Catholic Parenting – Tuesday Tip: Disciplining With Love
Catholic parents are often frustrated by the number of kids who don’t share their faith. In one survey, Catholics recorded the lowest enthusiasm for passing on their religion out of any Christian group.
The Church teaches that parents are bound to teach their children. This includes educating them on their faith, and it also involves establishing clear boundaries.
1. Discipline with Love
Whether you think your parenting style is permissive or authoritarian, it’s always a good idea to learn how to discipline with love. That’s what this week’s Tuesday Tip is all about.
Parents often feel guilty about the way they raise their children, especially when a child makes a mistake or a bad choice. It’s important to remember that your child’s guardian angel is constantly watching over them, and they will receive Divine grace if they admit their sins and seek forgiveness.
It’s also important to understand that Catholic Parenting is about disciplining with love—not fear or anger. The Church doesn’t tell you how many activities your kids can participate in or what discipline methods to use, but it does teach you to love your child enough to set boundaries and enforce them. It’s not easy—especially with today’s hyper-connected, ultra-smart phones and games, and the “super-chill” (i.e., neglectful) parents from the movie Church People who never told their kid to stop shoving a metal knife into a plugged-in toaster—but it is possible.
Saint John Bosco understood the challenge of disciplining rebellious youth. He devoted his entire life to forming young boys into upright men, and part of that formation was putting firm boundaries in place. His teachings are a powerful resource for anyone trying to be a gentle, loving parent.
2. Teach Your Children to Pray
As Catholics, we believe that we have the power to change our hearts and minds by prayer. That’s why it’s so important to teach our children how and when to pray.
Start by modeling your prayer life for your children. If they see you praying often and passionately, they’ll want to do the same. Whether it’s before meals, before bedtime, or during family Bible study, set aside time for intentional prayer with your kids.
Teach them that they can talk to God about anything. They can tell him how they feel, thank him for the things in their lives, and ask Him for help with challenges they face. It’s also important to teach them that God answers prayers. He may answer in a way different than what they asked for, or he may just say “no.” He will always listen and help them through the hard times.
Encourage them to ask for blessings and help for their parents, grandparents, friends, brothers, sisters, teachers, coaches, neighbors, cats, dogs—anyone they love and care about! You’ll find that as your children grow, they’ll be more likely to pray for themselves and those close to them. Bumps, bruises, and hurt feelings happen, so teach them to pray for healing and to ask Jesus to watch over them.
One great idea is to use “forgiveness stones.” Have your children fill a bucket with water and get some small, smooth rocks from outside. When they think of someone who has hurt them, have them hold the stone up to their face for a moment and pray for that person. Then, have them drop the stone into the water as a symbol of forgiveness.
3. Teach Your Children to Love God
A central aspect of Catholic Parenting is teaching your children to love God. This is often accomplished through daily routines, prayer time, and devotions. But it also includes discussions about faith topics and teachings that are pertinent to your family.
When children learn to love God, they will also be more inclined to follow His Commandments. This is the foundation for a healthy and fulfilling spiritual life.
Sadly, many parents today fail to teach their children to love God and His commandments. This is most likely due to a lack of understanding and training in the Church’s teaching on the family. It could be that they are not familiar with the concept of Christian marriage or the meaning and purpose of human sexuality as outlined in the Church’s 1995 document, The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality.
Other reasons could be that they are influenced by an indulgent (“permissive”) parenting style or by a self-righteous, authoritarian approach to parenting. Such parenting styles promote leniency and responsiveness toward children, avoid confrontation, and encourage a high level of self-regulation. They may also promote religious moralism or imply that God loves children more when they behave well.
A third reason could be that they are not able to connect their faith teachings with the bigger picture of life and love, as taught in Scripture. Children who do not understand that God’s plan is to bring all of humanity into His glory will not be able to see how their actions and choices can have either good or bad consequences.
4. Teach Your Children to Love Others
The goal of Catholic Parenting is to raise children to become mature Catholic disciples when they are adults. That means they have to be able to make wise decisions on their own. One way to do this is to teach them to love other people.
This starts at home with their parents and siblings. But it also extends to their friends and neighbors. The Church teaches that we are called to be a “community of love” and that this community includes those who are not baptized. So, teaching your kids to love others is a crucial part of Catholic parenting.
Another important aspect of loving other people is to teach them to respect and accept other people’s differences. This can be done by talking about it with your children and demonstrating it yourself. And it can also be done by encouraging your children to serve other people in their community. This can be as simple as distributing packets of rice to needy old people or as complex as serving meals at a soup kitchen.
Finally, it’s important to teach your children how to give and receive love. This can be done by teaching them about the five love languages and incorporating those into family life. By helping your kids develop skills in all of the different love languages, they will be better equipped to show and receive love from other people.
While the Church doesn’t tell us how many activities to let our children participate in or what discipline methods to use, it does call us to be gentle with them. And by “gentle” we mean treating them with the dignity and respect that they deserve as human beings.
5. Teach Your Children to Be Good People
We all want our children to grow up happy, well-adjusted, and good people. But what does that mean exactly, and how do we make sure they’re virtuous?
The Church’s teaching on human sexuality is one of the most important things parents must teach their children. But many Catholics struggle to know how best to live it out in the home. This new video from Catholic Parents OnLine helps to answer the question.
Ultimately, Catholic Parenting is about teaching your children to be good people. This starts with instilling in them a faith in God, in a power greater than themselves. It means attending weekly Mass as a family and discussing the Gospel at meals. It also includes talking about how to apply the Gospel to your child’s life and encouraging them to be involved in service activities in their community.
It’s also a good idea to build a like-minded community of Catholic parents, both for support and as a source of ideas about how to raise children to be virtuous. But the most important thing is to be a loving parent. Rather than trying to “check off” all the parenting styles on the checklist, focus on lovingly guiding your children towards eternal life with Christ.
Remember, if you don’t love your kids, you’ll end up like that party-boy dad who let his son do whatever he wanted because he thought it was cool. You won’t be able to make them into saints if you let them run wild! So be a loving parent—set boundaries, enforce them, hug them, and tell them you love them. Most of all, continue to learn, grow, pray, and seek conversion/holiness yourself, so you can be the model your kids need to follow.