I think one of the most important things you can teach your children, as a Fierce Mormon Mother, is how to develop their inner selves.
Teach your children to be interested and interesting.
You can teach your children that while the majority of the world is only looking at our outer selves, or judging a book by its cover, Christ teaches us to value and focus on those inner attributes that are the most priceless.
This post is fueled by an experience I had right before Thanksgiving. I was coming out of a building where I had lunch. A man was on a ladder wrapping lights around the tree branches near the building in preparation for Christmas. I heard someone calling and stopped and watched. A young women had walked up and she was calling to the man on the ladder. “Excuse me, can I take a picture of you for our Instagram feed?” What struck me about the whole scene was her appearance. She was so extremely coiffed and made up it reminded me of Effie Trinket from The Hunger Games. I was amazed by her appearance, because she was so overdone. I guess some people might call her beautiful, but my first thought was, “What if she spent that much time on her inner self, instead of her outer self?” Social media has become such a place of exterior excavation. Everyone looks happy with wonderful fulfilled lives. I was so interested to read an article on a professional Instagrammer and how much of a crew it takes to produce “the perfect life.” How things look on the outside is the major message constantly being broadcast to us. What are some ways we can teach our children that this is a false way to live and to help them forge their inner light, their own authentic selves?
- Teach by example. I have always talked to my children about being a “deep river woman” —or man. There was a song in the 80′ s by the same name by Lionel Ritchie. The lyrics never meant much to me but I would think of this song when I drive up Provo Canyon where the road follows the meandering path of the Provo River. In the deepest parts of the river, the water moves slowly and peacefully, not like in the more shallow areas where there were rocks sticking out and more rapids. I love that image of the dark green water moving with a placid grace. I feel like you have to be more mindful to stay in those deep waters by not being attracted by drama, or worrying or feeling regretful. The book, “The Power of Now” was a great help to me in being mindful about living in the now. It helped decrease my regrets of the past and future worries by magnitudes. When I finally realized that worrying about the future was robbing me of peace of mind in my present state, I starting letting go, like releasing a huge bunch of balloons and watching them happily fly away. You can still make goals and plans, Eckhart Tolle, the author, just teaches how there is no worth in worrying about things that may or may not happen. It is a huge relief to realize that. Think of that deep, deep river moving placidly along, unhurried and unworried.
- Read, read, read together and by yourselves.
- Have dinner together and discuss current events. Last night we talked about how a 35-year-old man in a neighboring city was elected as mayor. He unseated the 24 year incumbent because he didn’t like all of the development that was happening to his city. The unseated mayor was in his 70’s and spent 300,000.00 to the young guy’s 30,000.00. I love this kind of stuff in the news.
- Scripture study with a purpose. Keep it short, but make sure you are not just reading to read. I am so guilty of that but I have learned the arrow misses the mark if you aren’t reading with a purpose. Read a few scriptures and tell your scriptural insight.
- Expose your children to culture—museums, plays and good movies. Cal Newport in the book, “Deep Work” talks about weaning ourselves from mediocre entertainment and to figure out the minimum amount of technology that adds to our life and keep it to that spare amount. He teaches that all of the distractions we have in our lives means we are missing out on profound spaces of time to work and think, and we are settling for less. There is a lot of mediocre entertainment out there. We used to wait all year for the animated Christmas shows to come on, like “Charlie Brown’s Christmas” or “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”. We would make sure nothing was happening that night because if you forgot you missed it for the whole year! That makes you pay attention. So much is available now it’s like how you feel after a bad buffet—wishing you had stopped after the first plate.
- Show your child how to be a good listener.
- Teach them to be kind. The movie Wonder is out this holiday season and it’s such a great book on kindness. It deals with a middle schooler that has had many surgeries on his face and how courageous it is to go to school and face cruelty. I can’t wait to see the movie.
- Forgive them easily so that they can learn how good it feels to repent. My mother was so kind whenever we broke something. She would say, “Thank you for telling me! It’s more important to me that you are honest and come to me, than whatever it is you broke.” It was so wonderful to be able to unburden myself and to be reinforced in a positive way like that.
- Teach your children to hunt for the Truth is in any situation, and help them realize their faulty core beliefs. My daughter and I were trying to figure out the Truth in a knotty problem she was experiencing. When we finally realized what the Truth was, we looked at each other in amazement—Eureka! The Truth truly does set you free. It’s a powerful, eternal principle.
Lastly, I love this paragraph from the talk by Julie B. Beck, “Mothers Who Know”, because she stresses doing the activities with your children that don’t cost money and help shape their character and inner selves:
“Mothers who know do less. They permit less of what will not bear good fruit eternally. They allow less media in their homes, less distraction, less activity that draws their children away from their home. Mothers who know are willing to live on less and consume less of the world’s goods in order to spend more time with their children—more time eating together, more time working together, more time reading together, more time talking, laughing, singing, and exemplifying. These mothers choose carefully and do not try to choose it all. Their goal is to prepare a rising generation of children who will take the gospel of Jesus Christ into the entire world. Their goal is to prepare future fathers and mothers who will be builders of the Lord’s kingdom for the next 50 years. That is influence; that is power.”
As you make this a priority in your family culture you will help your children navigate this over-hyped, body obsessed, “look-ism” that has taken on a life of its own. Help your children not to be defined by their exterior selves only. Help form their honest, authentic identities where they learn magnificent, Christ-like attributes and character that will help them through the rough patches in their lives and help them to be interested and interesting. You can battle social media’s negative influence by starting to reinforce all that I have written about. This time of year is ripe for serving. I love the Church’s “#Light TheWorld in 25 days in 25 ways” emphasis. What other ways could you help your children with these important attributes?