by James B. Stenson (Book review)
As the children grow toward adolescence, the parents have a network of experienced and supportive adults to rely upon for advice and encouragement. This support goes a long way in firming up the parents' judgment and confidence.
10. Successful fathers frequently have a deep and active religious faith. The children see them pray and take serious interest in doctrinal-moral formation.
This religious outlook seems to directly affect the way these fathers discipline their children. They are neither tyrannical nor permissive, for both of these extremes are basically self-centered. Their love for God and their family, along with their commitment to living by a well-formed conscience, makes them treat their children the way Gods treats us all with firmness, understanding, and affection.
Such men are aware how their family's welfare depends upon God's loving care. The children's future lives are entirely in his hands. These men know that a lifelong habit of prayer is the greatest thing they can teach their children, and the kids' virtue of hope will provide an anchor for their young lives against any storms that lie ahead.
To look at it another way, these fathers know that every generation of children has to be missionized. Otherwise, they can easily lose their faith. The religious faith that has been a family patrimony for over a thousand years can completely disappear, can be snuffed out entirely, in just one generation. Today this is happening all around us. To any Christian father, the task of passing on this faith intact to his children is his pre-eminent responsibility. Nothing else comes close to it in importance.
11. Successful fathers teach their children to be "poor in spirit."
Such men know that excessive wealth can corrupt people, adults as well as children. It's one of the central lessons of history as well as our Christian faith. As the Scriptures say in many places, riches blind us to earthly and clot nal realities. God did not create us to be mciv "consumers." How do fathers teach this spirit of poverty? In many ways. They work alongside their children at home, teaching the relationship between effort and results, along with the satisfaction of personal accomplishment. They are sparing in allowances. They make the children wait for things, and if possible, earn them. They give generously of time and money to the needy, and they encourage (but don't force) the children to do the same. They don't fill the home with expensive gadgets and amusements. They budget and save for the future, and thus teach the children an important lesson: Money is an instrument, a resource for the service of our loved ones and those in need. And that's all it is.
In a larger sense, both parents deliberately teach the children that real happiness doesn't come from pleasant amusements. It comes from other, more spiritual sources, confidence in God, a clean conscience, family solidarity, generosity to others, warm and respectful friendship, the satisfaction of a job well done. These are the real riches in life . .. even if you're broke.
12. Finally, the most successful fathers always put their family's welfare ahead of their jobs. They know that their children can be seriously hurt through fatherly neglect, and no job advantages no raises or promotions or projects completed can compensate for this loss. Sad to say, it's common for many men to reach late middle-age or retirement and find disappointment in the results of their life's work. Some men work all their lives to build up a business or a practice, only to find that these accomplishments eventually disappear. Times change. New businesses and practices replace the old. New managers undo what others have done before them. No matter how we look at it, work can't be an end in itself.
But what about the children? They do endure forever, for their souls are immortal. The children's earthly and eternal happiness depends, in enormous measure, on their father's influence during the first two decades of life. This is a brief span of time, and it passes only once. God has ordained it as a central fact of existence: Parents have one chance and only one to raise their children right.
Successful fathers can turn in later life to enjoy the fruits of their sacrifices, their own successful children. They see their sons and daughters as confident, responsible men and women who live by their parents' principles. God commands all of us to honor our mother and father. The greatest honor that children can bestow is to adopt their parents' conscience and character.
To see one's children grow up this way is the great challenge and reward a man can have. It's what fatherhood is all about.
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