Thursday, June 23, 2016

Fatherhood Prudence and Leadership

[editor: I hoped to have this up for Father's Day. But it took longer than I thought.]

There are three styles of fathering:


2. Permissive

3. Leadership

1.) Authoritarian fathering uses lots of commands, yelling and threats but little reasoning--draconian in nature.

"Fathers, provoke not your children to indignation, lest they be discouraged." (Colossians 3:21)

“My sons, in my long experience very often I had to be convinced of this great truth. It is easier to become angry than to restrain oneself, and to threaten a boy than to persuade him." (St. John Bosco; Office of Readings, Jan. 31.)

2.) Permissive fathering is high on affection but low on authority. Subconsciously children can feel un-loved because they feel not worth the effort to set boundaries. Children raised by permissive parents do not learn age-appropriate behaviors and the consequences for performance or non-performance.

"What  will  become  of  boys  when  from  earliest  youth  they  are  without  teachers?...  to  exercise  this  child’s  soul  in  virtue,  to  that  no  man  any  longer  pays  heed." (St. John Chrysostum VAINGLORY and THE RIGHT WAY FOR PARENTS TO BRING UP THEIR CHILDREN #18)

3.) Leadership  fathering combines confidence  with reasoning, love, and encouragement. Yelling is avoided.

"Let us be ashamed to assume an attitude of superiority. Let us not rule over them except for the purpose of serving them better.
This was the method that Jesus used with the apostles. He put up with their ignorance and roughness and even their infidelity."
(St. John Bosco; Office of Readings, Jan. 31.)

 We wish to focus on leadership fathering, which is what Christ wishes of us. Leadership is the "mean"; the virtue of prudence, between the Authoritarian and the Permissive approach.

A good  understanding of  the Catholic Faith must be instilled in the children. The Theological Virtues of faith, hope, and love, like perfume, should leave their scent in all activities.

But Piety must be virtuous --meaning balanced. The family is not for monks, soldiers, or a tool for self-fulfillment. It is a formation program for good Catholics. Teach your children short ejaculatory prayers that they should say throughout the day. Long prayers can be too much of a drudgery for young children.

Ejaculatory prayers of aspirations were esteemed among the ancient monks of St. Mark in Egypt; because, being short, they did not weary the mind.

"Wherefore they [the monks of St. Mark] think it best for the prayers to be short and offered up very frequently " (Cassian: INSTITUTES OF THE COENOBIA. ch.10)

The goal of the family, as with each individual is:
To know God, to love God, to serve Him in this world, thereby, be happy with Him in the next.

Leadership Fathering

First: If you make a rule know why and how to explain it.

"You will obtain anything from your children if they realize that you are seeking their own good. Act towards them as a good father who checks his children only from a sense of duty, when reason and justice clearly require it." (St. Don Bosco, "The Preventive System")

Second: Children need to know where the line is
and be consistent; they will test you. Correct the  ACTION not the PERSON: do not say, "you are  stupid" but "that was bad thing to do"

"On several occasions I have called some troublesome lads to order and, on inquiring with kindness why they persisted in being stubborn and self-willed, received as an answer, 'That teacher has it in for me!' or 'They’re always picking on me, so I’m giving them something to pick about!'
"To my surprise, I have found that such explanations were not always without foundation. Often – I hate to admit it – we ourselves are partly to blame for the misbehavior of our pupils."
(St. Don Bosco, "The Preventive System")

Third: always be looking for teachable moments.
Moments alone with each child should be sought, if you have several. A walk in the woods, a trip to the store, etc... Pray to God for wisdom; there is always something that will come up that will give you and opportunity to share some wisdom from your life. At the same time this is a bonding moment. This time is a good investment.

 "A fatherly word in private is worth much more than reproach. Instill in the young the desire of reward or the thought of doing honor to their dear ones. In this way
they are at times incited to acts of great generosity...."

 "Let us strive to make ourselves loved, to instill into our children the high ideal of duty and the holy fear of God, and we will soon possess their hearts. Then, with natural ease, they will join us in praising Jesus Christ, our Lord, who is our model, our patron, our exemplar in all things, but especially in the education of the young."
(St. Don Bosco, "The Preventive System")

A child who loves a virtuous father seldom goes astray.

Fourth:  discipline so children take responsibility for their actions.
Set-up  clear pre-agreements that a task must be done by "such and such" a time. If not done, he comes up with his own the punishment.

"When the pupil is convinced that his superiors have high hopes for him, he is drawn back again to the practice of virtue.  A kind word or a glance does more to encourage than a severe reprimand, which only serves to dampen youthful enthusiasm. " (St. Don Bosco, "The Preventive System")

Know where your children are and what they are doing; who they're with, including their online activity. Remember bad friends always destroy. Whatever good you have done for them can be destroyed almost instantly by bad companions. (We hope to cover this in depth in another article.)

