From Questions People Ask About Their Children

Fr. Daniel A. Lord

Couldn’t parenthood be taught in schools?

EDUCATORS HAVE UNFORTUNATELY laid the stress on sex education. This mistake has confused the whole issue. With the Pope, I do not feel that sex education has any place in a classroom of adolescents. [Specifically, I am referring to the teaching of Pope Pius XII.]

Education for parenthood is something quite different.

I believe so much in the possibilities of education for parenthood that I had a genuine hope that my bookSome Notes for the Guidance of Parents would be taken as a textbook for such classes. In some cases it has been thus used.

If training for every important profession in life is regarded as absolutely essential, why not for parenthood? Why not teach young people the elements of child psychology? Why not instruct them in the essential information that should be imparted to the growing child — the stories and books and music and art he should know, the manners he should develop?

Why not prepare young people to understand the problems of the child at various ages and thus dispel the ignorance of parents or the old wives’ tales they probably believe?

Why not discuss with young people in a classroom such things as home recreation and show them how it can be achieved? What about home management and homemaking in general — the important prerequisites for a growing child?

Young people are trained for the less important professions . . . . , and young people are allowed to slip into marriage and stumble into parenthood, and everyone blames them because they don’t know what no one has taught them.

Law was once taught by lawyers in law offices. Now a man who aspires to be a lawyer must go to law school. Once upon a time it was taken for granted that children learned to be parents by their observations of their parents. If the parents are good and have plenty of time, that way might still work. If in this highly complicated world the parents are stumbling at parenthood, it can hardly be expected that their children will emerge other than stumblers.

Here is a vast field for the educator.

We have hopes.

Where is a future father to get the necessary training for that career? Usually he is busy learning to earn a living.

YOU HAVE LAID your finger on one of the problems of modern education: Men start to learn how to earn a living before they have learned how to live.

They are trained to be doctors and utterly untrained to be parents.

They know how to talk to a customer but have no idea how to talk to a son.

Remember that education is for LIFE, not for the earning of a living. Hence the importance of the cultural courses, which should be strong and required. Only when a person is a worthwhile individual should he be trained to be a tradesman or a businessman or a professional man.

If a person is learning to be a good person, an educated person, one who understands life and how to live it, he is incidentally learning to be a good parent.

The technical side of parenthood is not too vastly different from the technical side of dealing with people anywhere any time. A man can master the few additional elements in a short time — if he personally knows how to live well and happily.

What is responsible for the gap between mother and daughter and between father and son?

ARE THERE ALWAYS such gaps? I’d hate to think there were. Novelists have built a lot of plots over this antagonism between the females of two generations and between the males of these same relative ages.

I am by no means sure that this situation is nearly so widespread as the novelists — and a certain type of psychologist — want us to believe.

I know a great many mothers and daughters who are closer than any sisters could be.

In the cliché of the times:

They not merely love each other; they are very good friends.

I know many fathers who live for the day when they can take their sons into their business or profession, and a great many sons who think their fathers are pretty wonderful people.

Certainly the slight gap that may exist between a mother and a daughter has a way of disappearing when the daughter marries. I mean this in no mother-in-law jest; it simply happens that after her marriage the daughter calls on her mother as on her best friend and wisest counselor — often to the improvement of the daughter’s marriage and the new home.

When a father starts to do things on a level with his son — play golf, play bridge, work out business problems, make calls together on cases, there is evident a comradeship that is beautiful and reassuring.

There are gaps . . . caused by ignorance, jealousy, bad dispositions, stupid parent approach or neglect, nagging or incompetence — a thousand reasons. For once it might be nice to note those parents who are close to their children rather than those who are separated from them by chasms.

How is it that our grandparents succeeded so well without any knowledge of the science of child education and training?

AH, BUT DID THEY? I seem to recall some rather odd specimens that developed in most of the family histories about which I know a little.

If the ills and woes of the world today are the result of the generations gone by, I think a lot more could have been done in the upbringing and training of those generations.

Let’s suppose however that our grandparents did wonderful jobs as parents. Let’s suppose that all their children were sound, good Catholics, fine citizens, pure women, honest men, able to meet the problems of life. The fact would still remain that today is not their day. The problems that we meet today are vastly complicated by the intricate pattern of this our modern life.

Economically life grows steadily more difficult.

Politically we are in a series of crises.

The records of our hospitals and courts show the terrific rise of psychopathic cases and psychiatric patients.

Life today grows more and more difficult to untangle and lay out in orderly patterns.

If it has never been easy to be a parent, today the profession of parenthood has become exasperatingly complicated and difficult.

Maybe your grandparents were perfect in the rearing of their children; still parents of today — you among them — are living, not in their age, but in our age. Our age is something rather tough to understand and difficult to meet with full confidence and perfect adjustment.

How do you account for so many of us having become good people and having been reared in the old way?

THERE’S A TOUGH ACCUSATION implied here, and I dodge feebly. First of all good parents in any generation produce — as a rule — good children. If you had the good luck to have good parents, you can thank them for a large part of your goodness.

I have never advocated a “new way” of parenthood or parent training. Really all I ever do is advocate a return to nature’s way and God’s way—and there couldn’t be anything much older than that.

If the home is such a powerful factor in the future of the children of a nation, why are such powerful groups in the nation arrayed against the home?

PRECISELY BECAUSE THE HOME is powerful. If it were not an important institution, the enemies of God and of man would leave it alone. Because the people who control the home control the future, because parents are the first representatives of God on earth, because within the home is the hope of morality . . . . for these reasons the men who wish to control the future, who hate God, and who would for their own selfish purposes wipe out morality attack the home openly or subtly.


“We must be very careful not to contribute to the great cluttering up. We must make a heroic effort to rid our lives of all but one motive, that ‘impractical’ spirituality of the saints, a life in union with God. If this is the undercurrent of our existence, we can expect the spiritual training of our children to bear fruit. Without it, what they learn of God as children will be easily shoved aside when the world begins to make its noise in their ears…” -Mary Reed Newland, How to Raise Good Catholic Children (afflink)


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