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BY KENNETH C. ALIMBA

About This Booklet

Parents may unintentionally prioritize certain aspects of their children’s lives while neglecting others that are equally vital. This can lead to children being ill-equipped to face the world with courage, fairness, and self-control. This booklet provides valuable guidance on commonly overlooked lessons for parents.

Warning

This is intended for print, so the language may show it.

Copyright

© 2023 Kenneth C. Alimba. No part of this booklet may be reproduced without the express permission of the author. I intend to spread the gospel, and I grant permission for reprinting but with conditions, so feel free to send us a message using the Contact Page.



Raising Balanced Catholic Children: Lessons For Parents



THE PROBLEM


Can a parent give their absolute best, only to watch in astonishment as their children veer dramatically off course, transforming into unrecognizable adults? Yes, Undoubtedly. A child still eventually has to grow and face the world with their unique set of skills, convictions and mindset and make their own mistakes. 

But the real question is: what is the parent’s “absolute best”? 

A parent might enter this lifelong journey with nothing but a heart full of hope, attempting to navigate the intricate labyrinth of child psychology. What are the chances of them stumbling upon the precise knowledge and techniques required to guide a challenging child? Zero. While one can stumble upon a few truths in one’s journey, constructing an entire framework of parenting wisdom adaptable to each child’s unique mental landscape is impossible. Each child is a universe unto themselves, and their responses to parental methods are as diverse as constellations in the night sky. Hence, it pays dividends for a parent to approach this monumental task with knowledge and character – character arguably even more indispensable than knowledge, as we will soon explore. And by “character”, we include an inclination to temporal and eternal truths, a predisposition and a positive response to God. Right off the bat, it must be said that no one can produce the supernatural life of God in another person without first being alive with it. 

Do you aspire to raise a child who effortlessly commands every room with their eloquence, clarity of expression, and reading well beyond their years? A child deeply devoted to the pursuit of truth? 

Do you yearn for a child who listens intently, respectfully responding while seamlessly navigating the intricate web of social norms that facilitate lasting friendships and connections? A child blessed with prudence, handling their affairs with diligence and grace, earning the trust of everyone they encounter? 

What about a child whose faith is unwavering, who prays fervently and lives by a strong moral code – seeking God’s path in their daily life? A child whose faith serves as a beacon, inspiring those around them?

But what if you were asked to choose only one of these virtues? Would you prefer a child who outwardly displays faith but lacks the courage to seek truth comprehensively or the prudence to do so? A child whose social skills are mediocre and often associates with people who have poor social graces?

Or would you opt for a child with superb social skills and eloquence but without faith?

If I’ve done my job well, you’d see that this is like asking you to select between a child with eyes and a nose versus one with legs. It’s evident that these qualities are all vital for a person’s holistic development; the absence of one sets off a chain reaction, severely limiting one’s life potential. Yet, some parents inadvertently prioritize certain skills while neglecting others, ultimately hindering their children’s growth in specific areas.

In striving for one’s best, it’s essential to recognize that parental limitations and mistakes trickle down to the offspring, amplifying the child’s limits. “Doing your best” is the baseline expectation from every parent, but truly effective parenting requires personal growth – elevating the quality of what constitutes “your best.” For example, a parent struggling with bipolar disorder or alcoholism may have genuinely tried their best. Yet, their child might still end up severely ruined in one area or another. We cannot blame them for not trying hard enough, as their personal struggles may have been too overwhelming. Families pass down generations of errors, trapping every member or burdening them with grave disadvantages. 

The definition of “best” varies for each person, depending on their circumstances, because everyone’s limits differ. So, someone healthy will have a different “best” than someone sick, and the same goes for someone knowledgeable compared to someone ignorant. While we may not be able to fix our mental health instantly, we can acquire knowledge and work on our moral lives to improve our “best.” And such improvement will not only make us better but will improve the lives of our children and our generation after them.

While it is true that not every failure with children proves the parents did a lousy job, it’s equally true that the chief cause may lie in the parents’ shortcomings and knowledge gaps. This booklet offers insights into the person you must become and the often-overlooked yet crucial knowledge you must acquire to be a capable parent and nurture virtuous Catholic children.

There will come a time when your kids will no longer need your direct guidance and will have to explore the world independently. So, it’s your responsibility to provide them with a solid and unwavering foundation so they can grow into formidable and dependable people who are beacons of light to a world darkened by sin, evil and rampant corruption.

FINDING BALANCE


A human being is like this intricate mosaic of various pieces, all working together to make us function at our best. We need balance in many areas of our lives, and this truth is easily perceivable even without much effort. When we face challenges in our relationships, struggle at work, or stumble in our academic pursuits, it takes a toll on us—sometimes leaving lasting psychological scars. However, there are many other more subtle things upon which we depend to function optimally. In fact, among them is the chief: our spiritual life built firmly on the One True God and expressed in the practice of healthy, intelligent and practical faith. It might not be immediately apparent, but it’s arguably the most vital aspect of our lives, speaking from a practical standpoint.

Anyone who neglects any of these components will experience consequences directly related to the absence, depending on the significance of what is disregarded. No matter how important other things are and how hyper-focused a person might be on them, it will never replace other things. For instance, an obsessive focus on academic achievement while overlooking the importance of manners and social skills won’t nurture a well-rounded child. These skills are crucial for building positive relationships with others and gaining favour with people in various aspects of life. By teaching children solid social skills, parents can help them make quality friends, gain the approval and protection of other adults, and potentially attract a good partner in the future. A well-rounded approach to success is necessary for a fulfilling life.

Also, there is a difference between actively teaching these skills and autopiloting parenting and hoping the kids pick up all they need as they grow. (Autopiloting means doing things with no plan or goal, just going with the flow). Or only focusing on telling them what they have done wrong instead of focusing on positive, conscious teachings. So they could excel academically because they are consciously taught what to know – but be terrible in other fields because they were left to guess their way around those areas. Ultimately, they will only have people at the bottom of the pool to select from as friends—people who are selfish and may be ignorant, hateful, discriminatory, and destructive. 

