This article is an excerpt from my book “Love and Fidelity in the Family, a guide to family stability”
This contributes a lot to the proper development of the children. When children learn to share, they learn to love selflessly, combating selfishness and greed. This is the foundation stone for good leadership in the future, both as fathers/mothers, as politicians, Priests, Bishops etc. In sharing, parents must strive to maintain a sense of order and equity. This enables the children to cultivate order in themselves and not feel cheated or marginalized. There is a story that teaches the beauty of sharing and its power to reveal the divine in men:
A teenager told his mother to pack him some food. He was going to find God, he informed. The mother prepared the food packet and gave it to her son. The boy walked and walked and walked until finally, he came to a park. He felt tired and so sat on the bench. An old woman was already sitting there. The boy opened his food-packet and held it before the old woman, inviting her to help herself. She smiled and took a sandwich. After some time the boy opened his bottle of water and offered water to the old woman. The boy was delighted to have yet another beautiful smile from her. The old woman drank some water. The boy then returned home. His mother asked him “Did you find God?” “Yes! She was an old lady with a beautiful smile!” said he as he went on to tell the story. The old woman went home and announced joyfully, “today I met God – He was a little boy.”
These two encountered God in each other. This is one of the many effects of sharing. It enables the children to empathize with those around them; being true humans and children of the Most High.
Everyone who lives in a family must be treated with equity. Parents must shun the distinction between biological children and adopted ones. Their love must embrace all people as being, above all, children of the Most High, brothers of Christ and member of His body. When children see their parents treat everyone with equity and love, it causes them to embrace others and shun racism, which tears the world apart today.
Helping children in their chores:
You may now be wondering how mothers can stoop to help children wash dishes and how fathers can bend to help children scrub the house. I answer that this is a further extension of the spirit of service. The children will reflect this as much as they have seen in their parents. When a parent helps the child in his chores, he feels loved and cared for, he feels he is not a ‘slave’ and he is filled with the joy that comes with service. This will immortalize this virtue in the child; he will realize that service is a beautiful quality seen in ‘good guys’ (as this is how they group people in their baby minds). But when this is lacking, the virtue may still be there, but will definitely not be as deep-seated as it would have been if parents learnt to extend a helping hand to the kids (this need not be so frequent). There are many little tricks that can be used to win the heart of a child. For instance, after meals, a father can opt to help clear the dishes instead of his son. This is very helpful. During work, parents could discover more things about their children, for then they would definitely be in high spirits and in the mood to let themselves lose. This is the time when parents can talk sense into their children with love shown in the help they render.
Forgiveness has great power. It is one of the greatest ways to show love to others. Forgiveness consists in both pardoning wrong and forgetting them (i.e. never acting upon them, for we know that wrongs may not always be literally forgotten). The story I related earlier about the young boy and his mother is a typical example of the power of forgiveness. It heightens the sense of responsibility in the child. There is a beautiful story I love to tell about forgiveness:
John a young boy who was visiting his grandparents in their farm was given a slingshot to play in the woods. He could never get his target, a little discouraged, he returned home for tea. When he arrived, he saw grandma’s pet duck, he jokingly aimed at it and hit it in the head and it died. He was seriously grieved, and was also afraid so he hurriedly buried it in the earth only to find his sister Mary watching him. The following day after lunch, grandma called Mary to wash the dishes. But she said, “Grandma, Johnny said that he would like to help you in the kitchen.” Then she turned towards the alarmed Johnny and whispered, “Remember the duck” and Johnny washed the dishes.
In the evening grandpa called the children to go fishing, grandma said, “sorry, I want Mary to help me make dinner.” Then Mary smiled and said, “Well grandma, Johnny told me that he would like to help you prepare dinner.” Then she turned towards Johnny again and whispered, “Remember the duck.” Mary went fishing with grandpa while Johnny stayed home to help grandma to prepare dinner.
After many days of doing both his chores and those of his sister, he could not stand it any longer. One fine morning Johnny went to his grandma and confessed, “Grandma, I killed your duck.” To his great surprise, grandma held him in her arms, kissed him and said, “Sweetheart I know that you killed the duck. I was standing at the window and saw everything. I was just wondering how long you would allow Mary to make a slave of you”.
