ViewpointRaising perfect children by teaching authentic family values

Judith Martin (a.k.a. Miss Manners), the widely syndicated columnist, has written a number of books on proper social behavior. One of them is entitled, Miss Manners’ Guide to Rearing Perfect Children.

What Mrs. Martin is writing about in this elegantly over-the-top book is what we call today family values. Here is my personal (but partial) list of family values:

*Children are raised with a strong sense of responsibility to and for parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters, uncles and aunts, and the necessity of making sacrifices for them in times of need.

*Parents teach children about their forebears, and pass on stories of the achievements--and failures--of previous generations. Deceased relatives are spoken about often, and children are taught that they will meet them in heaven.

*Teaching good manners and social skills is a parental priority. Children learn how to deal with the many different degrees of social relationships, and how to live successfully and gracefully in the adult world.

*Children are taught how to take care of the household, and to view domestic work as dignified. They learn basic skills on how to cook, set a table, lead grace before meals, avoid eating as if they were members of the pork family, and carry on an intelligent conversation. They are taught how to clean the house and tidy the yard.

*Values of tolerance, respect, and the ability to make charitable judgments are inculcated, as well as the ability to distinguish between acceptable and unacceptable behaviors and lifestyles. Respect and tolerance need not mean approval.

*A strong para-liturgical life is promoted in the home. This is the basis not only for a strong domestic spirituality, but for the family’s participation in the parish. Children learn how lead prayers. Every family should own a copy of the Church’s Shorter Book of Blessings.

*Children--with their parents--practice a strong civic and neighborly life. They watch out for elderly neighbors, help those who are ill, shop for those who are homebound, and visit the lonely and those in retirement homes.

*Catholic teaching about abortion, euthanasia, the death penalty, and so forth, is spoken about with some regularity. Parents call their home a “pro-life” home. A pro-life picture or poster is prominently displayed.

*From their earliest years, children are formed with a strong sense of social justice and the necessity of helping those who are hungry, homeless, and marginalized.

*Parents recognize that they are the primary religious educators of their children. They are, likewise, vigilant about what their offspring are taught in school, Catholic or not.

*Children learn how to address correctly their elders, neighbors, and people they are meeting for the first time, avoiding the ubiquitous “Hi!” They learn the repertoire of greetings appropriate to different situations.

*The sexual education of children is monitored by parents, who are always vigilant about the kind of sexual morality that appears in movies and on television. Parents are forthright in teaching good sex education.

*Children are taught how to stay in the living room when guests are visiting. They are trained to show interest in visitors, how to converse with them, and to help with whatever is being served to guests.

*And last but not least, parents have very, I repeat very, strong rules about children’s use of the device likely to bring down Western civilization--the Smartphone!

(Now, don’t write in and tell me that I, as a celibate priest, could know absolutely nothing about rearing children. I am the oldest of six--and was the third parent in our family!)

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