But as a parent, you must understand that even your life may not be as optimal as it should be, so you must learn what an optimal life looks like. Even with your beauty, money, intelligence, etc., you may lack other forms of wealth, beauty and intelligence. And if you wish your children well, you will want them to be much better than you are. No one is perfect, and probably no one can. However, we will perform far below our potential if we don’t know what perfection looks like.

A balanced life is one in which a person has a meaningful framework for life that accounts for the purpose of existence, the place of human morality, the ultimate goal of all men, and the particular goal for oneself. Within said goal, the person has to see clearly and dominate other smaller or interrelated goals that aid one in achieving their ultimate personal goal. And this ultimate personal goal, the small or interlinking goals, must all fit into this framework.

For us Catholics, we have a solid framework weaved around the life of Christ, and the meaning Faith in him brings. We begin to see that our ultimate end is God – to possess him in the end, to die in union with him so that we can rise again with him. Then, our earthly orientation needs to be one of joy, enjoyment, friendship, and service. Of a relentless pursuit of truth, nobility and beauty, all still within the framework of the Catholic Faith. I.e. all still within the life of Christ, which has been given to us at baptism.

So, the Catholic who has a job must do it diligently as though their salvation depends on it because it does. If they are themselves good Catholics, their consciousness of the place of their job in the plan of God increases as they grow in faith. If they serve the people, they do so with justice and truth. They avoid giving in to unjust practices fuelled by self-seeking, which can destroy the entire spiritual edifice that holds their framework together. Because if, at one point, they begin to embezzle funds, they will develop an interest in other sins that will cause them further blindness. This blindness will affect their choice of friends and a life partner. Think about it: What embezzler wants to marry someone who hates and detests the way they earn? They would instead go for people who are at least silent or passive on the matter. The problem is, if someone is passive on the subject, they are, therefore, passive or silent about other evils. This means they are not balanced morally and will probably not make an effective Catholic parent or even a good partner. See the problem?

Your children need to be stable in the moral, social, and academic areas of their lives (physical health is a no-brainer). Moral so that they can be connected to God and so that they can see the truth, stand up for what is right, and be honourable and noble. In this nobility, they can be high-quality individuals, people others want as friends and partners since they are trustworthy, honest in their words and actions, and completely reliable in everything. Their morality also helps them see who is good and who isn’t without judging others. They can see how vices work and how capital vices attract many other destructive behaviours. They can, for instance, see that a greedy person will most likely steal, and a person who steals will most likely lie. A person who lies will most likely cheat, and someone who cheats cannot be trusted. Someone who cannot be trusted cannot be a good candidate for any business or marital partnership.

They also need to be socially stable – so that they can look people in the eye and speak. They can shake hands with others in a way that asserts their courage, independence of mind and spirit, and clarity of soul. They must also be able to share in a manner governed by prudence, not in a way that makes them weak. Such weaknesses include cowardice and the zeal to please or make everyone happy instead of being driven by justice, courage, prudence and temperance.

Being meek and humble is a powerful force, not a weakness, and they must be shown the thin line between the two. Social strength also enables them to see past people’s differences and judge people by their actions rather than appearance. Looking at the life of Jesus, we see his perfect expression of humility in his association with people and his lifestyle. But we also see that this is his strength in how he made his choices prudently, stood for the truth courageously, and used material things temperately. It showed he was above being a slave to his senses or the wills of those threatening him with death; his commitment is to the Father.

They must also be academically sound so that they can learn important things, have keen minds and express their thoughts articulately and clearly. If they can do this, they will only say what they mean and stress only the portions of their ideas that need stressing to convey their tone and the context of their words. i.e. so they can be precise in their speech. 

Don’t get me wrong, people will still misunderstand them, but it won’t be because of a lack of clarity. Plus, we are shooting for high-quality people who will forge friendships with them. They need tools to make sense of the world, religion, culture, etc. And education does that for them. Do not belittle this. By education, I do not mean only what they study in school; it is the quest for knowledge that you need to kindle in their hearts. 

Your overall goal isn’t to prevent your kids from getting hurt or failing. But to help them ‘fail upward’, that is to give them the tools they need to fail in a way that makes them better each time. They will experiment with life, but with your guidance, they know what mistakes will affect them for the rest of their lives. Help them avoid them by actually explaining things to them with your words. You will start them off with healthy habits from their childhood too, to give them great advantage in the world. Do not let others teach your kids everything they need to know. It is rolling the dice and gambling on the stability of your kids. It is a bad idea.

Your Child Needs:

─ To love God and make sense of religion, not simply by emotions but intelligently. This means you need to learn more than basic catechism and teach them more difficult truths as they mature. Oh yeah, that means you must first know well enough before you can teach. If you are interested in learning, I will introduce various topics occasionally once we have enough participants. You can join our group by looking at the covers of this booklet (if you are reading a print copy) or by accessing the menu on our website (if you are reading online). 

─ To socialize appropriately with people without taking advantage of others or allowing themselves to be taken advantage of. So they will be kind but fierce at the same time. A totally passive child will be preyed upon by bullies throughout their lives, and much of who they are inside will be hidden to accommodate what others demand of them, including your demands. An excessively fierce child is at risk of becoming overly aggressive and may become a bully to those who are weak. 

─ To study and love education so that even on their own, they can process complex thoughts and ideas according to their age. Expose them to meaningful extracurricular education like computer programming, piano and music, singing, swimming, learning foreign languages, etc. This will broaden their minds and bring them out of their shells. This also will increase their social values, making them the centre of every group of friends they make. This is an excellent thing for their personal identity. Above all, this will make them invaluable in their future service to God and their community and a source of lasting fulfilment.

