Editor's note: Linda and Richard Eyre, who are New York Times bestselling authors and regular contributors to the Deseret News and Mormon Times, have recently published "5 Spiritual Solutions for Everyday Parenting Challenges" with Deseret Book. Here is an excerpt.
Teaching and Learning from the Parents of this Planet
It's not just we and you who share the remarkable similarity of parenthood. Parents throughout the world, regardless of their culture, their religion, their politics, or their demographic or economic situation, are remarkably similar when it comes to their hopes, their dreams, and their worries for their children. Parents the world over, when they think of their families and their parenthood and their children and the extraordinary kind of love that attends those family relationships, find a commonality and kindred feeling that in many ways supersedes any other differences.
Over the last few years, we have traveled the world meeting with parents on every continent and in every imaginable situation. And, more often than not, we have learned as much as we have taught. There are good parents everywhere — striving parents, concerned parents, parents worried about the same things we worry about, and parents looking for deeper and better and more lasting solutions to the challenges they and their children face.
Whenever we address parents in some far corner of the world, we realize that most parents everywhere have as strong a desire as we do to raise happy, responsible kids and to build a strong, lasting family.
Of course there are a lot of secular and worldly families who seem to worship the material gods of money and possessions, and there will never be any scarcity of the kind of abdicating parents who don't seem to feel much responsibility at all for their children. But there are also truly marvelous parents and families everywhere we go. These are the people we are most often with — since they are the type who attend discussions on parenting.
So when we speak, it is anything but a one — way street. We try to teach what we know, but we also marvel at what people already know and practice and at how much better they are at doing many family things than we are.
We can learn so much from other parents and other family cultures. In some parts of the world, families have such great respect for their elders and for their ancestors. In other cultures, parents are much better than we are at giving attention for positive behavior and largely ignoring little negative things that they don't want their kids to repeat.
In many other countries, parents seem to stay rooted and bonded with their extended families far better than more mobile and independent parents in the United States. In other places, followers of other religions are very devout, and in many developing countries there are humble households where there is a peace and tranquility that we find ourselves longing for.
So many Christian parents with whom we speak have a deep orientation to and a concentration on Jesus Christ. Perhaps it is because they do not have the restored gospel and the completely constituted Church in their lives that they are able to simplify and focus so completely on the thing they know best of all: Christ lives, and He is their Redeemer. We love it when we meet parents who base their whole lives and all their decisions, large and small, on the question, "What would Jesus do?"
We wish there were enough time (or pages in this book) to tell you all we have learned (and all we have felt) from parents in different parts of this world. To show our appreciation to them, we will share just a few of the experiences we have had with some of these good parents and the concerns and feelings they have for their families and their children, in particular.
A Korean mother gets ready to leave her homeland to live with her two daughters at a boarding school in America so they can learn English and have a chance for a better life.
A Saudi family sits outside their desert house in the cool of the evening and talks with us about how they hope they can send their children away to college without having them lose the values they have been taught.
A Muslim family in Bahrain explains that their ten-year-old thinks he is old enough to understand and participate in the extensive daily fasting that accompanies the religious holiday Ramadan.
A Japanese mother ignores her misbehaving child until he settles down and politely asks for her attention, whereupon she stops her conversation with us and directs it fully at her little boy.
A group of successful businessmen in England decide to devote a full year to becoming better fathers to their children, and they print a booklet starting with the quote, "The one time I feel that I am a true man is when I am striving to be a good father to my children."
Proud parents and friends watch as a young boy in Istanbul does an exercise with us on making decisions in advance. We give him a situation where there is a lot of peer pressure to try drugs and ask him what he will say. Standing tall, this little fellow says, "I would ask them if they wanted me to break a promise I made to myself when I was twelve years old."
A group of mothers in Kenya talk, as they carry river water in pots on their heads back to their village, about their children and how to get them to be more obedient and show more respect.
Chinese parents in Shanghai worry about how spoiled and entitled their child is becoming since there are six adults hovering over him all the time (two parents and four grandparents in a society that only allows one child).
A distraught father in Bangkok bemoans the fact that his daughters are exposed to a sexually promiscuous society that goes against everything he believes about chastity and fidelity.
The Malaysian Minister of Higher Education in Kuala Lumpur discusses his idea to have a mandatory class for first-year college students on marriage and parenting, "because our country will rise or fall based on the strength of our families."
A Canadian banker sets up a "family economy" within his own home to teach his kids that money has to be earned, and that it grows when it is saved. "I want to put four or five kinds of currency in our family bank, so that my kids will realize that money works the same all over the world."
A Kansas City owner of a countertop company explains that his children did not pay much attention to their family laws until he had them etched into a slab of granite that now stands in the front hallway of his home.
A father in Texas loses his twelve-year-old daughter to leukemia just before Christmas, yet he glows with vibrant Christian faith that some day they will be reunited.
Parents in Los Angeles brainstorm about the best way to "unspoil" their kids and find ways that they can give service rather than money to the poor people in their very own city.