Parenting With Grace-Book Study: Chapter Two

(Intro here, and Chapter One,)
Everything in quotations can be directly attributed to the authors, unless otherwise noted.  These are my own very brief personal notes/interpretation/things I want to remember

Chapter Two-We are F.A.M.I.L.Y.-Daring to Discipline the Catholic Way

Discipline vs. Punishment
Discipline comes from word "discipuli" which means student.
Punishment comes from word "punier" which means "to inflict pain".

Punishment-police/suspect relationship.
Discipline-teacher/student relationship.

-Discipline is more than stopping bad behavior.

-Researches at Yale noted that the more parents use punishments (yelling, spanking, inconsistent/improper time-outs, rash consequences), the more they need to punish-children become less compliant in response.

-Relying too heavily on punishment forces parents to seek our more and more ways to shield children from the world.

-"The opposite of punishment is NOT permissiveness.  It is discipline."

Discipline allows parents to: (Answer spells out acronym F.A.M.I.L.Y)

1. F-Focus on a vision
-develop a"family identity statement"-Why?

-it is a lesson plan for the values you want to teach your children-Christian mission to live out Christian virtues.

-the Church encourages Catholic homes to be schools of virtues-to teach children to not just avoid bad, but more importantly to do good.  

-virtues aren't just adjectives they are TOOLS and RESOURCES for parents (virtues are brought up often in the book)

-it helps redirect a child instead of just harping and criticizing-"This would be a good time to practice (insert virtue-responsibility, generosity, respect-Johnny." -important to teach practical application of virtues too

-it helps develop kid's internal control-develop their own inner moral conscience.

-the daily family life becomes a spiritual exercise in Catholicism-you can integrate our beliefs into every part of the day 

-it builds family as a team-"In a family, every one's behavior affects everyone else's behavior."  "Wouldn't it be nice if, for a change, you could all influence each other for the good?"

-parents are accountable for their character flaws also. (I love this!)

"When parents work to set and safeguard the values and ideals their family stands for, they are exercising proper parental authority.  
When safeguarding these values and ideals 
includes a willingness to subject oneself to the same, even at the risk of one's own pride, 
then parental authority is being exercised "with wisdom and love."

(The book contains a work sheet to develop family mission statement based on Catholic virtues.)  This reminds me of my friend Shawni's family motto-same idea, different faith.)

A refresher course:  Because I need one!  We learn these at Confirmation time, and I remember the three older kids memorizing them, but will now make them a more integral part of parenting. The book does a good job of explaining what each one means in the practical sense, here is another source.  I also found a sweet home school mom that has a little series on how she teaches virtues in her home to her younger kids.

The Theological Virtues
1. Faith
2. Hope
3. Love

The Cardinal Virtues
1. Prudence
2. Justice
3. Temperance
4. Courage (aka fortitude)

The Twelve Fruits of the Holy Spirit
1. Charity (self-donative love)
2. Joy
3. Peace
4. Patience
5. Kindness
6. Goodness
7. Generosity
8. Faithfulness
9. Modesty
10. Self-control
11. Chastity

Other Virtues of Value (listed by authors)

Solidarity, Hospitality, Openness, Knowledge, Creativity, Respect, Intimacy, Obedience, Service, Attentiveness, Wisdom, Compassion, Counsel, Piety

2. A-Act Proactively, Not Reactively
-parenting has to be more than stopping bad behavior which is the least rewarding way to parent-it's "like plugging leaks on your ship"  -you need to guide that ship, especially in storm, to get it where you want it to go. 

-address problems early on, instead of waiting to point of crisis management.

-to be effective Catholic parents, look for opportunities to practice virtues.

-look for ways to compliment children when they DO do something-create opportunities to learn virtue then make sure they know you are paying attention.  

-discovering intention behind bad behavior is the first way to change it.  Why is child doing this-what are they getting out of it, etc.

"If punishment is mostly concerned with stopping bad behavior once it starts, 
the cardinal rule of good discipline is that it is nine billion times more important 
to teach a child what to do in the first place  
than it is to teach them what to stop doing."

3.M-Make Relationship, not Manipulation, the Agent of Change
-think of relationship with child as it were an emotional bank account.  Positive things (all the things in last chapter-spending time together, compliments, catch them being good, working together etc.) making deposits.  When you correct, challenge, criticize, you make withdrawals which is OK, but you shouldn't overextend you credit.

4. I-Imitate Christ's Way To Command Obedience
-punishment/technique oriented parenting can lead to "blind-obedience"=obedience based on fear (fear of getting caught, being punished) instead of out of respect, love, consideration.

-effective discipline builds a strong relationship, takes time to listen and understand and TEACH, and then can command obedience.

(I have found this especially true for teenagers-if they understand why for example coming home late (tired mom, baby wakes up, Dad has to work next day early, we can't sleep because we worry about you, because we love you) so much more effective than "because I said so, if not you are grounded for weeks". Kids respond if they know love is the reason.  When I think more about it though-it's every age, not just teens.  Toddlers learn to not hit or throw a block, because it hurts and makes other sad.  Kids learn consideration for others this way also-the Golden Rule.)

5. L-Look for Ways to Train the Will, Not Break It
-Parents with punitive mindset can view misbehavior as innate badness or manipulativeness of children-leads to heavy handed parenting-baby crying at night must be ignored, misbehaving child must be punished "so that he know he can't get one over on the parent."