─ To learn how to be useful people. Each child should know how to take care of themselves without burdening others. Even if you have a million maids, they should learn to cook, clean and wash their clothes. There is nothing wrong with having maids, but everyone needs to be self-sufficient because no one knows what their lives will look like in the future. Being utterly helpless in any area of one’s life spells parental and personal failure.

─ To learn social responsibility. Everything happening in the world affects them, and they either feed what is evil in the world, even with their private bad habits, or they feed the good. They need to learn how everything is interconnected; needless to say, you need to learn it first and then show it. This will make them responsible, take care of themselves wholly, avoid dangerous habits like porn or drugs, and avoid excusing bad behaviour from people on or offline.

─ They need to learn there really is nothing like ‘talents’, at least not in the way people understand it. Everyone is blessed with various natural predispositions, but one thing that makes everyone equal is passion and hard work. No one is created with a microphone in their hands; virtually anyone can sing. No one is born with a pen; everyone can write creatively. What changes everything is what you expose your children to from an early age. Waiting for them to get lucky and stumble upon a meaningful interest that will change their lives is an unnecessary and often expensive gamble. So, they need to know the value of hard work and putting effort into becoming something. Again, they need to see that in you. And active encouragement is crucial. 

Also

─ Talk to your toddlers and teach them how to read and appreciate books from a tender age. Reading aloud helps your child build their language and pre-literacy skills from the earliest stages.

─ It is easy for most parents to pawn their kids off to their TVs, or worse, allow them to own smartphones at a young age, but those are terrible ideas. For toddlers and infants, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children under the age of 2 not watch any television, mainly because background noise is not very good for your child’s language development. In a groundbreaking longitudinal study, scientists closely monitored a cohort of children at ages 2, 3, 5, and 6. Their findings revealed that when youngsters were exposed to television background noise during meals at the age of 2, there was a noteworthy decline in their verbal IQ by the time they reached kindergarten age. 

Another issue is that kids learn a lot from what they watch on TV, so many programs may appear kid-friendly but are becoming increasingly anti-God and anti-morality. There is an ongoing insertion of transgender and gay ideologies in children’s content nowadays, and many other subtle immoral lessons are shared on many of these channels. Some people online devote their energy to sifting out some of these; it would be a good idea to research. So, if there was ever a time to avoid constantly exposing the kids to even the kid’s channels, it is now. Let them learn to read, play some instruments, play football or do other things that teach them life’s valuable skills. 

─ It’s important to remember that children should only have smartphones once they are old enough. Depending on a child’s social and moral awareness, I recommend waiting until they are at least 15 years old before giving them a smartphone. Of course, the decision is ultimately up to you, but it’s important to clarify to your child that having a phone is a big responsibility, and they must rise to the occasion. You should have a conversation with your child before giving them a phone, emphasizing that they are entering a new age of responsibility. You must set their phones up in a way that:

1. You can access their activities; they need to know they have no phone privacy. This is to keep an eye out for possible use of harmful websites.

2. You have parental control over the phone to lock porn and other harmful websites. Or install apps to leave them access ONLY to specific safe and educational websites. You must also remember that no matter how much you censor the kids, they generally find a way to make mistakes, so the bulk of the work is in teaching them a comprehensive Catholic sexuality lesson.

3. You can set screen times and have control over the devices from yours (I think Apple has something like this). Remember, you must develop a creative solution that will suit your specific situation. But be careful not to surveil your kid secretly – they need to know they have no privacy on their devices. When they’re old enough, they can have their private phones.

─ Watch out also for video games – observe how they spend their idle time or time doing idle things. Encourage a culture of reading and creativity to give them a better way of spending idle time in things that make them exercise their minds and make them deeper, not shallower individuals. Who knows who will be the next prodigy at this or that? Maybe it’ll be some kid at some home in some place you don’t know. Or it could be your fortunate and well-raised kid who honed many of his skills under your loving and attentive eyes. You could raise the next genius in sciences or arts, but it all begins with the habits you help them create when they are young. Most people today who wander through life swimming in meaningless activities and having difficulties with impulse control begin with the activities they were excessively exposed to at a young age. Difficulty controlling impulses spills over every enjoyable activity for people because most of those activities stimulate the same portions of the brain or release the same chemicals.

─ Have you ever thought about how much time we spend watching movies? It’s shocking to realize that we waste years of our lives on useless dramas that have no positive impact on our lives. Some of these programs can even harm us more than they entertain us. On average, people spend 2.5 hours daily on social media, which amounts to a staggering 912.5 hours per year. That’s the equivalent of wasting 38 entire days of one’s life every year just scrolling through social media. If we add the time spent on other unproductive and potentially harmful activities, we might be wasting months of our lives yearly. It’s a concerning thought that we spend so much time on things that do not benefit us in any way, and again, not only do they have no benefits, but are proven to be severely harmful to young people.

While we may never be able to become very productive without downtime, there are many other ways to spend idle time that offer additional benefits. Like reading, which expands the mind; sports, which promote healthy living and can add years to someone’s life; and playing musical instruments, which can help develop parts of one’s brain and promote healthy living. Etc. The relentless pursuit of constant and unrestrained dopamine rushes is a cause for concern. This unending quest for heightened pleasure can lead to a dangerous cycle where people continually seek greater levels of enjoyment. When these heightened levels become unattainable, they experience profound lows well below normal. Dopamine, a vital neurotransmitter and hormone, is crucial in numerous bodily functions such as movement, memory, pleasurable reward, and motivation. Imbalances, either an excess or deficiency of dopamine, are linked to various mental health issues and neurological disorders. These are the thoughts of Dr Andrew Huberman, a neuroscientist who runs the Huberman Lab Podcast and Dr Anna Lembke, the esteemed medical director of addiction medicine at Stanford University and author of “Dopamine Nation: Finding Balance in the Age of Indulgence.”

