’t hesitate to ask where to find whatever I was looking for. By doing this I made new friends, and sometimes I got information that I wouldn’t have discovered on my own. I also started a list of neighbors’ names and telephone numbers and spent considerable time developing new friendships.
Before involving the children in recreation or out-of-school classes, we asked some other parents in the area what their children were doing. Once our children felt comfortable with a group of friends, we encouraged them to invite their friends over often.
We also scheduled dates to see places or attend special events that were unique to our new area. And as we began to feel more “unpacked,” we tried to reach out to others by introducing ourselves to new neighbors and ward members and inviting them to dinner or other activities.
During one of our family home evenings, my husband gave our home a blessing, dedicating it as a refuge where we might grow in harmony and peace. And since we have moved, we have all grown—in many ways. We are grateful that we made the effort necessary to feel successful in relocating.—, Vernon Hills, Illinois
The organist hit a wrong note, and my wandering attention was recaptured. But I had missed all of the prelude music and most of the opening song. Why did it take a mistake to get my attention?
The incident was a minor one that I would have surely forgotten had it not been repeated in our home: Our six-year-old son, Robbie, asked me to come and see how nicely he had made his bed. When I entered his bedroom, though, all I saw were the toys on the floor. The straightened bed was ignored as I started pointing out the trucks, puzzle pieces, and crayons that needed to be picked up and put away. Robbie began gathering up the things. Finally, I noticed the bed and started to praise his efforts. But he mumbled something about it “not being so great after all” and walked away, dejection in every line of his small body. Without thinking, I had destroyed his pleasure in a task well done.
How many times have I robbed my children of the sense of accomplishment that comes from completing a job by focusing on the less-than-perfect details, or by criticizing something totally unrelated to that chore? Not just words, but actions, too, can undermine children’s initiative.
I have often praised a chore verbally at the same time I was redoing that very same chore—remaking the bed, dusting a missed spot, washing a dish over—because it did not meet my standards. Usually these standards were set to meet my expectations and needs, not those of the children. My words of encouragement were empty since my actions said, all too loudly, “You didn’t do it right. Watch me and see how it should be done.” Although the child would listen to my instructions and perhaps even follow them, the enthusiasm and sense of self-direction were gone. The task then became regimented, with me as the “drill sergeant”—an unpleasant role for a mother.
Changing has not been easy. I have bitten my tongue many times when a job didn’t fully please me. Finding a point to honestly praise on some tasks demands real ingenuity and creativity. But, as I consciously look for praiseworthy points, I find more than I ever thought possible.
As my attitude and behavior have changed, the children have become more willing to be responsible for their jobs. Perhaps, for the first time, they feel that their work is truly theirs, rather than mine. And along with their increased sense of responsibility has come greater pride in their work and greater skill in their tasks.— , Loveland, Colorado