Do you remember how you felt the moment you first held your child? Do you remember the
sheer awe of that moment; feeling indescribable joy at the presence of this new life? How long has it been since your child has brought you that same sense of delight? Has your zeal to parent waned as your child has grown older?
Parenting is like a double-edged sword; it cuts both ways. Realistic parents understand that raising children swings between ease and pleasure to sorrow and pain. In the early years there is an abundance of joy and hope about the child’s life; who will he become, how will he make his mark in the world? Every possibility seems open and achievable. With time, the magnitude of the role of a parent begins to take its toll as you realize that this child can’t become who he is meant to be without your involvement. That means that you can’t go out when you want, you have to spend money on what they need rather than on the things you want or desire, you have to say no when they want you to say yes... The original blessing becomes seasoned with a sense of burden and sacrifice.
Most parents want to know how they can maximize the good times and minimize the rough spells of parenting. The Catholic Church provides fascinating insight on how parents can increase the blessing side of family life. She begins by asking parents to see children as “the supreme gift of marriage” and “its crowning glory.” The Church asks parents to recognize that children are gifts from God lovingly given to them. God intends children to be blessings not burdens. Stop and think about this for a moment. How would your parenting change if every time you looked at your child, you saw a marvelous gift? Imagine what might change in your parenting approach if you saw your child as the crowning glory of your love.
Secular studies related to this Church teaching confirm that how a parent views a child or what a parent expects makes a difference. Known as the “Pygmalion effect,” the theory teaches that a person will act or behave as others expect them to. If parents think of their child as a gift with great worth, they communicate this sentiment passively day in and day out. The child “catches” this attitude of gift and acts in a manner consistent with the expectation. The underlying mindset cultivates the blessings and deters the burden of parenting.
Church teachings also tell us that children contribute greatly to the good of the parents themselves. This may seem odd, but children can actually make a parent a better person. Before children, adults are rarely interested in what a local school district is doing or what type of crime rate is in the area. They are not overly concerned that their actions have any impact on others. But as soon as a child enters the family these perceptions change. The birth of a child motivates parents to participate in the development of society and shape the world into something civil, hopeful and good. Children call parents to a higher standard and make them think twice before they act. In this way, children shape their parents’ character and disposition.
Maintaining zeal to parent – especially during the teen years - rests on two factors; accepting that your child is a supreme gift from God and that this gift is meant to perfect you by making you more selfless and loving. It requires you to open your heart to the blessings that God has waiting for you as a parent. If you are open to God’s grace and mercy, then you will wake up every day (alright, almost every day) with a renewed sense of sharing yourself with your kids. In sharing who you are with your offspring, you will move closer to your Heavenly Father who will maximize your joy. And isn’t that what you want?
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