Raising Catholic Kids: An Observation

Image: Mi Pham
by Candice Tolentino

Last week we were asked to give a talk about “Strengthening the Christian Families” which means we needed to talk about raising Catholic kids. They might as well have asked us to perform a brain surgery. We didn’t have a clue.

Well, maybe we did. But it’s not because we have results to show for it. I think being only married 12 years and being one year short of having a teenager could hardly be called “solid experience”. What we do have is exposure.

We’ve been exposed to many different youth while we were youth ourselves and while working with a youth ministry as young parents. We’ve been around youth and young adults in the Philippines, in Ohio, and now here in Ontario, Canada. What we can provide is our observation. And just like other Catholic parents, we do want our kids to make it to heaven. We’ve mistakenly assumed in the past that by serving actively in a Catholic organization, we can be assured of this. NO. NO. NO. Big NO. Again, this is our observation and not an extensive study that we have undertaken. Nevertheless, the question, “How and why did these kids grow up to be strong Catholics and these other kids did not?” has always been a topic of discussion with my husband.

Here’s what we have observed in parents who have raised strong Catholic kids. Please take it with a grain of salt and please (please!) know that the Holy Spirit can always guide us despite all our failings if we want Him to. And thank God for that! Otherwise, my children are doomed.

1) They are intentional in their parenting.

If you ask them why they do a certain activity, they can readily tell you their purpose. They are deliberate in their choices of activities, schooling, books, how to spend their time. Their question is always, “Will this give my kids the True, the Good, and the Beautiful?” (Philippians 4:8)

2) They study (and get excited about) their faith and make time to teach it to their children.

The power of stories. I observed that no kid would be enthusiastic hearing a list of rules. But they will listen to stories. I have seen this in my kids. So many times I’ve been at a loss on how to stress the importance of a certain virtue, mainly because I don’t have it myself (patience, anyone?). And so many times, a story of a saint has saved me. “Well, you don’t think you can do your Math because you are not good at it? St. Joseph of Cupertino is not impressed.”

3) They know the political issues that directly impact the family. They discuss these with their children in age-appropriate ways and language.

There are a lot of groups that will readily raise your children. But these parents know that “the hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world.”

4) They ensure that their children spend more time with them than with peers in the early years and adolescence.

Children naturally obey those whom they are attached to.

5) They are not afraid to say “NO” to their children.

This is from my favorite Catholic speaker on discipline, Dr. Ray Guarendi. He is a clinical psychologist and a father of 10! I’d take his advise anytime versus the pop child psychologists and parenting experts.

6) Parents value hard work more than self-esteem.

This video from Matt Walsh makes a lot of sense. I love Matt Walsh!

7) They know the importance of fatherhood.

This right here is of critical importance for these parents. I’ve observed that some parents may have failed in any one of the above but then their kids have fathers who actively lead the family and who are purposeful in spending time with them. The stats here backs it up: IF DAD TAKES FAITH IN GOD SERIOUSLY, SO WILL HIS CHILDREN.

Parenting is no easy task, let alone raising strong Catholic kids. It is daunting, I know. But let us not forget that it is the grace of Christ that “sustains and stimulates us” (Familiaris Consortio — p47). We can receive this unlimited supply of grace through the sacraments, and in fact, we have already received it when we entered into a sacramental marriage.

“…since parents have conferred life on their children, they have a most solemn obligation to educate their offspring. Hence, parents must be acknowledged as the first and foremost educators of their children. Their role as educators is so decisive that scarcely anything can compensate for their failure in it. For it devolves on parents to create a family atmosphere so animated with love and reverence for God and others that a well-rounded personal and social development will be fostered among the children. Hence, the family is the first school of those social virtues which every society needs.” — St. Pope John Paul II in Familiaris Consortio par36

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