Saturday, February 19, 2011

self control and mormonism

I heard this article on npr the other day. It brought up some great points about allowing children to be responsible for themselves, delayed gratification, etc.

Like many mormons/former mormons, I grew up in an environment that was not terribly permissive. I was raised to be independent, but there was quite a bit of self-denial. It's that line between being cheap and being frugal - some of it was necessary for survival. I think it's safe to say that in many mormon families, there wasn't a lot of choice or accountability. One didn't get to "choose" to go to church, stake dances or seminary. Choice and accountability are important. If you don't choose to clean up your room, you miss out on a fun activity, etc. It's hard to explain, a person needs to be able to actually choose to do or not do something, not some sort of half-hearted attempt at "you *chose* to get baptized" (yeah right!).

For the baby boomer/conservative mormon parents, often something needed to be done simply because the parent said so and it was the right thing to do. period. And this method has its place as well, in moderation.

What the strict authoritarian family structure leads to people who don't have a great deal of internal knowledge or working boundaries. It's hard to internally figure out what *you* want, what *you* are feeling, to know your limits, if you're never allowed to explore them.

Some people leave the LDS church and really push the boundaries with self-destructive behaviors. It's a stereotype. Of course, I found many non mormon freshman who had the exact same response to leaving home. As soon as they were no longer under mom or dad's thumb, they threw caution to the wind. It happens. I'm not suggesting that experimenting isn't a part of life - and an important one. Not everyone reacts the same way - I have found over the years one can not make any generalizations about former mormons (and some current mormons).

The point of all this rambling is, raising children mormon does not necessarily do them a service in developing these internal compasses. Mormonism is intensely external. If nothing else, there is this belief that if you feel differently, if you receive a different answer, you're wrong, it's your problem (you're not righteous, whatever that means) or ask again. (I'm referring directly to the book of mormon, book of abraham, but even thorny questions about Joseph Smith's polygamy).

I can't say as a parent that I will be any better at this. From what I've figured out so far, limits and boundaries in parenthood has been critical. Routine has been important.

But I'm trying to also respect my kids for who they are, and allow them some age appropriate freedoms. I think moderation is the key. Moderation with important boundaries, health, safety, violence towards themselves or others.

I think kids are also watching parents (and other adults) to figure out how to respond to life. How to resolve conflicts. How and when to do stuff you don't want to do. How to handle grief and loss. How to have fun and let go. How to find that life between extreme self-denial and healthy, responsible self- control. And it should go without saying that the self-control is very different for each person/family.

1 comment:

Freckle Face Girl said...

I definitely grew up in a house that was extremely rule oriented thanks to my dad. He was definitely a letter of the law type of person and quite rigid about religion. It is a way of life that I want to avoid for myself and my kids. I doubt anyone can be happy like that. Sadly, I think he and many others like him completely miss the point of religion.

My mother, on-the-other-hand, is a spirit of the law person, so I’ve seen both sides. I believe that religions are meant to inspire one to become a better person from the inside out. Some of the nuances of all religions end up being more of a distraction, but that isn’t what it is really about.

As you pointed out, the guidelines are most likely meant to help one develop self control. The more you master them and yourself, the more of them you might want to incorporate. Instead, some people seem to use guidelines/rules for a holier-than-thou type of self esteem, which is obviously not inspiring. Somewhere in there it should be about finding balance.