Raising the Next Generation

Family Matters
Curtis and Michaelann Martin
From the Sep 2000 Issue of Lay Witness Magazine

One of the most chilling passages in Scripture is found in Judges 2:10. To feel the full effect of this passage we need to know its context. The people of Israel had just experienced two generations of the most amazing acts of God in history. First, Moses had led the people out of Egypt, through the Red Sea. In addition, everyday bread came down out of heaven to feed them, and water poured miraculously out of a large rock to quench their thirst.

Then Joshua followed in Moses’ steps. As Moses had parted the Red Sea, Joshua parted the Jordan River and the Israelites passed through on dry land into the Promised Land. When the Israelites encountered the impenetrable fortress at Jericho, they conquered not by military might, but by a religious service. After several days of prayer, the priests blew their horns and the walls of Jericho, which were thick enough to race chariots on, simply exploded from the inside.

No two generations saw God’s active involvement in history in a more powerful way. This is the setting for Judges 2:10: “. . . and there arose another generation after them, who did not know the LORD.” The entire purpose of God’s actions had been so that Israel would know Him, and in just one generation all was lost! Why? Because, a generation of parents had failed to raise up their children in godliness. Our task of giving the faith to our children is vitally important. Listen to God as He explains why He chose Abraham to be our forefather in the faith:

“[F]or I have chosen him, that he may charge his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice; so that the LORD may bring to Abraham what He has promised him” (Gen. 18:19).

Parenting may be the most challenging thing we have ever attempted. So many difficult decisions, if only kids came with a handbook . . . but they do!

Know the Goal

“All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16).

When we are told that we can be equipped for every good work, that includes raising children. But, if we are going to use the Scriptures effectively, they must be read within the heart of the Church. Scripture does not provide a question-and-answer format, but rather narratives in which the great men and women of salvation history are being fathered by God. The biblical saints succeed, they stumble, and they are disciplined. We can learn a
great deal from watching God raise His children. It is not as though the Bible has an index in the back of the book, so that when your ten-year-old son won’t practice the piano as he has been told, you can look up under “Not practicing piano” and be told what to do.

Sure, it’s nice to have your son or daughter do as they are told, but we eventually want to train our children so that they can make their own wise decisions. We will have failed if our 30-year-old son or daughter is unable to function in life without their mommy’s direction. So too, God is training us, in Christ, so that we actually think for ourselves, not apart from God, but because we have been formed in godliness.

“No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you” (Jn. 15:15).

Put quite simply, God has called us not to raise up children, but to raise up adults who will become saints. Because of this, we must never let immediate circumstances blind us to our ultimate goal. Our goal is not that our kids will be our buddies today.

Our goal is that our sons and daughters will grow up to be followers of Christ, men and women of virtue, and be with us in the presence of Our Heavenly Father forever. This means that we sometimes have to make unpopular decisions.

Know the Way

The $64,000 question in modern parenting is, “Should you spank your children?” When Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen was asked whether parents should spank their disobedient children, he responded, “They don’t call it child rearing for nothing.” While the common sense answer should be clear to everyone (“yes” if the situation warrants it, see Proverbs 13:24; 22:15), abuses of corporal punishment make it necessary to point out some guidelines.

First, don’t spank out of anger. In other words, we don’t spank to get even. All discipline, if it is to be godly, must have the aim of restoration, not retaliation.

Second, don’t spank for mistakes or minor misbehavior. The purpose of a spanking is to send a clear message that some forms of behavior are unacceptable, such as direct disobedience or blasphemy.

Third, discipline should end with restoration and healing. Always reaffirm your love for your child despite their misbehavior.

“For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Heb. 12:11).

Stay the Course

While children have good days and bad days, we can all recognize recurring patterns of behavior in them. With regard to their behavior, it is possible to generally separate three different types of children. The first type is the child that nobody really enjoys having around because he or she behaves poorly and has little respect for authority or discipline. These children often talk back to their parents, act rudely in public, and have few manners by which they live. The second type is the child that others enjoy having around because he or she is respectful and well-behaved. These are children that you don’t
mind if the mother calls and says her baby-sitter fell through and she might have to bring them to an adult gathering. They are generally polite and respectful to their parents and authority figures and usually get along with the other children. The final type of child is the one who not only is polite and gets along with the other children, but actually teaches other children through his or her example how to be better-even holy. These are the children
that parents actually look for opportunities to get their children together with, because they are well on their way to becoming holy men and women.

