How Much Do We Let Them “Govern Themselves?”

MCQ - December 4, 2008

A question has arisen in my mind as I have been discussing (to put it charitably) Church attendance with my 12 year old daughter.  She is awesome in many many ways and I love her with all my heart but she is possibly the least motivated member kid I have met when it comes to Church attendance.  She just doesn’t want to go. 

After letting her choose her own path for a time (read: she slept in while we went to Church), we discussed this issue in mind-numbing detail with her and we have arrived at the solution that, for now, she is required to attend Church with us as part of her responsibilities as a member of our family (thus making Church attendance the rough equivalent of making her bed). 

This is obviously not a long-term solution, but it is our hope that in attending by fiat, she will eventually gain a testimony and have a desire to attend without being forced to do so.  Are we doing the right thing?  How much freedom do you give children when it comes to things like this?

Please note: My daughter doesn’t read this blog (natch — it isn’t about Twilight).

63 Comments »

  1. I think you are wise because your daughter is still only 12 years old. If she were 16, then I might hesitate in enforcing the rule. Twelve is still pretty young and almost too young to be making a theological decision.

    Maybe find out WHY she doesn’t want to go to Church? Is it social? Is she tired (wanting a day off)? Is there a person or persons making her uncomfortable? Does she hate expectations (singing, participating in class)? Even though teenagers may say “it’s nothing” I know from MY personal experience that I didn’t tell my parents half the story most of the time.

    I want to read Susan’s answer, though, because I know she handles this really well…

    Comment by cheryl — December 4, 2008 @ 6:44 pm

  2. I second 1. She’s a minor. Minors aren’t competent to make decisions this big.

    On the more proactive side though…I’ve been thinking a lot about this in relation to some of my own friends and relations, and one thing I’ve noticed is that the “lack of motivation” you describe is also accompanied by a lack of courage to enjoy the gifts God has given us, most particularly the words of the prophets. The scriptures are full of the most noble, sublime ideas, loves, sacrifices, and language available anywhere. I find that my loved ones who have cooled to the church have to close their eyes to this beauty, because it just can’t exist in the same space with their apathy. Kids your daughter’s age are just barely becoming old enough to appreciate the beauty in the scriptures–if I were you, I would be trying to find ways to turn my daughter on to the art, literature, and idealism of the scriptures. The same things she loves about Twilight are there in spades. Plenty of people just don’t choose to have the courage or greatness of spirit (for lots of reasons…) to be open to love and beauty. I’m betting your daughter will though, because she’s already begun falling in love with ideas and ideals.

    Start small; share short passages with her that have affected you deeply. She’s got to see people opening their hearts about this stuff or it’s just a bunch of stuffy old men telling people what to do.

    Comment by Owen — December 4, 2008 @ 7:11 pm

  3. She’s got to see people opening their hearts about this stuff or it’s just a bunch of stuffy old men telling people what to do.

    Amen brother.

    Comment by MCQ — December 4, 2008 @ 8:46 pm

  4. If doing dishes and practicing piano and doing homework were entirely voluntary for kids not much would get done. The same applies to school attendance. The same applies to church attendance.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 4, 2008 @ 9:35 pm

  5. I agree – she is a minor and the parents’ word is law.

    However, I would expect it is quite possible the moment she turns 18 she may go inactive for a while, or completely.

    Like Palpatine, you don’t want to tighten your grip so much that star systems slip through your fingers.

    Comment by Phouchg — December 4, 2008 @ 9:50 pm

  6. Mosiah 4: 14-15
    14 And ye will not suffer your children that they go hungry, or naked; neither will ye suffer that they transgress the laws of God, and fight and quarrel one with another, and serve the devil, who is the master of sin, or who is the devil spirit which hath been spoken of by our fathers, he being an enemy to all righteousness.
    15 But ye will teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness; ye will teach them to love one another, and to serve one another.

    If a person has been baptized then they are under obligation to partake of the Sacrament, to renew their covenants with the Lord and God. This is a commandment, thus, if a parent is under obligation to see that their children not transgress the laws of God, then it seems they need to attend Sacrament -at least.

    In our house, which was not perfect, everyone had to attend the entire block. From an early age we tried to help each kid develop *their own* testimony (what things they really understood as truth and principle) and to find ways to work through whatever was discouraging them from attending.

