More General Conference Talks About Improving Parenting

Yesterday, I noted that five talks in this General Conference were about being more involved parents, and that I suspected today would be an extension of that.  There were another five talks today that were predominantly on this subject (though some others mentioned it briefly).  These were the talks by Cheryl Lant (three guidelines for spiritually raising children well), Robert D. Hales (ministering to youth), Bradley D. Foster (the importance and influence of mothers), Francisco J. Viñas (helping family and others to be spiritually born again), and Neil L. Andersen (parents must tell their children stories about Jesus).  Elder Andersen even joked at the beginning of his talk about how he’d been listening during Conference for how much of his talk had already been given by others!

While this Conference also continued the huge theme from last October’s Conference about developing stronger personal revelation by the Spirit (such as in the talk by Julie B. Beck), another impressive surprise this weekend was that Quentin L. Cook of the Twelve Apostles and James B. Martino of the Seventy gave very similar talks: each gave a list of characteristics to be emulated, exemplified by the Savior during the last few days of His mortal life. 

This certainly gives me some clear aspects of life to focus on for the next six months…

This General Conference = Be More Involved Parents

Just after the first two sessions of this General Conference, one dominant theme is obvious: we all need to be better, more involved parents.  This was the overarching idea throughout fully five of the thirteen talks given today: those by President Packer (responsibility of fathers to be priesthood leaders in the home), Elder Ballard (counsel to and responsibilities of mothers and daughters), President Eyring (counsel for raising children with the Spirit), Elder Perry (importance of gospel teaching in the home), and Elder Bednar (teaching children to recognize and act on spiritual warnings). 

If this Conference is as consistent as the last one, we can expect to see this theme further developed tomorrow.

Grade Day of Reckoning

Third quarter grades were due today, and as I finished entering them, I couldn’t help but notice the big picture for a lot of students.  Days like this are sobering and discouraging. 

Here are two screen shots from my computer, showing what we’re working with here. 

First, this is a transcript page for a girl in one of my classes.  As you can see, after three full semesters in high school, she has earned exactly two credits, including a half credit in the middle of a semester for something called “guidance.”  She also failed every class this quarter.  The large numbers indicate absences.  Notice also that she is listed as a tenth grader, even though she falls far short of being on track–our politicians recently decided to let every student be officially promoted by age with their friends, rather than measured by the credits they’ve earned.  Thanks, leaders!

Obviously, this kid is not going to graduate.  I don’t know why she even comes to school, why we haven’t guided her to another school option or made her more uncomfortable as she slacks her way toward failure, or what’s going on in her home that makes such rampant failure acceptable.  (Her father is an educated professional; her mother is a homemaker.) 

This second shot Continue reading

I Survived Roe Vs. Wade

Yesterday was the 37th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s inglorious Roe vs. Wade decision.  It put me in mind of something that I’ve seen on a few t-shirts these last few years: I survived Roe vs. Wade.

I was born only a few years after that ruling.  My mother had a very difficult pregnancy with me, so difficult, in fact, that her doctor suggested that she have an abortion.  She refused and carried me to term. 

I’m not too clear as to what all of the complications were–though I do remember being told that during the delivery I was “stuck” for quite a while.  Despite this, my mother has lived just fine and in mostly good health; in fact, she had another baby a couple of years later, this one coming much more easily.  For my part, I was born with a deformed left ear, which was fixed by plastic surgery when I was very little.  Still, that ear’s been stone deaf since the day I was born. 

I think that’s a pretty small price to pay for being alive, though, and I’m certainly glad to have come to a mother who understands that.

Politically Incorrect Thought of the Day

I once spent three years teaching in the room next door to a woman who, after we’d spent all that time sharing and discussing many of the same students, made a startling observation that, although it contradicted her own political beliefs, she said she could no longer deny. After yet another female student from a broken home had made huge mistakes due to her low self esteem, the other teacher said, “I’m going to lose my feminist credentials for this, but the fact is that girls need affirmation from men. All these sad girls we see wasting their lives are doing it because their fathers aren’t there for them. If girls don’t get attention and affection from their fathers, they’ll just go out and get it from some guy at school.”

Of course, there are also girls who ruin their lives with sex or drugs despite having great fathers, but she was right: the vast majority of girls with social, emotional, or academic problems got that way lamenting the lack of adequate attention from a male.  I suppose this is just one more example of the damage wrought by our easy divorce culture, but certainly one of the most tragic.  The correlation between a strong father-daughter relationship and her success is well established. Does this influence how much extra positive regard I try to give to my own girls at home? Yes it does.

