Tag Archives: parenting

What did you do with the children I gave you?

I can’t help thinking that the first thing Jesus will be saying to all of us parents when we arrive for the Particular Judgement is “What did you do with the children I gave you?”

Sadly, I think a great many of us will feel the burn on this one. (Or am I projecting there?) I can’t be the only one who has made some pretty awful decisions on child care, education and just general upbringing of children. Of course our children have free will and up to a point that means that no matter what we do to them or around them, the choice is their’s. But the fact remains that God gives us children as a means for us and them to get to heaven.

I really believe that trying to be a good parent today in the English speaking parts of the world is the most difficult it has ever been.  In order to bring our children up to be good adults we have to navigate them and us through a truly toxic culture in which children are not at all respected and where some teachers are insisting schools are better parents than parents. Sadly there is some justification for this view. I still remember that music session I sat through with nearly 90 children aged 4 to 5.  The musicians played some tunes the little ones could easily guess and then played some they didn’t think the children would recognise, including the Eastenders theme tune. The children were shouting it out almost immediately.  Obviously taken aback the musicians asked how many children actually watched Eastenders and nearly every child there raised their hand.

Thank God I’m not that slack a parent, you might be thinking. But that only makes being a good parent harder. We can so easily sit back comfortably congratulating ourselves that we aren’t that bad, that we miss the goal of being good parents by a mile. When we really look at what is being asked of us, what those promises we made before God as our children received Baptism, really mean – it is truly scary! (At least I think so). Fighting the culture is a spiritual battle and trying to keep our kids from drinking the very poisonous Kool Aid is a day on day battle.

Pray and pray for discernment, so that we can judge properly what media is safe, whether what TV they watch, what gadgets and games they have or don’t have and what books they read.

What makes it so much harder is the astonishing fact that even though even the MSM has picked up on the dangers of computers in bedrooms and mobile phones and itouch in the hands of little ones – parents STILL do this. WHY? And then when a parent trying to be good and do what is best for her children removes the tech or refuses the TV programme she is almost inevitably faced with the come back, “But everyone else is doing it!” And of course the kids are RIGHT.

I am in the gentle lull between having adult children and children who haven’t reached the “difficult” phase yet. I hope that the fact they are home educated will put off the “difficult” phase. But they see plenty of children who live what Dr. Ray Guarendi calls “worldly” lives that it wont be long before I, like a couple of my friends, am facing the “But everyone else is doing it!” conversations. But I have had those conversations with the older ones in the past (especially over TV) and don’t doubt it will happen again.

I truly hope and pray that my children make good life decisions and that all of them are saved in the end. But I can’t help thinking that when mums and dads of my generation are facing our particular and even general judgement, that we can ask for massive mitigating circumstances. I do wish it was easier.

Don’t slacken for a moment, there’s a lion outside the door. (1 Pet 5:8)

education for a life – being isolated parents

Friends came over yesterday for our Friday joint history and art lesson day. Having spent some time looking at the 14thCentury Black Death that killed so many people it changed the way the world worked, K and I somehow got on to the subject of children and “stuff”. The plague effected the way people behaved. Our culture effects the way people behave too.

Iona mentioned she thought there were parts of the Sherlock Holmes film she has been to see that would be disturbing for children under the age of 12 or even slightly older than that. The rate is 12A and she has seen much younger children in the cinema and wondered why the adults were not more cautious about it.

Avila has come home from something and told me one of her friends has five TVs in their house and there are only four people. Avila was a bit taken aback that her friend has a TV in her bedroom.

K pointed out that as her children attend lots of groups in her area (which is a pretty wealthy area) that there is pressure on her to provide “stuff” because “everyone else’s children have it.” And this in turn leads to “but everyone else is allowed to do this,” conversations.

Iona mentioned watching a programme about Amish youngsters and how they worked really hard doing labour and housework. There were visiting children from the Uk (I think) who couldn’t even imagine having to do housework every day and actually getting satisfaction from the repetitive work of it.

“We learn patience this way,” one of the Amish children had explained.

I note that it must be much easier for Amish parents to bring their children up with a good understanding of their responsibility and having to work for what they have, as they are all doing it.