    If our kids wanted to attend a different religion they were allowed as long as they went to the ‘block’ also. We talked openly about why they were not thrilled to attend and tried to find a way to help them through it. We would discuss all religions openly and again tied to help them see why -even when it’s boring as heck- the *fullness* of the Gospel was already had.

    Comment by s'mee — December 4, 2008 @ 10:21 pm

  7. p.s. our of the 5 kids we did have one become inactive when he left home(did not attend another religion, just didn’t go to ours) for about 18 months. After exploring his life and what made the differences in his happiness he came to the conclusion himself, that his happiness was highest when he was living the Gospel in full activity.

    All 5 grown, on their own, active and happy so far.

    Just FYI. : )

    Comment by s'mee — December 4, 2008 @ 10:24 pm

  8. I’ve got a 12-year old daughter, too, and she makes no bones about how boring sacrament meeting is (sometimes I’m with her, though I keep on my poker face). I usually let her take a pad and pen to amuse herself with drawing in the hopes there’ll come the occasional moment when a pearl of wisdom sinks in, when a voice “speaks to her.” Thank goodness for the social fly paper of SS and YW. I thought her spiritual education was going nowhere, until we left our last ward and she bore this amazing testimony– suddenly her spirit shone, and when it was all over, she went back to being Madame Blase’.

    But I’m wondering the same things Cheryl is: Is the social climate there not doing it for your daughter? Are her teachers disasters?

    Getting to your question, MCQ, I’m throwing my vote in with the others. This is too important a part of her life and too vulnerable an age to employ an experiment in self-government. Cheryl’s right, 16 is an age to start asking the question, even 17. I think that how you’re dealing with it now is right on the money.

    Comment by David T. — December 4, 2008 @ 10:28 pm

  9. I have a friend whose 15 year old daughter started rebelling against going to church. The compromise was she would go twice a month. Pretty soon all the younger children were choosing to stay home too.
    The new rule was that when you can’t choose to stay home twice a month until 15.

    Comment by jks — December 4, 2008 @ 10:58 pm

  10. Maybe your friend should start only requiring 50% high school attendance at age 15 as well (you know, to be consistent with the philosophy about allowing the child freedom to choose and all)

    Comment by Geoff J — December 4, 2008 @ 11:41 pm

  11. Maybe find out WHY she doesn’t want to go to Church? Is it social?

    Very likely. She’s the only beehive that is still in 6th grade.

    Is she tired (wanting a day off)?

    No question about it. She hates getting up in the morning and Church starts at 9 am.

    Is there a person or persons making her uncomfortable?

    Not that we know of, she just doesn’t think she fits in with the other girls in YW.

    Does she hate expectations (singing, participating in class)?

    Very much. She rolls her eyes every time she’s asked to do anything.

    Comment by MCQ — December 5, 2008 @ 1:31 am

  12. When we read that Joseph Smith quote, somehow we make “govern themselves” sound equivalent to “do what they want.” “Govern” is much stronger concept than that, though—something akin to “control” or “bridle.” So, you have taught your daughter the correct principle of church attendance; now she has to govern herself by it. Should she fall short in that, then you’re there to back up her insufficient self-governance.

    Comment by John Mansfield — December 5, 2008 @ 6:15 am

  13. You can’t put going to school, doing the dishes, or making your bed on equal footing with going to church.

    Going to church, testimony, belief, faith, and the gospel are much too personal. They aren’t chores, they are who you are.

    When one of our daughters was approaching the age of eight, she said she didn’t want to be baptized. My wife was getting a little concerned the closer it came to her birthday. I brushed it off. We decided to let her make the decision when she felt ready. My wife went on faith and agreed to support my point of view. We had a friendly chat with our daughter and told her we wouldn’t pressure her into doing something that important until she was ready.

    Her attitude improved around the house. She wasn’t so anxious about going to church anymore. About three weeks before her birthday we finally learned the reason why she didn’t want to get baptized. She was afraid of failing the bishops interview. I spoke to the bishop about it and over the next couple of weeks he had some informal conversations with our daughter in the hallway at church and got to know her on a more personal level. The week before her birthday, our daughter announced she was ready and we set up the interview. It all worked out fine.

    My other daughter (age 12 at the time) hated going to church and young womens. We asked that she come with us to sacrament meeting, but sometimes either my wife or I would stay home with her. I also asked that she at least try to go to young womens, and that if she got there and hated it, she could always call me and I would come pick her up.

