Recently, I was talking to an LDS father who I hadn’t seen in a while. During the conversation I asked him about his family. After discussing things in general, he told me how much their son Tyler had struggled before turning his life around. This young man was a very good-looking star athlete. He was popular in his school where there were very few Latter-day Saints. This father explained they had learned the summer after his senior year he had been drinking almost every weekend with his school friends. These parents were totally unaware of this problem and had only found out because a younger son informed them of it. Both parents were shocked at the news. Of course, there were other more serious sins involved also. Should they have been so surprised? After all, he was hanging out with cheerleaders and members of the school’s football team every weekend.
How was this young man able to get away with drinking almost every weekend of his senior year, without his parents realizing it? Isn’t it because he was a latchkey kid? There is no way that he could come in from a night of drinking, look his parents in the eyes and carry on a normal conversation if they would have waited up for him. Even though his mom was a stay-at-home mom, these parents never waited up for their son when he was out at night. Is there a difference between parents working when the kids come home from school and parents sound asleep in their bedrooms when their children come home from nighttime activities?
How could Tyler possibly have gotten away with drinking regularly if his parents had followed the counsel of Elder Larry Lawrence who said: “There is a great deal of wisdom displayed when parents stay up and wait for their children to return home. Young men and women make far better choices when they know their parents are waiting up to hear about their evening and to kiss them good night.
When this young man began to break the Word of Wisdom, he placed himself in extreme danger of breaking other commandments. For example, President Heber J. Grant pointed out that, "Nearly always those who lose their chastity first partake of those things that excite passions within them or lower their resistance and becloud their minds. Partaking of tobacco and liquor is calculated to make them a prey to those things, which if indulged in, are worse than death itself."
Modern research now backs up what President Grant taught and explains why parents should be at the crossroads. In a survey of 14-year-old girls who were virgins, researchers found that 4 percent of those who had never used alcohol or drugs lost their virtue during the next 12 months. However 23 percent of 14-year-old girls who had used marijuana and alcohol lost their virtue in the next 12 months. The lesson is unmistakable. In this study, the girls had a 575 percent greater chance of losing their virtue in the 12 months following their fourteenth birthday if they had used alcohol or drugs first.
Waiting up for your children will be a huge factor in keeping children from sin, yet far too few parents take advantage of this great protection plan. We asked high school students how many of their parents waited up for them when they were out on dates or with friends and found the following:
Parents Who Wait Up For Children
16% Parents always wait up
20% Parents often wait up
32% Seldom wait up
31% Never wait up
If this research is a true reflection, then only 16 percent of teenagers have parents who always welcome them home at night. That makes the other 84 percent latchkey kids to some degree. We then asked if they would be willing to have premarital sex, based on whether their parents wait up on them.
Willingness to Have Premarital Sex Based on
Whether parents wait up
Always wait up 49%
Often wait up 53%
Seldom wait up 73%
Never wait up 79%
From the biography of Camilla Kimball, we read of this family tradition, “As the children started dating they had rules and regulations to follow…Camilla always stayed awake, reading, no matter how late, until the children were all home. We live in a society where breaking the Word of Wisdom and the law of chastity is rampant. One solution to this problem is very simple: Never go to bed when your children are out. Be there to talk to them about the night, look them in the eye to make sure there is nothing wrong. Then always give them a goodnight kiss. It will be very difficult to break the Word of Wisdom and come home and kiss Mom without getting caught.
A few years ago I had an opportunity to speak at the BYU-Idaho Education Week. I loved the experience shared by Elder Neil L. Andersen at the devotional about the tradition he and his wife had to help protect their children. He said: “I remember a few years ago when our youngest son, Derek, lived with us in our home. He would get ready to leave in the evening for a night with his friends and his mother would say, “Derek, We’ll be waiting for you when you get home so we can have a prayer with you.” He would respond, “Let’s pray now. You can go to bed. I’ll be home.” She would insist, “No, Derek, we want to pray with you when you return.” I would spend the evening slapping cold water on my face to stay awake knowing that Derek would step through the door just before the set curfew hour. Then, we were on our knees and you could hear her pray, “We thank thee, Father in Heaven, for watching over Derek, for helping him to keep his covenants, and obey the commandments. We thank thee for the good son he is and for his commitment to do right.”
Challenge: Be at the crossroads when your children are leaving and coming home to help protect them.
Video: Children are more likely to follow the Savior if their parents do everything in their power to protect them from worldly indfluences.
Recipe: Slow cooker pot roast.