Sleeping Beauty

Sleeping Beauty

Sleeping Beauty

We all know the story…

A beautiful princess is born to the King of the land. He throws a grand ball and invites everyone in the kingdom.

Well, almost everyone.

He decides that the slightly-less-than-lovely Maleficent would be something of a party- pooper, so he omits her from the list.

Unfortunately, she gets wind of the event anyway and shows up to crash the party.

Just as she arrives the third good fairy is about to bestow her miraculous gift. Maleficent butts in and puts a curse on the little princess… before she is 16, she will prick her finger on a spinning wheel and fall into a deep, eternal sleep! “Haahahaahaha,” she cackles and disappears in a puff of smoke.

Well, in response to this evil curse, the King commands that every spinning wheel in the kingdom be destroyed and shields his darling little daughter from the knowledge of what happened.

Sadly, in the upper torrents of his very own castle there is a lone spinning wheel. And on the eve of the princess’ 16th birthday, the evil sorceress, Maleficent, tricks Beauty into finding the wheel. She pricks her finger, falls into the eternal sleep, and the evil witch is victorious! (At least for a time…)

Now, what in the world does this have to do with parenting?

Dealing With The Spinning Wheel

There are those in this world of ours that believe it was Beauty’s ignorance of the curse and the existence of spinning wheels that caused her to prick her thumb. “You have to inform your children about these things, expose them to it, and then they will know how to deal with it,” they will say.

Margie and I actually believe that there is wisdom in this principle – if it is used correctly.

How most parents use the principle is all backwards. They fail to teach their children about evil in word and precept, but drag their children around town, finding every evil spinning wheel they can and shoving their children’s poor little fingers on the needle. They encourage –should I say “force” – their children to not only know about the existence of the dreaded spinning wheel, but they ensure that the child actually experiences the pain the wheel can inflict on them.

“What??,” your cry, “no parents do this. How can you be so radical and so cruel in even suggesting that parents inflict this kind of damage on their children!”

I know, I know… curse me, and ban me from the castle. But ‘tis true.

Movies – Our Modern Spinning Wheel

Let’s take one simple example… movies.

How many parents out there have taken their young children – say their 8, 9, and 10 year old (or younger) children to a nice, fun, family movie, like say, Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean”?

Almost every well-meaning, responsible parent that I know, has done this very thing.

Looking up the movie at www.filmratings.com, we find this rather

interesting information for the three warm, family-friendly, Disney, pirate movies (sarcasm intentional): “Rated PG-13 for action/adventure violence” and “Rated

PG-13 for intense sequences of adventure violence, including frightening images.”

My first thought when I’ve seen young children standing in line at these movies, is that even the liberal, highly insensitive movie rating people recognized that this movie was not suited for young people under the age of 13. But, if they were accompanied by a wise adult, they could be allowed in as an exception.

So, in they went to consume intense violence and frightening images.

“Oh,” says the parent out of one side of their mouth, “there is nothing wrong with that movie. It was good.”

And with the other side of their mouth, they are complaining to their friends that they’re having discipline problems with their children at home and at school, the siblings just won’t stop fighting with each other, the home is in an uproar half the time, and their teenager has suddenly transformed into a monster(“magically overnight”), and their little ones are scared of the dark and having nightmares.

Not Just a Single Prick… It’s Saturation

It wouldn’t be too bad if it was just an occasional movie and the poor little thumbs could heal up in between treatments, but the little tikes come home from the movies and turn the TV on to “enjoy” “funny” shows like the Simpson’s (or whatever the current version of systematic parent abuse and neutering, is running on the TV these days… yes, we are ignorant, sheltered and out of the current programming loop).

The force-feeding of disrespect, violence, and ill manners just keeps on going.

And now, enter the iPod from stage right. With the right hand having been bloodied by the “family-friendly” Pirates and our role model Bart Simpson, our children turn to the soothing sounds of today’s inspiring music to help them finish off the left hand. Of course, as parents we have bought the iPod for our children and provided the iTunes account with our stored credit cards so they can get whatever musical selection they want. In fact, if we are really cool and good parents, we will even load it up for them with the latest hits.