-Catholic response to will is to respect it and teach it, not break it

-A police officer probably doesn't care about why someone committed an offense-that's not their job, but our job as parents is to be the best teacher to our children and be concerned about the intentions of bad behavior so we can better teach good, godly behavior.

6. "Yes" to Methods That Increase Internal Control
-internal control=building own conscience

-reminds me of Parenting With Dignity book by Mac Blesdoe, one of my favorites-kids aren't going to be around US forever, all the time, we only get so many years with them as parents.  They will make their own decisions without us for most of their lives!  It is up to us to lay that foundation.

-"The more you use punitive methods with a child (lecturing, removing privileges, spanking, grounding, screaming, etc.) the more you set yourself up as your child's conscience, so he or she never learns to develop his or her own."  

-sometimes punitive methods are necessary (grounding, loss of privileges, a lecture) but should be used appropriately so that children can develop and exercise own strong sense of right and wrong

-effective discipline strategies rely less on exterior scaffolding (fear of punishment) and more on interior structure (child's conscience) to uphold moral character of the child.

-self-donative discipline is not as flashy as all the newest punitive methods-but it works better. i.e. self-donative discipline never has a cure-all, 'just read this book and magically have a new kid in 3 easy steps' sort of mindset.  It requires LOVE and TIME.

"The ultimate fruit of discipline is self-discipline."
Fr. Leo Trese


  1. Loving these posts, Sarah! Thanks for sharing!

  2. For the sake of honesty, reading these excerpts is making me feel like a big fat parenting failure (especially the part about explaining to a teenager why coming home late is a bad idea- we have explained with exactly the reasons listed- and that did a whole lot of absolutely nothing to change the problem). Reading some of these I feel as if I'm a big fire breathing monster and the authors of the book are calming breezes whos children do nothing but smile politely and say thank you. I'm wishing the book had a chapter that explained that there will be days when parenting tactics sometimes just plain don't work- and that it's okay to be angry and frustrated. Parenting 6 kids is no easy job, that's for sure... that part, I'm sure the author and I WOULD agree on ;)

  3. This is sounding like such a good book. Even if only half of what is on the pages makes it to the home the point is we are looking to engage our children positively.

  4. I am very interested in reading this book and I am enjoying your notes for now. Does the book give real life examples of how to handle specific issues? I have 3 little girls under 7, who are really good, we are not dealing with big issues here...but I know that I loose it when I am asking for a behavior to stop, and then you ask again, and again--and they just ignore you, just keep doing the whatever it was that you asked them to stop--that is when my husband and I both can just loose it! I am not talking about in the span of a day, I am talking about you ask them to stop and they totally ignore you as if you didn't say a word--defiant like. Sometimes, you just need them to stop (insert given behavior) and you can only ask calmly so many times :( I know this is my biggest issue right now and something I would love to improve. Thank you for sharing this with all of us working to be the best Mommies we can. And for the other Sarah commenting above, I "get it", the feeling of being a big fat parenting failure from reading the experts but, we are all doing our best and when we know better we hopefully can do better!

    1. HI Katie (and Sarah above!)-The next two chapters are full of practical, applicable, discipline tips...the next chapter, how to encourage every day discipline, and the one after that corrective discipline. I would totally suggest reading the book though-tons of good examples-I can only write so much in my outline and I know I am not doing it justice or getting the points across as well as they do.

    2. Thanks, Sarah, for your response! My friend and I both ordered the book and it arrives tomorrow :)
      I wish we could do a book chat and discuss our problems and ideas. I know you follow 71toes--something like her motherhood retreats. Like minded Catholic mom's just trying to do our best, but needing help staying the course. Thanks for all your wisdom!

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. Fantastic recap once again!! Man, I still have a long ways to go and have had the book for years. Always growing as parents in holiness!! We never established a family motto from before, but after reading the post you shared (71 Toes), we are definitely going to do this. I love how the word "LOVE" was woven into the words they chose, all through God's planning!!

  7. Thank you for sharing this book here. My boys are 15 and 19 and I am grateful for books and blogs that gave me encouragement and parenting strategies. I've found technology to be the greatest challenge, namely computers and cell phones, and setting strict limits helped. Growing up in a home where many of these discipline lessons were exhibited (I had strict parents) was probably my greatest gift and made some of this more natural. I am very human, and can go off my rocker for sure (my worst moments are sometimes gathering family to get in car for mass, ha ha) but I do try to apologize later, and acknowledge my faults. Don't worry if you think you are doing it wrong! These books are inspirational, but no one can do it all or be consistent every time. Anything you water grows, and anything you focus on can be improved! Just keep trying every day and you will have unique, imperfect but good kids too!

    1. "Anything that waters grows..." How perfect :)

  8. Got a package this morning that I hope is the book! I am looking forward to jumping into this study with you, Sarah.

  9. I'm definitely getting this book. As I study Catholicism (I'm being baptized, first communion and confirmation this Easter) I could definitely take a cue from this book. My daughter is 4.5 and my son is 2, so my patience is stretched verrrrrrry thin! I think I need pointers before the straw breaks THIS camel's back!

  10. I am loving this book. I read it once, many years ago when my oldest was a baby but now that my oldest is 11 and we have 3 more kids, I really need to re-read it.

    I love the part about self-donative love. I think that is so, so important and something I need to always remember. I also really love the part about training the will and not breaking it. That is so important.