This reflects the forgiveness that God is wont to show us. When we confess to Him, we do not tell him something he didn’t already know for he is always “at the window”, but we rather confess to gain healing; the freedom that comes from the Sacrament of Penance; from his mercy. This leads us to shed torrents of tears swearing never to forget the One who has shown such degree of understanding and love.
It would be unnecessary for John’s grandma to start pointing out his wrongs to him because experience had already taught him everything he needed to know. It is useless to tell your child to be more careful when he breaks a tumbler for the pains in his heart has already taught him this lesson and the only thing he thinks is “what will mum do?”
The only thing necessary is to show him that what mum would do is hug him and kiss him. This is an opportunity to win the heart of the child the more, and is used by those who recognize its power. Though this does not in any way suggest that parents should over pamper their children, it rather stresses the importance of knowing when a child needs love and understanding. I once asked a dear friend of mine, who disputed with me on this point for a little while “which of your parents do you love more?” (For he believed that the hardness of his father prevented him from doing many bad things than his mother’s tenderness could) he was seriously weakened, but could not deny that it was his mother he loved more. Yes, he may not have been able to avoid many things that his young passions presented to him as an adolescent. However, the important thing is that now he is leading a most organized and morally upright life: saying his prayers, helping his friends and neighbours and struggling to keep from sin, and it is all thanks to the patience of his mother. Yes, harshness does prevent children from wrongdoing, but for a short while, while understanding and love immortalize our teachings in them.
SOME DOS AND DONT’S IN NURTURING LOVE
Avoid Comparing Your Children with others:
Some parents just love to make their children see how backward they are, “don’t you see Mr A” “don’t you see Mrs B”. Though sometimes this is done to help motivate the children to do better, but most of the time it ends up killing their passion for improvement, this is because it makes them feel they can never be better; it makes them form certain wrong conceptions about themselves or about life that could damage their lives.
Avoid too much self-centered complaints:
Some parents are in the habit of telling their children how much they suffer from people, (not excluding their children). This could have very negative effects on the children. Once a child begins to feel that his parents nag a lot he will hardly be affected by the words they speak because he would have gotten used to it by then. Again, parents who do this often selfishly remain in the cocoon they have made for themselves, refusing to come out of it to see the needs and pains of others. Such parents are unable to raise selfless children. Everyone begins to look out for himself, no one rises to consider the troubles of the other, or to once in a while place the others’ needs above his when it is needed. Can such a family be worthy of the name?
Learn to Apologize and Appreciate Little Things:
Good-mannered people are beauties to behold. We have previously treated the ‘apology’ part, lets simply delve into appreciation.
Those little good things children do, are sometimes accompanied by a covert desire to be thanked or commended. This desire may be overt or covert, but it is usually there in them. When parents fail to appreciate those little good things accomplished by these little ones, they cannot possibly correct them when they do the wrong ones for in the mind of the children “he never appreciates anything”. However, when a parent learns to appreciate, he could effectively correct a child, for the child will recognize that he (the parent) is appreciative and so knows what is good and what is not.
Parents fail when they set themselves up as perfect. Some parents never apologize to their children when they wrong them. Few of them rather buy them things or find ways to make them happy, while others just walk away. I tell you, even if you give him the whole world and succeed in making him happy, you have already given scandal. This is a display of pride, which the child may be infected with in no time. This kills sensitivity in children.
Granted, you may succeed in cheering him up without saying the word “sorry”, however, even with all those alternative gestures, the absense of those words still have a remarkable impact.
To the humble belong the true spirit of the statement “I am sorry”, they apologize and reasonable people can’t help but accept. The proud on the contrary only has those words stored up in their heads, and when an occasion demands it, they simply squeeze it out from beneath piles and piles of venomous words and serve it cold “i am sorry”.
Humble apology doesn’t belittle you, on the contrary it shows how great you are; it doesn’t enslave you, rather it shows how noble a heart you have.
“Sorry” should spring from a remorseful feeling, it is not just an empty word. Even the most sincere can misplace the true meaning of this word and fail to apologize effectively.
There is no way to be sorry than be sorry. Being sorry is better than saying sorry; but it is even more perfect to be sorry and say sory rather than pick one of them. Being and saying sorry must remain married because it is equally useless to be sorry and not sufficiently express it and saying it and not being sorry.
