I recently found this book (I don’t remember how), waited forever for it to come into our library, and then loved it so much I went out and bought my own copy. I have read it, and re-read it, and have highlighted, turned down corners and created some notes for myself that I want to remember.
The book is called Parenting With Grace-The Catholic Parents’ Guide to Raising Almost Perfect Kids by Greg and Lisa Popcak.
The first time I read it, I told Jeff that the book, in essence, combined every favorite book I’ve read on parenting (from infant to teen), baby care, child development, education and Catholicism. (It has a foreword written by Dr. Bill and Martha Sears.) It is deep and thoughtful, but useful and practical. I have no idea how many readers of my blog are Catholic, and although this book is deeply rooted in our faith, I think that many parents of different faiths would find it as inspirational as I have.
I thought I would share my general notes from each chapter as I write them (and as time allows) because I think this book contains powerful messages about parenting-different from what we parents often hear today. I highly recommend this book, and I am a little worried I won’t do it justice-I have so much highlighted!, but I want to stick this information into my brain.
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.
What’s So Special About Catholic Parents?
(this is a long heavy chapter just to warn you)
-If a television crew filmed in your home would the viewers be able to see that your Catholic Faith formed the way you talked to, interacted with, taught, disciplined, played with and responded to your kids?
-Parent kids as the Church parents us-the family is called the “domestic church”.
-Our primary job as Catholic parents is to foster the kind of attachment with our children that makes them want too look more like us than they do their peers (just as we want to look more like His children and model Christ.)
–Self-donation: a virtue (mentioned often in the book) that is a kind of heroic generosity that empowers us to use everything God has given us: our time, treasure, talents and even our bodies to for the good of the people in our lives….to work for the good of our children and to raise saints.
–High Standards/Gentle Discipline-The Church has high expectations for our behavior, on the other hand, when we fail, she is an extremely gentle disciplinarian-like the parable of the prodigal son, her discipline strategy comes consists of strengthening our relationship with the Father so that we will never want to leave “home” again.
-We rely on two Holy Books-our lives must be grounded in the Sacred Scripture but we are different in that we recognize that there is another source of Divine Revelation-the “Book of Nature” (Father is the Author of nature)-or science. “…while the secular world seeks to bend creation to its will, Catholics seek to use the knowledge we gain from science to learn how to cooperate with creation and use it in the manner God intended.”-this is called natural law.
-We “can have a clearer picture than ever about what the “Book of Nature” says about the kind of parenting methods that lead to healthier brain development, stronger moral reasoning, and a deeper capacity for intimacy and empathy in our children.”
-Theology of the Body (insight of Pope John Paul II, reflection on how God made the human body) is known for is mainly applied to husbands and wives but is much broader and Pope never intended it to be restricted to that context, but for all relationships between people, including parents and children.
-Many evangelical Protestant literature on child-rearing often refers to children’s wills which are oppressed and evil and must be broken or subverted. (James Dobson-“infants are inherently evil”)…a negative view that usually leads to corporal punishment.
Catholic Church has more optimistic view of human nature:
Best way to corrects bad behavior is not to tell the child what NOT to do, but rather teach the child to DO instead-actively teach instead of merely punish. Catholic will must be taught, disciplined and channeled but never disparaged or broken. DIGNITY of human person important.
“There are no bad boys or girls.
There is only bad environment, bad training, bad example and bad thinking.”
Obedience is a relationship “between persons of equal dignity.” Obey is not a four letter word.
St Therese wrote “that she never wanted to do anything to offend her parents because the love and service they showered upon her compelled her to offer nothing less than her best behavior.”
Christian parents must “command” obedience the same way St. Therese’s did-“by demonstrating self-donation in meeting their needs, responding to their cries, giving generously of our time, our bodies, or energy and our love, and leading them to do the same in return.”
Attachment is the source of obedience, not just for babies, but for every stage and age-position yourself as the person most tuned in to your child’s needs and most capable of helping those needs get met. Your child will offer her obedience to who she is most attached whether it’s you, a caregiver or a peer.
Attachment/Self-Donative parenting NOT spoiling-parents who spoil don’t expect much, if anything, from their child. Self-donative parenting serves the child to inspire and teach child to serve the family, community, Church and world.
Detachment-world we live in attempts to seduce parents into making out babies cry it out, training to be more convenient to us in other ways-to put our social and work schedules first instead of our responsibility to our children.
Great Catholic educators have led us: St. John Bosco, St. Maria Dominic Mazzarello, St. John Baptist de la Salle, St. Benildus, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and Maria Montessori, Boy’s Town Fr. Flanagan, Fr. Leo Trese, Dr. Herbert Ratner (force behind La Leche League) and Pope John Paul II’s writings on family.
Why all parenting advice isn’t equal-
-different parenting styles support a particular culture’s values (cites Dr. Meredith Small, Our Babies, Ourselves-I want to read this-so interesting to me!)
-Attachment vs. Detachment styles-quests to inspire “individualism”, “self-reliance” in modern parenting practice don’t do so, but create problems.
-Our Western culture has so many material blessings but we have a disposal attitude towards others-“culture of death” towards youngest, oldest, weakest members of society-the more detached a child is, more likely to exhibit depression, acting out, promiscuity, estrangement, criminal behavior.
-In US family life has been significantly devalued since 1960’s-could 300 percent increase in adolescent suicide rate between 1960-90? Parents spend 40 percent LESS time with their children than they did in 1960?
“You’ve heard the saying “the hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world”. Once upon a time this maybe have been true: but perhaps the more appropriate sentiment for contemporary civilization is that the world is being rocked because no one has time for who’s in the cradle.”
Is there a Catholic way to parent?
-there are some “values that stand at the heart of Catholicism”
-training a child in Faith is done in daily family life, not just prayers, rituals, customs, doctrine
-and the greatest value is LOVE
Self-donative love is a specific kind of love-like the “self-gift” of Jesus Christ-it can make us “squeamish” requires us to make personal sacrifices, but more more too-it is about “finding ourselves” by doing the work God created humans to do.
-“we believe that any parenting method that wants to call itself “Catholic” must be one that invites parents to suck the marrow out of every stage of family life.”
“No man or woman can deem himself or herself a success in life,
no matter how far up the ladder they have climbed, either socially, mentally, or materially,
if they cannot say that they have the confidence, comradeship, and love of their children.”