    She didn’t go all the time (young womens). When she did, I got frequent phone calls to come home at the start, but as time went on, she ended up staying more and more. It seemed the more she liked going to young womens, the more she wanted to attend church. I think she just needed to make some friends and feel included. It sorted itself out. Now we don’t have any problems with attendance.

    MCQ, I’d advise you to pick your battles. Let her stay at home. Stay at home with her. Tell her that you have problems sitting through boring sacrament meetings as well. Show her that her feelings count and are the most important thing in the world to you. When you’re at home, work on building your friendship. Make it your special time with her. Alternate with your spouse. Maybe have the whole family stay home once and a while. Then, maybe after a few Sundays, try to find out what the real reason is. Over time it will work itself out.

    Skipping a few sundays now, and showing her that she is important to you is a much better alternative than potential years or a lifetime of inactivity later on.

    No success can compensate for failure in the home, or so I’m told!

    Comment by JM — December 5, 2008 @ 6:54 am

  14. One big thing this conversation brings up is the imperative for all us adults to (1) make church meetings meaningful and (2) be fully enjoying all of the blessings of the gospel–plenty of kids have every reason not to continue the tradition of church attendance because they never get to see what the gospel has to offer. Speaking from personal experience, having parents that aren’t doing something (for example attending the temple), and doing it in a meaningful way, makes it much, much more difficult for a child to ever understand why that thing is important.

    Comment by Owen — December 5, 2008 @ 7:53 am

  15. She’s the only beehive that is still in 6th grade.

    OK, well, THAT makes sense. Miss D was in the same boat before the summer. I think you might find her outlook will change– at least marginally– when she starts attending jr. high.

    Comment by David T. — December 5, 2008 @ 7:54 am

  16. MCQ-
    Maybe acknowledge all of those things; perhaps there’s a way she and you (and your wife) can help her sort through them.
    What are the YW leaders like? Is it possible that they could speak with the Beehives themselves and encourage them to be better friends with your daughter? I know nobody wants to be a “charity case”, but if those leaders are truly fulfilling their calling, then they will have already addressed your daughter’s concerns. All it takes is ONE person (or one leader) to make Church totally worth it (to a teen).

    Comment by cheryl — December 5, 2008 @ 8:02 am

  17. Agency alone is no virtue. It must be accompanied with a knowledge/understanding of what you are choosing. A 12-year old doesn’t know what she’s giving up if she doesn’t have the opportunity to develop a testimony. Any age-based system seems arbitrary and silly to me. How about giving them “freedom to choose” once they know what they are choosing? And if they don’t have that knowledge by the time they’re 17, keep at it until they do.

    Comment by Rusty — December 5, 2008 @ 8:14 am

  18. My oldest son often wants to stay home from church. He’s too tired, it’s too boring, whatever. He’s 18 but it’s been this way since at least age 14. He probably stays home about one Sunday a month.

    I allow it and then use it as leverage to get him to do something else. Go to seminary the next week, the next YM’s activity, whatever seems right at the time.

    It’ll be a lot easier next year when we switch to the 11:00 block. Harder for me (church at lunch time? who comes up with this stuff?), but easier to get him up and moving.

    But at 12 years old I’d make her go. Let her skip YWs if she wants and sit in the car. I’d probably skip RS if I thought I could get away with it.

    Comment by Susan M — December 5, 2008 @ 8:36 am

  19. You can’t put going to school, doing the dishes, or making your bed on equal footing with going to church.

    Of course you can. This is a child we are talking about.

    I don’t disagree that when that child nears adulthood different approaches are warranted.

    Going to church, testimony, belief, faith, and the gospel are much too personal. They aren’t chores, they are who you are.

    Not for most children it isn’t. Expecting a child to be totally self motivated to attend to any obligation (school, chores, church, etc) is just silly.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 5, 2008 @ 8:49 am

  20. Just for clarity, you have the quote wrong. Joseph Smith is reported to have said, “I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves.” No ‘let.’ The implication is that people will govern themselves regardless. And it was in reference to governing many people rather than teaching individuals, let alone children.

    Comment by Norbert — December 5, 2008 @ 8:50 am

  21. Well Geoff J,

    Thanks for the response. I didn’t fully realize how wrong and silly my ways were until you pointed them out!

    Best of luck raising your kids.

    Comment by JM — December 5, 2008 @ 9:09 am

  22. You are welcome JM.

    (BTW — Are you the same JM who posted this gnarly comment over at my site?)

