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
- 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.