It All Begins At Home
This column first appeared in the “Colorado Catholic Herald”, Family Matters, where I tried to reflect upon the importance of our families to the well-being of society—it’s true, “As the family goes, so goes America!” It all begins at home.
Home, after all, should be our first thought of the day; just after a hot cup of coffee, of course. I once had a professor in graduate school who joked that he couldn’t believe in God until after his first gulp of “joe”. But, I digress.
Dr. Armand Nicholi, a faculty member at Harvard Medical School, draws an important parallel between the emotional health of the family and the stability of future generations in an article in Christianity Today. “Early family experience,” he writes, “determines our adult character structure, the inner picture we harbor of ourselves, how we see others and feel about them, our concept of right and wrong, and our capacity to establish the close, warm, sustained relationships necessary to have a family of our own.” Boy, is he ever right!
Take the Beatles, for example. In one interview in Newsweek with Paul McCartney, titled “The Family Man,” Paul talks about years earlier having played cowboys and Indians with John Lennon’s son, Julian. After all the “bang-bang, you’re dead” play, Lennon pulled McCartney over and asked, “How do you do that?” John was uncomfortable with his own son. “I couldn’t tell him,” Paul confesses. “You either know how to do that stuff or you don’t.” Paul McCartney, like Dr. Nicholi, is right, too!
So much of what we do as adults we learned watching our own parents as kids. That’s why creating a good parent-child relationship is so important. From the interview with Paul McCartney we learn that his upbringing made him “comfortable with children.” His folks rolled on the ground with him, took him hiking through the woods, and—you bet!—played cowboys and Indians with him on a regular basis. As the saying goes, “One good parent is worth a hundred school-masters.” Now grown and with children of his own, Paul McCartney knows how it’s done.
The Bible says it best: “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6). The problem is, when citing this proverb, we usually highlight only the positive applications of the verse—like Paul McCartney being played with as a child and now as an adult playing with his own children. But what about John Lennon? We need to keep in mind that some kinds of training can have a negative effect as well.
Consider the generational effects of alcoholism. An adult can have the tendencies of an alcoholic even though they’ve never taken a drop of alcohol. How is that possible? If they were raised in a home where one or both parents were alcoholic it’s possible they could have, as an adult, the psychological and emotional makeup of an alcoholic. This is the negative application of this ancient proverb: Train up a child in the emotional and behavioral ways of an alcoholic and when he is older he will not turn or depart from being an alcoholic.
That’s why the home—where we prepare our sons and daughters for life—is so important. We need to understand the dangers of a do-as-I-say-but-not-as-I-do style of parenting. We also need to consider the rewards of a job well done.
The good news is that God doesn’t leave you on our own. Because your children are a gift from the Lord (see Psalm 127:3), God intended you, and no one else, to train them up! He gave you special resources—the Bible, prayer, and the Church and sacraments, to name a few—to aid you in your parenting task.
And, starting today, the Colorado Catholic Herald is making available to you some biblical and psychological advice. Thus, in the articles that follow, it will be my sincere desire to aid you, too, in making your family matter. Therefore, may God richly bless you as you read on. Most importantly, may He help you to have the right kind of home –“on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).