Before adulthood, some kids tweak their brains with so much dopamine hits to the point where they have several disadvantages and battles to contend with. Some kids grow up with social media addiction, tv and gadget addictions, drugs, porn, etc. But guiding them to develop valuable skills will teach them leadership, structure, discipline, tenacity, and commitment and give them the satisfaction that comes from hard work. This will give them a sense that deep satisfaction comes only when they have done the job and walked the mile, not cutting corners and looking for shortcuts. Life never rewards shortcuts, at least not in the long term; just like it will not allow a person who goes through shortcuts to achieve the god-like skill of Mozart in composing Musical pieces, it will not give any lasting reward in any other area to those who refuse to pay the price of time and constant hard work. We need to make kids feel responsible again so they can achieve great things for our world and in the name of God. 

Once more, I must emphasize that you must impart these values and lessons through your actions. To effectively teach your children, you must embody these principles yourself. Children learn more from what their parents do than what they say. A disparity between words and actions can lead to confusion for the child, making the lessons seem impractical when their teacher cannot consistently demonstrate them.

OUR FAITH MUST BE UNDERSTOOD AND FOLLOWED PRACTICALLY


For our faith to benefit anyone, it must be adequately known and followed practically, not just professed in the mouth. A mound of immeasurable riches awaits anyone who perseveres in the ascent atop the mountain of God.

So, We believe that God made order out of chaos, i.e. he made the world out of nothing. Chaos is more than just disorder; it is also inexistence, disorder, the unknown, darkness, uncertainty, etc. The people who say there is no God believe that even though science says that the odds of a universe like ours existing is astronomically low, it was still caused by chance, not by any designer or God. In his book “The Life of the Cosmos”, physicist Lee Smolin says that the chances of getting numbers that allow life just by luck are 1 in 10 raised to the power 229 (1 / 10^229). Even though this is not nearly close to the chances, let me put that in perspective for you.

If we say something has a 1% chance of occurring – that is already a tiny odd since that is only a one-in-100 chance. Say it’s one in a million, and you’re nearing impossible because that is about a 0.0001% chance. But what about 1 in nine hundred billion? Come on. But wait, we are far from the number. But let’s not bore you with numbers; let’s use a simple illustration:

Imagine you’re tasked with randomly picking a particular single grain of sand from the countless grains in the sands in the world. Your chances of landing on the exact grain you were asked to choose are exceedingly slim, yet you’d have a better chance of landing that speck of sand than the odds of the universe existing by accident. Yet, some believe it is pure luck that we exist in a universe like ours or give many other incoherent explanations, anything but the most obvious: God.

The universe’s conditions have to be this precise to support life. If anything were even slightly different initially, life would’ve been impossible. The rotation and speed of the earth, its size and mass, its gravitational pull, its position relative to the sun, the size of the sun, the precise balance between protons and electrons, and the protection of the ozone layer, to name only a few. If anything were slightly off, life would’ve been impossible. 

Claiming all these came together by chance is like claiming that a thousand pins can fall, land on solid ground and stand on their pointy tips by chance. Or that a tornado ripping through a junkyard accidentally assembled a working aeroplane. Who in their right mind would believe such ridiculous things?

The Catholic Church believes, as many scientists and philosophers, that God exists. Even though there is usually a debate in deciding who God is among philosophers. For the Catholic Church, we incorporate science, philosophy and revelation. And everything we have received in revelation is consistent with scientific and philosophical truths, not mere unfounded speculations by some scientists and philosophers. Many scientists could not but marvel at creation and become religious because of their discoveries. Explaining the universe any other way than the product of intelligent design is impossible.

As a parent, you must believe in God so practically that it informs every part of your life; this is the meaning of Faith. Some people’s beliefs put God at a distance, both mentally and practically. It is almost like, “Yeah, I believe somehow, that somewhere, there may be a God, probably”. This is seen in how we conduct ourselves and why we make little effort to strive for holiness. We make the most noise in Church, raise our hands the highest, contribute the most money for projects, sew the best outfits for Mass, and dance more than everyone during offertories. Yet, our lives show a severe gap between what we say with our mouths and our actual Faith expressed in our way of life.

Faith means you can basically ‘see’ God. God is so real you can ‘see’ and ‘touch’ Him spiritually and practically. You can see God at the end of a mathematical equation in your study of physics and chemistry. You can also see God in the arts, in the expression of musical beauty or in the light that conveys the beauty of colours. This is cheapening the meaning of Faith but for want of words or description. The point is you see order, beauty, and truth, and you immediately see the face of God right there. This then compels you to joy, to happiness, to love and to the practice of religion. One which fills you with a faith that gives you great hope, a hope that fills you with great joy, and a joy that compels you to run to your neighbour to announce your elation and joyful Faith with great love!

Our world is woven together in threads of beauty, truth, and order, each showing clearly a seed of the divine. But these converge in their most potent and perfect form in the Catholic Church. It is like a symphony reaching its crescendo. The beauty far transcends the mundane, and truth shines in magnificent resplendence, and order is a testimony to its identity as God’s Kingdom.

God Himself is sitting in the centre of this Kingdom, the Church, his perfect temple, being the bride of Christ. She is a luminous city on a hill showing pure light and grace to all corners of the earth. She is rooted firmly in the earth of human hearts, but her spires pierce the highest heavens into the heart of God. She is a wellspring of divine life, flowing unrestricted and quenching the thirst of the arid world, bringing healing, rejuvenation and vitality. It is the refuge of the outcast, the healing place of those who are broken, and a home for the weary. Here, all manner of birds find their homes in her great nest. 

St Bernard of Clairvaux is one of my favourite saints. He had six siblings, most of whom are either saints or blessed today. But guess where all that came from? Their parents. His mother, Saint Aleth of Montbard, taught her children holiness from an early age. And she taught them these through her actions and words, not just one of those. Words alone don’t work, and neither is action alone since not everything that needs to be learned can be practicalized, even though actions are far more powerful than words alone. Her husband, Tescelin le Roux, was a nobleman from a prominent family in Burgundy, France. He taught his children courage, honour, nobility and the value of education. Behind any remarkable Saint is a parent who loved God deeply. Whilst this is not always the case, in most cases, it is so. St Augustine had St. Monica, St. Theresa of the child Jesus had Sts. Louis Martin and Zélie Guérin. Even the Blessed Virgin Mary had St. Joachim and St. Anne. You cannot overemphasize the importance of raising the kids in a sane, religious way.

