As with home schooling, we have found that each of our children is is different, and the same discipline is not effective for each. Given that we are called to raise saints, this posed a bit of a challenge for Nathan and me. If our children are going to be well formed, virtuous, and obedient to God in their adult years, we would have to teach them to obey us, for His sake, as children, while under our care and tutelage.
A host on Relevant Radio made an analogy of a rubber band to raising our children with love and discipline. He said that as you pull on a rubber band, there is equal tension on each side, such as it is with discipline and love. There should be equal parts of love and discipline. If there is too much discipline and not enough love, the child will grow to be rebellious in nature and conversely too much love and not enough discipline creates a disposition of entitlement. This was GREAT advice.
In the book, The Mother at Home, John Abbott says, “If you are unfaithful to your child when he is young, he will be unfaithful to you when he is old. If you indulge him in all his foolish and unreasonable wishes when he is a child, when he becomes a man he will indulge himself; he will gratify every desire of his heart; and your sufferings will be rendered the more poignant by the reflection that it was your own unfaithfulness which has caused your ruin. If you would be the happy mother of a happy child, give your attention, and your efforts, and your prayers, to the great duty of training him up for God and heaven.” The Mother at Home – excerpt
Subsequently, a friend’s Mother presented to our Mother’s Group about parenting. She is the Mother of a large Catholic family. Her children are grown and they all are faith-filled and remain in the Church. What struck me most about what she said was that she could take all of her children out in public without any worry of bad behavior, because “when I said sit, they sat.” I am embarassed to admit, at the time, I could not say that about my children and that was not their fault… Quite honestly, I was petrified to take all of my children out alone, in public, for fear of bad behavior and my inabilty to control them. I talked this over with Nathan, and we agreed, that we wanted the same confidence in our children’s behavior. So how do we do this?
I often read Catholic Children’s Treasure Box 11 by Maryknoll Sisters to my children. In book 11, we found part of our answer. The term “right-away obedience” really struck me. There is a story about a little boy named John, who always gave his parents right-away obedience. This was what my friend’s Mom was talking about… In the story it reads “John gives right-away obedience. When Mother calls he says, “All right, Mother.” John loves Mary, the Blessed Mother of Jesus. He wants to be like her.”
The next question we had was, so how do we un-do all that we have done in our discipline and teach our children to obey, right away? This called for vigilance on our part. As providence would have it, a generous parishioner at our Church was able to get Dr. Ray Guarendi as a guest speaker. What a blessing!!! He stresses vigilance and accountability of parents in achieving obedience in our home (and therefore peace). He says, “if we want a 1 in a million child, we need to be on in a million parents”. If our children don’t respect our authority, it is not their fault, it is ours; we clearly never taught them that our role as parents is ordained by God and they are commanded to obey us via the 10 commandments. Again, if we don’t believe and employ this in our homes, our children cannot be expected to believe it either. I recommend anything by Dr. Ray!
As my confessor, advised when I confided in him my frustration with my children’s behavior “Don’t lower your standards, just your expectations, remember, they are still children. With time and vigilance, one day you will wake to find your children doing all the things you have been teaching.” Do I always give right-away obedience to God? Does He yell and scream at me when I, selfishly, choose sin over obedience? No, he lovingly forgives me in the Sacrament of Reconcilliation. I need to remember to do the same for my children. Jesus’ example is a tough act to follow, but it is the goal, nevertheless.
Another great quote from the book The Mother at Home by John Abbott, speaks of raising obedient, virtuous children and therefore “good men [and women]”. “A good boy generally makes a good man.” Said the mother of Washington, “George was always a good boy.” Here we see one secret of his greatness. George Washington had a mother who made him a good boy, and instilled into his heart those principles which raised him to be the benefactor of his country, and one of the brightest ornaments of the world. The mother of Washington is entitled to a nation’s gratitude. She taught her boy the principles of obedience, and moral courage, and virtue. She, in a great measure, formed the character of the hero, and the statesman. It was by her own fire-side that she taught her playful boy to govern himself; and thus was he prepared for the brilliant career of usefulness which he afterward pursued. We are indebted to God for the gift of Washington; but we are no less indebted to him for the gift of his inestimable mother. Had she been a weak, and indulgent, and unfaithful parent, the unchecked energies of Washington might have elevated him to the throne of a tyrant; or youthful disobedience might have prepared the way for a life of crime and a dishonored grave.”
In Volume Six – Direction for our Times, by Anne, the Lay Apostle, I found some great advice.
“June 9, 2004
Mary (an unknown saint) Speaks to Mothers
… “I looked on my role of mother as a serious task. I saw each child individually and wondered where they would fit. I tried to help them develop their strengths, all the while searching for the character flaws that might cause them hardship. When I spotted something I felt might be a problem for them, I tried to help them conquer this flaw. These little acts of control or mortification should be praised in your small ones because as they grow they will then practice that same control or mortification as adults. There is no way to understand the importance of that early formation. Truly, believe me when I tell you that you will see your children as adults behaving the same way they did as children, so if a troublesome behavior is allowed as a child, that individual will practice that same behavior as an adult, only you will have little power to correct it. So watch your children closely and praise their little virtues with great constancy. Praise and encouragement will win the day with little ones. When you do identify that little flaw, mothers, speak softly but firmly and explain how Jesus will help with any temptations. Do not criticize your children in such a way that they are embarrassed, as this is never a good thing and causing a child public shame results in the most serious of effects. But quietly and privately explain why such behavior is wrong and how it could hurt either someone else or the person committing the act. The little soul is so precious and must be preserved. We teach children how to clean themselves and how to feed themselves. We must also teach children how to clean and feed their little souls. Many of today’s children do not even know they have a soul, much less how to protect it and maintain it. Mothers, treat this responsibility with the greatest of reverence.”
Knowing that Nathan and I can do nothing without the grace of God and His will, we entrust our family to Him, humbly asking Him to teach us, to teach our children to be: good, kind, Catholic, Christian, humble, obedient, eager, chaste, confident children, who put God first and find the joy in every part of their day, including their daily crosses and to thank Him for them. We entreat him to help our family grow in holiness and to increase in us our faith, hope, charity, and self control. We also ask the same for our children’s future spouse (if that is the vocation to which they are called).
As my spiritual director, correctly put it: As Parents, our God-given role, is the highest calling! We are called to shape character, instill virtues and affect the world.