Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Leading by Example

Dash, apparently thinking himself quite clever, recently called his Grandma by her first name. She thought it was quite funny that he had picked up on what her name is and asked if he knew Grandpa, Daddy and Mommy's names. He correctly identified Grandpa and Daddy, but announced that Mommy's real name was, "Babe!"

In Dash's defense, Mr. Incredible usually walks in the door and says, "Hi, Babe, how was your day?" It made me pause to realize just how much he picks up without any effort or thought.

Several sources have recently left me thinking about how our children really learn about our faith and build character. Being the checklist kind of person I am, I get excited when I read the kids books about saints and virtues...surely I am imbuing them with faith and character, no?
  • Monday's reflection in In Conversation with God quoted Saint Augustine, "Strive to acquire the virtues you think your brothers lack, and then you will no longer see their defects, because you yourselves will not have them."
  • Charlotte Mason speaks constantly about the atmosphere in the home. Karen Andreola quotes Charlotte, "Ideas are held in that thought environment which surround the child as an atmosphere, in which he breathes in unconscious ideas of right living emanating from his parents. Every look of gentleness and tone of reverence, every word of kindness and act of help passes into the thought-environment, the very atmosphere which the child breathes."
  • In her introduction to Catholic Truths for our Children, Patti Armstrong writes, "To pass down information, we teach it intellectually; but to get our children to integrate that knowledge into a belief system demands our own good example...yes, we need to impart knowledge, but we also need to be living examples."
  • And finally, in Heartfelt Discipline, Clay Clarkson discusses his revelation that raising godly children is not just about sowing seeds of good character: "The task is not to plant enough good seeds to crowd out the world's weedy influences; it's about faithfully preparing the soil of our children's hearts," so that they can be changed by Christ.
All of these relate to Monday's gospel reading about removing the plank from our own eye before removing the speck from our brother's (or son's or husband's) eye. It took me reading about the same idea half a dozen times to for the thought to crystallize in my 8 month pregnant mind. Perhaps it is more effective, though far more difficult, for me to exhibit the virtue of patience than to read a picture book to my boys about it. I realize that this is not an earth-shattering observation, just something I have been thinking about this week.

At lunch, as I turned around to get some (not eco-friendly and not destined for a compost pile) paper towels to wipe Jack-Jack's hands, I found that Dash had placed his glass lunch plate on top of his glass cup and was saying excitedly, "See, Mommy!" I took a deep breath, working on exercising the virtue of patience rather than just talking about it.

Then he added, "Just like Father Phillip does it!" so proud of his recreation of the paten on the chalice.

I am so glad that I help my tongue in that moment. I calmly explained that, yes, Father Phillip does do that during mass, (and that if he became a priest, he could, too) but that we shouldn't do that with our milk and lunch plate.

Trying to cultivate an atmosphere in our home that invites Christ and his Blessed Mother rather than preaching all day long is a much better way to bring our little ones closer to God!


Right Said Red said...

This is beautiful, so true, but also such a challenge for us mothers! To be holy day in and day out for our children. It is a very humbling to realize that my kids might grow up to be just like me if I don't change ;-)

Juris Mater said...

Great post, Tex. Consistently being models of virtue to kids is SO daunting, you're right... but also, on the flip side, what a blessing it is to have our kids observing us to give us that incentive to grow in virtues in daily life. I guess this just one reason why motherhood is a path to holiness... it's easy enough to hide faults and vices and put on a good front publicly, but when the watchful eyes and hearts of little ones are turned toward us all day, there's no hiding anything!

Mary Alice said...

Thanks for the inspiration! I had forgot to mention in the DVD post that we also really like the audio stories called Glory Stories. They come from Catholic World Missions and they are EWTN radio shows that are meant to support the missions. They tell saints lives that are geared to children but are slightly less sacarine then the CCC videos.

I think that role modeling ourselves is so important, but also that we can use the saints as our allies in this, get them on board as models for our children.

I think it is key that kids our kids see us at our worst, while pregnant, hormonal, over tired, etc. I have heard that it takes 5 good experiences to balance out 1 negative one in a child's mind.

Lastly, I have been praying for my kids to have some role models as they get older, Catholic teens, friends, other families, I remember listening to the rosary on CD while travelling to a friends beach house for the weekend, what a difference it made to me to see at a young age that my family wasn't the only family praying, especially because this mom was super cool (at least to a 9 year old), and let us do things like cook dinner for the whole family one night.

B-Mama said...

One great opportunity I've had lately is introducing upbeat Christian music to the kids while we drive. They see their mom rocking out to songs that talk about Jesus, hopefully connecting that Christ can be fun and inspire praise and worship! Sometimes these are our best moments together in the day because the kids are strapped down and I have their relative attention! lol. ;)

texas mommy said...

Mary Alice wrote: "and let us do things like cook dinner for the whole family one night."

Umm, I hope my kids think I'm cool when I ask them to cook dinner for the fam!

Courtney said...

I love this post because it is easy to read books on parenting (which can also be important) but it is crucial to remember that we are models for our kids and that the daily routine of caring for our families, which might seem repetitive at times, is acutally very important, in terms of how we interact with them during those times and what we are teaching them in the small moments. Thanks again, I needed this reminder today!

texas mommy said...

I think what Mary Alice said about our kids seeing us at our worst is important. We all have bad days. The important thing is that they see us struggle and try. Well, really the important thing is that we DO struggle and try. They will notice this. And of course it ws always good and humbling to apologize to a 2 year old when necessary.

I also think it is ok to delay responses in a situation, esp. as kids get older and more complicated (speaking as someone who does not have older kids). As in, "Mommy needs to pray about this for a minute. We'll discuss later." or "Mommy needs a moment so she doesn't lose her patience."

Mary Alice said...

B, can we have some specific CD recommendations. I was bopping along to our local country station last night when I realized that I was listening to a song about abortion -- the lyric, said something like "we did what we did and we promised not to regret it." I was sick to my stomach.

Right Said Red said...

I'll give one--almost anything by Rich Mullins!!!! I absolutely LOVE Rich!

If Mr. Red is reading, he can name off certain Rich albums that are great....

Right Said Red said...

From Mr. Red:

His greatest hits (called "Songs," and "Songs 2"). Best studio albums are probably his last two: "A Liturgy, a Legacy, and a Ragamuffin Band" (my favorite) and "Brother's Keeper."

Also, he wrote a sort of opera based on the life of St. Francis of Assisi called "Canticle of the Plains," which is excellent. (Red's favorite)

Rich is sometimes cheesy (a lot of his songs were written in the 80s), but I don't care. He's a great song-writer and musician.