Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2013: The original version of this column failed to attribute a passage about family traditions to Elder L. Tom Perry ("The Church: Scaffolding for Our Lives," Brigham Young University–Idaho Devotional, Jan. 24, 2012). It has been edited to correct this error. A version of this column appeared in the Aug. 7, 2013, print edition of the Deseret News on page C1 under the headline "Which culture is strong – yours, world's?"
The world in which parents and children live today has never been more challenging, and the environment in which young married couples form their family and raise their children has never been more difficult. Let us speak directly today to young couples, just starting out with their families.
You and your children live in a media culture, a peer culture, an Internet culture and in a strained political and economic culture. Each of these cultures will exert some influences on you and on your children that you do not like and that are contrary to what you believe.
Your challenge — and it is a very difficult one — is to develop a family culture that is stronger than any of these other cultures and in fact stronger than all of them combined.
Let us offer four suggestions for making your family culture stronger as you have children and grow your family:
1. Create a family culture of time spent together.
Time together is what makes families strong. Don’t believe it when you hear someone say, “I don’t have much time with my family, but the time I do have is quality time.” The fact is that it takes a certain quantity of time to make quality.
Don’t take a job that requires you to work 14-hour days and to get home after your kids are in bed. And if you do end up with a highly demanding job, find creative ways to still prioritize your family. One young father, starting out with an aggressive law firm, found that he had to be at the office until late most nights, but that no one minded too much if he came in a little later in the mornings. He set up his family so they had family time every morning and planned their day together. Then he made breakfast, held “family home morning” and drove his kids to school.
2. Create a family culture of full church activity and commitment.
Some young people today seem to think that as they get busier and busier, one thing they can cut out is some of their church attendance and activity. This often turns out to be a disastrous choice. In this world of ours, it is virtually impossible to raise a strong family without a strong back-up system of support, and there is none better than a church. You might say that it takes a congregation to raise a child.
3. Create a family culture of prioritized relationships.
Remind yourselves often that achievements are not as eternally important as relationships. There is no relationship as important as that with your spouse. Don’t leave it to chance. Don’t take it for granted. Continue your courtship. Have a date together once a week for the rest of your life. Remember how romance works and never let it die.
4. Create a family culture of rich family traditions and family laws.
Traditions are the glue that holds families together. As the prominent religious leader L. Tom Perry has said, "Make the honoring of family traditions and the development of new ones a priority throughout your lives. Holiday traditions, birthday traditions, Sunday traditions, dinner-time traditions — honor them, write them down and make certain you follow them. Studies show that the reason kids join gangs is for the traditions and rituals — for the belonging to something larger than self. That is what a family should be." Have laws in your family culture, too — simple behavior standards that are expected and required.
Creating this kind of a strong family culture may be the most important thing you will ever do.
Richard and Linda Eyre are New York Times best-selling authors who lecture throughout the world on family-related topics. Visit them anytime at www.EyresFreeBooks.com or www.valuesparenting.com. Their latest Deseret e-book is “On the Homefront."