God isn’t a parable or a fairy tale, even though our current culture is trying so hard to make him into something other than what he is. Years ago, I had a crisis of Faith that caused me to leave the Catholic Church and even Christianity. I started studying different religions while praying to a nameless God for guidance. And among other things, stepping back helped me see a pattern which led me back and deeper into the Catholic Church. I saw a practical, meaningful, consistent body of beliefs I had never seen anywhere else.

And I saw images of Christ scattered in many other religions, but a true and a more complete presence of God’s truth in the Church. And so many tools to aid a person in living a holy life.

Every parent needs a profound encounter with Jesus in a way that opens up the floodgates of truth to them. So that they can begin to see God in every nook and cranny of the world, our culture and our social systems. In the face of men, and in their eyes which hunger for God who is Truth. The children need to see God in their parents as moral authorities who are martyrs for the truth.

Martyrs, in their refusal to lie for personal gain or to compromise on quality in the services they render others. Who would refuse worldly glory not earned and every ill-gotten gain, even in the face of poverty. They need to see God in their parents because they need to see them as pinnacles of truth and virtue and nothing less.

Reason: If they see less, it appears as though the virtues practised are based on each person’s opinions on what is good and evil. Seeing a person die to evil tells a different story. Turning down what everyone else would’ve jumped to take shows that one has clarity that others don’t. It shows that they hold themselves accountable to a higher standard, an objective truth transcending them. This is a good point for them to grasp so that they, too, can seek objective truth and arrive at God in their youth.

TRUTH IS OBJECTIVE, AND WHAT YOU THINK GENERALLY HAS LITTLE BEARING ON FACTS


This point bears repeating: Truth is objective. 1+1 is 2, irrespective of each person’s feelings. So is the distance between points A to B irrespective of ‘personal truths’. In our world today, people often defer to each person’s feelings to be the judge of what is ultimately true; while this may be prudent in specific situations to avoid unnecessary conflict, it is a dangerous way to raise children.

What will excessive consumption of sugar do to your body? The answers are objective, even though the specifics will depend on the individual. But it is still objective about the individual, not their feelings or convictions. This is why we run medical tests even when we have apparent symptoms of a particular ailment. Truth helps us find solutions to real problems, and if we start attaching feelings to it, we may be tempted to manipulate the outcomes, scramble the methodologies or even deny the need for such tests. Or worse, we could outrightly even wage war on objectivity.

But suppose we destroy our love for truth. In that case, firstly, we can not solve most problems since solving any problem must start with correctly stating and articulating the real problem. And secondly, we can never grow either since growth sometimes means contending with failure in a meaningful, open and honest way. We need to first acknowledge we failed and then honestly admit our role in said failure without blaming other people or even God for this or that deficiency. Or by comparing ourselves to others and saying, ‘If I had this gift or talent as this other person, this or that would not have happened’. 

As I have said, people mistake talents as the outcome of so much hard work and dedication. While I admitted, and still do, that some people are predisposed to specific skills because of some physiological or psychological advantage, others without such advantages can still excel in that field. Talent is interest+practice+time+tenacity/dedication. No one is born with a painting brush or the fins of a fish. Anyone can learn to paint or swim. So, we look into ourselves honestly to see what is missing so we can grow, comparing ourselves only with who we were yesterday to measure our growth.

Objective truth is for your own good – it helps you, with proper training, see through your personal lies and self-deception. You are your leader, and if you begin to conceal things from yourself, you will likely keep landing in destructive situations. Many people do this; for example, they meet someone they believe they’re in love with. And they later marry this person after months of dating. Then they start complaining that this guy is violent and physically abusive or that this woman is manipulative and promiscuous. But this man had been threatening to hit her for months in the relationship, but she chose to pretend that wasn’t anything. And this other guy met his wife online by sending her a message when he saw many of her naked pictures. We human beings can deceive ourselves, sometimes even better than others can. And those who deceive themselves the most are often very prone to deception from others because they form the habit of choosing lies over difficult truths. This is one small example.

Another point is objective truth helps one also detect other people’s lies. People lie in their words but also in the way they behave. Some people can manipulate others without even using their words, but objective truth helps a lot. In most cases, those who manipulate use their words to convince one that they are a certain way, look a certain way or act a certain way when they don’t. All to either flatter them and play into their egos or hand them backhanded compliments to play into their insecurities. But a person fully aware of who they are cannot fall for those; if you compliment them, they say thank you. They won’t be swept off their feet by a few words spoken into the air. Nor will playing into their insecurities work since they know exactly how bad their flaws are, so they won’t break so much that they act out of character.

Children need such balance. They need lessons on how to deal with loss and how to be temperate with plenty. How to contend with the world and its people and assert their ideas truthfully even amid other people’s lies. They will benefit from lessons on fairness and justice even if the system appears rigged against the upright. Because truth is a habit, and so are lies. No one can be truthful in one area and be a deceiver in another. If a person wilfully lies in one, they are lying in every other. Because their very justification for their lies would be based on a false idea of who they are. No liar even thinks he is a liar; people believe there’s a greater reason why they need to lie, even if it is something stupid, and it usually is.

Teach your children boundaries and how to deal with rejection positively. They need to learn not to take every rejection as an indication they’re inadequate or unlovable – but to see other possible reasons for the rejection without crawling into a self-destructive conclusion. People reject others because they can’t see good in other people. Others because they are afraid of being close to kind and balanced people since that would indict them for their lack of character. But even if one is rejected for a reason based on who they indeed are, it may be an opportunity to learn something new about oneself and adjust.

