Our guest author today is Emma Lu, a wife, mother of seven, and grandmother. She is an author and lecturer, and she enjoys writing histories and life events.
This story took place, you might say yesteryear, when it was safe to leave a child alone, but not so in today’s world; to protect a child from harm is a parents/guardians greatest responsibility. I invite you to read and ponder the message of a wise parent letting their child learn self-discipline by consequences. It is my wish, as you read, that you will consider the question: Does a child learn best by being forced to choose the right, or whether to provide the space for children to (safely) learn from their mistakes.
I remember well the day I made a choice to attend church; I was six years old. It was a lazy Sabbath day with the summer sun beginning to ride the horizon. The scene opens on my neighbor’s front porch. I recall playing with friends and having a great time. I was straddled across the porch railing pretending, along with my friends, to be cowpokes riding gallant horses in the the untamed west.
While being in never-never land, I heard my mother’s engaging voice call out, “It’s time to come home and get ready for sacrament meeting.” My thought was, “I’ll come later.” Soon her voice called again and I pretended not to hear her. The next voice was my father’s. With a deep commanding tone he confirmed, “Your mother has called you home; it is time for church.” Not wanting to obey, I called back in a defiant voice, “Do I have to go to church?” There was an uncomfortable time lapse as I waited for his response. “No, you don’t ever have to go to church.” With his final statement he departed into the house.
As he left, my friends laughed, but I felt confused and crushed. I really didn’t want to be a “brat” in the eyes of my parents. However, I put on a good show of cheerfulness for my friends. I continued to ride my imaginary stallion and galloped across the dry prairie like a fearless rider. Soon my noble steed slowed to a trot, and then to a slow pace, coming to a stop. I slid off the porch railing and wandered home as if I were a forgotten child in the dungeon of doom. My parents were going on without me!
I returned home to empty rooms and felt completely dejected. That’s when I made my own personal choice to be a church attender because my parents let me experience the emotional consequences of my poor choice. That was the key…natural consequences accompanied with a kind, calm, firm manner. Once again as stated, it is not wise to leave a child alone where harm could come, but the method of natural consequences is a wonderful example to follow.
As parents/guardians we can wisely choose to help a child safely learn self-discipline through the principle of natural consequences. It takes courage, prayer, genuine love, and guidance from the Holy Spirit. It is not easy, but as parents/guardians we must remember the wise counsel from the book of Proverbs: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)
A version of this story originally appeared on RealLifeAnswers.org as “Why Does God Want Me to Go To Church?”