“My daddy says please,” my four-year-old granddaughter Chantelle tells me when I kindly and firmly ask her to stop pouring water over her sister’s head in the tub. I stand corrected. He does always say please.
The next day we are headed to Target for a new car seat. “Chantelle, please don’t touch your sister,” my son-in-law Joe says to her while she sits next to her little sister, both strapped into back-seat car seats. Chantelle touches her little sister anyway. Joe is silent. Just as an observer, I feel that flash of irritation you get when your little one defies you. I wonder what Joe is thinking?
A few minutes later, he tells me quietly he feels angry but doesn’t want to be a harsh father, so in these moments, he chooses silence. It may look like silence, but in reality, he is choosing love.
He finds the willpower to parent with patience and love in his daily personal scripture study and prayer. In spite of the rigors of medical school, while raising a family and volunteering in the community, daily personal devotional is a non-negotiable priority, Joe tells me. His spiritual devotions change his heart and allow him to be the loving parent he wants to be. He has found that when his heart is right, choosing patience and kindness comes more easily. With time it will become the first reaction in every circumstance.
Many of us have a family member with a quick temper. I have admired those with steady temperaments as long as I’ve been a parent, studying ways to stay calm under pressure and master the unexpected flash of irritation. My admiration for my son-in-law continues to grow as he shares that his calm demeanor is an attribute he has developed and is working with determination to master.
On a more recent visit, I observed that Joe still communicates with his children and wife in an always-gentle voice. His children respond quickly to gentle instruction and a quiet voice. They are confident in their father’s love and steady reaction, as is his wife—my daughter. How grateful I am for his kindness, which also extends to me.
The truth is, the parenting battle is not won in one instance. It is won with steady engagement over a long period. If you are persistent in guiding your children, you can swallow down the instance where you can’t do much—such as in the car-seat episode--because a thousand times a day you are parenting effectively.
I believe that love is the greatest power. It is the power that motivated Jesus Christ to devote his entire mortal and eternal life to saving us: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you” (John 15:13-14 KJV).
Love is the power that motivated God the Father to send his son Jesus Christ to redeem all his children: “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
Love is the greatest of all Christian attributes: “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity” (1 Corinthians 13:13).
If you’re wondering how to address a family argument, a rebellious child, a distant spouse, or an angry friend, don’t underestimate the power of love.
Beth Wright and her husband Kerry have happily raised their four children in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley and find great joy in being members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.