The good news is, if you as a parent love your children adequately, in a wholesome and pure manner, they will have a reasonably strong sense of self-worth, so they will hardly spiral out of control when outsiders reject them. But this relationship with you must be based on truth, or it is a house of cards.

THERE IS A WRONG WAY TO LOVE YOUR CHILDREN


Many people are not psychologically strong or intellectually mature enough to be effective parents and be as involved and detached as needed to instil good discipline and nurture emotional maturity in their children. After years of working with parents and children, I’d say this is the case with most parents.

For instance, many parents use their children as crutches for their own personal issues. I have often seen this where parents, especially mothers, try to live through their children. In some cases, when a marriage fails or loses heat, some risk unloading their emotional troubles on their children and using them for emotional support. This is called “Emotional Parentification” and can be a big problem because it can have unpredictable outcomes for the child’s mental health in the future. It can become a source of trauma for the child, another baggage they’d have to carry throughout their lives. A parent should want, above all else, for their children to be strong emotionally, psychologically, mentally, and most of all, spiritually; for them to go into the world with both optimism and realism. Optimism is seeing the more positive side of people and situations, and realism is seeing things as they are without distortions. Entering the world with an excessively optimistic mindset may lead to a naive view of the world, and leaning more on realism may cause one to judge people too quickly, albeit based on what they see. 

A healthy mix would be to see people more than specific situations and actions and understand the dynamic nature of human behaviour and character. 

They cannot achieve any of these if they’re used for emotional support. So, a child needs independence in degrees. 

Children should learn from facing small obstacles in controlled environments; even toddlers benefit from obstacle games. They strengthen their bodies and give their brains some work to do. It also increases their motor skills, coordination, balance, memory, problem-solving, etc. 

An overprotective parent who is overly emotionally attached to their kids won’t let them assert their independence at any age or level. Some adult males still consult their mothers before they can do anything with their wives and children in their homes. Some people would think, ‘Aww, this son is so close to his mother’, when they should think ‘, Eww, this son is too close to his mother’. This might be a symptom of the Oedipus Complex or something. I am not a psychiatrist, but this is unhealthy.

The child needs a balanced parent who engages their support in moderation while allowing them the independence of mind and heart. There have been cases of people I know whose choice of school was centred around the emotional needs of their mothers. This is rarer with fathers, but it still happens. But Mothers are more likely than fathers to find parenting stressful and tiring all or most of the time [i] and might be more tempted to unload their emotion on the kids.

The point is to hold onto your children, but not too tightly. They need to take jumps and leaps from time to time. Sometimes, they may scrape a knee or even hurt themselves more. But your prudence will help them grow and tackle more risks proper to their age. They are ordained to be servants of God in the future, so they need to be competent. Their competence will benefit you too because they can support you adequately in your old age and care for you. It will also benefit them so that they can stand firm amidst the dangers of this world and face it squarely. They will then be seasoned leaders who contend with chaos and carve out order. They will also be brave enough to love someone sincerely and faithfully – and pass on to their children the love you have poured into their lives that has changed them. You could be the source of change for your coming generations; all it needs now is your courage, curiosity and patience.

COMMUNICATION, PUNISHMENT AND THE GAP


One of the things that causes misunderstandings between parents and children is simple miscommunication. Oh yeah, it starts that early. You speak to your child with all your convictions, your education and experience, your order of priorities, etc. And they are not even close to being there with you, so you get mad when they don’t agree with you or do what you say. But then, they have their own ideas, experiences, and order of priorities, which are usually horrible. But then they’re as convinced as you, at least sometimes. Maybe you could explain better to them as though they were your equals, at least in some sensitive matters. Let them counter you with their own arguments, and do what you can to present your ideas more succinctly using different illustrations.

When I used to teach kids, I had to learn so many stories, mostly of saints and other great people. I usually opened my talks with a few stories to grab their attention. Then those stories segue into my points, and they understood me more clearly. 

Jean Piaget, a Swiss psychologist, said that babies and toddlers generally think concretely from birth until around the age of 2. They observe and explore the world around them using their five senses and motor skills. 

They sometimes take longer to develop other skills that help them make sense of the world. So, when you are tempted to be impatient with your kid, remember it takes a while, so don’t ruin it by allowing anger to get the better part of you. It is not easy, but nothing worthwhile is. “Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.” (Colossians 3:21).

Abuse

Some parents make the horrible mistake of verbally abusing their children to vent their anger. This terrible, inexcusable mistake will affect the child’s overall well-being. There is no excuse or situation where this is acceptable behaviour. A parent may shout at a child when they do something horrible, but calling them names is out of the question. Parental love abhors disrespect directed at children. And some parents do not even know what it means to respect their kids.

Most parents take the easy way of physical punishment or threat of punishment. And those seem to work, but sometimes it is only a bandage on the problem. One must also incorporate methods that appeal more to the child’s intelligence and will rather than threats. Talk to them and allow them to speak so you can teach them something. Even if punished, they need to learn something alongside the punishment. Punishments cannot only be flogging the kids – I usually discourage that except when a child does something really heinous, like deliberately injuring someone. But punishments can be taking away TV privileges, making them sit silently in a corner or refusing their play times with their siblings or friends. You can and should get creative to have various corrective and punitive tools for offences ranging from very minor to severe. Having a proper sense of scale on this and letting it reflect on the punishment is crucial.

Some parents slap their kids for every minor infraction or even a tiny mistake. I watched a child tremble after breaking a plate while washing the dishes. Her mum hit her and called her careless even though the girl was trying to be helpful in the home. It is unbelievable how easy it is for a child to be slapped and beaten, but we wonder why they have such fear of people. Or why they’re excessively introverted, shy and lack confidence in their abilities. They are children who sometimes know they have done something wrong and punish themselves for it. If they were trying to do something good and spoil something, encourage the good behaviour and teach them how to do it properly rather than hit them. Parents should be careful not to fall into the pattern of working out their personal frustrations on the kids. This is more common than you know. Children learn their first lessons on how to treat themselves and others from how their parents treat them. This is very important to remember.