A Word of Apology and Explanation

Now, if you have made it this far into the article without pushing delete and unsubscribing, then I commend you and simultaneously apologize for the sarcasm.

Everyday we receive dozens of emails from parents frustrated with the behavior of their children. Everyday Margie and I get requests to please help parents with this or that challenge they are having. Everyday, we hear cries from all over Canada and the United States about how far children, teens, and college kids have stooped.

And we are stunned that none of them make the connection between today’s social programming and the struggles their children face. (And no, it is not just through the media selections, the Adversary has found lots of ways to get parents to prick their children’s fingers and make us all feel good about it…)

By now, you must think that I believe all parents are idiots, bad, cruel and inept. This is simply not true. What I really think is that most parents simply don’t know. This world that we live in today has sprung up on all of us in an instant, subtly and with great art. Like the frog in the pot of cold water, we have silently sat by as the marketers and masters of

entertainment have stealthily and systematically turned up the heat.

Now, the water is boiling and many, many of our children are being eaten for dinner, served up by their parent’s own ignorance and disillusionment.

The Seeds Are Beginning to Bear Fruit… And We Don’t Like It

My friends, in all of this finger pricking, we are planting seeds. And those seeds must grow and produce fruit. Violent scenes and scary

images are not harmless. They are seeds that can and will – they must – produce fruit after their own kind.

But, there is something more insidious and destructive than the fruit in all of this. You see, in allowing our children’s fingers to be pricked, we are not teaching them to see and recognize evil, and thus shy away from it. Rather, we are distorting the lines between right and wrong inside of their little minds.

Here is a startling truth about human nature – one that parents should learn and ingrain on the palms of their hands and hearts…

Man cannot learn the difference between good and evil by learning evil. What they learn by snuggling up to the dark side is that dark is light and light is dark.

The Immortal, All-Powerful Stamp of Approval

Think of it like this…

As parents, we are the central force and source of knowledge about what is right and what is wrong in our children’s minds. From the time they are first born, these children rely on us for everything… food, shelter, clothing, laughter, love, rules, discipline, and so much more. We are the source of virtually everything they know. We are the ultimate authority in their young lives.

Now, sticking with my movie selection theme, what does the child think, when we cart them into movies like “Pirates of the Caribbean” and show them “intense violence” and “scary images”?

By taking them there, we have just put our immortal and all-powerful parental seal of approval on those actions, those thoughts, those images. Oh, yes, we can say with words, “Don’t hit your brother!”, “Be kind”, and messages of the like, but if our actions impress the seal of approval, we can be sure they will absorb the actions and disregard the words.

And by our actions we are teaching that light is darkness and darkness is light.

I repeat, we cannot teach our children to know right from wrong by feeding them the wrong. It is simply impossible.

A Better Way of Raising Children… Enter Isaiah

Amazingly enough, there is a much, much better way.

The right pattern for parenting was set out in just a few words by the prophet Isaiah thousands of years ago. Speaking of the Savior, he said this:

“Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good” (Isaiah 7:15)

You see, that is the pattern. Stuff your children full of goodness, joy, peace, happiness, love, and purity and they will be able to recognize darkness in an instant.

It is so simple: While they are young, teach them the good, feed them “butter and honey”, the sweet, pure and delightful things of life, and when they are old they will not depart from it.

Parenting and Smoking Cessation

I learned this principle from a smoking cessation program that I came across in my early 20’s. One of the main parts of the program was to have the smoker brush their teeth 3, 4, 5, 6, sometimes 10 times day! Why? What could brushing your teeth have to do with stopping smoking?

Well, as it turns out, sucking burning weeds, leaves a smoky, dirty, gritty, nasty feeling in your mouth. Of course, smokers simply get used to this and the tar and ash never bothers them after that. They become insensitive to the dangers they are dancing
with everyday.