The biggest problem parents like K and myself have is we are surrounded by a culture in which parents wouldn’t normally dream of saying “no” to their children for anything. Little ones watch appalling TV programmes because the parents wont say no, and of course, wont turn the machine off.

It is so much harder to parent our children against the prevailing culture.

Even among home educators – especially in the UK I think – there is still the culture of “give ’em what they want when they want it” and don’t expect much from them as far as responsibility and solid moral behaviour. It really makes being a parent so very much harder than it would be if their was more mutual moral support.

In an interesting twist I think the internet actually helps with this. Knowing other families around the world who share the same moral underpinnings as we do can be a support in a difficult time. But also I think home education itself is as massive step forward in helping to keep a good deal of the toxicity of the cultural norms away from our children while they are developing as people.

It’s just a bit ironic sometimes when the “S” question gets asked and we are not really considered polite when we say how poorly socialised schooled children are. There is a bizarre acceptance, even expectation among parents that at certain ages children will behave obnoxiously and that’s all there is to it. In fact I wonder if parents are so convinced that nasty attitudes and behaviour are “normal” that they encourage it as they don’t want their children to stand out as “different”.

One of the major aspects of Amish life that I think the editors of TV programmes probably miss, is that their family centred lives have a purpose. The children might work much harder than the average Western kid, but they are part of a family structure that respects them and values them as people.

We really need to turn our culture around, and I think the first thing we need to do is respect our children and love them enough to say “no” as often as it needs saying – and especially when it’s just so hard to say it.

On parenting and no guarentees, and something Dr Ray Guarendi said.

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.

Are working mothers making their children sick?

I worked when the older three were little. At the time I really thought, and still think to be honest, that I had no choice. I spent most of my working life trying to find ways not to work, but for a while I was the main breadwinner, so it certainly wasn’t easy.

I have been listening to various podcasts and do love the Catholic Laboratory Podcast. I think it was one of those podcasts where Mr Maxwell talked about the research into children’s physiological reaction to being left. There is good research (which I already knew about) that shows that the stress hormone cortisol is raised in babies and toddlers who are left in nurseries or with other carers without their mother. This stress hormone reaches a peak around the age of 5 when these children are put into school and it seems these children have reached the limit of their stress. The obvious long term effects for mental health problems are there. I assume there will be follow up research to see if this answers some of the questions about the exponential rise in serious depression and even psychotic illness in children.

More research has shown something else. Children who are put into care as babies are at a far higher risk of failure to thrive. This is where children are generally underweight and ill despite a normal healthy diet.

My oldest had failure to thrive. I spent a lot of time taking him to peadiatric appointments where he was put through a gammit of tests for various serious illness. Every time he ate he was violently sick, to the point where he became nervous about eating at all.

The doctors had no idea then why such as thing as failure to thrive existed. But she told me that children always seem to grow out of it around the age of 4. Sure enough just after turning 4 Josh was discharged as he had finally put on some weight and stopped being sick. It seemed there was nothing to worry about and yet here is now at age 22 with type 1 diabetes. Is there a link? I don’t know, but as more research comes out showing how bad it is for children to be removed from their mother so young – we’ll have to see.

When the other two were younger I was able to be around a little more when they were little, although I did go through a patch of working very long hours when they were older.

Even then, when I worked in CAMHS, we were seeing much younger children who were floridly psychotic. It has been shown by study after study that children have increasing levels of depression and self harm. Families are disintegrating – and there’s a lot of fall out from that.

I hope as this information becomes better known that other families will be forewarned, and will not fall into the horrible trap. There simply has to be a better way for families, a way to allow the bills to be paid while living on one wage.

Listen HERE and HERE

home education and the parenting of adults continued…

So, where was I? Ah yes, how to avoid the problems of jealousy among siblings if you, as the parent, give more support to one child than the others.

I think part of this is to do with the family culture. Part of it is also the personality of the children.  I think I have been very blessed that none of my children have (as yet) shown signs of jealousy towards a sibling. So, unlike some parents, I have been let off the hook somewhat in having to deal with it. I am grateful. When Avila was born she was ill and continued to be very ill for over three years. She and I spent an inordinate amount of time in hospital away from everyone else.  It was terribly hard going – so I am grateful I didn’t have jealousy to handle too.

