Being married is much different than dating and being a parent is much different than babysitting. In both cases, you
are taking on an eternal commitment and must think eternally. It is more than having fun. It is serious business in which each person in the relationship has agreed to take on permanent responsibilities.
Because being a spouse or parent is such a sacred and challenging responsibility, we can’t afford to wait until our wedding day to prepare for marriage or for the birth of the baby to prepare for parenthood. By the time you are a teenager, you need to be developing the skills you’ll need for adult family life.
The best place to practice is right in your own home. How you treat others and how well you tackle your responsibilities when you are a son or daughter in your parents home will set the tone for your adult relationships. You won’t suddenly become more responsible, hard-working, or considerate when you’re in your own home.
How do you treat your parents and your siblings? Make a plan to improve your treatment of them starting right now. Notice their moods and react appropriately, for instance. If you see someone is in a bad mood, approach him gently and save the controversy for another time. Then look for a way to cheer him up through service or attention.
How do you handle your responsibilities in the home? Do you do your chores without being reminded? Do you step in and do things you haven’t been asked to do just because you noticed they needed doing? As an adult, that is going to be very important to your success as a spouse or parent, so you should get into the habit of quickly meeting your responsibilities and of noticing needs without prompting. In addition, regularly take on someone else’s chore for a day. Your mother will be thrilled if you tell her she looks tired and should go rest while you do the dishes for her. You’ll develop a habit of thoughtful service that will make your home a joyful place.
About those chores…do you know how to do all the things required of an adult in the home? If you don’t already know how, ask your parents to teach you how to cook, clean, and care for the home and yard. You might ask your parents to let your rotate chores regularly until you know how to do everything in the home. Make sure you are doing all your own laundry. There is no “magic laundry” appearing clean, ironed, and folded in your adult home. It will be up to you. Young men should know how to cook and clean, just as young women should know how to do yard work and repairs. You may be the only person around to do those things someday.
If you have younger siblings, pay attention to how your parents take care of them. It’s more than baths and meals. They also have to help your siblings learn good behavior, gain a spiritual testimony, cope with problems, and make choices. Take notes on what you’d like to duplicate in your own home. Take your turn caring for your siblings or being the person who steps in to help a younger sibling with homework or a broken heart.
If you don’t have younger siblings, pay attention to how other adults you admire take care of their younger children. Babysit, but also watch parents in action. Ask questions of your youth leaders and other parents you know. Even though you don’t really know how you’ll parent until you have children—and each child is different—it’s a good idea to start making some realistic plans now. Ask your adult role models about their methods and how they choose them. You’ll quickly learn why parents make rules or do other things that might not seem so great to you. They’ve learned a few things as they’ve seen the results of their parenting.
In your life plan notebook, describe the type of spouse and parent you want to be and then start becoming that kind of person. Remember, to find a really great spouse, you have to be a really great person. To be a really great parent, you have to have the skills really great parents have.