Guest Post: Doing it Right — Teaching the Men to be Better Fathers

by Frank Pellett

When a month has five Sundays, the fifth is given to each individual Ward to make a lesson for the adults based on the needs of the people in that Ward. We’ve had lessons from the Bishopric (who is in charge of the lesson) on food storage, families, and other more general topics such as tithing and temple attendance. Most of the time, this goes fairly well since the Bishop has a unique perspective on the needs of the Ward he has been called to watch over. Being mortal, there have also been failures. I’ve heard of one ward where the Bishop spent time instructing the women (and only the women) on the need to be more sexually available to their husbands. In our ward, we had something I’ve never seen before – a lesson from the Presidents of the Primary, Young Women’s Organization, and Relief Society (all of whom are women, for those who don’t know) to all the men of the ward on how they can be better fathers. This covers a broad spectrum of men, from those not yet married to those with grandchildren. And, though it was the same lesson to all, I suspect that what was learned was different for each one of us, no matter what our circumstance.

First, we heard from the Primary President. She is the head of the organization within the Ward that teaches the children to age 12. First, she quoted The Family: A Proclamation to the World“:

Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. “Children are an heritage of the Lord” (Psalm 127:3). Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, and to teach them to love and serve one another, observe the commandments of God, and be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives—mothers and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations.

Next, she shared some sobering answers to some questions she posed to the children in her care:

How do you know your father loves you?

  • He plays with me
  • He helps me
  • He shows me
  • I don’t know

What are things you want to do with your dad?

  • Go play
  • Hike
  • Spend time

How do you know your dad loves your mom?

  • He does things for her
  • Hugs & Kisses
  • I don’t know

It’s these last answers, “I don’t know,” that are the most sobering. While we are doing some things right, if some of our children don’t know we love them or their mothers, we’re doing something wrong. Next, we had the President of the Young Women’s Organization, who has charge over the young women, aged 12-18, in our ward:

What is the greatest mistake in raising a daughter?

  • Not understanding your significance in your daughter’s life

Your daughter sees how her father treats her, her mother, and other women. Daughters are not limited to your own family – you have influence as Home Teachers and even as friends of the family. Daughters who feel fathers care have less problems with stress, eating disorders, depression, etc., and more desire for education, independence, and growth. They make better decisions about sex and how others should treat them. Daughters see in their father what to expect in future relationships. Their experiences with Heavenly Father will be a relation of her experiences with her mortal father.

What can a father do?

  • listen without criticism
  • notice her mood
  • be willing to talk one on one
  • spend quality time
  • be there when needed
  • show his love, even when she is not treating him well
  • says and shows his love
  • praises kindness and other good, intrinsic values
  • shares his testimony and talks about his hopes and concerns

A father should be a guardian of virtue. Do not back away in those times when she is pushing you away. She may not always listen or make the right choices, but she will appreciate that you cared enough to try, and especially that you care enough to welcome her back with open arms, no matter how old she gets or how much time has passed.

We concluded with a few remarks from the Relief Society President, who is over all the women 18 and over. (She didn’t get much time):

Knowing her father’s love can help carry her through adulthood, and can be an example of the love of her Heavenly Father for her. Love her mother. You have ways to affect [your daughters] life in a way no one else can.

This concluded with a group of the Young Women singing “If the Savior Were Beside Me”

I thought it was a good lesson, all in all. Full of things to think about and inviting the spirit to help teach more than what was said. Thinking about it later, though – what if this were a lesson to the women, by the men, on how they could be better mothers? Would that have been as well received? I don’t know. I do know, however, that this felt right, and I’m glad the female Presidents in our ward had a chance to teach the men in a way we would not have usually gotten.

 

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7 Responses

  1. Suzanne says:

    Excellent article. I have served most of my adult life in primary leadership with strong women with varying life circumstances. Presently our primary presidency consists of an 81 year old widow, a 50+ married mother of 2 grown kids, a 40+ single professional with no kids, and a 30+ married mother of young children. We are all so different yet come together with our verying strengths. I love it. I am so glad your ward had the women speak on the 5th Sunday.. Most wards I have been in have always had many women speakers…..I have been fortunate and not had too many men in the church make me feel inferior….those who have I steer clear of. I would have gotten up and walked out if I had to sit through the Bishop telling the women to be more sexually available to their spouses. So inappropriate on so many levels.

