Dr Ray Guarendi voiced his concerns t’other day, that parents can be led to believe that if we are good and holy in bringing up our children, then they will grow up to be good and holy too. He mentioned (and I have noticed this too) that even Catholic radio people have sometimes given this impression, with a “Do it my good and holy way and saintly kids are guaranteed” approach.
The fact is, as Dr Ray points ou,t that all our children have free will and God respects free will. It is an added burden I think, to expect all Christian parents to bring up lovely Christian children, and adds to the guilt and sense of failure if one or more of the children go off the rails.
Perhaps we should remember the anguish St. Monica went through over her son Augustine’s behaviour. Her grandson was born out of wedlock and she suffered and prayed for many years before her son became one of the greatest Catholic saints.
St Bridget of Sweden had an even harder time when her son Karl hurtled into sin and danger with his affair with Queen Joanna of Naples. If even saints like Bridget can have troublesome children, the rest of us are surely not exempt.
I have seen a couple of major problems with the way some parents think on the behaviour of their children. I knew one Catholic family who did not seem to feel the need to do the every day discipline with their children, but if something happened that was big enough to gain attention they were sent to Confession – not as a Sacrament (although I think they believed it was a Sacrament) but as a sort of Father will parent and God will dump grace on the child and they wont do it again. We can sit back. I can tell you it didn’t work., and I was really put off by what looked like a misuse of a Sacrament.
The Sacrament of Confession is a vitally important one and we should be grateful Christ gave us such a gift. But we must do our part too. We are supposed to be sorry when we tell the priest (in persona Christie) what we did or didn’t do. We are supposed to have, with the Act of Contrition, a firm committment to amend that sin, especially if it’s habitual. Sending a child off to tick a box is not using the Sacrament or the grace it can deliver properly at all.
The other thing I have seen – and this again seems to be a Christian pitfall – is the No Tech= good kids idea. It’s the view that if you do not have a TV and do not allow your children near a computer that they will be lovely children, having no influences from the “tech world”. Therefore when they are behaving rudely, spitefully, or other childish naughtiness, it doesn’t need dealing with, because it can’t be happening if they haven’t watched the telly.
Sadly, one parent I knew who had this parenting technique would get really upset when family members complained about her children’s unruly behaviour.
One of the difficulties I think many of us face is the question of discipline in public. Two of the home ed families who come to my house on a regular basis have no embarrassment at all about putting their children on the “naughty step” or making them stand by the front door. In fact for K I vaguely remember a day when her and my children were all in various places around the house studying the front door, the back door and the stairs.
I cannot begin to express how much easier it is to parent children when fellow parents have the same standards on behaviour and how much more difficult it is when they don’t. It also makes it easier if the family are on board. My FIL is fine about me putting the children in time out at his house if needed. I haven’t had to do it very often, and that’s partly because they know I will if I have to 🙂
One thing that makes the more public parenting of bad behaviour more difficult is when someone else tries to make excuses for your child while you are setting them straight. If you are tempted to this, resist the temptation.
There are families that I have simply distanced us from because I couldn’t cope with the children’s awful behaviour. It is isolating for the children as many families will react as I have done, but our children have fallen human natures too, and we mums frequently talk about ways to protect our children from being dragged the wrong way by their peers. Those of you who have children in school have an even harder task.
St Monica and St Bridget ora pr nobis.