By Father Donald Miller, C.SS.R (1950’s)
Part one is here.
The authority of father and mother must be mutually exercised, each contributing what is most natural to their particular role.
The mutual exercise of parental authority means that neither one will abdicate authority, nor delegate to the other the making of all decisions concerning the direction, correction and punishment of the children.
Fathers, in particular, do great harm to their children (and, incidentally, to their wives) who, in all problems and questions that arise concerning the children, say to them: “Let your mother decide.”
Each parent has something to contribute toward the proper development of a child.
By the design of nature, a father leans toward justice and severity; the mother toward mercy and leniency. Both these shadings of authority are needed for the rounded development of the child. Children need to see the father and mother working together, complementing each other, in bringing them up. Above all, it is important that they never be given grounds for “playing” their father and mother against each other.
Therefore the father must permit his masculine sense of justice to be tempered at times by the mother’s leaning toward mercy; the mother must want her feminine leniency to be bolstered by the father’s instinct toward strictness.
Yet decisions must appear to the children as coming from both parents, the one always supporting and upholding the other when the decision has been mutually made.
The authority of Christian parents must be exercised with full recognition of the fact that false, dangerous and bad standards of conduct are approved or tolerated by many parents in the world today, and that Christian parents must band together to reject and resist all such standards.
The grave mistake of many Christian parents is to let themselves be swayed by customs, practices and permissions that are indulged by children who have parents “who don’t care,” or who are guided by wrong principles.
They cannot resist the plaintive appeal of children: “Other parents allow these things; why shouldn’t they be allowed to me?”
Children, even in their teens, cannot be expected to make the distinction between the good and the bad, the dangerous and the harmless, in the customs that are prevalent around them.
Indeed, they of all human beings are most apt to call upon the false principle that what is widely done is rightly done.
At the same time, widespread experience proves that children want to be guided; they want to be told by their parents what they should do and not do.
Therefore parents are bound to use their own knowledge and experience, their own faith and principle, to guide and direct their children toward what is good and away from what is bad, no matter what the popular modes of juvenile conduct may be.
And because the weight of false principle and bad example is so great, they need to get together with other parents like themselves, and to establish norms and rules that all will observe together. The effect will be that no child of Catholic parents will be able to say:
“You are the only parents in the world who ask or demand such-and-such of me.”
A number of clear examples of the contradiction between what is popular or widely permitted and what is right can be set down.
Under each heading below the wrong principle or practice will be set down followed by the right.
1.Recreation outside the home.
Parents need not be concerned about the circumstances in which their children seek recreation outside the home.
Parents are bound to know and pass judgment on
1) where their children (including teenagers) go for recreation;
2) with whom they go;
3) how long they will be away from home.
In a rightly run home, definite rules regarding these three points will be laid down and enforced for the children from their earliest years to their late teens.
2. Recreation in the home.
Parents are justified in discouraging gatherings or parties of their children with their friends in their own home. If on occasion such parties are permitted, the parents need not be bothered with supervising or chaperoning them in any way.
Parents have an obligation to welcome the friends of their children into their home for informal or formal gatherings, because this is the only adequate way in which they can get to know the kind of company their children keep. Further, they are obliged (this word should be unnecessary: it were better said, “they should desire”) to chaperone and take part in such gatherings, and enforce definite rules concerning modesty, decency and propriety at all times. “Crashing” should be prohibited, and break-up times agreed upon and observed.
There is no harm, and perhaps some good, in permitting a youngster in the eighth grade or in the three early years of high school, to keep steady company, that is regularly to have “dates” exclusively with a certain individual.
Steady company-keeping is lawful only when marriage is considered possible and desirable within a reasonable period of time, which may be estimated at about a year.
There are two reasons for this. The first and most important is that steady company-keeping without prospect of marriage within a reasonable time practically always leads in due course to sins of impurity.
The second reason is that no child can acquire a worthwhile high school education if it is distracted from its studies by an immature love-affair.
On this principle parents are bound to prohibit steady company-keeping to their children at least until the latter part of their senior year in high school. Even then it may be permitted only if the teenager is willing, with the seriously considered advice of parents, to face the prospect of marriage shortly after the completion of high school.
If a high school senior seriously plans on going to college or university, the parents should inform him (or her) that steady
company-keeping in high school represents a decision to give up all thought of college or university, and that they (the parents) will enforce that decision.
- Sex-instruction (This post may be helpful in this area)
Parents may trust that their children will learn all they need to know about sex from their teachers, their companions, and from books and magazines.
Parents have the primary responsibility for seeing to it that their children are not only properly informed on matters of sex, but prepared to meet the problems that will arise in this matter.
On no point in the upbringing of children, is it more important today that Christian and Catholic parents inform and train their children properly than in the matter of sex.
On no point should they be more aware of the false principles their children may learn from companions and bad reading than here. For the task involved they should prepare themselves by well-directed Catholic reading and study, and by discussions with other responsible Catholic parents.
There are many other topics on which a false or dangerous principle for parents might be set down, and true norms succinctly stated.
Some such topics are:
1) the use of the family car;
2) money and allowances for children;
3) the use of alcohol;
4) the taking of jobs by children and the disposition of the income from such jobs;
5)proper attitudes toward school authorities, and toward the pastor and the parish church.
Serious thinking about these matters, and discussions from other parents, against the background of the principles set down above, will reveal to them what sort of program will be to the best eternal and temporal interests of their children.
John N. McCormick, C.SS.R.
Provincial, St. Louis Province,
May 18, 1959
St. Louis, May 22, 1959
Joseph E. Ritter
Archbishop of St. Louis
When children are taught that their chores can be prayer….that the drudgery can be applied to the sufferings of some other child somewhere, who has no bed to make, who must spend his nights curled up in a hole, shivering, starved, unhappy, and with no one to care for him…those same chores can be changed into great spiritual joy! -Mary Reed Newland, How to Raise Good Catholic Children http://amzn.to/2op5ZSs (afflink)
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