    Comment by Geoff J — December 5, 2008 @ 9:20 am

  23. I do not think there is or can be any hard and fast rule about how to handle the situation.

    My own experience in raising our four children is that each child is different; an approach that helped the first did not help the second. An approach that worked when the child was 8 did not work when he/she was 9.

    I am not sure whether President Joseph F. Smith was addressing raising 14 year olds or 12 year olds when he said this, but I think could apply to children as young as 12 (or even younger):

    “Our children are like we are; we couldn’t be driven; we can’t be driven now. We are like some other animals that we know of in the world. You can coax them; you can lead them, by holding out inducements to them, and by speaking kindly to them, but you can’t drive them; they won’t be driven. We won’t be driven. Men are not in the habit of being driven; they are not made that way. …

    “You can’t force your boys, nor your girls into heaven. You may force them to hell, by using harsh means in the efforts to make them good, when you yourselves are not as good as you should be. The man that will be angry at his boy, and try to correct him while he is in anger, is in the greatest fault; he is more to be pitied and more to be condemned than the child who has done wrong. You can only correct your children by love, in kindness, by love unfeigned, by persuasion, and reason. 10

    “Fathers, if you wish your children to be taught in the principles of the gospel, if you wish them to love the truth and understand it, if you wish them to be obedient to and united with you, love them! and prove to them that you do love them by your every word or act to them. For your own sake, for the love that should exist between you and your boys—however wayward they might be, or one or the other might be, when you speak or talk to them, do it not in anger, do it not harshly, in a condemning spirit. Speak to them kindly; get them down and weep with them if necessary and get them to shed tears with you if possible. Soften their hearts; get them to feel tenderly toward you. Use no lash and no violence, but … approach them with reason, with persuasion and love unfeigned. 11″

    http://www.lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=88021b08f338c010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD&locale=0&sourceId=fd15f48fa2d20110VgnVCM100000176f620a____&hideNav=1

    Comment by DavidH — December 5, 2008 @ 10:47 am

  24. Geoff G,

    That was quite the post!!

    But alas, I cannot claim authorship.

    Cheers!

    Comment by JM — December 5, 2008 @ 11:27 am

  25. Those remarks by President Smith are good. Implementation is the key though. What works perfectly for some might be seen as “silly” to others.

    Comment by JM — December 5, 2008 @ 11:32 am

  26. I drew the line at 17 I felt by then they would have some basis for their decision. My oldest got to decide and quit going so I don’t know what works but he is not angry about it at least. All 3 of my boys have fought going almost every week. It is social/boring and it is because the church is structured right out of the 40s and 50s. Uncomfortable clothes with someone in authority (very formal) lecturing. This worked better when we were trained in school to sit and learn that way. Schools no longer work that way and niether do our kids.

    Comment by Jerry — December 5, 2008 @ 12:07 pm

  27. Any age-based system seems arbitrary and silly to me. How about giving them “freedom to choose” once they know what they are choosing?

    Expecting a child to be totally self motivated to attend to any obligation (school, chores, church, etc) is just silly.

    I have so little faith in human nature that I think it’s silly to expect kids to enter a life-long obligation at age eight.

    Comment by Peter LLC — December 5, 2008 @ 1:15 pm

  28. It is social/boring and it is because the church is structured right out of the 40s and 50s.

    Umm, the three-hour block looks nothing like church in the 40s and 50s. But back then members probably felt like it was straight out of the 1890s, so I guess some things never change.

    Comment by Peter LLC — December 5, 2008 @ 1:18 pm

  29. Schools no longer work that way and niether do our kids.

    Because, wow! We sure need to make sure our children are with the current times and trends…

    Comment by cheryl — December 5, 2008 @ 6:04 pm

  30. Aren’t kids supposed to be able to decide if they join the church or not when they turn 8?

    Comment by Kullervo — December 5, 2008 @ 6:21 pm

  31. Yes, Kullervo, and we talked to my daughter about the commitment she was making, but it’s funny — those darn kids seem to change a bit between age 8 and 12, and then they continue to change after that.

    Comment by MCQ — December 5, 2008 @ 6:36 pm

  32. So true, MCQ (#31). And with every change they bring new biblically-proportioned horrors and joys.

    Comment by David T. — December 6, 2008 @ 9:45 am

  33. Can I recommend also this talk by John Bytheway:

    http://www.byub.org/findatalk/details.asp?ID=501

    It is geared towards a younger audience and contains some of the most profound and practical insights about the doctrine of Sunday worship that I have ever heard.

