The Australian Catholic Truth Society Record
May 20, 1953 (No. 520)
Fr J W Gleeson
THE ATTITUDE OF PARENTS
This is what happens. Babies can be so cute, interesting and entertaining. But when they get about three or four the situation changes. Let's take just one example: Dad is trying to read the paper and is interrupted by a stream of questions: "Why does the light burn, Daddy?" and "Where does the electricity come from, Daddy?" and many other problems that confront the developing mind of the growing child. Dad gets tired of it, loses his patience and yells, "Oh! go and play." Perhaps money for sweets(candy) is given as a bribe. It is interesting to note in passing, how frequently children are reprimanded for being impatient while their parents are constantly displaying impatience in their presence.
Where there is a persistent attitude of no give and take, no consideration for the child's queries and difficulties, there is this result: when the child finds it has some real need or has a real question, it will not go to Dad or Mom because "They don't understand me. They don't want to answer questions." In such cases, it is clear that those early years of the child's life, with the wonderful opportunity which they offer to build up confidence, respect and love between the child and the parent, are being wasted, because Dad or Mom or both are too selfish.
So you see, we need to remember this: those early years from babyhood are the times for building up that attitude of confidence and respect which is so essential in the problems later on. Take, for example, the child who asks, "Daddy, where do babies come from?", and he hears, "Oh! Go and ask your mother." The child asks his mother, and I she mother says, "Oh! The storks bring them." The child knows it is not being told the truth because; Dad wouldn't have behaved the way he did, and Mum wouldn't have looked so embarrassed if she were speaking honestly. Then comes a day when the chiid wants to know further information of this nature and it will ask a little playmate down the street who knows all the answers and is very proud to tell everybody else about it. Once this situation has arisen the parents have forfeited the privilege of giving this most intimate and important knowledge to their children, because the child has lost confidence in them.
HELPS FOR THE PARENTS
That is why the proper attitude of confidence must be built up from the earliest years. If it is not, there is a serious danger coming into the family. Of course, sometimes parents haven't the faintest idea of the way they should answer their children's questions. Parents must equip themselves with the knowledge and methods required to explain and meet the various needs of their children, particularly in the matter of questions about sex. There are many books, both good and bad, on this matter. Some good ones are, You Are Her Mother and He is your Son; Christopher's Talks to Catholic Parents, by David Green-stock (Burns, Gates), is also very helpful. But never think that you will solve all the problems by giving your child a book. It is rather a question of building up, giving as much and only as much, knowledge as the child needs and can understand at the particular age it has reached. Your dealing with your child will be a revelation of your whole appreciation of the dignity and sacredness of life, of your own attitude towards sex. These will be revealed because your own altitude to your child is yourself, your whole life, and that is what you reveal when you answer your children's questions. Besides using books, there are other ways of equipping yourselves—school parents' study groups, Christian Family Croups, Cana Conferences and also pre-Cana Courses before marriage. You well know all the trouble people take to fit themselves to earn their living. It is reasonable to ask. "Do you go to at least an equivalent amount of trouble to fit yourselves for the most worthy dignity of being a father, or of being a mother?" Sometimes the answer must be "No."
AUTHORITY AND DISCIPLINE