Parents of the Week: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly


A boy in an honors class mocked an assignment on Tuesday with his partner, then decided to declare to everyone that “this class is pointless.”  I called him on it, and he wasn’t the least bit ashamed or penitent. 

I called his mother and she was mortified.  She apologized profusely and asked to come in to see me and have him apologize, even asking if she could sit in class with him next time.  We met before school Thursday and she read him the riot act.  I showed her his work from that day, which was by far the shortest, sloppiest paper from the class.  I said I’d like him to do it over, and she assured me it would be done over the weekend, adding that any future work that was of substandard quality would also be revised to my liking. 

After this had all been explained, I asked him if he understood.  He sat silently until his mother told him to answer with, “Yes, sir.”  He sullenly said, “Yes.”  She told him again to be more respectful, threatening to smack him if he didn’t.  He again responded with attitude, so she reached around and slapped him on the back of the head.  This time he said, “Yes, sir.” 

She thanked me for my effort and assured me again that he would perform better, in academics and behavior.  I have no doubt that he will. 



Continue reading

Some Sad School Stories

There are forty students enrolled in my third hour class.  Thirty showed up today: one had been suspended, nine others were truant. 

For the previous two classes, their homework—as explained at the beginning and end of each class and posted on the board—was to get a copy of a novel from a list I’d given them, and merely to bring it in to class today.  The list included authors such as Mark Twain and Ray Bradbury (and, for that matter, J.K. Rowling and Stephenie Meyer) among two dozen others, the only other requirement being that the book they choose be at least 250 pages long.  I told them that our school librarian had a copy of the list and could help them find a book.  Obviously, they had a few hundred books to choose from.

Out of the thirty students in class today, only ten had a book.  A few others probably had a book but left it at home.  However, the vast majority of the unprepared twenty clearly hadn’t put forth any effort at all, hadn’t bothered to write down or remember the assignment, and had lost or thrown away my handout list.  They didn’t even care enough to try to do it.  Keep in mind that the assignment was merely to have a copy of the book with them.  That was it. 

And only one-fourth of the kids in that class will get credit for it. 

Is this a remedial class?  Far from it.  Continue reading

Conservative Media’s Ironic Misunderstanding of “School Indoctrination”

A perceptive colleague alerted me to this story out of Chicago, where the mother of a boy investigated in that awful student beating recently told reporters that schools should be responsible for monitoring students outside of school hours. 

This perfectly illustrates something I’ve seen constantly in my years of teaching.  We conservatives worry that schools are brainwashing our kids with government propaganda, just as the mainstream media does, and though there are certainly programs and policies that clearly emanate from the left, this concern is essentially baseless. 

If the government’s effectively indoctrinating our kids, then where are the hordes of glassy-eyed teenage zombies chanting, “I love Big Brother?” 

No, our children are strongly resistant to any attempt to exert authority over them or persuade them to accept ideas in school…to a fault!

The irony here is that while conservative media gets itself into a tizzy about schools usurping too much authority over American children…that’s precisely what too many parents want us to do!

I’ve written plenty of stories on here about clueless parents who expect teachers to raise their kids.  It’s an epidemic.  These lazy, incompetent losers make teachers’ lives miserable.  Teachers spend a large percentage of their parent conferences trying to convince parents to do the work that a lot of conservatives are afraid we’re actively trying to steal away from them!

Schools taking over the job of parents?  Trust me, not a legitimate concern.  Now, the fuzzy teaching methods employed in too many classrooms–that’s a real problem to keep your eye on.

Balloon Boy’s Airhead Parents

I can’t add much to the country’s comments and complaints about the poor 6-year-old Colorado boy who may or may not have “accidentally” spurred an emergency.  I just want to add one important thing that I haven’t heard anybody else say yet.

Why the heck are these parents pimping out all of their kids on every news show they can get on?  Their scared little boy was on Larry King last night and on the Today show this morning, where he threw up.  This kid is clearly terrified.  Nevermind what kind of parents would have put this kid in the situation where he might have floated off in an experimental balloon in the first place–what kind of parents celebrate their joy at finding him safe and sound by immediately shuttling him around to every TV camera they can find?  Where’s their concern about his emotional welfare? 

In fact, doesn’t that make it seem more likely it was a hoax?

Journals For Little Kids

Eight years ago I had the idea to sit my little kids down each week and talk to them about whatever was on their mind.  I would type what they said as they spoke, and that would be their journal.  It’s been a huge success.  I’ve started with each kid when they are two and can communicate in cogent sentences.  As the oldest two got to be about seven or eight years old, they started keeping their own journals, but these first, early journals have been priceless. 

