Here’s an idea:. What if we simplify this whole Mommy thing a little. Our kid is always doing jerky stuff. Rolling his eyes. Leaving a huge mess of finely shredded construction paper on the freshly vacuumed carpet. Getting a cup of juice, when he already has a cup of milk, a mug of cocoa, a glass of water and a water bottle all sitting half full on the table. Unmaking Mama’s bed 5 times a day. It’s just constant… but does that mean we always need to be getting on to him? For everything? Every. 30. Seconds.
Let’s just pick ONE.
Don’t be a Nag, Mama!
My 1-year-old walks around with his toy dinosaur, wagging his finger and telling it “Stop. Stop. Stop. Stop.” Oh boy. He hears Mama saying that to big sisters a LOT!
The bible tells us not to provoke our children, lest they become discouraged. I’m not sure what could be much more discouraging than having someone on your case all the time!
Like most moms, I’m a recovering perfectionist. It’s easy for me to get stuck seeing all the little problems. I naturally want to correct my child for every tiny fault I see. But what can this really accomplish? Except making my kids feel like they can’t do anything right. Discourage them from even trying.
It’s just as harmful to nag our children as it is to nag our husbands!
Greatest Fault and St Teresa
St Teresa of Avila says to “identify our greatest fault first, and work primarily on overcoming that one thing. Laser focus only on that.” Except she didn’t say that… because lasers hadn’t been invented yet.
She says that if we work primarily on our biggest fault, that once we fix that, a lot of smaller faults will actually resolve themselves! Then we look at what’s left, pick the biggest one, and start again.
Now, she’s not excusing us to sin in other areas. Just saying to pour our energy into developing the virtue opposite that main fault.
And boy does it take a lot of energy to develop a virtue! Try to do several at a time, and we’ll just burn out! There’s not enough. Multitasking anywhere is a lousy idea, but spiritual multitasking is ludicrous. Can’t be done.
Remember, this grown up, adult, big person nun was talking other grown up, adult, big person nuns. Even they can’t spiritually multitask. So how can we ask our children to?
Identifying Their Greatest Fault
Now listen up; this is important. You know that thing that drives you most crazy. That blasted thing they just won’t stop doing. It drives you up the wall. Wears you down. Makes you numbly count the hours until bedtime. The thing you’d consider donating a kidney, if it could only make them stop.
Yeah, that’s not it.
This requires a level of dying to self on Mama’s part. It takes choosing to correct what most offends God, rather than what most offends me.
I have a child just nearing the age of reason. This particular daughter has a tendency to be very selfish and greedy. They are traits I’m worried about.
She also loves to run around in a constant frenzy of craziness and noise, tearing through the house leaving chaos in her wake. I bet you can guess which tendency is this very introverted mama’s pet peeve. :p
On a purely selfish level, I wish she’d just calm down a few notches. Stop with the weird noises and tornado of stuff that follows the sequin-wing-wearing whirlwind. Stop constantly getting her siblings stirred up.
But that isn’t what God sees. When I meet Him face-to-face, He’s not going to ask me why I didn’t get my kid to use her inside voice and stop treating her dolly like a football. He’s going to ask how I helped her become more generous. More selfless. Kinder. How I helped her overcome her natural vices.
The looming judgment of God… That sure puts my pet peeves in perspective!
Helping them overcome their Greatest Fault
So how can we help our child overcome their primary vice or weakness?
1. Identify the opposing virtue. Every vice has a nemesis. The virtue that is the exact opposite. Google it if it isn’t obvious.
2. Talk. Explain gently over and over what God wants of us. Explain it in a new way. Or 10. My Sister-in-law was once complaining to a priest that she had told her child something 300 times. He said “What if he needs to hear it 301?”
3. Read. Find books to read with your child that highlight the virtue you want to help them build. It doesn’t have to be religious. There are countless fantastic stories about selflessness.
4. Practice. Give them opportunities to practice the virtue. Set them up to win.
5. Pray for them. Turn our children over to God daily, through the tender heart of the Blessed Mother. Let someone Bigger and Smarter be in charge.
6. Pray WITH them. and teach them to pray on their own. Especially to Mary and their Guardian Angel. Praying with them corrects the vice in a way that helps them earn grace to overcome it, instead of just feeling victimized by punishment.
7. Find the patron saint. The Church has assigned patron saints of virtues. Find the one for whatever virtue your child needs, or the patron of those struggling with the particular vice. Help your child develop a love for this saint.
8. Sacrifice for them. Especially fasting. This is one thing most parents (myself included) usually forget. But if we are willing to offer small sacrifices and fast for our child, what a treasury of graces we win for them! Sometimes, when nothing we say or do can get through, fasting causes a change. Some demons can only be driven out by prayer and fasting.
Spiritual Life is About Simplicity
Although the Church has a wealth of literature in both scripture and Tradition, the truths of our Faith are simple. The Spiritual life, while complex enough to intrigue the most brilliant theologian, can also be understood by the least intelligent of us.
And what is parenting, what is discipline, but leading our child to advance in the spiritual life?
Let’s not over-complicate it, or heap too much on their little heads.
Pick one thing. Their Greatest Fault.
And trust the rest to God.
In Corde Maria,