Children are the most precious gifts of God to parents. They are a heritage and treasures from God. Pope Francis in his general audience on March 18, 2015, said “Children are themselves treasures for humanity and also for the church, for they constantly evolve the necessary condition for entering the kingdom of God; that not considering themselves self-sufficient but in need of help, love and forgiveness”. Children also remind us that we are all sons and daughters of God.
Jesus invited his disciples to “…become like children…” because the kingdom of God belongs to those who are like them.
Children are a highly esteemed and status symbol in Ghana. In the past the greater the number of children you had, the greater your social status. They are the future of the church and society. Nelson Mandela said “children are the future. They bear the seeds of the character of future societies which is shaped by what adults do or fail to do with them. Those who abuse them tear the fabric of our society and weaken human nature”.
As Catholics, we must appreciate that as parents, God gives us a single honour of being co-creators with Him, but for every gift of God, there is a responsibility. As parents, God makes us steward caretakers and caregivers to bring up our children in the instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). Nothing counts aside this.
God knits us in our mother’s womb because He wants to make every human being different. Our character becomes all the habitual ways, feelings, and reactions that distinguish one person from another. Good character formation increases our well-being and leads us to a life of fulfillment. It shapes us in ways that make us strive to do what is good by developing habits which stay with us ( Proverbs 22:6)
In nurturing good character in children, parents must appreciate that human beings are dual in nature; we all have good and bad seeds in us, and these seeds are in constant struggle. Each time one wins, depending on the environment. This means nobody is born absolutely good or bad.
The challenge of parents in nurturing good character in children is to create a good environment so that each time the good seed wins. Gradually the child grows good character because the bad seed virtually imprisoned and therefore gets no chance to show up.
The Catholic Church teaches that the unborn child is a living person. Character formation, therefore, starts in the womb. Today studies show that a child in the womb is affected by the emotions of the mother and the peace in the marriage. If parents are happy the child in the womb is happy and grows good character. This explains why when Mary visited Elizabeth the child in her womb leaped for joy ( Luke 1: 41)
The church also teaches that Joseph, Mary, and Jesus make the Holy Family. The way Joseph and Mary nurtured the character formation of Jesus is our model of parenting. In Luke 2:53 we read that “Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favour with God and men”
Who is responsible for character formation?
In the past when a school pupil misbehaved the common question asked was if his teacher did not teach him good habits. Today, however, studies show parents are the primary educators of their children. The fact is children are God’s property in the hands of parents and no one can show greater and genuine love than parents.
It is also known that children have spontaneous trust for parents. Again, a child spends most of his time with his parents in the formative years when he acquires all the important values in life. The family, therefore, becomes the first natural school. Good or bad parents are the first teachers of their children.
The Catholic Church teaches that the role of parents in the character formation of their children is so important it is almost impossible to replace or provide a substitute. The duty of parents to educate their children is inalienable.
Parents educate children to fulfill God’s plan. The church, therefore, teaches that children are primary educators of their children. Pope Pius II mandates parents to prepare their children for what they must be and therefore walk with Jesus who is the way, truth, and the life (John 14:6)
What to teach in character formation
Teach the word of God and Catholic Faith: As a parent, you are commanded by God to stand under His authority and teach the word of God. Your children then develop a way of thinking and living that pleases God.
Teach them to pray as soon as they can talk. Attend Holy Mass with them. Studies show that if a mother alone goes to church with her child, the child has only 15% that he will continue in the faith when he grows up but if both parents go to church with their child, the child has a 75% chance that he will remain in his faith when he grows up. Sanctify your children unto the Lord (Job 1:5, Lamentations 2:19, Luke 2:22-23)
Teach Ethics: These are moral principles that govern or influence a person’s behavior. By Christian ethics, we refer to virtues and behavior consistent with the love of God and human dignity.
Teach your children basic hygiene based on scientific and biblical facts. Teach them good manners and courteous words like “please” “thank you” “sorry”. Monitor what they watch on TV, listen to the radio and the songs they sing.
Teach your children the importance of friendships and relationships. Encourage your children to have friends but guide them to have friends who are good role models and will support and encourage them to stay committed to the Catholic faith. It is good to know the parents of your children’s friends.
Teach domestic work: Teach your children; boys and girls, to cook, do laundry, and clean and weed around the house. Domestic work promotes obedience to parents, stewardship to the family, and organization of their time. It also encourages teamwork and enjoyment of work.
They develop self-confidence and a feeling of being part of the family. Again, as children perform a variety of domestic work, they and their parents may discover interests that may suggest future careers.
Teach sex education: Premarital sex is very common among the youth of today. For example, last year within six months, 300 girls between ages 10 and 12 in the Sunyani district got pregnant.
It is also a fact that last year there were 16,000 and 17,000 teenage pregnancies in Ashanti and Upper West regions respectively.
Parents should teach the boys as well as the girls about sex once they are old enough to identify their body parts. Leaving them to learn from their peers is disastrous.
Children are the most precious gifts of God to parents.
Let us do our best as parents to bring them up the right way.
Source: Dr. John Boakye (Marriage Counsellor) // Jydboakye01@gmail.com