Not many people can say they have journals going back to when they were two years old. 

My younger daughter loves it so much that she asks to write in her journal almost constantly.  She just turned five and already has 29 single spaced pages written. 

As they get older, sometimes the kids will ask why they should keep journals, and then I just pull up these files and we look up whatever they wrote around this time of year throughout their lives.  Two days ago, my oldest son went back and looked up his thoughts about a Jimmy Neutron costume he wore five years ago. 

It’s because of these journals that I know what my oldest daughter, now 12, was thinking about on Saturday, October 20, 2001, when we started doing this: “Today I don’t feel good.  My tummy hurts.  I love to go swimming.  I love my Ellie.”

Job 1:5 On Parenting

Job 1:1 says that Job “was perfect and upright.”  Perhaps part of that is due to his exemplary parenting as shown in Job1:4-5: “And his sons went and feasted in their houses, every one his day; and sent and called for their three sisters to eat and to drink with them.  And it was so, when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all: for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.  Thus did Job continually.”

I see six aspects of Job as a father that are worthy of emulation here:

  1. He “sanctified” his children, which probably means he performed priesthood ordinances directly for them.
  2. He “rose up early in the morning,” showing his commitment to sacrifice his comfort and serve his children seriously.  This appears to be a formulaic commandment to disciples to prepare them and for them to show their devotion to the Lord in the scriptures (see for example Exodus 8:20 and 1 Samuel 29:10). 
  3. He offered burnt offerings for them, another example of his gospel-oriented labor for them.
  4. He offered those sacrifices for all of them–there were no favorites and no empty chairs. 
  5. Job said that he did these things because they might have sinned.  This was preventive maintenance.  No matter what their actual spiritual status may have been, Job wrestled spiritually for them as much as he could so that they might have all the blessings they might receive, for when they might need it. 
  6. And Job did these things “continually.”  He didn’t let discouragement get to him, he didn’t let his own trials slow him down, and he never, ever gave up.

When I find verses of scripture that I really like, I’ve started looking them up on BYU’s excellent “Scriptural Index to the Latter-day Prophets,” where they show each instance of every verse of scripture being quoted in official teachings by church leaders, from Joseph Smith and other 19th century leaders in the Journal of Discourses, to more recent leaders in General Conference.  Strangely, Job 1:5 seems to have never been referenced in a major teaching setting. 

I hope that other parents will see counsel and comfort in this verse in the future.

Another Bad Parent Story

Here’s another one I just dug out of my journal, to add to the others I’ve collected.  From Monday, May 10, 2004:

Last Thursday, a mother called me at work to ask for advice about getting her teenage son in line.  After listening to her litany of complaints about all the awful things he’d done, I started explaining that she seemed to have given up her authoritative role and needed to take it back.  Ironically, she cut me off to suggest that I talk to her roommate instead, because the roommate spends more time with her kids than she does.  I told her no, and that it was her priority to teach him immediately that she was in charge.  She sounded disappointed.

Notice what all three of my posts have been about today.  Gee, I wonder what’s on my mind?

Octomom vs. John and Kate vs. the Duggar Family

duggarThree large, real-life families have been in the news this year.  Nadya Suleman gave birth to octuplets, bringing her total brood to fourteen; the stars of John & Kate + 8 had their image tarnished when John was caught out over night with another woman, bringing to light their feuding over Kate’s domineering attitude and John’s dissatisfaction with the media’s intrusion into their life; and the Duggar family of Arkansas released a book about their family’s history and life, following the birth of their 18th child in December. 

There was a story in the newspaper last week about Nadya “Octomom” Suleman, where she admitted that she had “made mistakes,” though she didn’t specify what exactly one of those mistakes might have been.  Was it having all of these children with a man to whom she’s never been married?  (We have her word on it that all 14 kids have the same father.)  Was it having these kids with a man who is in fact already married…to someone else?  Was it having fourteen children when she herself has no steady source of income? 

At any rate, she has recently agreed to star in a reality TV show.  I’m sure that’ll do her kids some good.  (sarcasm alert!) 

I certainly do not condone any of the acts of violence against her that have been reported, but neither will I shrink from condemning the “lifestyle choices” of anyone if those choices are demonstrably harmful to children.  Her vague admission of “mistakes” reminds me of a clip I saw from the Dr. Phil show once where the family of Ozzy Osbourne went on to simultaneously make teary confessions of their tragic failures as a family, and denounce anyone who dared to criticize them for their tragic failures as a family.  It’s all about integrity, isn’t it, Sharon?

