In “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve explain that fathers and mothers “are obligated to help one another as equal partners” (Ensign, Nov. 1995, 102). This partnership is especially necessary in parents’ sacred responsibility to teach their children.
In a general conference address, President Boyd K. Packer read Doctrine and Covenants 27:15, 17: “Lift up your hearts and rejoice, and gird up your loins, and take upon you my whole armor, that ye may be able to withstand the evil day, … taking the shield of faith wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.” After reading this passage, President Packer explained the importance of mothers and fathers working together to help their children take the “shield of faith”:
“That shield of faith is not produced in a factory but at home in a cottage industry. …
“… Our Father’s plan requires that, like the generation of life itself, the shield of faith is to be made and fitted in the family. No two can be exactly alike. Each must be handcrafted to individual specifications.
“The plan designed by the Father contemplates that man and woman, husband and wife, working together, fit each child individually with a shield of faith made to buckle on so firmly that it can neither be pulled off nor penetrated by those fiery darts.
“It takes the steady strength of a father to hammer out the metal of it and the tender hands of a mother to polish and fit it on. Sometimes one parent is left to do it alone. It is difficult, but it can be done.
“In the Church we can teach about the materials from which a shield of faith is made: reverence, courage, chastity, repentance, forgiveness, compassion. In church we can learn how to assemble and fit them together. But the actual making of and fitting on of the shield of faith belongs in the family circle. Otherwise it may loosen and come off in a crisis” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1995, 8; or Ensign, May 1995, 8).
The following suggestions can help parents develop a more effective teaching partnership.
Taking Time to Plan Together
As parents, you should set aside specific times to discuss your children’s needs and plan how to meet those needs. One busy couple discovered that holding weekly planning sessions together became one of the most valuable things they did as parents. They said:
“Although it took us almost a year to make our weekly planning session a habit, we now wonder how we ever got along without it. It helps us have more interest in what the other is doing. It helps us realize how important we are to each other and to our children. It gives us time to look at ourselves and at the children and decide on a course of action to meet our problems. We also plan our dates, special times with the children, details for family home evenings, and Sunday activities. It usually takes about 30 minutes, occasionally longer if big events or unusual problems need more talking over.”
As you plan ways to teach your children, prayerfully consider the following questions:
What should happen in the lives of our children as a result of our teaching?
Which specific gospel principles should we teach in order to accomplish this?
How should we teach these principles?
Suggestions for using these questions are found in “Preparing Lessons,” pages 98–99, and “Creating Lessons from Conference Talks and Other Resources,” pages 100–101.
The Importance of Unity in Teaching Children
When fathers and mothers take time to counsel with one another, they are more likely to be unified in teaching their children, even in the unplanned teaching moments that occur in the ordinary flow of family life. Such unity is important because few things are more confusing to children than conflicting messages from the two people they love and respect most.
One couple shared the following story about an experience with their son:
Six-year-old Mike had worked hard most of the summer doing extra jobs at home and for the neighbors so he could earn money to spend when the family took their summer vacation. It was going to be a long trip, and his mother had said that if he wanted any treats or souvenirs along the way, he would need to buy those things himself. Even though she cautioned him almost daily to put his money in a safe place, Mike liked the feel of having money in his pocket. He carried it around with him constantly. Several times a day he would take it out and count it or show it to his friends.
On the day before the trip, Mike discovered that his money had fallen out of his pocket. Brokenhearted and crying, he went to his mother. She was sympathetic, and she helped Mike look in every place they could think of, but no money was to be found. “I’m so sorry your money is gone,” she said. She resisted mentioning that she had warned him many times, but she also resisted the temptation to make everything all better for her son. After all, she thought, playing with the money every day in spite of her warnings had been his choice.
A forlorn little Mike was sitting on the front steps when his father came home. After hearing the sad story, Mike’s father reached in his pocket, pulled out the exact amount Mike had lost, and gave it to him. When the father saw the look of surprise on his wife’s face, he remarked, “It’s only a little money. What’s the harm?”
As we consider this story, we might ask which parent was right. But that may not be the best question. It might be better to ask how Mike’s parents could have been more unified in the way they handled the situation. They could have counseled together, considering Mike’s needs.
They could have asked themselves, “What do we want to happen in Mike’s life as a result of this situation? Does he need to learn greater responsibility? Does he need to feel more compassion and understanding from his parents? Does he need to learn not to show off in front of his friends? Does he need to learn the importance of following family rules?” This would have helped them determine what to teach their son and how to teach it.
Had Mike’s parents spent time to be united in their approach to this situation, they could have found a good way to either replace Mike’s lost money or not replace it. Instead, they responded in ways that taught conflicting lessons.
As you work together as parents, you can be one in teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ to your children.