    Comment by Bryan H. — December 6, 2008 @ 8:36 pm

  34. Good comments everyone, thanks for your help.

    I changed the title for brother Norbert. And yeah, I get that the quote isn’t really applicable to this situation, but I thought it would make a good title anyway.

    John M:

    Should she fall short in that, then you’re there to back up her insufficient self-governance.

    Yes, we are, but the question is how (and how much) to do that. Obviously, giving her freedom didn’t work, so that’s not really an option anymore. Is there some way other than just putting church on her list of chores to complete? For now, she’s mostly going because we are insisting on it but if there comes a time when she flatly refuses I don’t envision dragging her there in leg irons.

    Cheryl:

    What are the YW leaders like? Is it possible that they could speak with the Beehives themselves and encourage them to be better friends with your daughter?

    They are new, but seem to be pretty good leaders so far (except, of course, my daughter thinks they’re boring) and we have done what you suggest, which seems to be having some limited positive effect.

    David:

    OK, well, THAT makes sense. Miss D was in the same boat before the summer. I think you might find her outlook will change– at least marginally– when she starts attending jr. high.

    I hope so, but in the meantime she’s got most of 6th grade and a whole summer before then, so we’re going to keep working on her in the short term.

    Rusty:

    And if they don’t have that knowledge by the time they’re 17, keep at it until they do.

    I think I agree with that, but keep at it how exactly? If you keep insisting they go just out of duty eventually they are going to stop going when they finally get the freedom to do so.

    David, I absolutely love that quote.

    Bryan, that is a great talk, but I think it applies best to kids that are already attending and need help getting more out of the meetings. It doesn’t appear to me to be geared to a 12 yr old who really would much rather stay in bed. She’s not staying up late on Saturday night, she just likes to sleep a lot.

    I keep going back to Owen’s comments at #2 and #14. I like what you say Owen. I think you’re right that her apathy exists because she has not been inspired or found any meaning in the Church yet. Maybe we can change that by showing her what inspires us.

    Comment by MCQ — December 7, 2008 @ 12:20 am

  35. Oh and Susan, I don’t know if I should tell you this or not, but my wife skips RS a lot. She says she can’t handle all the crying (what am I going to say to that?). With my daughter, if it was just YW, I wouldn’t worry too much about it, but she hates all the meetings equally.

    We switch to 11:00 next year too. Maybe that will help.

    Comment by MCQ — December 7, 2008 @ 12:29 am

  36. Had I not heard the daughter was only 12, I’d say something like this:

    (but first, I’d like to give a disclaimer: I’m not trying to say how parents should raise kids…that is not my place and I don’t pretend it to be.)

    But what I would say is…if I were a parent who wanted my child to look favorably on the church, I would not want to be the one person who spoils the church for them by forcing them to go to something they do not want to go. Yes, I understand what is said about choosing who your house will follow…and yes, I understand what is said about teaching children correct principles so they will not depart from them…but in a battle of wills…people just give up. They become unwilling to compromise. I’m sure you’ve seen it in many discussions and it happens in people’s *actions* too.

    Even though the church would support your reasoning near the conclusion of your post, I must admit that I cringed when I read:

    This is obviously not a long-term solution, but it is our hope that in attending by fiat, she will eventually gain a testimony and have a desire to attend without being forced to do so.

    The church would support that reasoning, but in my experience, I’ve seen it — especially for the age of rebellious teenagers — work out the opposite.

    BUT, THAT BEING SAID, let’s throw all of my comment out. Your daughter is *12*. Spare the church meetings and spoil the child.

    Comment by Andrew S — December 7, 2008 @ 10:06 pm

  37. When I was an LDS missionary, one of our investigators was a twelve-year-old boy. I asked his mother if she and her husband would be willing to listen to our message, and she replied that they already had a religion and were happy with it, but that her son was old enough to choose for himself, and she was glad that he had found something that he liked.

    On the other hand, I know a very successful father whose explanation of his policy of insisting on church attendance is that free agency is over-rated.

