What’s the most important virtue you can have as a parent? A lot of things are important: patience, perseverance, consistency, understanding… But I believe the one thing that will make the most impact on your child is humility.
Admit your mistakes
Now matter how good a parent you are, you will sometimes make mistakes. You will punish the wrong child, or punish him too harshly. You will act in anger, rather than love. You will forget an important event, or forget to pick your child up from school. You will at times be selfish. You may lose or break something your child treasures.
If your focus as a parent is being patient, what happens when you fail? What happens when you are too tired to listen to your child’s concerns? What happens when it seems like you’ve messed everything up?
Do you spend the rest of the day feeling sorry for yourself, or overcome with regret?
Or do you say, “I’m sorry. I made a mistake?”
I have seen parents who did not know how to admit their errors. They never apologized to each other or to their children. They tried to teach their children to live for God, but some of the kids rebelled as they grew older. They left the Church and have stayed away for decades.
It always seemed to me that the parents’ lack of humility contributed to this. When you as a parent insist you are always right, or are offended when others point out your mistakes, it’s as though you’ve put yourself in God’s place. If your kids see you as a hypocrite, they will likely rebel against God as well.
Pride pushes kids away. Humility draws them near. If you are open with your children about your mistakes, they will return the favor and be open about theirs. They will know that you (and God) will always forgive them, because you are a sinner, and even Jesus was tempted.
Go to Confession as a family. Go frequently. Teach your children to make a nightly examination of conscience, and let them know you make one as well.
Accept your child’s temperament
This is a hard one for me. One of my sons is purely choleric, a temperament I find really difficult to bear. I can’t spend my life trying to make him sanguine or introverted. It will just frustrate me.
God gave each child his own temperament and individuality. We have to learn to work with the child’s natural inclinations, not against them (unless they are sinful). I touched on this recently with my post on 4 tips for getting kids to do chores.
That means I will parent each of my children differently. Some of them will see this as unfair. I must pray about how I can be especially encouraging towards the one who needs so much more discipline than his brothers. Of course, we all have the same rules of ideal behavior. But how I lead each child toward the ideal varies.
Your children will not be just like you, nor should they be. God made them unique. Be humble enough to accept their differences.
Humbly accept all the teachings of the Church
You can’t expect your kids to be more faithful to the Church’s teaching than you are. They will follow your example. If you pick and choose among Catholic doctrines and moral teachings, they will do the same. And you may be shocked at what they end up rejecting!
If you act as though you are the arbiter of truth, rather than a receiver of truth, your children might reject the concept of objective truth altogether.
Discuss difficult doctrines with your children as they mature. Address their questions. Listen to their objections. Get help if you need it. Peter Kreeft has some wonderful resources for high school students and older.
Respect you children’s free will
Sometimes I’d like to lock my children in a room or tie them up so that can’t get into any more mischief. But of course I can’t do that. As they get older, I will have less and less control over their decisions, their friends, and their past times. I cannot always be there to make sure they are being good.
Once again, I need to accept the fact that I am not God. I am not meant to be omnipresent. I must slowly let go, slowly let my boys have more freedom.
God will always be there watching over them. I don’t need to worry. I do my best (or repent when I fail), then turn them over to Him. He desires their happiness more than I do.
If I am always hovering, always being snoopy and suspicious, I may destroy my kids’ self-confidence. I need to show them they are trustworthy, if I want them to become so. I need to show them that God is in control, if I desire them ti trust Him.
So I let them make mistakes at times, as God lets me do. Then I pray and release them to Him.
Humility in parenting doesn’t mean not having standards. It does not mean being relativistic. Humility means seeing myself and my children as we are before God, and living in accordance with this knowledge. It is the perfect virtue for imperfect parents.
Share with us: Do you have any tips for parenting a choleric child? I am always in need of some help! How has humility affected your life as a parent?
2 thoughts on “Humility: the most important virtue for parents”
excellent- This is the attitude that works; this is the attitude that teens repect; this is the attitude the will develop deep relationships with your adult offspring
Melanie, I hope you are right. It’s the only logical attitude for flawed humnan beings. However, it’s not always easy to be logical!