Last month I was asked to speak to my church congregation about teaching self-reliance in our homes. I thought I’d share my talk here as well…
“There are many principals of self-reliance, both physical and spiritual. Today I have felt impressed to speak on the basic principals of “Work” and “Money Management.” I am grateful for the opportunity I have had to study these principals more in depth and hope that the Spirit will let each of us know how we can use them to bless our families and help our children to become self-reliant. (Before I go any further let me just give a quick disclaimer that my family is not perfect at these things. We are definitely still learning!)
Principal #1. Work:
In his talk, “The Blessing of Work” Bishop H. David Burton said the following,
“Today, many have forgotten the value of work. Some falsely believe that the highest goal in life is to achieve a condition in which one no longer needs to work. Work is not a matter of economic need alone; it is a spiritual necessity. Our Father in Heaven works to bring about our salvation and exaltation. And, beginning with Adam, He has commanded us to work. Even in the Garden of Eden, Adam was instructed to “dress and [till] it and keep it.” After the Fall, Adam was told, “In the sweat of they face shalt thou eat bread.” As with any other commandment, there is joy in its keeping. To work-honestly and productively-brings contentment and a sense of self-worth.”
-Bishop H. David Burton (The Blessing of Work)
How often do we think of work as a “Spiritual necessity?” I love that perspective! It’s been my personal experience that working honestly and productively truly does bring contentment and a sense of self-worth as Bishop Burton expressed. I have been blessed with various work opportunities from the time I was 14 years old; from camp counselor, to Retail, to MTC dishwasher, to Deli Worker, to EFY Counselor, to Administrative Assistant, to Photographer, and most recently Preschool Teacher. I was challenged and strengthened by each of these jobs and am grateful for the lessons they taught me. Of all the work I have done Motherhood has been the most challenging and rewarding. I have three children and one on the way. I now have the responsibility to teach them how to work, and that is VERY hard work! I’m often tempted to just do things myself, (and I’ll admit that sometimes I do) but I know that I am doing them a disservice. In Bishop Burton’s Talk he went on to say,
“One of parents’ most important responsibilities is to teach their children to work. Even young children can begin to experience the benefits of working when they are involved in household chores and in service to others. Wise parents will work alongside their children, will provide frequent praise, and will make sure no task is overwhelming.”
(Bishop H. David Burton (The Blessing of Work)
Last year I had the crazy idea to get backyard chickens. While I do fantasize about having a farm, I was really just looking for a unique opportunity to teach my children the value of work here in suburbia. I have thoroughly enjoyed our time together working in the chicken pen, feeding and watering the chickens, and collecting eggs. We also spend time working in the garden together. Watching my kids literally enjoy the fruits of their labor brings me so much happiness. They get a lot of satisfaction out of eating the food that we grow. Surprisingly my four year old loves working in the garden the most. It’s true that “even young children can begin to experience the benefits of working” as Bishop Burton stated.
Involving children in service opportunities can be a very impactful way to teach them the value of work. A few months ago my husband had an opportunity to take our kids on an Elder’s Quorum assignment to help at one of the church farms. All they did was move rocks in the hot sun the whole time, but they came home so proud of the work they had done and loved the experience! It’s often surprising how much children can enjoy work and service when given the opportunity to participate. If they’re too young to help they can still benefit from observing and feeling the spirit present.
In addition to chores and service we have found that our children’s individual self-reliance is strengthened when we challenge them to do hard things. Doing hard things can build confidence and independence which I hope will bring them strength as they grow into adulthood. I also believe it is important to help our children REMEMBER the hard things that they accomplish. I think of it as building up a little reserve of confidence for when hard times come. We use Chatbooks as our family scrapbooks. Our kids flip through them often and I love that they have constant little reminders in those books of hard things that they have accomplished and special experiences that they have had that can be a strength to their Spirits and testimonies.
President David O. McKay said,
“Let us realize that the privilege to work is a gift, that power to work is a blessing, that love of work is success.”
I pray that we can instill this attitude toward work in our children, that they will view work as a spiritual necessity and not as drudgery.
Principal #2. Money Management:
Elder Robert D. Hales said the following regarding Money Management, “All of us are responsible to provide for ourselves and our families in both temporal and spiritual ways. To provide providently, we must practice the principals of provident living: joyfully living within our means, being content with what we have, avoiding excessive debt, and diligently saving and preparing for rainy-day emergencies.”