By brushing their teeth, they are cleaning those pollutants out and experiencing what it means to be clean. By brushing their teeth so much, they are learning what the good and the light and the pure feels like.

Once their souls are awakened to this sensation of clean and pure, then, and only then, can they begin to see just how damaging smoking really is to their body. In the light of this truth, they have the desire and power to make the change and shun the evil.

This power comes by learning the good, not by partaking of the bad.
Again, as human beings, we cannot learn to choose good by engaging in the bad.

Feed Your Children Butter and Honey

Butter and honey. That is what children of our day are wanting. They hunger and thirst and long for it. They are built to function best on butter and honey. It is their natural state and the source of their real happiness.

So, why have we been tricked into feeding them moldy bread and rotting meat?

As parents that care – and you are a parent that cares, or you’d never have been able to stomach this article – we can and we

must use our immortal and all powerful seal of approval to stamp the butter and honey of life and leave the finger pricking to others.

Now, one final note: Does that mean that we shelter our children and never teach them about the evils of the world. No, quite the opposite is true.

But there is a powerful difference between teaching them about evil and encouraging them to actually experience evil.

Margie and I have found that the very best way to do this is within the walls of our home.

Being Judgmental The Lord’s Way

First of all, because so many parents are pricking their children’s fingers, there are plenty of case studies to observe in any given neighborhood in the world. It is amazing to me how quickly children learn from the lives and examples of others.

In a spirit of love, we can use the lives of others to teach our children about the end result of poor choices and consuming the bad things of this world. In this regard, I firmly believe God wants us to judge others – at least judge the fruit of their actions, which is totally different than judging them and treating them with disrespect. We must carefully observe others and their actions and their lifestyle, and discern if that is the kind of life we would like to have. If not, we must avoid those choices, while still loving others.

Children get this concept very, very quickly.

So, inside of the privacy of our home, we talk about these lessons with our children. They do not have to experience the bad choices to understand the effects and fruits of those choices.

The Sweet “Honey” Of Family Scripture Study

The other way that we have found to give our children butter and honey without isolating them from a knowledge of the evils in the world is through family scripture study.

The scriptures are nothing more than a record of people’s choices through the ages and the fruits of those choices. The scriptures talk about every topic we are concerned about today: fornication, drug addictions, being disrespectful, murder, violence, homosexuality, etc, etc, etc…

There have been many times, while in the normal course of reading scriptures as a family, that we have come across words like “adultery”. In age appropriate ways, we can pause and talk about what that means and read about the consequences of these choices. In this setting, our children learn the real nature of that lifestyle – not the skewed, glamorized picture that Hollywood portrays. They can also
learn real tolerance and the power of loving and accepting the sinner, without condoning the sin.

The Real Answer to Beauty’s Spinning Wheel Dilemma

The answer to all of Sleeping Beauty’s troubles lay not in destroying the spinning wheel and keeping her in ignorance. Nor did it lie in forcing her to pick her finger so she would know what it felt like.

It lay in feeding her butter and honey, while teaching her about the very real dangers of pricking her finger. With light in her mind, purity in her heart and a sure knowledge of her true identity and the dangers of pricking her finger, as carefully taught by her parents, she would have likely avoided the spinning wheel needle, even if she had been surrounded by a thousand of them.

It is certain that Maleficent never could have tricked her into sticking her finger on that wheel. Sleeping Beauty would have known better.

Butter and honey. Feed your children butter and honey and they will know exactly how to choose the good and shun the evils of this world.

Parenting Without TV

Parenting Without TV

Parenting Without TV

I grew up in a home of avid… no, ferocious… television and movie watchers. In fact, until I got married, I thought “family time” was mostly composed of sitting down to a movie, MASH, Star Trek, or anything else that could be watched on TV. 

