“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.” Ephesians 5: 25
A few years ago, my husband started bringing me breakfast in bed every morning because I was struggling with health issues. Not cereal. But eggs and toast, or pancakes and hash browns. He has continued this routine, even though I am feeling better, to show his love for me. Last year, he went out of town. The morning after he left, my oldest woke me up. My then 11-year-old son had a breakfast tray with eggs, toast and orange juice in his hands and said, “Mom, I didn’t want you to miss out on having breakfast in bed while Dad is gone.”
“Parents, especially fathers, can set a standard of respect [for the opposite sex] through their behavior, language, media choices and a number of other examples,” according to a recent Deseret News article titled “Teaching Children by How You Treat Your Spouse.”
“In large measure, true manhood is defined in our relationship to women,” Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormon Church, said in his October 2006 General Conference address, according to the article.
In his address, he told a story that illustrated how his father treated his mother.
Years ago, when my brothers and I were boys, our mother had radical cancer surgery. She came very close to death. Much of the tissue in her neck and shoulder had to be removed, and for a long time it was very painful for her to use her right arm.
One morning about a year after the surgery, my father took Mother to an appliance store and asked the manager to show her how to use a machine he had for ironing clothes. The machine was called an Ironrite. It was operated from a chair by pressing pedals with one’s knees to lower a padded roller against a heated metal surface and turn the roller, feeding in shirts, pants, dresses, and other articles. You can see that this would make ironing (of which there was a great deal in our family of five boys) much easier, especially for a woman with limited use of her arm. Mother was shocked when Dad told the manager they would buy the machine and then paid cash for it. Despite my father’s good income as a veterinarian, Mother’s surgery and medications had left them in a difficult financial situation.
On the way home, my mother was upset: ‘How can we afford it? Where did the money come from? How will we get along now?’ Finally Dad told her that he had gone without lunches for nearly a year to save enough money. ‘Now when you iron,’ he said, ‘you won’t have to stop and go into the bedroom and cry until the pain in your arm stops.’ She didn’t know he knew about that. I was not aware of my father’s sacrifice and act of love for my mother at the time, but now that I know, I say to myself, ‘There is a man.’”
The standard of respect begins with the way the children see their father treat their mother, and vice versa.
Jill C. Manning, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Denver, said in the article that genuine love between a husband and wife can have a “powerfully positive effect on the climate in a home.”
She said, according to the article, “Modeling respect for others hinges on being aware of what we are modeling. All who desire to have a more respectful community, society or family, step back and think, where have my attitudes and beliefs come from? Who has had the biggest impact on shaping how I feel? … We cannot give something we do not have.”
The article also quotes Sister Elaine S. Dalton, Young Women General President of the LDS Church, from her October 2011 General Conference address: “The most important thing a father can do for his (daughter) is to love (her) mother.”
Manning agrees, according to the article. “(Genuine love between parents) increases a sense of security and stability for children. It gives them a foundation upon which to understand the potential of a positive relationship.”
In contrast, she said, in the article, “When a father and mother are not respectful to one another, it sets up a template and framework for those children to be hindered in how they see marriage and relationships.”
Geoff Steurer, a licensed marriage and family therapist, said in the article that “it’s important to let children see that mother has a voice in the home. Defer to her, counsel with her and show gratitude for what she does for the family. Let them see you valuing and appreciating the ideas and thoughtful suggestions that she contributes to the family matters.”
Steurer also said, according to the article, that he advocates being “old-fashioned,” where women eat first and the men open doors for women. “We do things to elevate the women in our lives, to let them know these girls are…special. It’s our job to make sure they are taken care of first. Those are things a father can model with his wife on an ongoing basis, and I think children pick up on that more than anything.”
Brad Wilcox – an author, BYU professor and former LDS Mission President – said he believes in openly showing affection for his wife in front of their children, according to the article. “I want them to see how important it is to communicate love, to hug, to kiss. Physical love is not bad. Teenagers think it is embarrassing if Mom and Dad kiss, but they like it. …They can learn from a movie with a couple that is not married, or they will learn it at home with a couple that is married. They will see the difference that one is wholesome, pure and good, while the other is degrading and dehumanizing.”
The media are sending strong messages to our youth about gender roles and how to interact with the opposite sex, Manning said, according to the article.
“Do we show tolerance of any kind to violence or immoral themes that denigrate and show disrespect toward men or women?” Manning said in the article. “When we teach them that’s not a show, magazine or website I will support … that’s a powerful message.”
Children take note of the media their parents watch and read – and don’t, Steurer said in the article. Are parents, especially fathers, changing the channel when something inappropriate comes on? Is the father discussing it with his children or going silently, implying he is OK with it? Or does he have the courage to express his values?
“To me, that is an opportunity missed way too often by dads,” Steurer said in the article. “He doesn’t have to be preachy or self-righteous, he just needs to let [them] know where his values stand. I think those things say a lot about how he feels about women.”
Respect and love in families – and the happiness they bring – are frequent topics addressed by LDS Church leaders.
The article cites the April 2011 General Conference address of Elder Richard D. Scott, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the LDS Church, where he describes the joy that comes from a marriage where mutual love and respect exist. “Pure love is an incomparable, potent power for good. Righteous love is the foundation of a successful marriage. It is the primary cause of contented, well-developed children. It is so rewarding to be married.”
The article also quoted Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who said: “You young men need to know that you can hardly achieve your highest potential without the influence of good women, particularly your mother, and, in a few years, a good wife.”
Thomas S. Monson, then second counselor in the First Presidency of the LDS Church, said in his October 1992 address “An Example of the Believers”:
“Happiness abounds when there is genuine respect one for another. Wives draw closer to their husbands, and husbands are more appreciative of their wives, and children are happy, as children are meant to be.”
This article was written by Lisa Montague, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.