Teach them also to take responsibility for the things they do. Give them credit for everything good they do; this is an excellent way to point them in a direction. Some people only ever complain about the wrong things their kids do. And this is a habit for many people. I understand this is a natural thing in a sense because we tend to notice things when they’re out of place than when everything is working correctly. But your child needs positive reinforcement more than corporal punishment. They need to be taught more about what to do and how to do them correctly, efficiently and independently, rather than just a list of many things they cannot do. And when they do something, like clean the house or do the dishes, try making a big deal out of it occasionally. I have seen some parents do this and how it lights up their kids – some of them tend to receive a lot of encouragement to do more things. Whilst this is not a regular thing, it is helpful to use more positive language even when you want to correct your kid. It is better to go, ‘Hey, you should do it this and that way next time, good try though’. Rather than ‘I don’t like this thing you did; you didn’t do it well’. Again, this is only proper for some scenarios, but having it as a default is helpful. 

Tell people exactly how they have faltered whilst providing a proper way of doing it. As a rule, if you don’t know how to do it properly, keep quiet; you don’t deserve to criticize another person. Can you imagine two helpless people in a difficult situation? One person starts attempting a solution while the other just sits back and tells them how horrible they are at trying. This is how kids see things most often – so be careful about the language you use. They also need to learn this from you in how they communicate with others. This is not to encourage them to be totally unabrasive or soft. Still, they must think more positively and criticize others with articulate solutions rather than just condemnation.

PRAYER AND DEVOTION


Teach your kids to pray like Catholics. The prayers we have developed in the Catholic Church are informed by an authentic understanding of scripture, sound theology and, most importantly, a balanced view of reality. Your prayer life and devotion choices say many things about you and your convictions about life and how things work. I encourage parents:

– To study the lives of saints and draw inspiration for patterns of devotion that are more effective and convey a more rational idea about religion.

– To form the habit of attending Mass more than just Sundays. This is particularly helpful in bringing the Children closer to the centre of the Faith: the Eucharist.

– To have a personal relationship with the Eucharistic Jesus and make visits to the Blessed Sacrament a fairly regular routine. God does more for us than the things we ask, and being closer to Him does a lot for us than we can imagine. Plus, it is an expression of solid Faith. Think about it: Jesus is really there, but some never visit. This shows a lack of Faith on our part because if we were to see the spiritual reality of the Eucharist with our eyes, if we were to see Jesus seated on a throne there, I don’t think anyone would be able to go one day without visiting.

A life centred around the Eucharist is a sign of strong Faith.

– To be active in Church activities and caring for the Church, showing the children the value of service. Most people only want leadership positions because of their prestige, but we are called to serve and to lead by serving. Humility is a sign that our Faith in God is appropriately rooted in truth since it means we know ourselves and God enough to lower our shoulders, roll up our sleeves and work for God.

Devotion also has to entail some good amount of study outside the lives of saints. One needs to deepen their knowledge of the teachings of the Church to provide meaning and context even for scripture. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is a must-have document for every home, and I encourage parents to read these from time to time to help their own growth in Faith. As mentioned, growing in Faith is a powerful way to raise children. And studying helps answer the many questions and confusions about Faith. It gives us definite direction when we grapple with doubts.

A life firmly rooted in God’s love and Word will produce many fruits. And the fruits of devotion will affect the way children are raised. They will learn conscientiousness, courage, patience, forgiveness, resilience, purity and other virtues from their parents. Go closer to God with a sincere heart, become transformed, and he will transform your home through you.

FOR EMPHASIS 


The Church teaches us to view marriage as more than just an incidental part of culture – but a divine calling: A vocation like priesthood and other ministries that are part of the riches of God to his Church and world. As a vocation, it requires the complete commitment of one’s life and not just a part. The training needed for this commitment takes a whole lifetime because the skills you need to excel at this enterprise are many and need to be as close to perfect as you can get them to produce extraordinary children. Therefore, just as the preparation to be a priest starts from childhood, so is the preparation to be a father, mother, husband and wife. Your job demands that you be of stable moral standing and have clarity and virtue.

You must understand how virtues work and how to approach parenting with self-control and nuanced thinking. And you need to get increasingly better at detecting virtue so you can better understand your child’s behaviour. Nothing your child does is ever black and white, so do not interpret it as such and teach them to do the same. For instance, even when your child fights in school and hurts someone, you could be so angry and disappointed in your kid that your instinct would tell you to hit them or punish them for what they’ve done without looking for the ‘good’ side of their action. Yes, it is challenging, but sometimes, young budding virtues get attacked by vices and overwhelm them. But a masterful spiritual counsellor, which a parent should be, knows how to prune a child’s soul to extract every ounce of virtue frequently mired in the vicious corruption of childish impulsivity and naivety. A masterful parent can do this without ruining the young and often vulnerable virtues whilst effectively uprooting and destroying the root of vices.

So you could see in that child unbridled courage with which they stood their ground in the face of bullying and danger. And you could encourage that – but then teach them how to better handle such a situation without being provoking, aggressive or cowardly. This means you must first understand such a dynamic and know what God would want in such a situation. Some parents make the mistake of squashing whatever tiny virtue a child has by condemning every part of their actions and decisions simply because the outcome is unfavourable and adversely praising their children when the outcome is good without checking the moral quality of all the actions behind it. So you need balance – it is like walking a tightrope sometimes.

Your kid could challenge you for being wrong about something. You could get angry and defend your ego at that moment, or you could be wise enough to overlook your ego and consider this a crucial crossroad for your kid and give them the example that will provide them with light for the rest of their lives. So, you could appreciate and encourage their tenacity in holding onto what they believed to be true, even if they were wrong. And then also demonstrate to them how what they thought at the time was wrong without cursing, demeaning or hitting them for being ‘stubborn’. Tenacity is a good thing – but when it stands against you, it is supposed to look like stubbornness, and we do not want to discourage all of it; we only want to prune it, extract and preserve the virtue in it and discard the foolishness or any other childishness that may be attached to it. It may not come off immediately, but a master knows the value of patience. 