It is likely that this trend would have continued into my adult life had I not married Margie…

In this respect, Margie was my polar opposite… she grew up without a TV. In the early days of our marriage I wondered why it was such a shock to her system when I constantly suggested that we spent “quality” time together watching something on TV or going to the movie.

It took her over 7 years to totally disconnect me. Regular TV programming went first and it went fairly early on. But plopping down in front of a movie on a regular basis, that was a bit harder to drag me away from.

Now, let’s bring children into the discussion. You should know that we are the parents of eight children. As my children started growing up, I noticed that they too were beginning to believe “quality” family time was sedately sitting in front of the TV.

I noticed something else as well: I noticed the impact of long-term, current programming on the minds, attitudes, behaviors and work ethic of other children who were several years ahead of ours. (Currently our oldest is 10yrs). In that observation, I saw a direct and powerful correlation between the parents who were constantly bemoaning behavior challenges with their children and the sheer volume of TV that their children digested.

Parents would say, “My child simply does not listen to me!” And then I would see the child absorbing “The Simpsons”. Hummm… Interesting. I could go on, relating challenges with smoking, drug use, violent behavior, disrespect for authority, etc… and connect them to hundred of different TV and Hollywood programs that portray, perpetuate and popularize these themes.

It seemed to make sense – just like eating a steady stream of junk food will eventually take its toll on your physical body, consuming large quantities of corrupt information will inevitably reflect itself in your behavior.

Somewhere around the year 1000 BC, Solomon penned these words: “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7). In 1902, James Allen took that phrase and wrote a book called, “As a Man Thinketh”, which detailed the vivid connection between the thoughts playing in our mind and the realities in the world around us.

Consider this quote from Mr. Allen in the opening chapter of his book, “A noble and Godlike character is not a thing of favor or chance, but is the natural result of continued effort in right thinking, the effect of long- cherished association with Godlike thoughts. An ignoble and bestial character, by the same process, is the result of the continued harboring of groveling thoughts.”

Consider that in connection with the powerful principle of influence and persuasion that Dr. Robert Cialdini brings up in his book, “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion”. In that book, he identifies the persuasion tactic of “Social Proof”, that causes our minds to accept and then follow the behavior patterns of the sociality around us. He cites several examples. First, the brutal murder of Kitty Genovese in 1964 that occurred in broad daylight with dozens of witnesses looking on. How could she have been killed with so many people watching? It was a mystery to the nation.

Cialdini concluded that the murder occurred precisely because there were so many people. More than the murder, they each were observing that no one was taking action, and so, following the social cues from their fellow humans, they each resolved to not take action. Social proof gave their atrocious behavior license and validity.

His second example is a rehearsal of his attempts to teach his son how to swim. His efforts were met with stern resistance from a young boy who was apparently terrified of water. The resolution to the impasse came when his son went to summer camp and saw his best friends jumping in the water and having a great time. The power of the social proof that swimming was acceptable radically changed his behavior and gave him permission to accept swimming as a safe and enjoyable sport.

But Social Proof is not the only principle of influence at work in the debate of allowing our children to consume large doses of TV. The other factor is one of Authority.

Here again, Cialdiini draws on a significant study done in the mid 60’s. Two volunteers were invited into a medical facility. One was actually not a “volunteer” at all, but a plant as part of the experiment. A “doctor” conducts the experiment that runs like this: One volunteer is strapped into a chair with electrodes connected to them. The other volunteer (the real one) is placed outside the room and given control of a machine that can deliver metered electric shocks to the other volunteer. The volunteer strapped into the chair is asked a series of questions. Each wrong question is rewarded with a shock that increase in voltage each time. Thus the experiment becomes increasingly painful as time goes on. In reality no one was getting shocked – the fake volunteer was simply acting out the part. The point of the experiment? It was to determine how much pain and suffering one person would inflict on another under the direction of a recognized “authority” – in this case the doctor who sat at the arm of the real volunteer demanding that he continue giving jolts to the other volunteer, even if they were screaming out in pain.