    Comment by kamschron — December 8, 2008 @ 12:58 am

  38. I would agree that for a 12 yr old, free agency is overrated. For a 17 yr old, maybe not.

    So far, my daughter has responded well to our direction. She has attended church (if not cheerfully, at least willingly) and has not become more rebellious or defiant. I’ve thought recently that this whole thing may be an attempt to test her boundaries, and see just exactly how serious we are about wanting her to attend and how far she can push the other way. I think now that she knows there’s a firm boundarty there, she may be ok with it for a while.

    Comment by MCQ — December 8, 2008 @ 5:35 pm

  39. You guys really don’t see the problem with letting kids “decide” to get baptized when they are eight, and then making them go to church until they are eighteen?

    If free agency is overrated for a 12-year old, why on earth should an 8-year old be able to exercise it to choose to be a member in the first place?

    Comment by Kullervo — December 8, 2008 @ 8:16 pm

  40. MCQ-
    I think you nailed it. I wish I had thought about it before (in this thread), but I remember pushing boundaries with my parents just to see what they would do (how they would respond). And I honestly believe that parents do their kids a disservice when they enable their children’s “independence.” Kids need parents to guide them and teach them –by example, and by word. I imagine that you allowing your daughter to skip out on Church now (at 12 years old) would just show her that it really isn’t all that important –or at the very least, confuse her (which could lead to future justification on her part, etc. )

    P.S. I’m impressed that you’ve brought this issue to the blog; I’m going to remember this thread during the next 10 years as I traverse pre-teen and teen ground with my children. :)

    Comment by cheryl — December 8, 2008 @ 9:13 pm

  41. P.S. Kullervo –Better an 8 year old than a 10 day old.

    Comment by cheryl — December 8, 2008 @ 9:13 pm

  42. Thanks, Cheryl.

    Kullervo, you obviously have an axe to grind and are looking for reasons to find fault, but it may be worthwhile for you to look into the doctrine of baptism a little deeper. Baptism is the gateway. Of course an 8 yr old is not capable of deep understanding of it but such is not required. Conversion is a process that is only begun at age 8. The decision made to become a member is not the final link in the chain, it is just the first one. The reason we baptize at 8 is because children begin to be accountable at that age and need the guidance of the Holy Spirit which is available as a gift only after baptism.

    I remember very clearly discussing the issue with my children at age 8. They don’t know everything about the issue, but they are capable of understanding this commitment. They may change their minds a hundred times before adulthood, but I would rather have them navigate those intervening years as members with the gift of the Holy Ghost. I think it helps tremendously.

    Comment by MCQ — December 8, 2008 @ 9:57 pm

  43. I think it’s interesting that people think it’s ok for an eight year old to decide to get baptised, but not decide to go to church. Baptism is much more than just a gateway. When we are baptised we make covenants. An eight year old is making covenants. I don’t get how we can say that is proper and good, but that they lack the capacity to decide if they want to follow through with those covenants.
    Also, what if you weren’t members… you were investigating the church. Would you force your 12 year old children to join the church as well? Or at least come to church with you every week?

    Comment by CoriAnton — December 9, 2008 @ 10:21 am

  44. Corianton, baptism has been repeatedly described as a gateway in the Church. There are numerous lesson manuals and talks that use that term. I’m not sure why you are disputing my use of that word, but describing it as a gateway does not preclude the making of covenants. Of course we know that covenants are made at baptism, but they are gateway covenants.

    These covenants potentially cover every part of the gospel, but we are introduced to these concepts at baptism and we learn the road that we are supposed to walk. The only things that happen specifically at the time of baptism is that we take upon ourselves the name of Christ, we are forgiven of our sins and we get the gift of the holy ghost through confirmation.

    We reviewed those covenants with my children when they were baptized and asked them if they understood them and were willing to make them. After lengthy discussion, we felt these concepts were understood and that our children were making an informed, knowing and voluntary commitment.

    Obviously, people can change after age 8 and may decide not to continue that commitment made at baptism, but that doesn’t mean they are incapable of making that commitment. And, BTW, I’m not saying they are incapable of making a decision not to go to church at age 12. I have just decided to take that decision out of my daughter’s hands for now. You could say I’m enforcing her previous decision, made at baptism.

    Comment by MCQ — December 9, 2008 @ 4:16 pm

  45. [...] more…but as with last time, the question seems always what to do with *the children.* Enter: Nine Moons’ blog writer MCQ. MCQ has a daughter who doesn’t want to attend church. Uh-oh!  And MCQ has been asking what [...]

