SummaryOne of the ends of marriage is the procreation and education of children. Procreation has gotten a good deal of attention in the recent history of the Church, but education is often of less interest.
One of the ends of marriage is the procreation and education of children.
Procreation has gotten a good deal of attention in the recent history of the Church, but education is often of less interest.
Many people take education in this context to be reading, writing and arithmetic. Though these are, of course, very important and sadly often neglected in modern education in America, they are not exactly what this end of marriage refers to.
The education which is the final fulfillment of this end of marriage is education in the truth and virtue, to be more specific: morals. It is this which makes the family a “domestic Church.”
“Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children. They bear witness to this responsibility first by creating a home where tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity, and disinterested service are the rule. The home is well-suited for education in the virtues.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2223)
Here are some suggestions for thought and discussion about this education in the virtues.
1. Essential Discipline
First, discipline is obviously essential. Many parents today treat their children as their buddies.
Virtue consists in discovering the reasonable mean between two extremes. Courage, for example, should not entail either cowardice in the face of evil or foolishly rushing into a situation without thought. Thinking is therefore essential.
Children do not have developed intellects. The “age of reason” is generally held to be about seven, though some are more precocious than others.
Though they reach the age of reason, they are not adults. They must be allowed to have a childhood and to make mistakes. Too early an attempt by adults to turn children into adults, for example, by providing them with sophisticated toys, such computers and cell phones, before they can develop a desire for them creates a cold and utilitarian attitude to life.
Children must be allowed time for play which does not just consist in watching TV or a computer screen all day. Their imagination must be encouraged and not suppressed by continuous media experiences.
2. Self Expression
The opposite problem occurs when an adult never punishes a child or is completely permissive of his actions as self-expression.
This promotes a complete self-centeredness in the child which gives him the impression that his feelings are all that matters.
If punishment is administered it must be reasonable and fit the case.
For example, if a child throws a tantrum he should not be punished for having angry feelings. Anger is a normal and natural emotion.
If he harms another or breaks something he can be punished for an inappropriate expression of anger. He should be guided to develop appropriate and human expressions of emotion.
This will take a long time and demand great patience on the part of his parents.
3. Mutual Support
This leads to another important point especially for people practicing home schooling. BOTH parents must be involved in the process of virtue formation. A mother’s influence may be more important in the primary years, but a father’s influence is essential in both primary and adolescent years.
The father is the rock to emotionally support the mother and his firm but loving guidance is essential in adolescence. Too many times fathers absent themselves in contemporary Western society from the formation of their sons and daughters.
This is especially serious for the sons.
It is true that adolescents are very confused about their identities.
They are neither children nor adults and cannot be treated as either. Great tact and intelligence is needed in supporting and at the same time disciplining them emotionally to form the virtues.
Too many parents simply absent themselves from the process because it is very time consuming, or treat their children like employees.
The home and family are a domestic Church. They are the bedrock of society. What both parents do is essential to health and prosperity of business, civil society and the Church.
Parents must always keep before their eyes the fact that they are beginning a process in the formation of their children which ends only in the worship of God in heaven, an experience in which, God willing, they shall share.