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Saints, children and suffering
Posted By Eric Sammons On August 4, 2010 @ 7:45 am In Parenting | Comments Disabled
Any mature Christian knows that the path to sanctity travels through suffering. No servant is greater than his master, and our Lord suffered to bring us salvation, and suffering is part and parcel of being a follower of Christ. Likewise, any good parent wants their child to grow in holiness and become a saint. But how many parents want their children to suffer?
Thus the dilemma of the parent: we want our children to be saints, and we know saints must suffer, but we don’t want our children to suffer. What is the parent to do?
I think this is where many modern parenting methods fall woefully short. Countless times I have seen parents employ what I call the “switcheroo” method of parenting; by this I mean that if they want to deny their child something he or she wants, they simply switch that item with something else the child wants. “Johnny, you can’t play with that knife, but here play with this remote control instead.” In order to prevent the child from a negative reaction (i.e. screaming his head off), the parent avoids this by immediately satisfying the child’s desires in another way. In doing so, however, they are often missing the opportunity to teach the child a lesson in self-denial. If they just said, “Johnny, you can’t play with that knife”, period, they would demonstrate to the child that not all of his or her personal desires must be fulfilled (although the child will still scream his head off).
Another problem with modern parenting is the decline of chores. I admit that growing up in a suburban neighborhood in the 70′s I had few chores myself (and I can see the negative results of that fact in my own life even today), but today it seems that few children have any significant chores to speak of. But giving a child responsibility over certain age-appropriate tasks is a great way to build the discipline into their life necessary for the Christian life.
I’m not saying that parents should go around finding ways to deny their children the pleasures of life or to work them to death. But life is not about satisfying one’s personal desires, it is about taking up our cross and following Christ. If a child is never denied any of his or her desires in their youth, how is he or she going to one day be able to practice the self-denial necessary to pursue holiness?
If we truly want our kids to be saints, we need to acknowledge that their life will require self-denial and will contain suffering. As parents, we should not impose suffering on them, but we should give them the foundation for handling suffering in a mature, Christian fashion and for denying themselves for the sake of Christ.
(A great resource for practical ways to raise kids to be saints is Good Discipline, Great Teens  by Dr. Ray Guarendi.)
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 Good Discipline, Great Teens: http://www.amazon.com/Good-Discipline-Great-Teens-Guarendi/dp/0867168358/
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