    Pingback by Boring church meetings part II « Irresistible (Dis)Grace — December 12, 2008 @ 2:43 pm

  46. So… in other words, you have decided to force your daughter to honor a commitment that she was not fully capable of understanding, or only beginning to understand, when she made it?

    Why doesn’t God do that to us? We’ve passed through the veil and are in no way fully capable of understanding the significance of many of the decisions we make here in mortality. Nevertheless, he doesn’t “decide to take the decision out of our hands.”

    Comment by Kullervo — December 18, 2008 @ 10:47 am

  47. There are a lot of decisions that we take out of the hands of 12 yr olds, Kullervo. Most of their young lives are dictated to them from morning to night: wake-up time, school attendance, bedtime, teeth brushing, eating correctly, acceptable movies and TV, appropriate friends, chores, etc. Getting baptized is actually one decision my daughter participated in. After lenthy discussion, she chose to make a commitment to become a member, with all that entailed, including attendance.

    Four years later, she doesn’t want to attend, but not because she has a philosophical difference with the Church or because she has decided her original commitment was wrong, just because she is lazy and bored. Given that, I think it’s appropriate to enforce the earlier commitment she made, at least until she shows enough maturity to make a responsible decision about her level of belief in the gospel.

    BTW, I did the same thing with my son when he wanted to quit football. I told him he made a commitment to the team and that he had to finish the season. I’m not suggesting that Church and football are the same thing, in fact I’m certain they’re not, but there is a similar principle involved in each decision. Both involved a child who thought it would just be a lot easier to stay home and watch TV. Of course, it is easier, and it would be easier for me to let them; but, at least for now, I’m not going to do that.

    As to why God doesn’t do the same thing to us, I don’t presume to know why he does things the way he does, but I would argue somewhat with your premise. I don’t think it’s true that we “are in no way fully capable of understanding the significance of many of the decisions we make here in mortality.” We have the light of Christ. We know good from evil, and so we are capable of making decisions and subject to being judged by them.

    But why does that matter? I was arguing that my daughter is capable of understanding her commitment sufficiently at age 8. I’m enforcing it because she did understand the commitment she was making, not because she didn’t understand it.

    Comment by MCQ — December 18, 2008 @ 1:23 pm

  48. If she understands her commitment well enough to make it–a commitment of eteral significance–then why does she now fail to understand it well enough to follow through? If she had sufficient faculty to understand the commitment in the first place, how can she fail to have the judgment to decide whether to make good on it?

    Comment by Kullervo — December 18, 2008 @ 3:07 pm

  49. You’re missing the point Kullervo. I’m not suggesting that she doesn’t understand it or have the capacity to make the choice, I’m suggesting that she’s not making any choice at all. She’s just being lazy and saying she’s bored. That’s not a choice about whether to accept or reject a set of beliefs, and it’s not a choice about whether to stick with or change course on a prior commitment. It’s just a cop-out.

    Comment by MCQ — December 18, 2008 @ 3:30 pm

  50. A cop-out is most definitely a choice. It’s a choice not to take your commitment seriously.

    Comment by Kullervo — December 18, 2008 @ 3:58 pm

  51. You don’t know any 12 yr olds, do you Kullervo?

    Comment by MCQ — December 18, 2008 @ 5:49 pm

  52. And I don’t care what you call it, but a cop-out, and the behavior I am using that word to describe, is absolutely not a recognizable choice. It’s an evasion of a choice.

    Not taking a commitment seriously is not a choice to end that commitment. It’s bad behavior that requires discipline on the part of responsible adults.

    Comment by MCQ — December 18, 2008 @ 5:56 pm

  53. But ending a commitment and fulfilling a commitment are not the only two ways to act with regards to a commitment, are they? There’s a whole spectrum of fidelity, and a person’s actions/faithfulness can be motivated by a whole number of considerations.

    What about when adults choose not to take their commitments seriously?

    Comment by Kullervo — December 18, 2008 @ 6:17 pm

  54. Honestly, I don’t give a damn if my kids resent how I made their choices for them and forced them to go to Church. With therapy, I imagine they’ll get over it.

    And, at the very least, I will have given my kids something to rebel against – which means they will have a direction in life. Which is better than parenting that gives the kids no direction at all because mom and dad are more concerned with working on their own personal vanity project of hipness and “open-mindedness.”

    High time people stopped parenting like sissies.