I assume that if all the children know they are loved, they accept more readily that one child or the other may have more need of parental time, energy and material support than they do. It might also be a good way of showing them that should they ever be in such need they will be supported to the extent that they need it.

To be honest, I think the parenting decisions over adult children when they are sick are easier to make. If your child, no matter how old they are, is ill, you would automatically want to support them. So my friend spends all that time with her daughter’s family because her daughter is ill.  A couple of friends of mine have even moved house and one of those gave up her vocation to religious life to go and live near sick adult children to help care for them and the grand kids.

But what about the more difficult choices we might be – and many are faced with. Anyone who has anything to do with people  with addictions will know that there is a fine line between support and enabling. It is very destructive, of course, to enable an addiction – but many parents are faced with the awful emotional blackmail of bail me out because you should attitude of the addict.

Fortunately, at this stage of my parenting journey I am not faced with many very difficult decisions. The most difficult times have been when a child was seriously ill. When  Josh became seriously ill, I was in the fortunate position of having him still living at home, so while he had got gradually sicker and not realised how ill he was, I was able to spot it and take him to get medical help.  His dad and I were there when he was very unstable (the first year of type 1 diabetes) and helped keep him just about well enough to stay out of hospital. We hardly need to help it at all now – he is an adult who has taken over care for himself.

One aspect of having adult children, especially those still living at home, that many parents struggle with (it seems to me) is how to hand over more and more responsibility and autonomy to them as they get older.

I think this is where home education has a massive advantage over schooling. Home educated adults begin to take more control over their own learning from early teens onwards. As they are very much more part of the family than a schooled child who is away all day and then has a pile of homework each night – home educated adults get to take more responsibility for their own life skills. For example, while I am aware that nearly all the schooled peers of my children cannot cook or budget a meal, nearly all home educated young adults (that I am aware of both around here and from online) have been cooking family meals since their mid teens and are very aware of the cost of food and how to budget.

The other mine field that we have to face as out children become adults is sex, relationships and discernment of vocation.

Next time…

Home education and the parenting of adults.

You may wonder why Home Education is in the title – well, this is part of the education I am trying to give my children. They need to learn how to be parents whether they end up having biological, adopted, spiritual or no children.

There are not many aspects of life that are eternal. Marriage, for example is only “til death do us part.” The two aspects of life that are eternal are the priesthood and parenthood. Of course both of those things are about parenting. Being a parent is eternal, I assume, because God the Father is eternally Father and God the Son is eternally Son.

There seems to be a view even among Christians that being a parent ends at some arbitrary age of the child -16 seems to be the common one. After that the mum and dad can more or less shrug their shoulders and say, there’s nothing more to be done. As with all ideas that swing off badly in one direction there is the opposite bad swing in the other. So people phone in radio programs or talk among their friends about parents and parental in-laws who are too interfering and generally difficult to be around. I think I mentioned that trap in one of my brief thoughts on the order of marriage.

But if we accept that once we are parent then we are always a parent – what does that mean when the children are adults? I have three adult children aged nearly 22, 19 and 17. It is a terribly tough time in our culture to be those ages. They are adults who can make their own decisions, but their options are seriously limited by the economic climate and lack of opportunities. So, they must endure. But it also means they must continue to live at home. How then do we all adjust in the family home so that adult children can be adults, but parents are still parents? In some ways it seems to happen sort of organically. I think anthropologically we are designed to live in extended family situations. It is how so-called primitive people still live. In agriculture based cultures adult children were part of the running of the family lands. There were no “tweens”, “teens” or “emerging adults” back then. There were simply families with children and adults in them.

I assume there was some kind of shared responsibility for task, household and children, that made treating each person according to their needs perhaps somehwat easier.

There has been an unspoken “rule” that all children must be treated equally – meaning “the same”. I am not altogether sure where this idea came from, but it seems rooted in the ‘same-i-ness’ view that has taken over many institutions. By treating all men as equal, we must treat them the same. However, I am sure most parents when asked would acknoweldge that all children are not the same. They have different personalities, differnet needs, different developments. How then, can we treat them the same? Well, we can’t and we shouldn’t.

