Christian Parenting with Purpose (Part II): The Essentials
by Joe Hyland
At times Christian parenting can be messy and difficult, but parenting successfully is possible for those who are committed to doing so with purpose. Those that parent with purpose do it because they understand that even the best children are inclined to act upon impulse, choosing whatever is easiest and most pleasurable in a given situation. Children who exhibit such behavior without being addressed become adults who habitually take the path of least resistance, selfishly choosing whatever is most appealing to them in a given moment with little or no consideration given to the consequences. If this pattern continues unchecked, a child can easily become an entitled, self-centered and selfish adult.
Admittedly, there are many factors that impact the development of children. Parents should realize that they cannot possibly control every one of these influences. Thus, my approach with parents is the same approach I take with the young men that I coach or those whom I counsel: assess and address. In short, this approach emphasizes first identifying what you can control, and secondly, directing your efforts towards mastering those things. In fact, together these make up the first two in a series of nuts and bolts approaches for those wishing to be successful in Christian parenting. The difficulty that many people have with these first steps is not so much in the assessing or the addressing. Rather, the difficulty is in letting go of what you cannot control. If you don’t believe it, give it a try!
It is critical that we work intentionally to train our children to do what is right. Parenting with purpose, however, goes further – for kids to do what is right, they must know what is right. Many good and well-meaning parents overlook this simple point: that it is impossible for our children to avoid wrongdoing and choose what is right without knowing one from the other. They will learn and make this distinction from someone. Therefore, our effort must be deliberate and exhaustive from a child’s earliest stages to provide them with the environment and the role models that establish a culture marked by the discovery of truth, the pursuit of virtue through the practice of goodness, and the ongoing development of a godly mind and heart.
Another important component to Christian parenting with purpose that is increasingly overlooked is supervision. Parents must actively supervise their children as they are trained in doing what the parents have taught to be right. This includes seeking forgiveness when wrong, doing chores, constructive and healthy play with siblings or peers, mealtime manners, and various social interactions, among other things. Again, the process of learning will take place. Parents who control who it is their children learn from and what their children are learning, have maximized their efforts by identifying external sources of reinforcement for their parenting.
As parents whose vocation it is to raise up children to know, love and serve God it is essential that we are continually discerning the most appropriate and effective ways to live out this vocation. Parenting with purpose provides us with a roadmap to stay the course as Christian parents who desire for our children a healthy and mature assimilation into adulthood. To understand and apply the points elicited above is a definitive stride forward for parents, but it is the next and final installment of parenting with purpose which addresses the two components to parenting that have proven to be indispensible – family time and discipline.
Joe Hyland is a guest speaker at “Destination Dignity” – a conference focused on purity, dignity, and chastity for adults and young adults ages 12 and up. The conference will be hosted at St. Mary Magdalene Catholic Church in Simpsonville, South Carolina on March 14-15, 2014. For more information, click here.