by S. Hart
It is never too soon to begin the all-important task of educating your children, nor should you ever relax in this duty. And what is more, it is never too late to begin!
“It is your task from the cradle,” wrote Pope Pius XII, “to begin your children’s education in soul as well as in body; for if you do not educate your children, they will begin, for good or ill, to educate themselves.”
The following “Ten Commandments in Reverse” point out the mistakes well-meaning parents sometimes make – mistakes that can often cause real trouble later on.
- Start from infancy to give your child whatever he wants. He will consequently believe that you and everyone else are obliged to serve him always and exactly as he wishes.
- If he learns bad words, burst out laughing and do not correct him. This will lead him to swell with pride at his accomplishment and encourage him to use increasingly worse words. ”Poor little one, you can’t scold him!”
- Do not give him a religious education which would restrain him. Let him fill his head with wrong ideas coming from his companions and then see if you will still be able to control him.
- Never teach him any distinction between right and wrong, so that he will always do wrong and probably think he is doing right. Then when he is arrested for stealing a car, he will believe that society is against him and that he is only being persecuted.
- Pick up everything he leaves around – books, shoes, toys. Do yourselves what he should do, so that he will grow accustomed to shoving his own responsibilities off onto others. ”Poor darling, he’s so small! You can’t blame him!”
- Let him read whatever falls into his hands. Be sure to sterilize the silverware and glasses he uses, but don’t bother about watching over the food – bad literature, TV shows and movies – on which he tries to nourish his mind.
- Fight often in front of your children. How will they be able to respect their father and mother? At the same time, give them all the money they want and don’t let them lack for anything.
- Take your child’s part against the neighbors, the pastor, the teachers, when he does something wrong. Sure, everyone is against your kids who, it goes without saying, are models of good behavior! They are always causing trouble, they are disrespectful, to say the least, yet the only ones who see nothing amiss are the parents themselves. Others remark, “How poorly brought up those children are! When they’re older, they’ll be beating their parents!”
- If the children get into trouble, unburden your conscience with the thought that you were never able to handle them, anyway. ”It’s easy to talk about keeping them in line, but it takes more than that to control kids like mine! You have to live with them to understand.“
- Final result: embittered, brokenhearted parents!
How to avoid the errors depicted in the “Commandments in Reverse”?
Success in child-rearing is not a matter of luck, but is, as one father of six declared, “the result of pain and hard work plus the grace of God!”
Parents, especially the mother, must be ever vigilant, knowing where their children are, with whom they are, and what they are doing. Only thus can mother and father guide and form their children as is their God-given privilege and duty.
As the Bible repeatedly counsels: “Train a boy in the way he should go; even when he is old, he will not swerve from it” (Prov. 22:6).
Right From the Start
To rear your child successfully, begin by resisting the first signs of evil inclinations and by sowing the first seeds of good in his soul. You can never pay too much attention to your child’s character formation in the first weeks, because it is during this time that parents may easily spoil their child and tum him into a tiny tyrant.
As much as possible, things should be done at fixed times: baths, feedings, naps and so on. Lack of routine and order in the rearing of a child often causes him to be irritable and upset. Some young mothers complain,
“My baby is naughty … stubborn . . . cross ….” And they look for the reason in the little one, consulting their doctor and specialists, when, in reality, the cause of the trouble is in their own failure to accustom the child to a well-ordered daily schedule.
In this early period, the education of the child is based entirely on habits. On the parents depends the formation of either good or bad ones. To develop good habits in the little one is to prepare for him now the path he will follow as an adult.
(And speaking of habits, would it not be praiseworthy on mother’s part to acquire the habit of making the sign of the cross on her child each time she places him in the crib?)
A. Bedier writes: “Every child is a psychologist who judges his father and mother according to their true value. He tests them, and to do this, he uses his tiny weapons: cries and tantrums. If the parents are moved to compassion, if they are frightened by the possibility of convulsions, if they yield to his whims for the sake of peace, the little one sees these weaknesses and from then on bases his conduct on them with admirable knowledge of the human heart. ”
”Instead if, when the youngster misbehaves once, twice and even a third time, he always encounters resistance, he will decide to do as he is told.
By the time he is old enough to be told why some things can be done and others cannot, he will have acquired through experience – because of strong, wise parents –the habit of doing that which is permissible, and it will be easy for him to do what is right. ”
Mother and father communicate more maternal and paternal affection to their child by their continual bestowal of loving smiles than by their consent to the youngster’s caprices.
Many cases of juvenile delinquency may be attributed to the fact that the boys and girls, when still very young, were allowed to do as they pleased by weak, careless parents.
On the other hand, many great men and women owe their success later on in life to the firm and wise guidance of their parents.
One of Washington’s admirers once happened to ask Mary Washington, his mother, her secret in raising such a fine gentleman and outstanding leader.
He was no doubt rather surprised when Mrs. Washington, instead of going into a lengthy explanation of her child-rearing methods simply replied, ”I taught him to obey.”
Yes, Mother and Dad, you can be either the blessing or the ruin of your children. The words of Spasz Kocoly may be put in the mouth of a child speaking to his parents:
“In your hands so skilled to mold,
My heart I freely lay.
Angel or devil will it be?
Yours it is to say.”
St. John Chrysostom