Chatting (Communication) and paying close attention:
Though I have said this before, I still wish to belabour the point because of its importance. We often love to paint the picture of an ideal family in our minds. Gathered round the table for supper after the day’s struggle. The parents listen lovingly to their children as they air their experiences at school.
It is important to stress the role of listening. Listening has a serious effect on people in general, especially those that are hurt or heartbroken. When parents learn to chat with their children; to joke with them, they could establish good and lasting friendship with them. For it is not enough to be just a father or mother, it is very important also to be a friend. You cannot do this if you do not come down to the level of the child in question; think like him; play and chat with him.
What do you tell your child when he complains of being pained by something or hurt by someone? Do you simply say “sorry dear” or do you hurl his own wrongs at his face? The best thing to do to him at that moment is never to recount his wrongs to him (that can come later when it is something serious) rather you are meant to hold him, and listen with attentiveness (allowing one to complain with tears could be therapeutic sometimes, as it is capable of easing off pain). You are meant to understand the nature of your child and what he needs at that time.
Where did he learn that? This is the question often asked by an observant parent when he sees something new (especially bad ones) in the child. To the less observant parent, any new habit perceived in the child is nothing to worry about, be they good or bad. Parents must be serious with the upbringing of the child, welcoming only those good things, which the child learns from outside the house, and quickly discarding anything immoral or contrary to the family tradition and ethos.
Little is achieved by being too strict towards children. When they have need of answers, they never approach parents because they have already made themselves unapproachable. This makes a child ask friends in school who often, though mostly out of ignorance, lead the child to many dangerous mistakes. When a mother discovers that her premature daughter is having an illicit affair, the best approach is not to shout and threaten. The best is to approach with gentility and love knowing that only love has power to transform people. No one should speak in such an occasion without first praying for words from the Word, for formators work in vain if the Eternal Word is absent. I know a mother who, while trying to stop the daughter from dating a boy, took away her phone and stopped her from attending evening masses (as this was where they usually met) and other church activities. Prior to these punishments, she was only seeing the boy in Church, but with the punishments, she started going to his house. The reason for this is that she had no phone then and always wanted to hear from him, this was when the young girl defiled herself.
Now in the mind of the mother, “she had succeeded” but in reality, she has failed the young girl who needed nothing but more love and understanding to keep herself from such harm. This is what many parents succeed in doing: hiding the evil of their children from their own eyes, but never stopping the evil itself. This is because many parents have not risen above the dangerous clutch of passion and emotion, which often weaken patience and self-control. This leads children towards leading secret lives; pretending they are still good before their parents and showing their true character outside their homes.
some parents show little trust for their children, making them feel there is no good in them. As I said earlier, trust comes with a sense of responsibility. Now when this is missing, the child learns to do just anything he finds pleasant ; with little or no consideration of his duties, commitments and goals. It is true that young people tell a lot of lies and may not always be trusted as they usually have a lot of things to hide. This is true, but as a wise parent, there are ways to help a child cultivate sincerity. There are ways also of discovering if a child speaks the truth without showing distrust. Even when we discover the truth, we use discretion to caution them because children could be irritated by the fact that their parents “read their minds”, for no one really loves being caught doing something bad and probably shameful. Two possible attitudes is to either break down in tears or be hardened; either the person is brought down to embrace change or the person locks himself in, throwing away the opportunity of self realization.
Know dear parent, that whenever you say, “my child is bad” this might also imply “I am a bad parent”. I believe that juvenile delinquency is in some way, a fault of parents and juvenile delinquency is synonymous with what I call parental delinquency or more suitably, “carelessness” on the part of parents. At times a child may deviate from the life style they have been living from childhood because of a number of factors (though this is not a justification of the action of delinquents), let us take a few examples.