  2. Annie B. says:

    That does sound like a nice lesson. I wonder too, how a similar lesson from men to women on how to be good mothers would be received, but then, isn’t that the default? In relief society we’re taught from manuals that draw the bulk of their material from teachings of male church leaders and scriptures which are entirely written by males. That’s slightly different from your experience where women in your ward were physically there to do the teaching, but since your priesthood lesson manuals don’t draw their teachings primarily from women, that means the women’s perspective is something new and refreshing and out of the ordinary, and edging slightly closer to balance.

    I think there is great value in women learning from men and men learning from women. It’s great that someone saw the need in your ward for that lesson and arranged for that need to be filled.

    • Ziff says:

      I wonder too, how a similar lesson from men to women on how to be good mothers would be received, but then, isn’t that the default?

      Great point, Annie. I think it’s great that the tables were turned for once. It makes sense anyway given how the pattern of women doing far more childcare than men is so common in the Church.

  3. jks says:

    Sounds like great lessons. I would love to talk about fatherhood and share what I have learned. My husband is a good father, but I help facilitate that because I am around the kids more (he works full time) and so he is less aware of the needs and also sees less of the pay off of when things are going right, so I try to let him know what is going on, what the kids need, and how they are responding.
    I agree that men can benefit from teachings from women. Releif Society meetings a couple of times a year have a presiding bishopric member speak and a couple times a year a bishopric member speaks to the Young Women in New Beginnings or YW in Excellence meetings. YW and men don’t have as many opportunities to learn from women as a group of men (only as a combined group in sacrament or sunday school).

  4. April says:

    That is a good question about men teaching women. I admit that I tire of it–but I think that is because it happens so often, and because I notice that at church, both women and men give more respect to the teachings of men over those of women, even when the topic is womanhood. For example, after the recent Relief Society conference, two female reporters at the Deseret News covered the meeting and wrote almost exclusively about Elder Eyring’s talk, ignoring the words of women at this women’s meeting. I like that your ward is elevating the female leadership roles to include instruction of men. Perhaps such efforts could help alleviate this inequity.

  5. Diane says:

    In general I don’t have a problem with men teaching women or vice versa. I do have a problem with the Bishop of any Ward or Branch giving a lesson to the sisters on the need to be more sexually available to their husbands. Quite honestly, I don’t believe that’s is the place of ANY Bishop. I probably would have gotten up and left

  6. amelia says:

    This sounds like a great lesson, especially given the importance of a couple of the insights shared (those I don’t knows could be just about kids not knowing how to put something into words, or they could be truly devastating).

    But I see two potential problems:

    1. There’s the sexism of assuming that women automatically have greater insight into how to parent. There’s a difference between that assumption and the basic reality of 1. some women having greater insights because they spend more time with or have different kinds of access to the children (as JKS points out), or 2. women having certain insights due to their different perspectives (which may or may not be derivative from number one). The assumption that women know how to parent better is a very troubling one. It can authorize, even if only implicitly, men to check out, so to speak. And it can authorize women to treat men as lacking authority or insight or capacity when it comes to their roles as parents. I’ve seen women mistreat their partners, making them feel inadequate and even abused, because of that assumption. It unavoidably contributes to power imbalances between men and women.

    2. There’s the sexism of women needing to be invited to share their insights, and only on very rare occasions, when it’s assumed that men have the right to instruct women constantly. Even about things that men most likely don’t have a whole lot of personal experience with (how to properly enact womanhood, how to fulfill God’s role for you *as a woman*, etc.). I don’t think that needs a whole lot of commentary.

    Anyway. This sounds like a good use of asking members of one sex to share insights with the other. I just wish that it was how these things usually worked, whichever direction the instruction happened (male to female, female to male), rather than being something of an anomaly.

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