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It is such a blessing from God to have children. Sometimes, it is challenging and may seem less of a blessing in a moment that is not so inviting. As I step back from certain situations with my children and evaluate how to approach it the way God wants me to, to meet my child’s needs; I learn something new every time. It often catches me off guard when my three and a half year old responds positively to my discipline after taking a second to ask God for guidance. I have noticed in the past year that teaching my son to cherish life by respecting life around him has been an important part in raising him the way God would want my husband and I to.
I think it is important and crucial to first, before we make any rules in our household, to ask God what he wants for our children, because they are ultimately his children first. God has gifted us with another soul to help guide and protect here on earth. Then we can start to discipline. When my son started to display some destructive behavior during one of his temper tantrums, I knew I had to stop it right away. I began thinking to myself what would God want me to teach him, to help him stop this behavior. Then I had a discussion with my son about treating his body with respect (except I didn’t say respect, I used the word: “nicely”. I used words that I knew he would understand). I did not only have to talk to him about what treating our bodies nicely versus badly, I had to show him examples of these two behaviors. Ephraim did not understand this concept in one session, but we still work on it anytime he would want to start hitting something or someone. That’s the trick with toddlers, parents have to repeat the consequence until their child begins to understand the behavior is wrong and know how to practice self control. It is definitely hard to practice patience with young children, especially when you have to constantly repeat yourself. This is where prayer plays a key role when raising little ones.
I realized while I was helping Ephraim understand why he was being corrected for hitting or saying mean things to others, I also needed to explain why this was not good. When I started telling him, “God wants us to use our bodies in a nice way and not a mean way,” he started to stop this type of behavior.
I also, came to the realization that I needed to show Ephraim how to show respect to all of God’s creation. In the summer, I would show him how to treat the small insects and animals outside. Instead of killing, stepping on, or pulling at a creature, I would show him how to hold and explore that animal. I know it may seem trivial and going against the “boys’ nature”, but this small experience is a little lesson children can learn on how to treat all of what God has created around us. Children always need to be shown how God would want them to act towards others. I think the biggest mistake we make as parents, is that we assume they know why we tell them to stop a certain behavior. If we do not show them the correct way to behave, they may never learn. If children do not learn how to respect and treat the littlest of things around them with respect, how do we expect them to understand how to respect life itself; especially when it comes to the most vulnerable of God’s creation?
We can help our children learn how to respect life in simple ways, in everyday occurrences. Parents can help their children speak nicely to others, obey their parents, elders, and people in charge of them, offering to help others, using manners, practicing patience, and the list can go on. The most important way to help our children is to pray for them to always do God’s will and pray that you raise your children the way God would want. For He knows your children best, even though we forget that often. He knows them inside and out, just like He knows us.
As a young adult I was pretty sure about the calling God had in my life. I met the girl that I would end up marrying and knew we would raise a family. I thought about religious life but had a longing for a family. I look at my life now with a beautiful bride, two amazing sons, and another child on the way and feel confident that I chose the vocation that God wanted for me.
When my sons were born I immediately assumed that becoming a grandfather and having grandchildren would be in the cards for my life. However, as a strong Catholic I wondered if God may want to make priests of my sons. This was a difficult thought for me, and took a while for the reality that I need to let go of what our world expects of us.
The thought of going into the priesthood or other religious life has a negative view in our society today. I’m not only talking about the secular world, but even in the Catholic church. Why is this? I have been thinking about it and realized that as a child, becoming a priest was never brought up to me. If I wanted to be a priest it was going to have to be miraculous, and I would have to hear the call from God without the help of anyone. Children are often brought up thinking that being successful means to make money, and jobs like doctor, lawyer, and professional athlete or musician are the elite on the list. As catechists we know that being successful is not about money, but about doing what God is calling us to do and bringing people closer to Christ while doing it.
In my third grade class I love to talk about the saints. So many of our saints were so very young, St. Therese of Lisieux was elementary age when she wanted to join the Carmelites. St. Therese had sisters that chose religious life so she knew this was an option. I let my third graders know that we are never too young for God to call us. I encourage them and let them know how great religious life can be. Maybe none of my students will enter religious life, but they can’t say they didn’t know it was an option.
As you may have guessed I am open that God may use my sons as his instruments through religious life if he chooses. I now pray for my boys that they are open to the priesthood and religious life. They are only three and two years old and have a long while before they have to make any decision about this, but we are never to young for God to lay upon our hearts his calling for us.