What did you do?! …continued

When Sarah was in middle school, sleepovers were the popular event for girls.  We had them at our house, and she was invited to other homes.  Prerequisite:  we needed to know the parents, I had to verify parental supervision and no boys.  She was SO embarrassed that I would have to talk to her friends’ parents before giving permission.  Neither of our children were allowed to date or attend co-ed parties until they were 16.  Of course, we were terrible parents in their eyes by that point.   But one thing they knew we would say before we even said it – we are your parents, not your best friends.  They heard that a lot!  Unfortunately, we see so many parents today striving to be their kids’ friends.  Or trying to give them everything they want (or both!)  It’s important to maintain a good relationship with your kids.  Eat dinner together, play games together, go bowling….have fun!  But when the boundaries between parenting and befriending are blurred, you’re in for some trouble.  They want and need your guidance and discipline.

Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and reject not your mother’s teaching       Proverbs 1:8 good book.jpg

This is out of sequence but I thought this tidbit might also be important.  Read to your kids, even before they know what the words mean.  Instill in them the joy of reading, learning, imagination.  As the get a little older, read books that they will remember as they mature.  Books like The Chronicles of Narnia, Wind in the Willows, The Hobbit, Where the Wild Things Are.  Stories about the saints written for a young audience is a great way to teach them about virtue and faith.  And finally, never stop reading adult books by authors like Scott and Kimberly Hahn, Matthew Kelly, George Weigel, St John Paul II, Pope Benedict.

One thing my husband especially instilled in our kids, was the need to be honest.  Everybody screws up, including us!  But own up to it.  If you get drunk and need a ride, call.  If you get a ticket or have an accident, call.  If you get in trouble at school, you better tell us before the school does.  All of these things can be fixed and forgiven.  But if you want to maintain trust, don’t lie.  Punishment for lying would be far more harsh than the discipline for a mistake.  Sarah especially took this to heart and would cry at one disappointed look from her dad.  To this day, she can’t lie to us.  If she tries, she just gives up and tells the truth.

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and Image result for honor thy father and mothermother.”          Ephesians 6:1-2 

Guidelines and discipline are important.  But without times of encouragement and positive reinforcement, a child can feel as though it’s impossible to live up to parents’ expectations.  After correcting an inappropriate behavior, praise them the next time they behave properly. Be forgiving and apologize when you mess up.  It’s one of the things I found hardest to do, but any discomfort you experience is worth the lesson you’ll be teaching.  Give hugs for no reason at all, just to show them how to be grateful and loving.  Express your excitement when they succeed in a task that is normally difficult.  Even if you don’t understand their interests, encourage their pursuits.  Ask them questions, be sincere.  They will want to make you proud.

Our faith is a very important part of our family and frankly, the main reason we have been able to parent in an effective way.  My husband and I cannot do it on our own.  Others in our faith community, priests, family, friends….all have contributed to our ability to bring up a family in the way of the Lord.  Most of all, we pray.  To our Father to teach us, Christ to guide us and the Holy Spirit to inspire us.  Going to mass, attending religious education or participating in charitable events have always been non-negotiable.  Being bored, not wanting to go, not interested – no excuses accepted.  Parents should be the decision makers of their child’s spiritual well being, not the other way around.  We need to be the teachers and leaders, setting the example for our children to follow.  Letting them  believe to participate or not is their decision alone can lead them away from the church.  And once gone, you may not be able to bring them back.

Recommended resources:  The Five Love Languages of Children – Dr. Gary Chapman and Dr. Ross Campbell; The Five Love Languages of Teenagers –  Gary Chapman; Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters AND Strong Mothers, Strong Sons- Dr. Meg Meeker; Boys Should Be Boys – Dr. Meg Meeker; Beloved and Blessed – Kimberly Hahn; Legacy of Love – Kimberly Hahn; LoyolaPress.com; RelevantRadio.com; gracebeforemeals.com from Fr. Leo Patalinghug (his book is good, too!); drray.com Dr. Ray Guarendi and his books “Raising Good Kids”, “Discipline That Lasts a Lifetime”  and “Good Discipline, Great Teens”.

What did you do?!

