Monday, May 29, 2017

10 Commandments of Parenting

1. "I am the Lord, thy God.  You shall not have other gods before me."

Our children are not the center of the universe, although it may certainly feel like this sometimes, especially in the beginning, especially with your first or only child.  You are not only not honoring God if you allow your relationship with your kids to take precedence, but you are also not doing your kids any favors.  How can we teach our children to live a Christ-centered life if we place them at the center of our own lives?

2. "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord in vain."

When speaking about God, show the proper respect.  In our family, this meant making a conscious effort to quit talking about Jesus as if He were our buddy.  We fell into the trap of "Jesus is my homey" and would refer to him as "J.C." (short for Jesus Christ).  When I think about it now, I'm appalled on one hand at the audacity of this practice, and embarassed on the other hand. Once we started to discuss religious topics around our preschooler, it quickly became apparent that we had to stop trying to make Jesus into something He wasn't, and give Him the proper respect He deserves.

3. "Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day."

Take your kids to Mass every Sunday.  Teach them how to behave during Mass from the time they are little.  I do not like the practice of "kids' church", where the little kids are taken out of the sanctuary to be given an age-appropriate religious lesson on that day's readings.  I like the ide of the lesson, and would certainly support it before or after Mass, but Mass is Mass.  Our Eucharistic Lord is not present in the religious ed class.  In some churches, children are only taken out during the Liturgy of the Word, and brought back in time for the Liturgy of the Eucharist.  But even then, there is a disconnect between the flow of the Mass.

Cry rooms, depending on how they are set up and utilized by the faithful, can be both positive and negative.  Positive because they allow young babies to be nursed or even have their diaper changed.  In churches where there are no cry rooms and a baby needs to be changed, the restroom tends to not have a speaker installed, and so the parent ends up missing part of the Mass that she or he could've still heard if there had been an appropriately set up cry room.  That said, some families take the cry room to mean a place to go hang out and let the kids play, rather than a place to still try to teach young kids proper behavior, but allow for more wiggling and noises that are natural to the young child without interrupting the larger congregation.

4. "Honor your mother and your father."

Model by example.  Honor your own parents and never speak ill of them in front of your kids.  But also, remember that respect is a two-way street.  You must respect your child as a human being, if you expect them to learn to respect you in turn.  Many parents treat their children as mere dolls, waiting for some magic day when all of a sudden (perhaps as they approach adolescence!) they can be given choices or asked for their opinion.  Of course, we are still the parents, but it doesn't mean we can't include our (even young) children in our decision-making process.

5. "Thou shalt not kill."

It is so sad that we live in a world where this has to be said, but here goes.  Don't have an abortion.  You can sugar coat it all you want, but that little life growing inside you is a human baby, no question about it.  There may be secular arguments for why your life is more important than that baby's, but let's not pretend that we're dealing with "a mass of tissue" when you can clearly see movement and hear a heart beating on sonogram.  Phew.

That said, more subtle ways to follow this commandment include avoiding lashing out in anger.  Don't kill your kids' spirit.  Don't crush their dreams.  Don't stifle their imagination.  Be life-giving in your approach to parenting.

6. "Thou shall not commit adultery."

First, honor your own marital vows.  Cheating on one's spouse betrays not only the spouse's trust, but the children's as well.  It creates chaos and anxiety and resentment where there should be peace, trust, and comfort.

Also, teach your children about the proper place for sex.  Don't treat sex as a taboo subject, as that will only backfire.  Sex is good, so long as it's in the correct context.  It's your job as parents to teach your kids this fact.

7. "Thou shall not steal."

Don't steal time away from your children.  Your job, your hobbies, your social life - none of these ought to be more important than time spent with your children.  It may mean taking a pay cut.  It may mean passing on a promotion.  It may involve some creative lifestyle changes.  Also, putting your kids in so many extracurricular activities that they don't have time to relax or spend time with you is also on you.

8.  "Thou shall not bear false witness against your neighbor."

I think we can all agree that the broader meaning of "don't lie" applies here.  And if we are to not lie to our neighbor, we must realize that our children are included in this category!  Don't lie to your kids.  I'm not talking about avoiding the subject so as not to ruin a surprise birthday party.  I'm talking big stuff.  Otherwise honest people may feel perfectly justified in lying outright to their own children. A rather big and obvious example: if you adopted your kids, for instance, they deserve to know the truth.  How can you expect to raise honest children if you allow yourself to be dishonest?

9. "Thou shall not covet your neighbor's spouse."

Similar to the sixth commandment, lead by example, but also teach outright.  Your children will see if you are flirting with someone or lustfully commenting on a celebrity to a friend.  This is a good place to mention modesty of dress, also.  I recently heard modesty defined as "humility in a nice, occasion-appropriate outfit."  So teach your kids humility (including modesty, as an extension of humility as a whole), both by modeling it and explaining why certain outfits or activities are not allowed in your household. (Unchaperoned co-ed slumber parties at a house with a pool come to mind...)

10.  "Thou shall not covet anything else belonging to your neighbor."

In other words, don't entertain envy and jealousy.  Don't let your kids hear you comparing yourselves with the proverbial Joneses. And if you hear your kids doing it, nip that in the bud as well.  Practice gratitude instead.