- Emotional Needs: one of the main things that make parents “lose” their children is emotion. Like every other part of man, emotion grows; it develops and passes different stages. Parents fail to realize that it is most delicate when it is still developing and consequently needs extra care to help its proper growth and maturity. A little girl can go out of the house to seek a boy to befriend; to give her whole heart to. Sometimes this is because the girl “feels” unloved in the home; she feels she’s not noticed; that she’s not listened to, she then goes out in search of one who would have all these qualities (though they NEVER find any). Though even without this feeling, some still seek to explore life. This could also be because, she has come to realize the wholeness there is in self-sacrifice. She has discovered the hidden joy in true love. In both cases, they face great risks, especially when they are without real information on how things work in reality, as mostly oposed to the wrong stereotyped image of love-realtionship, encouraged by pop culture and further distorted by the media and pop arts.They fail to realize that having boyfriends can neither solve those problems nor remedy the yearnings from within; that it is only God that can satisfy the heart of man. We are rewarded with satisfaction when we wait for the right time to give ourselves to full dedicated lover of this sort in all its exclusivity and secure possesiveness. Here it does not matter what the case has been between children and parents, what matters is how they see their parents. Can your child say that you are really a loving parent?
A child needs great attention, once they believe they have everything; that they have love in their parent, that they are cared for, listened to etc. Granted they may still go astray at some point in their teenage life, however even in the midst of all the emotional fires. the child still considers the more stable love he has in his family and struggles not to make the parents unhappy by indulging in acts contrary to his upbringing. They most of the times confide in their parents for direction, some children even go as far as opening up completely to the more attentive parent, in whom he enjoys confidence and security.
I have once heard a child tearfully complain to me about the mother’s lack of trust in him. To him she listens and believes outsiders more than him. He gets beaten over other people’s misrepresentation of his actions; actions which sometimes are prompted by childish fear. This child is always bitter about this, crying so much he is beaten over what he has not done. What do you think his relationship with his mother will be like when he is older? The mother faces the risk of losing the ability to wield the power of love over the child because of the many times she had cursed him, beaten him, doubted him etc. she was busy killing every love in the heart of the child.
- Material Need: when a child demands some expensive thing from parents (maybe because his mates have them), they must never be shouted at, even though it is perceived by the parent that the child knows they cannot afford such things. This could make them go out of their way to seek means to “belong”. All these problems find their roots in the orientations they have received from parents. Most times when parents are materialistic, this may be the case with the children, but when they are simple people, their children are likely to take after them. There are many other reasons why children go astray, I have given these two for I feel that all other reasons can be traced back to the above-given.
BEFORE WE CONCLUDE
Nurturing children means employing all necessary means to bring him health in al aspects of life. For instance, when a parent loves and cares for a child, but does not direct him in the path of God there cannot possibly be a healthy foundation for all moral instructions. How do you want to tell your child to be just? Why would he adhere to certain natural laws? Why must he even obey you?
Such disproportion, hinders the holistic development of the child. No matter where this disproportion lies, this void cannot be filled with anything else. Even if you bring up your child in the path of religion, but still fill him with lies, he still will face developmental problems.
Parents are meant to train their kids in the right path; instructing them to value God above all things, and to value the world and care for it. They are meant to be realistic and intuitive at the same time, striking that balance which makes us human.
Many people for instance think that the concept “Faith” is contrary to the nature of man, and may even hinder the full development of man. However how can a human being survive without having faith in his fellows for instance? How can you live without having a positive presumption in the goodness of your fellows? If this faith is not in place then one will doubt everyone and everything, insofar as one cannot get proof, one can no longer have faith. Faith in the unseen or the ‘unprovable’ is not wrong. We believe in the love of our parents, and in our mother’s pain in bearing us, yet we see no scars in her body. We trust that someone loves and cares for us even without any proof and this indeed is very healthy; it is an essential part of man.
Parents’ efforts must involve learning and teaching truth. Unselfishly divulging all that is reasonable and true. This is their second task after bonding them with love.
Sometimes however, even with all the efforts of parents to help their children’s holistic development, they still go wrong at one time or the other, they seem to be resisting the efforts, or unable to take in everything. This is become almost natural. It is clear that such is not always the fault of parents. Because, most times it happens that the emotional and psychological development of the children come with an outburst of strength and enthusiasm. Consequent upon which they are usually at risk of making some mistakes; they hurry to try out new things as they are driven by great passion. This is entirely distinct from the cases we have looked into earlier as this is usually something like a necessary but transient stage. There must come in a person’s life when he gets things wrong, when he thinks life as a novel or a movie, when he experiments to achieve ridiculously impossible results. For the good kids, they are sometimes torn between the love of their parents and their own passions. Most times their passions get a greater hold on them, and they begin to go the wrong way. It is not the end of all the efforts, every parent must prepare for this period.