Are we “joyfully living within our means and being content with what we have?” This is a great challenge of today! How are we teaching our children to do these things when it can be so hard to do them ourselves? One thing that comes to mind is having an attitude of gratitude. Expressing gratitude out loud for what we have on a regular basis can have a great impact on our children. When we pray do we take the time to REALLY express gratitude for all that we’ve been given? I know this is something that I can work on that would benefit my family.
In the “For the Strength of Youth” Pamphlet it says the following about gratitude,
“The Lord wants you to have a spirit of gratitude in all you do and say. Live with a spirit of thanksgiving and you will have greater happiness and satisfaction in life. Even in your most difficult times, you can find much to be grateful for. Doing so will strengthen and bless you. In your prayers, before you ask for blessings, pour out your heart to God in thanks for the blessings you have already received. Thank Him for your family, for friends and loved ones, for leaders and teachers, for the gospel, and for His Son, Jesus Christ.”
I know that expressing gratitude in our homes will help our families to live more joyfully within our means and be content with what we have. In addition to practicing gratitude in our homes we can educate our children when it comes to money management. In our home finances are somewhat of a family affair. Our children are aware of financial goals that we are working toward and we have discussions about loans, debt and interest.
Two and a half years ago, just before we moved here from Washington we paid our final student loan payment for Paul’s MBA from an expensive school in Chicago. This was a goal we had set three years prior, we called it “Debt Free in Three.” We made a lot of sacrifices and were very blessed to achieve a goal that seemed to be quite a stretch when we set it. Prior to going to business school we had just paid off all of our debts, but we knew going to business school was the right thing to do. Being debt free we were in a much better position to take on the student loans and pay them off quickly. When Paul got a job offer to work at an exciting start up company the risk didn’t feel so high because we didn’t have to pay those student loan payments anymore. We felt a lot of freedom to choose what we wanted to do. Moving closer to family, working for a great company and purchasing our first home has been a huge blessing that we probably would not have been able to take advantage of had we not set the goal to aggressively pay off our student loans and get out of debt.
In True to The Faith the following statement can be found under the word “debt,”
“Look to the condition of your finances. Discipline yourself in your purchases, avoiding debt to the extent you can. In most cases, you can avoid debt by managing your resources wisely. If you do incur debt, such as a reasonable amount in order to purchase a modest home or complete your education, work to repay it as quickly as possible and free yourself from bondage. When you have paid your debts and accumulated some savings, you will be prepared for financial storms that may come your way. You will have shelter for your family and peace in your heart.”
Avoiding excessive debt and Saving for emergencies is best accomplished through the use of a budget that both spouses support and are committed to. This is much easier said than done, but as we implement the use of a budget in our homes our children can learn from our examples and be better prepared to manage their own money. I love the quote from Joyce D. Jones from April’s General Conference when she said, “Children are great imitators so give them something great to imitate.”
Regarding budgets Marvin J. Ashton said,
“Some claim living within a budget takes the fun out of life and is too restrictive. But those who avoid the inconvenience of a budget must suffer the pains of living outside of it. The Church operates within a budget. Successful business functions within a budget. Families free of crushing debt have a budget. Budget guidelines encourage better performance and management.” -Marvin J. Ashton
I am grateful for this guidance and know that as we make money management a priority in our homes and teach our children the fundamentals of finances they will be blessed with a greater ability to become self-reliant.
In conclusion I would like to share one last quote that reminds us that the ultimate goal of self-reliance is it to be able to serve others!
Marion G. Romeny Said,
“Can we see how critical self-reliance becomes when looked upon as the prerequisite to service, when we also know that service is what Godhood is all about? Without self-reliance one cannot exercise these innate desires to serve. How can we give if there is nothing there? Food for the hungry cannot come from empty shelves. Money to assist the needy cannot come from an empty purse. Support and understanding cannot come form the emotionally starved. Teaching cannot come from the unlearned. And most important of all, spiritual guidance cannot come from the spiritually weak.”
It is my prayer that we will be able to experience the true joy of service in our lives as we practice the principals of self-reliance and help our children to do the same.