Respecting Agency in Parenting

Respecting Agency in Parenting February 1, 2015

I love the following from Chieko N. Okazaki.  What wise wisdom from one of our endeared leaders:

Perhaps because I was a teacher, I knew that children had their own individuality. Whenever I saw a parent trying too hard to make one child fit the family mold, I flinched a little. I knew there would be trouble.

As the gospel plan makes so beautifully plain, our agency is eternal. It seems to have existed even before we took the form of spirit children. Apparently our Heavenly Father, by nature, will not violate our agency. Why, then, should we be surprised to find that our own children have wills? Each spirit is unique. It follows, then, that trying to make people think, feel, or even behave in the same way – except for those ways which are necessary for an orderly society – is an attempt to counter the way the universe works. How could anyone expect to succeed?

As Ed and I raised our sons, we tried to find ways to let them explore and express their individuality. When Ken decided he wanted to play the accordion, we saw that he had lessons. We hoped Bob would want to play the piano and even bought one – but no, it was the accordion for him, too. When Ken expressed an interest in art, we took in summer sessions at the Art Barn. When the boys decided they wanted to ski, Ed faithfully drove them to the slopes every Saturday. (It wasn’t long until they lured first him, then me too, into skiing.)

A tougher challenge came in Japan when the boys, then teenagers, decided they wanted to wear their hair long. We had always prized their independence of mind and allowed them to make as many of their own decisions as possible, but this one was hard. The Saints in Japan had strict ideas about how a mission president’s sons should look, and we were concerned about the association of the long hair with drugs – which we knew were available at the boys’ school. We talked it over with them, with each other, and with the Lord. And finally it seemed clear to us: it was far more important to us that they pay their tithing, attend their meetings, and administer the sacrament worthily that it was for their hair to be a certain length. We were not going to fight over something that was, in the last analysis, not very important. So they went to school with long hair and accompanied us home from the mission field with long hair. When members commented about their hair, Ed had a kind way of saying, “They have their agency,” that ended the discussion. (Lighten Up!, page 87-88)

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