Have you had a gutful of feeling disempowered and disallowed to parent your own children?
Do you feel uneasy about how little influence you have on them compared to other things, be it schools, media, technology or peers?
Well these words are for you.
Pope Francis is shining a light on the family, and in particular the education of children by PARENTS. It is not a political statement he makes, although there are those who would imply this.
It is a grandfather speaking to his family about good order in family life.
Using the text:
“Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.
Fathers, do not exasperate your children, lest they become discouraged” (Colossians 3:20-21).
I have heard so many (mis)interpretations of this text, and have (mis)interpreted it myself very often. But as a loving father, Pope Francis gives concrete examples of what this means.
The children, in fact, must grow without being discouraged, step by step. If you parents say to the children: “Let’s go up that flight of steps” and you take them by the hand and step by step you make them go up, things will go well. But if you say: ”Go up! – ‘But I can’t” – “Go!” this is called exasperating the children, asking the children to do what they are not capable of doing. Therefore, the relation between parents and children must be one of wisdom, of very great balance. Children, obey your parents, this pleases God. And you, parents, do not exasperate your children, asking them to do things they cannot do. And this must be done so that the children grow in responsibility for themselves and for others.
A thousand times a day I lack empathy for what it is I am asking of my children, and a thousand times a day I need guidance about what I am asking of them.. is it too difficult for them or are they just trying to shirk a job they find requires effort or gets them out of their comfort zone?
Above all, is the question: how to educate? What tradition do we have today to transmit to our children?
“Critical” intellectuals of all kinds have silenced parents in a thousand ways, to defend the young generations from harm — real or imagined — of family education. Among other things, the family has been accused of authoritarianism, favouritism, conformism, and of emotional repression that generates conflicts.
How often have we been gagged, by well-meaning “others”, whether they be family, friends or professionals. I still recall a nurse being critical of me touching and speaking to my newborn baby girl in the Special Care Nursery as she thought I was giving her “too much stimulation”. A mother touching and speaking to her baby can even be critiqued by well-meaning others. This is very undermining to parents, this attitude that parents really don’t have a clue. And to be honest, I really don’t have a clue. But God does and somehow He has chosen me despite my imperfections to parent this child to the best of my ability.
There is no doubt that parents, or better, certain educational models of the past had some limitations, there’s no doubt. However, it is also true that there are mistakes that only parents are allowed to make, because they can compensate for them in a way that is impossible for anyone else.
So how do we support each other in this mighty task, you may wonder. It is a hostile culture that we seek to follow our heart in. I am often finding myself a victim of “paralysis by analysis”. There are so many options and choices and ways of acting and interpreting a child’s behaviour and a parent’s response. It can really do your head in. Not in a good way, either.
Many parents are “kidnapped” by work – father and mother must work – and by other preoccupations, hampered by the new needs of the children and the complexity of present-day life – which is like this, we must accept it as it is – and they feel paralysed out of fear of making a mistake…(emphasis added)
The Christian communities are called to offer support to the educational mission of families, and they do so first of all with the light of the Word of God. The Apostle Paul reminds us of the reciprocity of duties between parents and children: “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged” (Colossians 3:20-21).
At the base of everything is love, what God gives us, “it is not arrogant or rude, does not insist on its own way, is not irritable or resentful, … bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1Corinthians 13:5-6).
So do not be discouraged, all hard-working parents labouring at the coalface of modern parenting. We have many challenges not faced by our parents, grandparents or generations of others, but we also have a firm foundation built on Sacred Scripture and an authentically Catholic tradition which provides us with the fullness of the Truth- namely, Jesus – precisely to equip us for the times in which we live. Let us not forget what we are here for, and live it joyfully! And of course the final word must go to Pope Francis himself:
I hope that the Lord will give Christian families the faith, the freedom and the courage necessary for their mission. If family education rediscovers the pride of its leadership, many things will change for the better, for hesitant parents and for disappointed children. It is time that fathers and mothers return from their exile – because they have exiled themselves from the education of their children –, and reassume fully their educational role. We hope that the Lord will give parents this grace: not to exile themselves from the education of their children. And only love, tenderness and patience can do this.
For the full text in English by Pope Francis, go here.
Be brave, be strong!