The results were stunning – over 90% of the real volunteers continue to inflict pain on the others simply because the “authority” demanded it.

How does this relate to the debate? In our homes, many of us would never permit our children to use foul and abusive language, perform acts of violence on friends and siblings, consume drugs and alcohol, or indulge themselves in immoral behavior. We tell our children that these things are wrong and will lead to painful results. Yet, in the same breath we turn the TV on or rent a DVD that portrays this exact type of behavior and often times from people that are their peers. In effect, we are communicating to them that while we verbally disapprove of this behavior, in deed and action we exercise our authority as parents and actually encourage our children to participate. This is especially true of young children who still look to their parents as the primary authoritative figure in their lives. If such actions are truly wrong, they should be wrong all the time, in all circumstances.

Let me conclude with this personal example.

Almost 5 years ago, my wife and I made a made a bold move and turned off the TV – we unplugged everything for the entire summer. At first there were some grumbling. But in the end, it turned out to be the very best summer we ever had. It forced us to come closer together as a family, become more creative in our activity efforts, more cordial in our interactions, and more loving in our words and actions… because no one wanted to be miserable all summer.

For the most part, the TV has been off ever since. When a VERY good movie comes along, one that emphasizes the values and principles we love and strive to live in our home, we will sit down and view it together. Otherwise we enjoy time in the yard, board games, ping pong, horseshoes, family outings, etc…

Everyday we see more and more the beautiful fruits of the decision to turn the TV off. More than that, as they have grown, we see the stark contrast between them and their peers. Their minds are not filled with inappropriate images and confusing thoughts. They are able to reason better, think clearer, and learn more quickly. Their friendships run deeper and their love of family, authority, and educators is incredible. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, they have reverence for sacred things with a vein of spirituality running through them that is undimmed by the ghastly images and behaviors portrayed in on TV.

In the end analysis, at least for our family, the effort to sift and sort through the good that is in the media did not deliver a positive return on investment. Our answer was to unplug from the TV and plug into the lives of our children. Borrowing from the poet Robert Frost, we have taken the road less traveled, and it has made all the difference.

The River

The River

The bike trail gently hugs the small river as it winds through Utah Valley.

The river is not large, but, like most rivers, it is constantly changing. Perhaps that is why we love rivers so much. Perhaps that is the draw that pulls humans from every walk of life, all over the world, to rivers.

Consistently flowing, yet always changing.

Stable, sure, steady, but always moving.

The family had spent the better part of the afternoon riding down that long winding bike trail. I have a toddler seat secured to the back of my bike and our son Joshua, has a small child trailer built for two, chasing behind his bike. At 10 years old, he is strong as an ox and has no problem pulling two little children.

About halfway back, we had stopped for an hour or so to let the children try their hand at fishing. Fish can smell me a mile away… and they can hear our rambunctious clan from two miles away.

Needless to say, we didn’t get so much as a nibble.

But we did enjoy a lazy 90 minutes, relaxing on the banks of the river, watching it roll on its way toward the lake. We did talk, relax, and feel the incredible, sweet spirit that comes with a peaceful, loving, happy family.

There is no other feeling like that in the world. It is the Home Feeling and it equates to sheer joy and elation – the kind that is indescribable and heavenly in all respects.

But it was on the way home that the real magic moment happened.

Margie and all but Esther and Joshua had raced ahead to ensure that some of the younger ones’ bladders held out just a little bit longer than the trail.

As we comfortably peddled along, Esther said to me, “Dad, the other day when I was at my friend’s house, the dad said something that didn’t sound quite right to me.”

“Oh, really,” I said. Knowing what friend she was talking about, I was surprised to hear that she had disagreed with their dad. He was typically spot-on as a parent. “What did he say?”

“Well,” she slowly replied, “he read a few things out of a children’s bible and the conclusion that he came to – I mean what he said to his children – was that the whole purpose of life is to be happy all the time. Dad, that just didn’t sound right to me. I mean, it’s like we’re just supposed to run around doing everything we can to entertain ourselves.”

