The Fearless Nurturer philosophy is based on the idea that we are all children of God, and that He, as the perfect Parent and the Source of all truth and wisdom, wants to help us in our parenting and family relationships. I believe that we can find a perfect pattern for parenting in the example of our own loving Heavenly Father, and in that of His Son, Jesus Christ, who “show[ed] us who and what God our Eternal Father is like” (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland). I also believe that we came to earth with innate gifts from God – like instincts and intuition – to help us in our parenting, and that the societies (and individuals) that really tune in to them and rely on them experience the natural order of things, including a sense of relative ease in parenting.
What is God’s pattern for parenting? It seems to be common for Christians to see God as some harsh, distant, angry being who looms over us and demands obedience to His commandments, using fear, punishment, and “tough love” to make us comply. But that is not at all the God I know and believe in.
God does give us commandments, but I believe that they are tied to eternal laws and laws of nature that have natural consequences attached to them, and that God has given them to us because He loves us and wants us to be happy and successful, not because He’s some strict dictator who wants to control our lives. I see them as guidelines for a happy life and a roadmap to eternal life in His kingdom (things that will enable us to become celestial beings), not as arbitrary rules that He’ll punish us for breaking (see this article for my thoughts on punishment as referenced in the scriptures, as well as this talk).
He does want us to obey (meaning “to understand, to internalize, to ponder, to reflect upon” in Hebrew, and “to be persuaded; to be moved; to respond” in Greek) His commandments, out of trust (Proverbs 3:5-6) and love for Him (see this article), and so that we can truly reach our full potential. He gives us boundaries and guidance to keep us safely on track, and He also gives us the freedom to choose for ourselves, knowing that it’s not enough simply to do the right thing – it must be an internal desire and choice (see again this talk by Elder Renlund). And He always motivates us through love (see this talk by Elder Uchtdorf).
I know lots of Christians don’t believe what I do (and I can’t blame them, as the Bible isn’t always clear on this, especially with so many different translations and interpretations), but I believe wholeheartedly that God is just as loving as Jesus (read these two talks, here and here, for apostolic testimonies of this), and that even when it may not seem that way, every interaction God has with His children is done with love and in an attempt to help and save us. We may not have the whole picture, and we can’t always sense His tone, but knowing what I know about Him, it is contrary to His nature to be retaliatory or domineering in any way.
Together our Father and our Savior are (or should be) our perfect examples of clear, benevolent leadership. They are clear, firm and kind in their guidance and leadership. They are empathetic, compassionate, and merciful. They are on our team. They are our mentors and guides. They trust us to learn from our mistakes and They have confidence in us and our capacity for goodness. And they are ever teaching us how to do and be these things for our own children as well. God’s goal, after all, is to exalt us, to help us become like Him and gain all that He has (Romans 8:16-17; Titus 3:7; James 2:5). This requires strong and healthy relationships – with Him, with ourselves, with our families (and the whole human family), and with eternal truths. This requires healing and awakening to new possibilities. Sloughing off the old hindering patterns and beliefs. Allowing Him to change and refine and heal us. And raising our children in healthier ways, free of harmful conditioning:
Without punishments (or “consequences”) and rewards.
Without anger and yelling and fear tactics.
Without shame and manipulation.
Without permissiveness or uncertainty.
With connection and cooperation and influence.
With clear and loving teaching and leading and guiding.
With respect and trust and confidence.
With peace and harmony and unity.
Can you imagine the world we could live in if every family was healthy and whole? This is possible! “With God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). So who’s with me?
“Our heavenly Father is more liberal in His views, and boundless in His mercies and blessings, than we are ready to believe or receive. … God does not look on sin with [the least degree of] allowance, but … the nearer we get to our heavenly Father, the more we are disposed to look with compassion on perishing souls; we feel that we want to take them upon our shoulders, and cast their sins behind our backs.” -Joseph Smith, Jr. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith (1976), 257, 240–41.)