A few of us mums have talked about this issue  and how we have seen it play out in families.  We all have examples where treating children “the same” may have helped one child but enabled and given tacit permission to another to behave badly. For example; one adult child is struggling seriously with financies because of the current economy. The husband is doing his best to work whenever there is work – but there isn’t always work. Tbey budget sensibily and try to keep above water but it’s a shocklingly expensive country. So dad steps in and pays one of the scary bills.  The other adult child is in full time protected employment with a spouse who also works and loves to shop for stuff – lots of it. Does the parent of these adult children hand over the same money to them; knowing it will be misused?

In another situation a son went to his parents for help. He had the budget and they couldn’t afford to eat. Now, instead of handing over money the parents insisted they made some very stringent cuts to their lifestyle – no car for example. To an observer this looked mean. The parents had the ability to help and it looked at first as though they wouldn’t. However they knew their son very well and knew he needed to take full responsibility for his family before they would help – or he would simply sit back and let them bail and bail. In the end they did bail – but only when it was truly needed and the adult child had learned not to expect a certain standard.

In some cases giving “the same” to adult children would be impossible. My friend comes to her daughter and stays four days a week, travelling quite some distance to do this because her daughter is ill. My friend cares for her grandchildren and helps with household tasks (all made more difficult for her at the moment as she has broken her arm!) She has another daughter and grandchildren there. She couldn’t possibly do the same for her – and that is fine because that daughter doesn’t need the help.

I also know another grandma who spends far more time supporting one child’s family than any of her other children. Why? Becuase they need it.

But then, you might wonder, how do you prevent jeolousy, envy and resentment from the adult-children who are not getting the same attention or financial support?

I am aware that the future needs of my adult children and of course the little ones, could be very different.  My first admonition to them is that they should take care of one another. They are their brothers (and sisters) keepers. Now, don’t get the idea I am just trying to pass off my responsibilites as their mother. I’m not, in fact it is my responsibility to ensure they DO take care of one another. But they also need some discernment in doing so.

I’ll con tinue this later…

The order of marriage. (part I)

Listening to some of the homseschool workshops and to a recent Catholic Answers program I am interested by the reminders given out about the order of marriage.

The order of love in a healthy marriage, we are told, needs to be God first, spouse second and children third – anything else after that. The warning that is put out to us mums is to beware of putting the children first. This is a particular temptation to those of us who home educate- because we are with the children so much more than anyone else (including God).  The warning to fathers was to never put work first- which is a very common dad temptation.

Something not mentioned, but which does come up on a pretty regular basis on Catholic phone ins, is the business of putting the in-laws first. I think anecdotally this tends to be a problem with husbands and their mothers, although husbands with their fathers can also be a huge stumbling block. Less often, but often enough that I think it merits notice is a wife putting her mother or father above her husband and children. This often leads to terrible friction over how the children should be treated. All of these problems get mentioned often in Catholic discussions (Dr Ray Guarendi deals with a lot of this).

The order of marriage as God first, spouse second and children third is something I have heard from many Christian homeschooling mothers. However when the question of the order of marriage came up on Catholic Answers recently, it became apparent that the Church has not put this order in place in her teaching.

Certainly God must come first. Putting other people or things over God breaks the first commandment and will inevitably lead to the other nine getting compromised in some way.

But what about the order of spouse and children? The Church teaches that they come together. This interested me because I have to admit the “rule” that the spouse must come before the children worried me. Like many mothers I have had to deal with a very sick child on more than one occasion.  There was no other option, that I can see, than to put the needs of that child above the needs of everyone else in the family (including, in fact especially my own). The idea that on top of my own really bad health at the time I was supposed to take care of a dangerously sick little child and STILL put my husband’s needs above that strikes me as asking for more than is reasonable.

So I am relieved to see that the Church does not teach this order of marriage. But we must remember always to put God first. Only in this way can we hope to know how to live as a family. We have to know what He says and how He says it – and then we have to do as our Mother commands (at the wedding); “Do whatever He tells you.”

Marriage was elevated to a Sacrament so that in receiving grace from God we could love one another and our children even in the hard times – and we are to bring each other and the children to heaven.

The question then is, how are we to do this? In what way to we keep God first and how do we balance the needs of our spouse and children? Does home educating the children upset or improve that balance? And I think I need to look at that modern problematic business of authority and power – whose is the head of the family?

Next time…