The incredible depth and force of what my dear 11 year old daughter was was saying hit me like a thunderbolt. In an instant, there under the canopy of old trees and along the banks of that ancient river, I found it difficult to suppress the tears that were springing up in my eyes.

She was right… he had gotten it all wrong.

Fighting to keep my voice even, I said, “Humm, sounds interesting. Why do think he was wrong sweetheart?”

“Well, Dad, you know, there is so much more to life than just running around being happy. I don’t know, it just doesn’t seem right to me.”

“Esther, tell me this, what was the word the scriptures used? Was it happy or was it ‘joy’?”

“I’m pretty sure it was joy.”

“So, that is the first thing he got wrong. He is flipping out those two words like they are the same thing. Joy and happiness are not the same thing. Now, can you tell me the difference?”

“I think joy is more like the real thing – more like real happiness and not fake stuff like those people that smile while they are smoking and drinking.”

“That’s right. Let me give you a simpler answer.”

And now, I was really fighting to keep myself in check. I could see that my two oldest children were intensely riveted to my every word. Whatever I said in the next 2 minutes would stick with them for the rest of their lives. Not just as a memory, but an imprint on their soul, another building block to the very core of their character and perspective on life.

It is times like this that you don’t want to get it wrong as a parent. Two short minutes like this can have a dramatic and powerful impact on the life and mind and future of your children. I sensed the power of it and it shook me deeply.

The influence we have as parents is unimaginable. How often do we gloss over it and look for power and authority and influence outside of our homes? Like Ali Hafed’s fabled “Acres of Diamonds”, we miss the best, most valuable parts of life when we wander from our own fields of diamonds.

Taking a deep breath, I continued.

“Do you remember when the Savior gave us the Beatitudes? What was one of the last things he told the people that day? Remember, at the end of Matthew 5? He said, ‘Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect.’”

They both thoughtfully nodded… they remembered because, just a few days before, they had both done reports on the Beatitudes. “So, here is my simple definition for what true joy is – the true purpose of life for us – joy is the deep and incredible feelings we have inside of us when we are on the road to becoming perfect like our Heavenly Father, and we know we are on that road. That is joy. It is a sacred gift to all those that carefully pursue the path Jesus laid out for us. That is joy.”

I fell silent for a minute, letting that soak in.

“So, Esther, you are right. This life is not about running around to make ourselves happy. It is about facing the tough days, but doing it with patience and meekness, like the Savior taught.

It is being hurt by others and turning the other cheek so you can give love in return for hate. It is facing death, with all of its sorrow and terror, unflinchingly because Christ overcame death. It is dealing with the daily grind, the ins and outs, the ups and down, without losing faith, and tightly clinging to hope.

It is answering fears and doubts and anxiety and troubles, with faith and courage undaunted because you have the Gospel of Christ in your hearts. Yes, you are right, that road is not always happy and bright and bubbly, but when you walk it with Christ, you always enjoy the incredible power of true joy because you know – you know – you are on the right path.

And nothing can remove or replace or describe that feeling. That is joy. And that is why we are here on this earth. That is why we exist.”

Silence over took us again. The river silenced her laughter. The wind hushed her rustling of the leaves in the mighty trees overhead. Even the rub of the bike wheels on the asphalt path seemed to be absorbed in the magic of the moment. The world stood still to soak in the moment of two of God’s children discovering who they are and why they are here.

Finally, without pretense or fanfare, Esther simply said, “Dad, don’t you just love quietly riding along the river like this and talking?”

I didn’t answer. I couldn’t. My message had hit its mark and they felt it deep down inside.

Joshua answered for me, “Yeah, Dad, it’s awesome. I guess this is what joy is.”

My voice unable to escape my constricted
breast, I simply thought in my mind, “Yes, son, yes it is.”

And we continued our bike ride, following the path as it gently hugged the river.