Thursday, April 19, 2012
The Mother at Home - Chapter 4 - Mother's Difficulties
Why do so few succeed in obtaining prompt obedience from children?
The biggest reason we as parents find it difficult to obtain prompt obedience is our very own lack of self-control. Can a mother expect to govern her child when she cannot govern herself? By our example, we must demonstrate meekness and equanimity in our homes.
As we all know, self-control, at all times, and under all circumstances, is one of the most difficult things to be acquired. If we desire prompt obedience from our children, we must overcome ourselves, to be an example for our children.
Abbott points out that “anger is temporary insanity.” If you have had an encounter (or hundreds of encounters as the case may be) with a toddler, who is learning his place in the world, you have likely experienced anger that exemplifies this definition, perfectly… Abbott recommends that we never let manifest the irritated feeling or give utterance to an angry expression. We should discipline “with calmness and reflection”.
Abbott also points out that a lack of resolution can prove troublesome on behalf of the mother. It is true that it is painful to a parent’s feelings to deprive a child of any reasonable enjoyment, or to inflict pain. Therefore, we can be ingenious at framing apologies to relieve ourselves from this duty. For me, blackout is no fun for anybody at my home; everything requires more thought, and the perpetrator is typically underfoot, all day… It would be easier for me and far more convenient to justify the behavior to my benefit… “Oh, he didn’t really mean to do that, did he?”
Further to this point, Abbott, stresses “that you cannot allow maternal feelings to influence you to neglect painful but necessary acts of discipline.” Discipline is hard on everybody, and it is difficult to see our children sad. Nevertheless, Abbott states, if your “child does wrong, and you know that he ought to be punished; but you shrink from the duty of inflicting it; the behavior of such a mother is the most cruel and merciless enemy which her child can have. You can do nothing more ruinous to your child.” Such behavior on the mother’s part confirms his sin. “Duty has told you to punish your child. Inclination has urged you to overlook. Inclination has triumphed; and your child has retired victorious and of course confirmed in his sin.”
The acts of discipline, Abbott states, must be serious and effectual, prompt and decisive. One of my late cousins referred to the discipline of his children as “swift and severe.” To date, I personally have met very few children more kind, loving, and obedient than his. One good example of his I can recall, if his children did not put the silverware away correctly, he took all of the silverware out of the drawer and the child was required to put it all away, correctly before moving on.
Abbott also points out that there can be a lack of harmony between parents on the subject of education. In discipline, father wants to do his duty and mother thinks punishment is cruelty. If the father has bad principles and example, the mother must be more persevering and vigorous in her effort. If a mother is vigorous in her effort, a father, in most cases, will soon feel confidence in her management.
Abbott helped me to understand my role in my children’s behavior and interaction with their father. He points out that a “mother shall teach her children to be quiet and still when their father is present and she do everything she can to induce them to be respectful, obedient and affectionate to their father. The more cheerful you can make home to him, the stronger are the inducements which are presented to draw him away from scenes into which he ought not to enter.” I believe, as I have learned, as wives, we are the heart of the home, whereas our husbands are the head. We need to create an environment, a loving environment in which our husbands desire to spend time. A home, filled with chaos and disrespectful children would make any man want to work overtime… Don’t get me wrong, we still have our share of chaos… I could not live without the fun and noise our children provide. They are just reminded to respect their Father and make his return home from work a pleasant one! :)
In summary, Abbott points out that we need to be self controlled, if we want our children to demonstrate the same. This requires patience, obedience and self control on our part. These cannot be obtained without the grace of God. I believe each of these go hand in hand. Patience, in particular, can lead to self control and obedience. St. Thomas Aquinas defines patience as “moderated sadness in the face of an evil that cannot be removed.” Our homes are filled with little evils that cannot be removed... all day long; spills, lack of charity among siblings, temper tantrums, self-centeredness, among others… Our homes are filled with children, perfectly behaved for their age. We need to follow Jesus’ example of moderated sadness in the face of evils. That was His entire ministry. He moderated His sadness (rejection, blasphemy, ridicule, abandonment, denial, and ultimately abuse and murder). He did not lose His cool, not even once, and imagine… He was surrounded by grown men and women, who should have known better. Our children may not know better yet, because we may not have taught them yet.
We need to cling to the Cross and entreat our Lord for the grace to be the grown-ups we are tying, with His grace, to raise.