I’m trying to learn how to raise holy children. So far, my results have been mixed, and it’s my own fault.
My youngest daughter has learned to walk. But more importantly, she can run, and she likes to demonstrate this during our Sunday services.
My wife and I hold her for most of the Liturgy, but when we do give her a break and let her get down on the floor, she makes a break for it. She charges to the front of the temple or flees to the back. She tries to pull on the cloth draped over one of the icon stands.
It’s exhausting for me. I chase after her, plucking her back up and keeping her from doing any damage or being a distraction. She cries and squirms, and I wind up being more of a distraction than she was.
My wife is different. She knows our baby is just that – a curious, happy child excited about her newfound ability to get around. And I’m sure most of the other folks in church love seeing our baby’s smiling face as she runs up to them and grins or waves. Her moving around in the service isn’t the big deal I make it out to be.
My need to control the situation – and her every move – is a problem I’m well aware of.
A Need To Control
I’ve written (a lot) about my struggles with my older daughter, and our clash of wills. I know that a head-on collision is the wrong way to deal with her, but I fall back into the same bullheaded behavior again and again.
With both my daughters, I’m allowing my need to control and my fear of how others perceive my parenting to guide my reaction. Even though I know it only makes things worse, I keep doing the same thing and expecting a different result.
I ask your prayers to help me change my behavior.
A quote from St. Porphyrios of Kafsokalivia has popped up in my Facebook feed enough times recently that I know it’s message I’m supposed to receive. And I’m trying my best to let it soak in.
“When you see the devil at the throat of your child, instead of becoming angry with your offspring for going astray, speak to God about it. Whatever you’d have said to your child (because they’d react badly, given their character), tell it to God. Get down on your knees and, by God’s grace, your words will be passed on to the child.”
Side-stepping a direct confrontation is not my strong suit. When I get punched, I tend to punch back twice as hard. It’s a source of endless shame and embarrassment for me, and a bad habit I am trying to break.
I’m not saying that our baby should have free rein to run all over the church. And I’m not saying that my teenager should get her way just so I can avoid confronting her. But parenting is more than the imposing of your will.
We should be leading by prayerful example. By demonstrating holiness, we teach our children to be holy. By praying in front of them, we teach them to be prayerful. We can’t expect a calm, cheerful child unless we demonstrate patience, calmness and the ability to keep ourselves under control.
8 tips from St. Porphyrios on how to raise holy children
- Pray for your children during pregnancy
- Stop giving them advice unceasingly; rather, talk to them through prayer
- Be examples for your children
- Teach your children to ask for God’s help in every situation
- When children make mistakes, talk to them seriously and firmly, not with anger
- Do not overprotect them, but teach them how to take care of themselves
- Raise your children in freedom
- Be holy, so that your children may be holy
If you’re a parent who is reading this and struggles with this issue, write to me and let me know how you deal with this. Let’s pray for each other to get better at side-stepping confrontation and demonstrating holiness to our children.
St. Porphyrios, pray for us to learn to raise holy children.
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