Speaking of reality TV, I’ve never seen an episode of John & Kate + 8, but apparently the attraction for viewers isn’t seeing a large, young, dynamic family in action so much as it is to watch the fireworks between mismatched John and Kate.  Whether or not they break up, if their high-profile and volatile home environment continues, one must wonder how it will affect the children.  For the better, perhaps?  No doubt.  Hollywood has a long history of turning out well adjusted children from dysfunctional celebrity parents.  (another sarcasm alert!)

That leaves us with the Duggar family, Continue reading

How To Raise Up A Family To The Lord

515Q9YXJX5L__SL500_AA240_I just saw that Gene R. Cook’s Raising Up a Family To the Lord must be out of print: only has marketplace copies, Barnes and Noble doesn’t list it at all, and even Deseret Book’s Web site only offers an audio tape and a couple of translations. 

That’s too bad, because it is far and away the best book about parenting that I’ve ever read.  Cook, a general authority in the LDS Church, wrote the most specific, organized, detailed, inspiring, and practical family guide ever set down on paper.  What most especially impresses me is that he published this book two years before the church’s famous Proclamation on the Family.  Talk about prophetic!  Actually, Elder Cook’s book is the best manual for implementing and living the Proclamation that anyone could ever ask for.  That’s why it’s so tragic that it seems to have fallen by the wayside.  It should be in every home.  Couples should study it regularly.  I’d love to see it become popular, or even come back into print. 

As it is, some of those used copies at Amazon are going for as low as three dollars.  It’s worth a million times that. 

I used my notes below as the text for a lesson once when I was elders quorun president, and got a few laughs because the notes are so long.  Yes, Elder Cook covers all his bases, and does so in exacting detail.  But don’t get the idea that these notes are exhaustive–they don’t convey the wonderful spirit of his dozens of personal stories that carry the testimony of his principles into our hearts.  Not much of what he writes could be considered “commandments,” anyway: mostly ideas for us to adapt and use in our own circumstances. 

Still, any family, of any faith or none at all, would benefit greatly by working these ideas into their home life over time.  I’ll say that the more any family resembles the ideal outlined by Elder Cook, the more happy and healthy they’ll be. 

Please forgive the inconsistent spacing in my notes:


Raising Up A Family To The Lord

by Gene R. Cook


* See outline of basic priorities on pp. 13-16.


I. Most important things: instill habits of personal prayer and scripture study in children by modeling them

as a family; also, convey spiritual values to children through daily living in the home.

          A. Do not rely on church programs to mold children– they merely support the home.

          B. Involve children in home teaching responsibilities; expose them to faithful models (“second

witnesses”) in church.

                    1. “Family duties” to encourage include:

                              a. Weekly family home evening.

                             b. Family and individual prayers twice daily

                             c. Bless food at each meal.

                             d. Make time for family activities.

                             e. Family scripture study

                             f. Have mealtime discussions

                             g. Discuss gospel while working together.

                             h. Use special holidays and occasions to teach the gospel

                              i. Teach tithing and offerings by example.

                              j. Teach the gospel through bedtime stories.

                             k. Hold private interviews.

          C. Teach children these doctrines BEFORE they turn eight:

                    1. Repentance

                    2. Faith in Christ

                    3. Baptism

                    4. Gift of the Holy Ghost

                    5. Pray and “walk uprightly before the Lord”

                    6. Observe the Sabbath Day

                   7. Labor in faithfulness and not be idle or greedy

                   8. Seek for the riches of eternity


II. Teach Your Family By The Spirit

          A. Pray with children as soon as there is trouble

          B. How to invite the spirit:

                    Continue reading

“First Comes Love, Then Comes Marriage…”

A recent post I read has impressed upon me that cohabitation and/or actively chosen single motherhood may well be the most critical threat facing families and society at large. 

Ann Coulter devoted a devastating chapter to it in her most recent book, but Joanne Jacobs has linked to a new study that finds cohabitation and voluntary single parenthood so prevalent that it is now very much the norm.  Her report reminded me of this incredible essay in City Journal–part of a theme that they focused on for a while–that details the many problems of our generation’s heedlessly hedonistic lack of values. 

I knew a guy who lived with a woman for a few years, having a couple of kids with her.  After a while, he started calling her his wife, though they refused to actually get married.  When he decided to leave her for another woman, that concept of hypothetical matrimony must have gone out the window.  Now he calls the new woman, to whom he also has not gotten married, his wife. 

Multiply that to a large scale and you see the environment in which the next generation will grow up.