Editor’s Note: Parents with kids in the double-digit age range will find inspiration in Tim and Sue Muldoon’s new book from Ave Maria Press. This is a time when we need to take a new look at how we guide and discipline our children, because what works with toddlers won’t always work with teens. Building on a foundation of Ignatian spirituality, the Muldoons offer reflections based on Scripture and science, modeling discernment for our teens so that they’ll be encouraged to use discernment skills in their own decision-making throughout life. As much a life skill as balancing a checkbook or changing a tire, learning to spiritually discern will serve your older children well in the coming years. Enjoy this excerpt from The Discerning Parent, an important book for all whose children have reached the tween years and beyond. –Barb
In The Discerning Parent, Tim and Sue Muldoon blend personal experience and practical advice with the wisdom they’ve learned from Ignatian spirituality to offer guidance for Catholic parents raising teens and tweens. Readers will gain confidence to help teens make better decisions, deepen the roots of Catholic parenting, and relate to teens in a way that reflects the tenacious love of God. Parents can use this guide to learn how to grow in their faith, strengthen their parenting skills, and keep their families and relationships in loving communion with God.
Luke’s gospel is the only one of the four canonical gospels in which we find two of the most well-known parables: the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son. The story of the Good Samaritan, you’ll remember, is the one in which several people pass by a man who has been assaulted and left for dead, but then one person—again, from the hated Samaria goes out of his way to help the man, paying for his convalescence at a nearby inn. The Prodigal Son story is about a father who runs to embrace his wayward son who had demanded his inheritance early, only to squander it on wine, women, and song. Both of these parables, reflecting Luke’s theme of “glad tidings to the poor,” are models of how God reaches out, again and again, to find ways to show his people how much he loves them, and how he calls his people to love one another in the same tenacious, extravagant, even embarrassing ways. The father in the story of the Prodigal Son, Jesus says, is like God: he is willing to not only welcome back his wayward son but to literally run out to meet him, in total disregard of any hint of social propriety.
Can you remember examples of loving your teen in embarrassing ways? Of running out to meet them, as it were, after they showed disrespect to you? If so, then you are already intuiting something about “the mind of Christ” (as Saint Paul describes it) in your willingness to humble yourself. You are bringing glad tidings to the poor.
For our teens are indeed poor, in both their understanding of themselves and the world. In some ways they are children in adult bodies, perceived by others as adults while they themselves often feel inadequate and self-conscious. Their internalized shame—born from the barrage of ads reminding them how unattractive they are; friends who slight them; pop culture that lures them through false desires; scowls of adults in authority when they do not perform well; and so many other daily reminders of what they are not—this shame can consume them unless it is balanced by unconditional love.
Parents are the people God sends as ambassadors of his mercy to teens. Often, we alone have the influence, regular contact, oversight, and long view of our teens’ lives that enables us to love them well. Only we can understand how her part in this play is (for example) a reminder of the part she didn’t get when she was ten; or that this game against this team is particularly meaningful because of the awful loss two years ago; or that the grade in this class is the first A she’s ever gotten in math; or that this dance is a real triumph because of his absolute terror of speaking to girls.
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Copyright 2017 Tim and Sue Muldoon. This excerpt from The Discerning Parent by Tim and Sue Muldoon is reprinted with the kind permission of Ave Maria Press.
About the authors: Tim and Sue Muldoon are the coauthors of Six Sacred Rules for Families: A Spirituality for the Home (Ave Maria Press, 2013). Tim is a theologian who has taught at Mount Aloysius College and Boston College. Sue is a therapist and religious educator. They have three children.