Our children’s behavior is important. Not only does it reflect our parenting, but it reflects their awareness of God and His love and authority over all His creatures. We have had the great opportunity of experiencing all three types of children. Can you guess which ones we enjoy the most? Can you guess which type of child we should strive, with God’s grace, to train up and raise? This is an awesome task and a great responsibility. I think parenting is the most difficult and challenging task that God has entrusted to us, ever! It is so great a task that He has given us the grace through the Sacrament of Marriage to actually succeed and form these little souls for His kingdom.

“Through the grace of the sacrament of marriage, parents receive the responsibility and privilege of evangelizing their children” (Catechism no. 2225, original emphasis).

The goal of training up holy children is wonderful, but there’s more. The Church gives us the tools to be successful in our efforts. She provides us the grace that comes from the sacraments and prayer, and the wisdom of Scripture as understood in light of Tradition. We have also been blessed with good mentors who have helped us in this awesome task of raising our children to be saints. All of us could easily admit that we would like to have good families and wonderful children for ours to play with and learn from. How much more wonderful it would be if our children were the ones that others wanted around
their children. This is not too much to expect or strive for, because “with God all things are possible” (Mt. 19:26).

Steve and Karen Wood have been mentors of ours. It is difficult to find the best means for training our children because each family and child is so different. But having wise counsel and the Word of God to use as guidelines has been very helpful. It is very important that each couple devise their own family game plan and then commit to being consistent.

In response to using firm consistent discipline with children, Steve once said, “The goal of child training and discipline is to move the child from a self-centered orientation to a God-centered orientation. The only time that the rod should be used is in situations where the child willfully challenges a parent’s authority, or where there is exhibition of a lack of respect for those in authority. Sporadic blowups are counter-productive in producing godly
children. Your children need the secure boundaries formed by calm and consistent discipline. Sometimes you will really need to make the effort to
discipline your child when you least feel like it.”

Talk Tips

  • Are your children the type of children that others enjoy having around?
  • Are you serious about training up soldiers for the Kingdom of God? Are you raising your children to become saints?
  • What steps do you think you need to take as parents in order to better train and form your children as God’s ambassadors?

Additional Reading

    • Handbook for Parents, by Fr. Paul Wickens
    • God and Children, by Jesus Urteaga
    • Character Building, by David Isaacs
    • The Religious Potential of the Child, by Sophia Cavalletti
  • A Landscape with Dragons, by Michael O’Brian
  • If you battle with a hot temper, read Ephesians 4:31-32
  • Catechism nos. 2197-2257, on the Fourth Commandment

Action Points

  • Schedule a time to speak with your spouse about how you’re raising your children. Work on a mission statement for your family. What do you want your
    family to stand for? Develop a game plan for each child, so that you may best assist them to grow in faith and virtue.
  • It is important to have one-on-one time with each child. We try to schedule one lunch a month with dad, and it is equally important to have dad watch
    the kids after work or on weekends so mom can schedule one-on-one time with each child as well. These trips can be as simple as running an errand. The
    key is individual time.

Personal Application

The Book of Proverbs is full of great advice on living good and holy lives as parents

    • What  are we called to do? (a) Read Proverbs 22:6 and write down what it is that parents are told to do. __________________________________________
      __________________________________________(b) Summarize Proverbs 4:1-10. __________________________________________ __________________________________________
    • Why and when do parents need to train and discipline their children? (a) What do Proverbs 29:15-17; 19:18; and 13:24 tell us?
      __________________________________________ __________________________________________(b) What do 1 Corinthians 12:4-8 and Romans 12:4-8 teach us about parenting? __________________________________________
    • How are parents to train and discipline their children?(a) Reread Proverbs 4:1, 4:10, and 29:15-17, then write down how we are told to teach. __________________________________________
      __________________________________________(b) What does Deuteronomy 6:4-7 tell us about our parental role? __________________________________________ __________________________________________
    • What are children instructed to do? (a) According to Proverbs 1:8-9, how should children treat their parents?
      __________________________________________ __________________________________________(b) Read Proverbs 3:11-12 and 4:10-27, and summarize what it is that children are instructed to do. __________________________________________
      __________________________________________(c) Read Proverbs 15:31-32 and apply this wisdom to our children and ourselves. Who must parents obey? __________________________________________
    • Does it really matter? (a) What does Matthew 18:5-6 tell us? __________________________________________ __________________________________________ (b)
      What does St. Paul tell us in Galations 6:7 about our efforts? __________________________________________ __________________________________________
  • Take courage, we have help! How are we supposed to get all of this done? Is it possible? Read Romans 8:28. Who did Christ send to help us in His absence? According to 1 Samuel 15:24, why did Saul fail? As parents, we must have the courage to lead our children.
    __________________________________________ __________________________________________ __________________________________________

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