I have mentioned before that I am kind of tender hearted (i.e., a sap) and just about anything will make me bawl like a baby.
Like today when we got our April Ensign and Friend magazines and I started looking through the Friend magazine (I like to find the stories that will be applicable to our family so I can turn to them quickly when I want to read them with the kids – although we usually end up reading the entire magazine) I cried reading just about every single story in there. Little children are very precious to me, and perhaps this is why I am such a softy when it comes to kids (a few weeks ago the choir sang A Child’s Prayer with a children’s chorus and let me tell you how I cried – I couldn’t help myself!)
I am assuming the editors chose a theme of repentance for the Friend this month because we will celebrate Easter this month, and that’s what Easter is all about (the atonement and resurrection). But whatever their reasoning, I want to give a big hug to the editing team of the Friend this month. Toward the middle of the magazine was a big colorful spread about making good media choices. There were some cute stories from kids around the United States, and then I saw this in the middle of the page:
If you don’t know how important it is that we teach children that making unwise choices is part of this mortal experience let me tell you now. Please, please teach your children that it is okay to make mistakes – Why? Because you need to teach them how to access the atonement.
I cannot stress the importance of this enough. I have seen the despair and hopelessness that comes from an understanding of the commandments without an understanding of the atonement. Please do not teach your children the commandments of the Lord if you are not following up immediately with teachings of the atonement.
Think about what you are teaching your children if you spend all your time teaching them about obedience and do not teach – by word as well as by example – about the power of the atonement. You are teaching them what they should or should not be doing, but you haven’t taught them what to do when they don’t get it right. It’s like you are throwing your child into the ocean without teaching them how to swim. Who would do that to their child?
What do you do when you make a poor decision? Do you use the atonement? Let your children see you using the atonement. Teach by example.When you get frustrated with your children, apologize to their faces, and ask for forgiveness, and tell them that you are going to pray to Heavenly Father to forgive you as well. Our children need to see us using the atonement.
We cannot just teach our children what the atonement is by giving them the cute little “ABC’s” of the repentance process. What would we expect if we gave our kids a neat little rhyme that tells them how to swim, but we never take them to the pool to practice swimming?
I think that teaching the atonement by example is harder for us to do as parents than maybe teaching other gospel principles (such as service) because we often think of repentance as a private thing. Of course I am not suggesting that you tell your kids every bad things you have done/said, but when they witness you make a poor choice let them also witness the repentance process. You don’t have to invite them to come watch you pray, but you can let them know that you are going to go say a prayer now to ask Heavenly Father for forgiveness, and you can tell them how you are going to make things right (and be really specific with this one, and let your children watch you make the thing right).
When your child makes a poor choice, do not scold them or lecture them. Use it as a teaching moment to bear your testimony to them of the power of the atonement.
There are too many people who were raised in the Church who have either left the Church or are still active but in deep despair and pain because they were not taught the true Gospel – that the Savior suffered for our sins and that by His blood we can be made perfect. Not just okay again, but perfect. Absolutely sin-free through the atonement. I see the hurt in their hearts and in their lives when they think because they broke a commandment (even a very serious commandment) that there can be no forgiveness for them – and they are good for nothing. But how wrong are they! They are good for everything, and if only someone had taught them of the atoning sacrifice of their Savior and how to use it!
Can you tell this is close to my heart?
I believe in the atonement of our Savior. I know that He took upon Himself every poor choice we can even imagine making. I know more perfectly than I know just about anything that we are not lost causes, that we can be okay with ourselves because He loves us and wants us to come to Him with our burdens and our struggles and our pain and our agony because He suffered it first. He already took everything on Himself. We just need to be wiling to give it all to Him.
I realize that in order for us to teach this gospel principle to our children we need to understand it and be applying it ourselves. If you don’t have a testimony of the atonement, if you don’t know how to use it, start today and learn about it. Study about the atonement, talk to your bishop/parent/spouse. And most importantly, start using the atonement in your life! (it is a daily-use principle)
Here are some resources I found for you:
What is the Atonement of Jesus Christ? (mormon.org)
The Atonement of Jesus Christ (lds.org)
Sins and Mistakes, Elder Dallin H. Oaks
Helping Children Repent
The Miracle of Forgiveness, Spencer W. Kimball
Believing Christ, Stephen E. Robinson (there is a BYU speech here that is probably like a short version of the book, but I highly recommend the book – you can get it for about $1 on Amazon)
everything I have written about the atonement – me
How do you teach your children about the atonement? Do you let your children see you use the atonement?