In my previous essay, I wrote that parents will never be able to parent perfectly, but, you and I are the perfect parents for our children. Even as it pertains to attending to their social well being and formation. This article will discuss how to raise mature, good, responsible, and happy, future social citizens.
In 1996, Hillary Rodham Clinton, drawing on an African proverb, wrote a book entitled “It Takes a Village,” promoting, of course, the notion that it takes a village to raise a child. What do you think? Do you believe that it takes a village to raise a child? That mother and father have no more rights, duties and obligations toward their children than grandma, auntie, neighbor, teacher, coach, principal, police, doctor, school psychologist and/or sociologist, or even society’s experts?
Detractors took issue with Clinton’s book for many good reasons, including the fact that her arguments failed to take into account some very important first principles with regard to family, society, and personhood. If we can’t get those understandings right, phony conclusions are easily drawn, including the notion that it takes a village to raise a child.
This discussion has to begin by addressing some of those exceedingly important first principles including primordial order. God designed the world to proceed with Love. Non-human natures cooperate less freely than do humans. For example, animals cooperate through instinct; plants cooperate by means of nature and nature itself cooperates through God’s direct Hand. But it is in and through man and woman’s conjugal love and vows that a new life is created. This is how the world goes on. This is part and parcel of God’s primordial plan for the world. Love between one man and one woman brings forth children. In turn, love of the family helps others they meet along the road to God. But it is the loving, stable marriage that best supports family life — this is proven by numerous studies. It is also one reason why most nations favor monogamy and marriage. Furthermore, the Church understands that the “fruitfulness of married love extends to the fruits of the moral, spiritual and supernatural life that parents hand on to their children by education. Parents are the principal and first educators of their children. In this sense, the fundamental task of marriage and family is to be at the service of life.” [CCC11653} “By its very nature, the institution of marriage and married love is ordered to the procreation and education of the offspring and it is in them that it finds it’s crowning glory.” [CCC1652]
The immediate family (father, mother, child) becomes an independent ’family unit’ living within a village of extended relatives, friends, acquaintances and strangers. Each family is to be recognized as a privileged community with its own rights within the larger community. One of those basic rights is the right to exist without interference from others unless the family has broken down, unable to take care of itself, and/or requests help. Even then, external supports must respect the family’s autonomy as much as possible and give help only to the extent that it is needed. The restorative help is to end when the family reaches autonomy. This is known as the principle of subsidiarity. [CCC 1883]
The family begets family. The families coalesce into a village. This is part and parcel of the natural order. Love and Economics: It Takes a Family to Raise a Village, author/economist, Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse writes: “only the family can lay the groundwork for the development of the conscience. Only the family can socialize children to use their freedom responsibly. No social program can take the place of mothers and fathers, working together as a team.” She laments that all too often the government and media call the self-appointed experts, not stay at home moms, for discussions of family policy, further eroding the foundational principles needed to form a healthy society.
When social units form, it is natural that select people be vested with ‘legitimate authority to preserves its (family) institutions and to devote themselves as far as necessary to work and care for the good of all.”[CCC 1899] The legitimate authority that is selected by the families has the duty to honor the family, to assist them when necessary, and to ensure that each member has certain freedoms including the freedom to establish a family; to have children and bring them up in keeping with the family’s own moral and religious convictions; to protect the marriage bond and the institution of the family, etc. Essentially, the legitimate authority is duty bound to ensure the common good of each and all members because were it not for its families, the village would cease to exist. And were it not for the love of husband and wife, children would not exist safely and most excellently.
