It is a tricky thing to shake out the consequences of divorce and single parent homes and cohabiting couples and step parents. This gets hairier as we look at the ideal structure of married parents with children and then we factor in marriages with inept parenting, substance abuse, violent fighting, and other troublesome behaviors. There are many competent single parent families and parents who co-parent well after a divorce. Yet, with all of the statistics and reports factored together and the marital trends considered, those intact married homes yield the more stable conditions for their children.
Sometimes people are raised in homes with behaviors that ought not ever to have been displayed, let alone embraced and perpetuated into a new generation. When the children in those sad situations head their own families, they have the opportunity to choose what kind of parent they will be. When they decide not to follow the path their abusers did and instead become safe people for their own families, they’re considered transitional characters.
I grew up in a home that had a lot of anger and fighting, and I thought that was normal and that to be the “winner” gave me more power and control. Yet as I matured, I looked around at other young mothers and wondered why they didn’t yell at their kids, why they were so calm and collected, and why they never asked me to babysit for them but would ask each other. It stung as the answer came; my sense of power and control came as I lost my temper or showed anger, yet as those behaviors came out, I was exhibiting exactly the opposite of power and control.
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I’m not sure that I could be considered a transitional character. I didn’t realize that there was even a problem until probably 5 years into married life, but ever since then, I’ve worked so hard on myself to overcome those traits and default behaviors. My eldest will probably definitely struggle with those same weaknesses that I do, more than the younger children will as I’m more successful in self control and self discipline.
Some beautiful and piercing doctrine has been shared that underscore the immense importance of working on these very things, however.
President Gordon B. Hinckley says: “You will be far more successful with love as your watchword than you will be with a whip or lash or anything of the kind.”
“Do not beat your children. I do not think children have to be severely punished. I was blessed with a good father and a good mother. I can never remember their laying a hand on me or any of their other children. We probably deserved it, but they did not do it. They sat us down and talked with us. That was enough.” (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, Deseret Book, p. 422)
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“A soft voice turneth away wrath; but grievous words stir up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1)
From Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, “We must be so careful in speaking to a child. What we say or don’t say, how we say it and when is so very, very important in shaping a child’s view of himself or herself. But it is even more important in shaping that child’s faith in us and their faith in God. Be constructive in your comments to a child—always. Never tell them, even in whimsy, that they are fat or dumb or lazy or homely. You would never do that maliciously, but they remember and may struggle for years trying to forget—and to forgive. ”
I’m blessed to have an amazing husband. We both served missions, were married in the temple, have grown closer together throughout all our trials in our years together, and continue to be able to support and cherish each other. We have seven kiddos and where I know my parenting skills or emotional discipline is still lacking or fledgling, I watch him parent so I can learn and emulate it myself. His kindness for our children is overwhelming to me sometimes! I love it, and I love the loyalty it inspires from our children. Perhaps I’m not a transitional character; the reading seems to reflect that it’s a person who cuts off the flow at the spigot from day one. Mine is decreasing over time, though; and eventually I’ll get that filthy water from touching any part of our sacred family grounds.
In the meantime, the words of the prophets continue to buoy up my ability and determination to overcome the tendencies I marinated in my entire childhood and youth.
President Hinckley taught, “Love is not an action or a technique; it is a feeling which guides our actions. When love fills our hearts, our actions reflect that love, and our desire is to do only that which will benefit our children. When we feel love, our actions toward a child who is arguing with his brother will not be a result of our own frustration. Rather, they will reflect our desire that he not harm himself through a habit of contention.”
He also states,”. . .[T]he Lord, in setting forth the spirit of governance in his Church, has also set forth the spirit of governance in the home in these great words of revelation:
“‘No power or influence can or ought to be maintained … , only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; …
“‘Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost [and only then I think]; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy;
“‘That he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death’ (D&C 121:41, 43–44).
“There is no discipline in all the world like the discipline of love. It has a magic all its own.”
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Perhaps my growth into a transitional character is not a switch from dark to light as it is in some people, maybe it will take another decade to overcome it, but I hope in the end, I’ll have worked it out to the best of my ability, and through the Savior’s grace, my children will have peace and kindness as their foundation and start fresh and new in their own parenting venture.
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