What Our Children Are Learning

By Grant E. Barton

Grant E. Barton, “Lessons at a Glance: What Our Children Are Learning,” Ensign, Dec. 1981, 55
We were searching for highly successful parents to help with future family home evening manuals and other related tasks.

I knew full well that being a successful parent didn’t necessarily mean that every child was perfect. (Even wonderful parents like Adam and Eve or Lehi and Sariah had some wayward children.) Nevertheless, in my interviews I discovered a number of parents who were consistently successful where it counts the most: raising righteous children. Although their approaches varied greatly, this group of parents had something in common, as revealed by their experiences:

Six righteous sons. Like a doctor making his hospital rounds, one father told of visiting each of his six sons every night, silently and earnestly petitioning for the influence of the Spirit as he went. He would typically feel prompted in one room to simply listen and learn; in another to give counsel; in yet another to relate an experience or leave a thought which taught a needed lesson without direct confrontation. The results have been outstanding: Six returned missionaries. Six active sons. Six temple marriages.

Horizontal sharing. “What a great purchase I made when I bought that backyard trampoline!” one father exclaimed. “Not only because my children had fun on it, but also because I would often lie on my back with a child, looking up at the stars, and we would talk of eternal things. Often I would be the learner as my child would describe important principles learned at church or at school.” This parental concern has borne precious fruit: alert, perceptive children who are excited with life.

Sunday family building. “We have gathered our family members together on Sunday for twenty-five years (long before the consolidated meeting schedule!),” one sister told me. “My husband usually had a spiritual message prepared for us, after which we let the children teach us the songs they were learning in church. We often finished up with a ‘gripe’ session in which family members described problems we were having in our family and how we could improve. After listening carefully to their concerns, my husband often felt moved to interview a child privately.” These children today are all strong, active, energetic, and intensely family-oriented.

Parents become listeners. One parent told me, “The dinner hour is sacred. Our neighbors have learned not to phone from six to seven. We ask each child to teach us something he learned that day which he didn’t know before. Consequently our children have learned to listen intently to their teachers. When we watch general conference on television, we prepare our children to capture new and wonderful messages so that they can share them with us and their friends. Some of our children even take notes! For weeks afterward we discuss these talks, how we are applying them in our lives, and how we are being a blessing to others as a result of this instruction from the Lord’s representatives.” The children of these wise parents now actively seek out opportunities to share what they learn. They have been influential in the reactivation and conversion of several grateful Church members.

The family home evening coach. “During Sunday personal time,” a parent told me, “I like to visit with each child. I often ask one of them to teach a family home evening lesson from the family home evening manual, from one of the Church magazines, or from a lesson they heard at church or seminary. I let this child teach the lesson to me prior to presenting it to the family.” As a result of this practice, these children are alert in church to topics they can teach at home.

So, what are the common threads consistently running through the experiences of highly successful parents? Call them caring, or listening to the Spirit, or spending time with each child—each is important to raising righteous children. I like to weave all of these elements into a single principle: Parents who succeed tend to be those who prayerfully and lovingly assist each child to apply and share the gospel.

In our efforts to assist our children, it may be helpful to know the gospel principles that they are learning in church. We will then be better prepared to help them apply these principles in daily living.