How do parents form good future citizens? Before we can answer that we have to look at the qualities of a good citizen. Once again the Catholic Catechism says it best. “When we see our brothers and sisters we are to see them as the children of our parents. When we see our cousins, we ought to see them as the descendants of our ancestors. When we see fellow citizens, we ought to see them as the children of our country. Every human person is to be seen as a son or daughter of the One who wants to be called ‘our Father.’ In this way our relationships with our neighbors are recognized as personal in character. The neighbor is not a unit in the human collective but someone why by his known origins deserves particulate attention and respect.” [CCC 2212]
How then do we try and form our children to “have a natural good will toward all in keeping with the dignity of human persons concerned for justice and fraternity” — the hallmark of a very good person and citizen? [CCC 2213] What is key? Saint Pope John Paul ll answered that question when he wrote the following in Familiaris Consortio [paragraph 6]: “Only an education in LOVE rooted in FAITH can lead children to understanding and correctly interpreting the signs of the times around them which are really historic expressions of mutual conflict between the authentic love of God versus the love of self. The first causes us to be concerned about others [a necessary ingredient of a good social citizen]. The latter causes us to disregard God and fellow human persons.” Therefore, one’s social wellness always hinges on knowing and loving God first and foremost. “Social justice practices, in keeping with the Commandments of the Divine Law, make Christian conduct more effortless and possible.” [CCC 1887] Furthermore, if we fail to move our children toward God, we will have only partially attended to the goal of bringing about social justice.
Secondarily, it will be necessary to attend to the formation of our children’s consciences and moral compasses; the conscience is our interior voice that is uniquely human. We are to instill personal virtues, of which obedience is a primary one. Mothers Forever, Fathers Forever introduces the concept of virtue training by using a virtue card/exercise with any of our children over the age of three. We are to encourage good behavior through positive reinforcement and affirmation. We are to consider ourselves the primary teacher in matters of faith and morals. Parents also have the task of ‘civilizing’ their children; this means helping our children recognize personal sin so in turn they can rein it in. Otherwise, “Sin creates a proclivity to sin; it engenders vice by reputation of the same acts. Vice fosters perverse inclinations which cloud consciences, corrupt our sense of right and wrong, reproduces and reinforces itself, and oppose virtue. In turn they lead us to commit the more egregious capital sins.” [CCC1865-1866]
Social citizens need to learn the art of good communication; this begins at home — or not. Parents are often put in the job of refereeing sibling disagreements, differences, etc. We have to help our young people realize that all too often the way they communicate is overly emotional than rational – due in part to their immature brains. We also have to teach how to avoid giving mixed messages when communicating with others even though this is largely how America communicates today. This is covered in our Daughters Forever, Sons Forever program for parents. Fostering truthfulness, patience, and other virtues is necessary when attending to our parenting jobs.
All things considered, the best way to form good social citizens is to be one. We have to be the good neighbor,; the considerate driver, the friendly shopper, the good friend, the compassionate caretaker, the forgiving spouse and parent, the welcoming friend, the good communicator, the humble servant, the generous person. For, it is by our example that our children learn best. If we are inconsistent or insincere, so will be our children. If we parent by the “Do as I say, not as I do” philosophy, our children will learn this and also come up short in personal virtue, good social skills, etc.
Let me conclude with this short list of bullet items for raising good future citizens:
- Pray and fast together
- Volunteer together
- Work side by side at home
- Prepare and eat evening meals together regularly.
- Give positive example to your children
- Supervise your children closely
- Correct your children as necessary; we have to encourage their positive traits and discourage negative character defects
- Say what you mean and mean what you say — avoid all mixed messaging
- Teach good social manners
- Parent with one voice
Next time, I will focus on forming children of faith. For you and me, this coincides very completely with forming good social citizens; but my comments may still surprise you. Meanwhile, consider these questions.
- How do you fine-tune your children’s consciences?
- How and why is obedience one of the most important virtues to instill in your children? How well are you doing? How are you doing it?
- How do we instill other virtues? Which ones are you working on now in the family?
- What is your discipline policy?
- Have you changed your mind about needing a village to raise a child or visa versa?
- Does the type of families matter today?
- What are your civic responsibilities? Your children’s?
If you are interested in learning more about how to raise children of faith and how to parent against the tide; please order Mothers Forever, Fathers Forever or the Daughters Forever, Sons Forever curriculums from Fortifying Families of Faith. If you would like to ask questions, please feel free to contact me.
May God heap blessings upon your and your family.
Copyright 2016 Linda Kracht