Even love sometimes looks like anger when it justly rebukes a loved one for wrongdoing, but the untrained and inexperienced may be unable to see love when it comes down in such a manner.

Again, Find Yourself

Like I have said a million times, You have to be experienced enough to recognize when there’s a virtue in your child being stifled or masked by a childish vice. You must cut out the vice with surgical precision to avoid harming the child’s delicate virtue and allow them to grow into a formidable force pleasing to the Lord. Many people have different ideas about what makes a person ‘whole’ or balanced or what it means to be a good person.

Each person would define it based on their tastes and, in most cases, have blindspots for the sins they commit. So a person comfortable with a particular sin would tell you being a good person revolves around doing everything else well, except avoiding the sin they are committing. And this is the case with most people. It is so rampant that you may be tempted to think that goodness is a matter of each person’s opinion – but that isn’t the case, and a dangerous lesson for kids to learn. Goodness is dependent on God – who himself is Supreme Goodness. So it is God’s ‘opinion’ that matters with your life and your kids’. And finding God’s will in each moment is a careful art; we need so many things to finetune.

We need discipline and temperance – if not, our flesh will make the loudest noise with its many demands and weaknesses and drown out the voice of reason and the Spirit of God in us. We need justice because if we don’t know right and wrong, we can never tell what is good and evil in our choices, and we will drift further and further into irredeemable moral decay. We need courage because without it, we cannot follow what justice and truth demand of us, and their demands are usually challenging to follow since it would sometimes mean losing people who oppose us in our quest to do good or losing opportunities that demand us to do something unjust or immoral. We need prudence so that we can sniff out the more subtle places where truth hides in our daily choices and follow them. These four virtues: prudence, justice, temperance and courage will be the foundation of the life of anyone who shoots for goodness. And how do we know this? From the way God has ordered his world – we know this is what God wants because we can see how effective humans become when they have these virtues. We will not trade personal opinions; we want what God wants from us because this is the only way to become ourselves truly.

Whatever version of ourselves we become outside of this isn’t us – it is an impostor we create in our quest to please our friends and colleagues. The result of many lies we have told to convince ourselves that we can find lasting happiness in sin and unbridled worldly pleasures – we have taken a wrong turn somewhere on our Journey for self-actualization. And we can return now to seek this person God wants us to become: this person who is hidden in God and found only in doing his will. This is who we need to become to be formidable, excellent parents, great marital partners, and really good and interesting people. This is who your child needs to guide them, a person who has walked the narrow path and can share personal experiences of the difficulties therein. Without this personal experience, your child will face so much darkness alone as they try to figure life out, and you will be of very little help because you cannot produce the light of God in them when you are not in God yourself. 

So there is a version of you in the mind of God when he made you – and that version of you is filled with the great light of truth and fire of love, and until you enter God deeply, that part of you will be lost forever. The truth you communicate will be tenuous and weak, and the fire you breathe will be but empty smoke. If you want to become a dragon breathing the fire of the Holy Spirit and setting your home and the world on fire with love, you must be in the red-hot centre of God’s heart, where you find yourself deep in his mind where he loves you for all eternity even before you were made.

Understand that this is a journey you must make all your life, so this is not about being immediately perfect or sinless. It is about your willingness to battle with ALL the sins in your life and allow the light of God to fill you by increasing your participation and awareness of the divine nature of the Sacraments. It is about bearing the fruits of the Spirit.

The Journey to Find the Child

Say you want to encourage good behaviour in your kids; this is wonderful of you because it is one of the ways to do the pruning we discussed. The other side is finding the right words and tone to convey this sincerely and reach the child where they have internally crawled. Imagine this: your child is having doubts, regrets or whatever else is clouding their minds. You want to dispel this cloud, but you don’t know where their head is because they cannot effectively communicate or don’t even want to communicate. Yours is to figure out where they are at that moment so that your words can be appropriately measured, accompanied by a gentle stroke in the arm or head to convey your love and rescue them. 

You may never be perfect at raising every type of child you might have. Still, the simple awareness that you need to up your game, that you need to learn regularly, and consciously apply what you have learned is a starting point to mastering the unique art of raising the children God has entrusted to your care. They will be the luckiest kids ever born because, for starters, you are reading this booklet as a response to God’s call to become more, and this effort of yours will meet great blessings and yield great fruits if you persevere till the end. Society needs children raised with great care because the care we need to fix this world can only come from them. The result of careless, autopilot parenting is children who ‘go with the flow’ and become their society in all its rottenness, inactivity and crime. But your child, with your conscientiousness and care, can grow to become conscientious and caring to themselves, you, and the world. So do not lose heart in this; be sure that God will reward you if you do your job right. But again, this primarily entails you becoming continually better yourself in many things, but most especially in your moral life and closeness to God in truth. 

CONCLUSION


I did not discuss nearly enough of the points I wanted to make, but I want to avoid turning this into a big read. So, let us stop here. Remember to read more and follow us on social media, as we will be discussing more matters. You can engage with me on topics you agree or disagree with. You can also call me to argue against any points presented, ask for further clarification, or support my mission. I will be writing more on Catholic family life, so please help me by sharing this booklet and making donations for more publications so you can share with more people. If you want to order batches for yourself, call me for information.

I hope all these efforts will change even one person’s life, and it would have been worth it. So, I encourage you to be that person. 

You are in my prayers, and I request I be in yours. God bless.


(I) MINKIN, R., & HOROWITZ, J. M. (2023, January 24). Parenting in America Today. Pew Research Center. Retrieved October 13, 2023, from https://rb.gy/995qw

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Kenneth C. Alimba

Kenneth C. Alimba is a Catholic who believes that the only RIGHT way to view the world is through the eyes of God - so he spends his life teaching people how to attempt to make this a habit as he tries to do the same.

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