Teaching the Way of Love (TWL) is a program for Catholic parents that encourages and empowers them to embrace their role as the primary educators of their children, especially in the areas of moral and personal development.

The Heart of the 4th Commandment: Do What Love Asks

You’ve been there, right? Your kids are not complying to a simple request that you’ve made. You don’t want to yell or berate or lose your temper. So you do the countdown – one, two, three… You hope that counting will move your kids to get to business. If it works and they do meet your demand, it is likely that they do so with some resentment and a hardened heart. And that makes you sad.

Please Pray That
  • Parents will live according to the Ten Commandments, especially within the home.
  • Families will honor the Holy Mass by going every Sunday.
  • Families will challenge themselves to do what is right for the sake of love.
  • Parents will ask the Holy Spirit to help their family cultivate piety.
  • Families will joyfully work to put God at the center of all they do.
  • Families will cultivate a sense of awe and wonder for the greatness of God.
  • Parents will do more than they think they should in order to witness sacrificial love to their children.
  • Respect will be abundantly shown within every family.
  • No child (or parent) will ever feel they are beyond God’s love and mercy.

Every parent knows that kids are supposed to obey their parents. After all, that is the 4th commandment; honor thy mother and father. But, this commandment goes way beyond doing what you are told. It’s supposed to help each of us learn how to revere God and others.

Let’s do a quick review. The 4th commandment opens the second part of the Decalogue which focuses on how to love one another as Christ does. (The first three commandments teach us how to love God.) It is the rest of seven directives that outline how we are to love our neighbor as ourselves.

This command introduces an understanding that true charity for others begins within the family. Most obviously, it is addressed to children. It directs them to honor their parents through respect, gratitude, obedience and assistance. But the commandment extends beyond the way a child treats his or her parents. It also covers interactions between siblings, extended family members, strangers and co-workers. And, it includes the way parents treat their offspring.

As you might expect, the Church has identified one virtue that helps parents get to the heart of the 4th commandment. It is called piety. When developed, piety is expressed through reverence and obedience to legitimate authority. It changes a person’s heart to see requests as opportunities to love another rather than as burdens.

Piety instills a desire within the heart to do what is right out of love rather than fear. When developed, kids choose to do what is pleasing rather than offensive. For example, piety moves a child to meet a request because it helps Mom and Dad out or because it contributes to the well-being of the family. Without piety, they just do what is asked of them without considering the other.

That’s the grave obligation that we, as parents, have to the 4th commandment. We must concern ourselves more with shaping the hearts of our children than getting them to obey. We should focus on getting them to respond out of respect and assistance rather than out of fear or resentment. We want them to want to do what is right because it pleases us and God. When they get it, the ordinary moments of family life become more meaningful and unifying.

Here’s a lovely quote from Pope Francis that pinpoints necessity for piety in our homes.

“The gift of piety makes us grow in our relation and communion with God and leads us to live as His children; at the same me, it helps us to pour this love also on others and to recognize them as (sisters and) brothers.”

Let’s fill our homes with deeper love by fulfilling the 4th commandment through the virtue of piety.

Encouraging the Virtue of Piety

You can teach your children to meet requests with love rather than resentment. Try these ideas.

  • As the parent, do more than you think you should do. If you are asked to clean up the table after dinner, do that as well as sweep the floor. If you are asked to take out the trash, go the extra mile and place new liners in all of the waste containers you just emptied.
  • Become mindful of how you make requests of others in your family. Instead of asking from a distance, go up to the person, look them in the eye and make your request.
  • Become intentional about thanking someone who meets a request. Always show your gratitude when someone does what they are asked to do.
  • As needed, impose fair consequences for requests that go unfinished. Always do so charitably, calmly and directly.
  • Pray to the Holy Spirit asking that he will help your family acquire the virtue of piety and practice it on a daily basis.

This article is just a small part of good Catholic parenting. Visit www.twl4parents.com for more strategies that will help you become the best parent you can be. And for the best systematic approach to parenting, consider purchasing the Teaching the Way of Love program, which can be found at the same website.

This article series is brought to you by Alice Heinzen and Jeff Arrowood, authors of the Teaching the Way of Love home study series for parents. Find out more at www.twl4parents.com/teaching-the-way-of-love.

Leave a Comment