"Do not be deceived: "Bad company corrupts good morals." 1 Corinthians 15:33
"He who walks with wise men will be wise, But the companion of fools will suffer harm." Proverbs 13:20

Prudence, is more necessary for a father, who commands, than for them that obey.


Encouragement is as important as correction. A father is a coach that needs to keep moral and discipline of the family up.

A coach must supply leadership besides technical information. He has to translate knowledge into practice.

To get a child to practice what he is learning is the essence of leadership.  Make tasks clear.  A leader instills patience, perseverance,  and self-discipline. A child's  attention will frequently wander, effort will lag, courage will ebb.

The father/leader/coach will  through precept, proverb, and example, revive attention, redirect effort and restore courage.

“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).

Fathers watch performance and correct mistakes. He will demand numerous repetitions of part acts, until the total act is mastered.

To lead means to train by repetitive practice.

Our age is hopelessly addicted to the worship of information.  The assumption is that correct information is the surest way to correct action, i.e. virtue, and that all a person needs for improving his habits is to be told how to do it, and by "magic" he is virtuous.

Virtue is a good HABIT and  the path to a habit is repetition and practice. A virtuous life is a happy and peaceful one, which takes training and practice. Perfect happiness is not possible in this lifetime, but only in the afterlife. But, there can be an imperfect happiness in this lifetime, in proportion to the exercise of virtue.

"The happiness of man on earth, my children, is to be very good; those who are very good bless the good God, they love Him, they glorify Him, and do all their works with joy and love, because they know that we are in this world for no other end than to serve and love the good God." ( The Cure of Ars:17th Exhortation, Salvation)

Leadership has been  discarded in this weird modernist theory of life, where only knowledge is now king, but they think  apprenticeship, and action are meaningless, or not very important. Sports and business seem to be the rare sectors of society, which still believe "practice makes perfect."

The Business of Life

While a father is like a coach, he must understand life is serious and NOT a game. His children should also grow to know life is a business not a game.

“Unless there is a Good Friday in your life, there can be no Easter Sunday.” (Servant of God --Fulton J. Sheen)

There is a time to play, relax and divert attention from the serious aspects of the business of living.

“Run, jump, have all the fun you want at the right time, but, for heaven’s sake, do not commit sin!” (St. Philip Neri).
Life is not a game; it is a business which must be toiled at and attended to. Life's business is to create and maintain values of family, religion, community and enter heaven with as many with you.

Create an environment that Grace is welcome and easy, like  a boat's sail is up, and ready to receive the wind.

If you start a game, there is no obligation to continue it. If you don't like it, or it bores you; or because luck is against you, or you have a headache. You can leave and not finish.

Conversely, if you engage in the business of life:
the rearing of children,
helping a friend,
civic activities,...etc....

You are obligated to continue it, to see it through, and finish the job. Headaches, boredom, dislikes, or strain, have no justification for shirking the duty you have assumed or the commission you have accepted.

This is a manly fatherly example.

"Then Jesus said to his disciples: If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me." (Matthew 16:24)

Games are personal inclinations; business is group obligation.

Games are pleasures, but the business of life, and the family, is a duty. A duty may be pleasant which means that pleasure and duty may be combined. But, if a game, no matter how pleasurable, interferes with the serious duty of the business of life, the thing to do, is to stop the game, and to continue the business.

Duties must have unquestioned priority over games. This is leadership fathering by example.

But fathers are human, possessing fallen nature, with desires, whims and inclinations contrary to the goal. Our fallen nature wants to take it easy, to go off task, or on a trip, to over-expand, to run up debts, because of hastily conceived plans.

These inclinations are human, the offspring of fallen nature. After the FALL, it is human to crave an easy life, or to long for luxury, or to take chances with indebtedness. But no matter how human these desires are, they turn into a wild vice, if they clash with the one goal of virtuous family life and environment, with the ultimate goal of heaven.

Games offer relief from strain; they provide diversion, entertainment and relaxation. All of this means: comfort.

Business is in a different category. At times, it may be conducive to relaxation, diversion and entertainment. But ordinarily it requires toil and strain, patient application and ceaseless exertion.

 "[A]ll sin disturbs the equilibrium and balance of justice and love, there must be a restoration involving toil and effort." (Servant of God --Fulton J. Sheen)

Fathering means: effort. Games are conducted with the Will to COMFORT; fathering and the business of life is executed with the Will to EFFORT.
"The righteous [father] who walks in his integrity—blessed are his children after him!"    (Proverbs 20:7)

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