I’ve been working on this post for over a month and realized it was turning into a book!  Rather than put readers through the torture of reading a VERY long post, I’m going to cover this subject in several installments.  Hope you’ll stick with me:

My husband and I have been asked this question on numerous occasions, by friends, family and parishioners at church.  We wish we had a magic formula that anyone could use, but it’s not that easy.  When it comes to how we raised our kids to be good, moral, faithful adults, a lot of things are involved.  We certainly are not perfect parents and we certainly would not say our kids are perfect.  A lot of people raise equally or even more amazing children, so we don’t have a monopoly on the market.  Much of it boils down to a few basics:  being willing to read, listen, learn and pray.  Plus when they were growing up (especially in their teens), we were the parents, they were the kids.

One of our goals for our son and daughter was to give them the confidence that they could come to us about anything.  No subject off limits, no wrong that couldn’t be fixed or forgiven.  So we started with this at very early ages.  For instance, when little ones bring up subjects that pertain to sex, we didn’t react with shock or embarrassment.  If they felt comfortable talking to us when they were young, it would be easier for them to feel that way as teens.  I remember when Eric was 4 or 5, he came up to me and giggled “I know what French kissing is.”  My internal dialog “How the heck does he even know those words go together.  What do I say?  Stay calm…..don’t act like a lunatic and scare the kid to death!”  Externally, I took a couple of deep breaths and remembered that the best way to handle this situation is to ask them a question.  So I asked him what HE thought it meant.  He proudly announced “It’s when a mom and dad kiss for a REALLY long time!”  I hugged him and said, “you are exactly right.”  Whew, dodged that bullet.  Instead of expounding on the meanings, good and bad points (and digging the hole even deeper), he told me what he knew and didn’t want any other information.  Note to self:  find out what they know and what they want to learn before giving them more information than is necessary or maybe even appropriate.

In elementary school, Eric’s class had the separate boy and girl talk about hygiene and very basic sex education (thank goodness this was before the more explicit lessons taught today!)  I asked for the information to be presented and felt it was appropriate for his age.  When I dropped him off at school that day, I encouraged him to behave during the discussions and if he had any questions or concerns, to ask me or his dad.  That afternoon, he hopped in the back seat and talked all about his day.  The subject of the special lesson never came up.  So I left it at that, figuring that evening at dinner he might broach the subject.  Not a word.  Same routine next afternoon, hopped in the back seat.  But this time he had a bit of a puzzled look on his face.  I asked him what was wrong and he said, “why did they keep talking about safe sex?  They never really explained it.”  So I reminded him of some of the previous discussions we had with him.  Then a light bulb went on!  “Why didn’t they just say ‘safe reproduction’? I would have known what they meant.”  To explain, he and his sister watched Nature and similar television shows with my husband.  Occasionally, the subject of reproduction was part of the programming, which inevitably led to questions.  I took the opportunity to talk about “safe sex” in terms of being married, not just treating it like a fun thing to do with just anyone.  Irresponsible sex could lead to diseases and unplanned pregnancy.  Anything beyond that really wasn’t necessary at a 4th or 5th grade level.

daddy date

A daughter keeps her father secretly wakeful, and worry over her robs him of sleep.        

Sirach 42:9 


How do girls know how they should be treated when dating?  And how do boys learn to be respectful of girls?  We read or heard somewhere (we are voracious readers and continuously work at learning more about our faith, parenting, personalities and so on – subject to address another day), that dads should take their daughters on dates and moms spend similar time with their boys.  We didn’t spend tons of money or do anything fancy.  We just wanted to be examples for them to follow.  The result:  Sarah is confident in her ability to set boundaries with boys (she’s in her 20’s but she stillcalls them “boys”).  Our favorite song for the longest time was Shania Twain’s “(If You’re Not in It for Love) I’m Outta Here!”  Eric is a gentleman, opening doors, being kind and treating women with respect.  When he was in high school, one of his teacher’s mentioned how unusual it was for a young man his age to consistently make a point of holding doors open for girls and teachers.  I didn’t see why it should be so notable, but she said I would be surprised how little of that occurs these days.

And his mother said,Eric

“Blessed be my son by the Lord.”      

Judges 17:2    


We are responsible first and foremost to teach our children about all aspects of life.  And ALL through their life, not just as they enter high school, or head off to college or before a wedding.

melting my heart

Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.          Proverbs 22:6

To be continued…..