The Expulsion From the Garden
Engraving by Gustave Dore (1832-1883/French)
(Cool, isn't it? Bigger version here)
(Cool, isn't it? Bigger version here)
My home is a lot like the Garden of Eden. Except the clothes wearing, weed pulling, and sweaty-faced bread eating. Fortunately no fratricide to date. Because I am so familiar with this "Eden-like" setting, it might be a good time to continue our discussion on agency, kids & parenting. (OK, not so much of a "discussion" more like a one-sided quest to enlighten. You know, like the "discussion" in High Priest Group today.) The best place to read up on Adam & Eve is in the Book of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price - just in case.
We join Adam and Eve, running around the garden in a state of naked, childlike innocence. Parents? We know that God himself took on that task, so if there is anybody we should take parenting lessons from, it is Him.
There are a pair of verses in Moses 3 that will teach us more about parenting than Dr. Laura could in an entire year.
3:16-17 "And I the Lord God, commanded the man, saying: Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it, nevertheless, thou mayest choose for thyself, for it is given unto thee; but, remember that I forbid it, for in the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die."
Point #1: Set the stage: You can eat from every tree. (Shine some perspective on the situation)
Point #2: Lay down the ground rules: You can't eat this one particular fruit.
Point #3: Acknowledge agency: You may choose for yourself.
Point #4: Give your guidance: Remember that I forbid it.
Point #5: Lay out the consequences for the wrong choice: Thou shalt surely die.
Point #6: Make sure the consequences happen. Immediate: Out you go. Eventual: Death.
Got that? Easy. Now before we put this into practical application, I would note that if you have naked kids running around your house eating fruit and playing with snakes, you already have your hands full.
The hypothetical 14 year-old "Katie" has a room that looks like a bomb went off - clothes, book, trash, paper, on a biblical scale. Mom attempts the Eden Method:
#1: Katie, you obviously have a lot of nice stuff, I didn't realize you owned this much clothing.
#2: You need to start keeping your room clean.
#3: It is up to you if you do it or not.
#4: I want you to keep it clean.
#5: From now on, you can only use the computer if your room is clean.
#6: Boom. Computer is locked up with a password.
Was that mean? At least Mom never used the words "forbid" or "die". Toughest part? Watching Katie grouse around and be hateful until she realizes that unless she cleans her room, her Facebook account will lie dormant.
Watch out for when Mom and Dad start to argue about if they should really stick to their guns and enforce the consequences. Our family tradition? My EC is a softie and convinces me to cave. Sometimes.
I have a friend who has a son getting ready to graduate from High School, and will be turning 19 this fall. Dad wants his son to serve a mission, but the son got a football scholarship and is excited to play instead of serving. As we discussed it, Dad made a couple of statements that really surprised me. I asked him if he told he son that he thinks he should serve a mission, he replied, "I don't want to pressure him. I want him to make up his own mind." I said, "You've told him you want him to serve, right?" He said "No, I don't want to do anything that might take away his agency."
What? First of all, you can't take away someone's agency. (See Elder Packer here.) Second, it is your JOB to tell him what you think he should do. That is what parents do! Kid's aren't supposed to grow up to be psychic. Withholding parental opinion is abdicating the very job God entrusted us with.
Can you imagine if God had said to Adam & Eve: "One of the trees here might kill you, but I'm not going to tell you which. Good luck!"
It sounds ridiculous, but I've done it. Sometimes I have watched from the sidelines and then feel disappointed when the FOML doesn't do things the way I secretly wanted. Yeah, it is kinda lame.
So, for football boy...
#1: Son, you have been blessed with some really great opportunities.
#2: You need to serve a mission.
#3: It is always up to you if you go or not.
#4: Your mother and I want you to serve, so does President Monson, and so does God.
#5: If you don't go, you will start walking down a wrong path. We cannot support you in doing this.
#6: We are not willing to help you financially in college. That includes the car and phone.
Startling? Yes. Difficult? Absolutely. Guaranteed results. Absolutely not. The son still has his agency intact, but at least he knows exactly where his parents, leaders and God stand on the issue. Remember, as parents we will be accountable to God as to whether or not we were willing to "take a stand" when necessary.
Best case scenario: The son will recognize the seriousness of his parent's desire, and do some soul-searching about his choices.
One of the most difficult parts is still sticking to your guns in point #6, but if we cave in, it renders the whole process worthless. It would have been as if God had said to Adam & Eve, "I see you partook of the fruit, but I feel so sorry for you that I decided not to kick you out. Just promise not to do it again."
- Thankfully, He didn't do that, or it would have all ended before it even got started.
(Yes, I am anticipating some "blow back" from some of you. As always, comments are welcome. And I can delete them.)