Divine ObedienceELIZABETH FOSS
So much of child-rearing is character training and little children need to learn to obey. They need to be trained to answer affirmatively to authority. So how do we go about helping a child learn to obey?
"Patrick, pick up your socks and put them in the hamper." "Why?" questions my sevenĖyear-old as he kicks the socks across the room. "Because Iím the Mommy and I asked you to," I reply firmly. "O-B-E-Y! Obey your mom and dad! O-B-E-Y it makes Ďem very glad. Listen to the words they say. Obey your parents everyday!" My five-year-old daughter is singing exuberantly, glad to help my cause.
There was a time
when I would have explained that the socks need to be in the hamper in order for
them to get to the washer and dryer so that they would get clean and he could
wear them again. But I am quite certain Patrick knows and understands the laundry
system in our house. So, I get to the heart of the matter. His heart. So much
of child-rearing is character training and little children need to learn to obey.
They need to be trained to answer affirmatively to authority.
Since the first publication of these thoughts of mine on obedience, several parents have asked how to make a child obey. First, we donít want blind obedience; we want the child to be inspired to obey because he believes it is right. We want virtuous obedience. We want to train the habit of control, doing what is right because it is right.
Children need to learn to focus on Godís
will, not their own and on a Spirit-inspired control, not a self-control. It is
easy to be controlled by oneself. It is hard to die to oneself and live for God.
Discipline does not mean a birch-rod, nor a corner, nor a slipper, nor a bed, nor any such last resort of the feeble. The sooner we cease to believe in merely penal suffering as part of the divine plan, the sooner will a spasmodic resort to the birch-rod die out in families. We do not say the rod is never useful; we do say it should never be necessary. ÖDiscipline is not punishment ó What is discipline? Look at the word; there is no hint of punishment in it. A disciple is a follower, and discipline is the state of the follower, the learner, imitator. Mothers and fathers do not well to forget that their children are by the very order of Nature, their disciples. Ö He who would draw disciples does not trust to force; but to these three things to the attraction of his doctrine, to the persuasion of his presentation, to the enthusiasm of his disciples; so the parent has teachings of the perfect life which he knows how to present continually with winning force until the children are quickened with such zeal for virtue and holiness as carries them forward with leaps and bounds (Parents and Children, pg. 66).We donít want self-controlled children. We want children who are controlled by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit ó children who hear and answer the Lord. We need to give children choices within limits but we need to teach them how and why to choose right. We need to train their hearts and educate their minds. When they are fully informed of the consequences of their actions, we need to allow free will, just as our heavenly Father does.
In order to train the childís will in this manner, parents must lay down their lives for them. They must be willing to spend large amounts of time engaged with them. They must believe that children are educated by their intimacies and they must ensure that the child is intimate with what is good and noble and true. And when the child needs correction, the parent must educate in the truest sense of the word. She must teach. Our children are created in the image and likeness of God. If she looks at the child, sees Christ in his eyes and disciplines accordingly, she will train her children well.
Elizabeth Foss. "Divine Order." Arlington Catholic Herald.
This article is reprinted with permission from the Arlington Catholic Herald.
Elizabeth Foss is a freelance writer from Northern Virginia. She is the mother of six (with number seven on the way). She is a past recipient of a Catholic Press Association award for column writing on the family.
© 2002 Arlington Catholic Herald
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