For what the child needs might not be too much pressure, as this might even harden him the more, rather what he needs is friendship, and more love to steer his youthful passion to a more positive direction. Insofar as their exist a healthy love-relationship between the child and the parents, there is little or nothing to be afraid of. The parent only needs to patiently help the child, seeking for ways to penetrate more and more into his heart to win it back wholly. Too much pressure might tire him out or put him in a difficult situation where he might be forced to “choose one master and despise the other”. And one cannot always be sure the outcome of such an election.
A dialogue on this issue; some questions i treated some time ago:
“Dear GM, I am Mrs. Chidiogo from Anambra State. My problem is with my children. I am scared they might be going astray. I have consulted with many of my friends on how to direct them, but their answers are always the same : hit them and console them. How do I relate with them? Do you have a better view? Thank you”
REPLY: This is a very important question. I really think hitting your kids isn’t a bad idea, but the big question usually is “when is it right to hit” ?. I believe that there are two basic emotions with which children (and even adults) are governed: Love and Fear. Children fear when you hit, they love when you dialogue/forgive. What we must remember is that: If you are too lenient, we risk having delinquents, if we are too hard, we face the risk of rebellion. What is important therefore is that we learn to strike balance. A child must feel loved. He must NEVER be hit unnecessarily, especially when he makes a mistake. He is to be made to understand he is free to choose but must also bear the consequences of his choices. When we have had healthy emotional chats with our kids when they are little, we will also be able to hold them close when they are older; when they are no longer afraid of our cane. But if we depend only on the rod, what then pulls their hearts to us since fear no longer does?
Another similar question:
I am wondering if there is more to our children’s present misbehaviour ; is it natural or is it someone’s fault? What do we do to gain control over our kids again?
ANSWER: Well, I think you have pointed to a very common problem and I am also happy you identified it as “Inability to control the kids”. Like I said somewhere else in answer to a question about hitting the kids: there are two most powerful forces with which kids (and adults) are controlled, they are LOVE AND FEAR. The control you have over your kids depends on the one you capitalize on. If you hit your kids too much, you are tilting towards fear, if you try hard to understand them and forgive them when they make MISTAKES, you are tilting towards love. What happens in families is that most parents train their kids with excessive anger, so the kids are unable to see any love in them; they only get to perceive revengefulness in their actions. What happens when the person is too old to be beaten or shouted at? Will he be able to keep listening to your counsel? or will he become rebellious? This depends on how you have used those two ‘forces’. If you have given your child the impression you are bullying him because he is small, he starts nurturing this strange wish to grow up quick and be free from your “tyranny”. However, if that child has felt the warmth of your love and understanding, he will surely bend to you every time, whether young or old, because the force of love over him is more lasting than that fear which sometimes finds its way into his heart; at last he will see you meant well all along.
Do not beat or curse your children when they make MISTAKES. They already know and regret their misdeed. If you must punish them, make sure they are really guilty of some serious mischief not for every little thing. There are many humane punishments you can give a child rather than hitting him (this depends on family traditions you have developed). You can restrict him from going out on a particular day, refuse him from joining in family games/gettogethers and so on. You can make him regret by simply keeping him in a room for a while, away from television. All punishments must be metted out with love and concern, the child must be made to understand he deserves a dose of such treatment.
Adults remember most of their childhood hurts, I can boast of remembering almost ALL of those ones that really hurt me when i was little. Therefore Just be sure you are not grouped under “wicked people” in your child’s mind, because whether he was wrong or not, you have lost control of his heart. Back then there were people i so much detested because i thought of them as wicked people. In general, my childhood friends shared this attitude toward teachers most especially. Anyone who threatened or hit us often ‘without reason’ is termed wicked. However, now that i am older, i have become more aware of the wrongness of most of my actions then. Now i have sort of ‘regrouped’ some of those people to a more humane chamber in my heart; now i have seen that some of those teachers actually meant well. Notwithstanding, those who were unable make me understand the reasons behind their actions are still locked in that “bad chamber” in my heart. As a Christian i have ‘forgiven’ them (if that’s the right word) however i cannot possibly forget, so i cannot become friends with them or think of how to appreciate them later. Not because i hate them (for i honestly don’t) but because the bond of friendship does not exist, they will be treated formally and not with the warmth that comes with a good old-time memory.