As parents, many of your teaching opportunities come in unplanned moments—in conversations, as you work with your children, and as family members face challenges together. These opportunities can be powerful teaching moments because they are closely tied to what your children are experiencing. Because such opportunities may come and go quickly, you need to recognize them and be prepared to teach principles that your children are ready to learn. The following suggestions can help you look for teaching opportunities.
Addressing Children’s Questions or Worries
All children have concerns about themselves and about the world. You can show them that the gospel provides answers and guidance for understanding and solving their problems. If a child is frightened by a storm, you can take that moment to encourage her to pray for comfort. If a teenage son is pressured to see a popular movie that may be inappropriate, you can discuss the matter with him and help him apply gospel principles in deciding whether or not to see it. If children are worried about an important decision, you can read Moroni 7:15–19 with them and discuss Mormon’s counsel on “the way to judge.” If a family member has died, you can teach your children about the spirit world and resurrection.
For suggestions about how you can counsel with your children, see page 139 in
Discussing Problems That Affect Children’s Peers
From time to time, children may mention problems that affect their peers. Perhaps their friends have jobs that require them to work on Sunday. Perhaps they know a young man who is a member of the Church but has decided not to serve a full-time mission. Perhaps they have friends who use improper language or demonstrate a lack of courtesy for others. In discussing these situations with your children, you can use the scriptures to teach gospel principles. This can help you guide the children toward correct decisions in similar circumstances.
Sharing Opportunities to Make Correct Choices
When you have opportunities to make correct choices, you may want to share these experiences with your children. For example, if you are given too much change at a store, you can ask your children what you should do. This can lead to a discussion about topics such as honesty, agency, and the consequences of our actions.
Discussing Ideas Presented through the Media
You can talk with your children about the ideas promoted in popular movies, television shows, and music. News broadcasts also provide opportunities to discuss current events and issues. Such discussions can help children discern between uplifting entertainment and entertainment that presents philosophies and actions contrary to gospel standards.
Helping Children Learn from Mistakes
Mistakes can provide opportunities to teach. If a child has erred, you can forgive the child, talk about apologizing and repairing any damage done, and, if the child has disobeyed a commandment, teach about the path of repentance.
If you are in the wrong, you should apologize and ask for forgiveness. Your children can learn powerful lessons as they see your efforts to overcome your own weaknesses. Consider the following experience shared by a Church member:
“I was about 10 years old when I did something that displeased my father. He was quite upset and decided to punish me. I was deeply hurt because I felt that he was disciplining me more than I deserved. I avoided him the rest of the day, and every time he tried to talk to me, I would turn away and run. The next day I was still upset at him, so I was surprised when he came into my room and told me that he was sorry he had disciplined me so strictly. He asked me if I would please forgive him. I learned then that you are never too old to apologize and admit you were wrong. That was an opportunity to learn the true value of repentance.”
Explaining Reasons for Giving Service
As you serve in Church callings or in other ways, you can tell your children what you are doing and why you are doing it. This will help the children understand more fully how their beliefs and values affect their actions. If you make dinner for someone who is sick, you can explain why it is important to help that person. When children see you preparing to teach a lesson in church, you can talk with them about the importance of magnifying callings. You can discuss with your children why we raise our hands to sustain Church leaders and how we support those called by the Lord.
Helping Children Manage Their Emotions
When children become upset, frustrated, or angry, they may act in ways that are inappropriate. You can teach them to recognize and control impulses to hurt others or raise their voices. You can draw attention to the circumstances that provoked the anger and then discuss better ways to handle similar situations in the future.
Helping Children Recognize the Influence of the Spirit
You can help your children recognize the influence of the Spirit by drawing attention to their feelings. Elder Robert D. Hales related the following experience:
“After my baptism and confirmation, my mother drew me aside and asked, ‘What do you feel?’ I described as best I could the warm feeling of peace, comfort, and happiness I had. Mother explained that what I was feeling was the gift I had just received, the gift of the Holy Ghost. She told me that if I lived worthy of it, I would have that gift with me continually. That was a teaching moment that has lived with me all my life” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1999, 42; or Ensign, May 1999, 32).
Learning Lessons from Nature
You can use everyday observations of nature to teach the gospel to your children (see
If you are alert, you can quietly and consistently turn many of your children’s experiences into teaching moments.