Ten Ways to Spend Time with Children

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President Ezra Taft Benson

Mothers in Zion, your God-given roles are so vital to your own exaltation and to the salvation and exaltation of your family.  A child needs a mother more than all the things money can buy.  Spending time with your children is the greatest gift of all.

With love in my heart for the mothers in Zion, I would like to suggest ten specific ways our mothers may spend effective time with their children.

BE AT THE CROSSROADS.  

First, take time to always be at the crossroads when your children are either coming or going -- when they leave and return from school, when they leave and return from dates, when they bring friends home.  Be there at the crossroads whether your children are six or sixteen.  In Proverbs we read:  "A child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame" (Proverbs 29:15).  Among the greatest concerns in our society are the millions of latchkey children who come home daily to empty houses, unsupervised by working parents.

BE A REAL FRIEND

Second, mothers, take time to be a real friend to your children.  Listen to your children, really listen. Talk with them, laugh and joke with them, sing with them, play with them, cry with them, hug them, honestly praise them.  Yes, regularly spend unrushed one-on-one time with each child.  Be a real friend to your children.

READ TO YOUR CHILDREN

Third, mothers, take time to read to your children.  Starting from the cradle, read to your sons and daughters.  Remember what the poet said:

You may have tangible wealth untold; 
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold. 
Richer than I you can never be -- 
I had a mother who read to me.

(Strickland Gillilan, "The Reading Mother.")

You will plant a love for good literature and a real love for the scriptures if you will read to your children regularly.

PRAY WITH YOUR CHILDREN

Fourth, take time to pray with your children.  Family prayers, under the direction of the father, should be held morning and night.  Have your children feel of your faith as you call down the blessings of heaven upon them.  Paraphrasing the word of James: 
"The ...fervent prayer of a righteous [mother] availeth much" (James 5:16).  Have your children participate in family and personal prayers, and rejoice in their sweet utterances to their Father in Heaven.

HAVE WEEKLY HOME EVENINGS

Fifth, take time to have a meaningful weekly home evening.  With your husband presiding, participate in a spiritual and an uplifting home evening each week.  Have your children actively involved.  Teach them correct principles.  Make this one of your great family 
traditions.  Remember the marvelous promise made by President Joseph F. Smith when home evenings were first introduced to the Church: 

"If the Saints obey this counsel, we promise that great blessings will result.  Love at home and obedience to parents will increase.  Faith will be developed in the hearts of the youth of Israel, and they will gain power to combat the evil influences and temptations which beset them" (James R. Clark, comp.,  Messages of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 6 vols.  [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-65],  4:339).  This wonderful promise is still in effect today.

BE TOGETHER AT MEALTIMES.   

Sixth, take time to be together at mealtimes as often as possible.  This is a challenge as the children get older and lives get busier.  But happy conversation, sharing of the day's plans and activities, and special teaching moments occur at mealtime because mothers and fathers and children work at it.

READ SCRIPTURES DAILY.  

Seventh, take time daily to read the scriptures together as a family.  Individual scripture reading is important, but family scripture reading is vital.  Reading the Book of Mormon together as a family will especially bring increased spirituality into your home and will give both parents and children the power to resist temptation and to have the Holy Ghost as their constant companion.  I promise you that the Book of Mormon will change the lives of your family.

DO THINGS AS A FAMILY.  

Eighth, take time to do things as a family.  Make family outings and picnics and birthday celebrations and trips special times and memory builders.  Whenever possible, attend, as a family, events where one of the family members is involved, such as a school play, a ball game, a talk, a recital.  Attend Church meetings together and sit together as a family when you can.  Mothers who help families pray and play together will stay together and will bless children's lives forever.

TEACH YOUR CHILDREN.  

Ninth, mothers, take time to teach your children.  Catch the teaching moments.  This can be done anytime during the day -- at mealtime, in casual settings, or at special sit-down times together, at the foot of the bed at the end of the day, or during an early-morning walk together.  Mothers, you are your children's best teacher.  Don't shift this precious responsibility to day-care centers or baby-sitters.  A mother's love and prayerful concern for her children are her most important ingredients in teaching her own.

Teach children gospel principles.  Teach them it pays to be good.  Teach them there is no safety in sin. Teach them a love for the gospel of Jesus Christ and a testimony of its divinity.

Teach your sons and daughters modesty, and teach them to respect manhood and womanhood.  Teach your children sexual purity, proper dating standards, temple marriage, missionary service, and the importance of accepting and magnifying Church callings.

Teach them a love for work and the value of a good education.

Teach them the importance of the right kind of entertainment, including appropriate movies and videos and music and books and magazines.  Discuss the evils of pornography and drugs, and teach them the value of living the clean life.

Yes, mothers, teach your children the gospel in your home, at your own fireside.  This is the most effective teaching that your children will ever receive.  This is the Lord's way of teaching.  The Church cannot teach like you can.  The school cannot.  The day-care center cannot.  But you can, and the Lord will sustain you.  Your children will remember your teachings forever, and when they are old, they will not depart from them.  They will call you blessed -- their truly angel mother.

Mothers, this kind of heavenly, motherly teaching takes time -- lots of time.  It cannot be done effectively part-time.  It must be done all the time in order to save and exalt your children.  This is your divine calling.

TRULY LOVE YOUR CHILDREN

Tenth and finally, mothers, take the time to truly love your children.  A mother's unqualified love approaches Christlike love.

Here is a beautiful tribute by a son to his mother:  "I don't remember much about her views of voting nor her social prestige; and what her ideas on child training, diet, and eugenics were, I cannot recall.  The main thing that sifts back to me now through the thick undergrowth of years is that she loved me.  She liked to lie on the grass with me and tell stories, or to run and hide with us children.  She was always hugging me.  And I liked it.  She had a sunny face.  To me it was like God, and all the beatitudes 
saints tell of Him.  And sing! 

Of all the sensations pleasurable to my life nothing can compare with the rapture of crawling up into her lap and going to sleep while she swung to and fro in her rocking chair and sang.  Thinking of this, I wonder if the woman of today, with all her tremendous notions and plans, realizes what an almighty factor she is in shaping of her child for weal or woe.  I wonder if she realizes how much sheer love and attention count for in a child's life."

Mothers, your teenage children also need that same kind of love and attention.  It seems easier for mothers and fathers to express and show their love to their children when they are young, but more difficult when they are older.  Work at this prayerfully.  There need be no generation gap.  And the key is love.  Our young people need love and attention, not indulgence.  They need empathy and understanding, not indifference from mothers and fathers.  They need the parents' time.  A mother's kindly teachings and her love for and confidence in a teenage son or daughter can literally save them from a wicked world.