    Comment by Seth R. — December 19, 2008 @ 9:16 am

  55. Um, wow. As effective as totalitarian tactics are (oh wait, not they’re not) perhaps it would be useful to treat your daughter like a person and not like an animal. She gets enough of that from people at school who need her to believe she’s incapable of making her own decisions so they can keep her and hundreds of other preteens under control.

    I joined the church at 16 as the only member in my family. Never underestimate what a minor can do. As long as you refuse to give her the chance to surprise you, she never will and you’ll both miss the opportunity to see her grow.

    I taught martial arts for years before I started college, and it has been a real blessing to learn how to talk to people. Essentially, you can teach anybody anything if you can relate it to them in a way that they can understand. Chances are excellent she isn’t getting what she needs from Church right now because she doesn’t know how, and the more she goes and fails to meet up to what you’re expecting of her, the worse the problem will probably get.

    And sure, you can punish her for that. Or you can teach her.

    You should know your daughter well enough to know how to talk to her so she can leave the conversation feeling like she has a chance of getting closer to the Savior. This should be your real objective. If you take care of that, everything else will fall into place. If you’re feeling like you aren’t getting through to her, then chances are excellent that you don’t really know your daughter. For what it’s worth, way too many parents don’t see their kids as the brilliant children of God that they are. And if this is the case, I think it’s pretty clear where you need to start.

    Comment by Paradox — December 20, 2008 @ 12:52 am

  56. Paradox, read the post. She has not been punished. Not once. Unless you consider just being asked to go to Church as punishment (in which case, you should find another blog).

    We didn’t insist that she go to church until after we had tried letting her decide for herself for a number of weeks and after we had discussed the issue with her for more weeks. We understand her issues because we have listened to her. She does not object to Church per se, she is just bored and she hates getting up early on weekends when she doesn’t have school. We don’t know if Church is getting through to her, because she doesn’t go. It’s pretty hard for something to get through to you when you don’t attend.

    You should know your daughter well enough to know how to talk to her so she can leave the conversation feeling like she has a chance of getting closer to the Savior. This should be your real objective.

    Amen and amen. And believe me when I say that I know my daughter, and that we have spoken to her at length about this, and not in a threatening way. But to me, that objective, at some point is going to require Church attendance. We are doing her no good if we hide that fact.

    Comment by MCQ — December 20, 2008 @ 1:14 am

  57. How is your daughter doing with this now? My oldest girl had this at 1but grew out of it as she came to enjoy young womens.

    Comment by Judy — August 12, 2013 @ 4:21 pm

  58. It continues to be a struggle Judy. I’m glad your daughter enjoys YW, and I wish my daughter did, but she still doesn’t. She’s 16 now and we’re letting her make more of her own decisions and for now that means she isn’t attending church much. I hope that changes, but I am not going to keep forcing her to go at this point. That isn’t working.

    Comment by MCQ — August 12, 2013 @ 11:08 pm

  59. I know this is an old post resurrected, and I’m sorry to hear it hasn’t gotten better for her. I hated Young Women’s my entire time. It was a nightmare on almost every level. Except camp. I loved camp.

    I was just too stubborn to let other people’s behavior dictate what I was going to believe and do. So I put my own flavor into my participation and probably gave my leaders apoplexy. Still hated it, but at least I could hate it as me.

    Comment by SilverRain — August 13, 2013 @ 4:37 am

  60. I wish I could find something that worked for my daughter. Right now I’m just hoping she finds something that connects with her and makes her want to attend. So far she just doesn’t have much interest in attending, but I still have hope.

    Comment by MCQ — August 13, 2013 @ 10:13 am

  61. I don’t have much interest, either, mcq. Church is boring. I’m at a point where I don’t condemn myself for thinking that, but I try to attend regularly anyway. It’s more important, I think, that she has a relationship with Christ based on faith. Sometimes, church is the last place to get that relationship.

    Have faith in her; she’ll figure it out.

    Comment by annegb — August 28, 2013 @ 9:32 am

  62. I am trying to look at it that way. I do trust her, and more than that, I trust God to be there for her. She’s his daughter too.

    Comment by MCQ — August 31, 2013 @ 4:16 am

  63. One of the biggest mistakes I made with my kids was fighting with them over church, Mcq. If I had it to do over again, I’d have let them stay home. I can barely think about it, knowing how I hurt them with “the church.”

    In AA, we have a saying “drop the rope.” You can’t win a tug of war. She’s a good person with or without the church.

    Comment by annegb — August 31, 2013 @ 8:08 am

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