In his Wednesday general audience, Pope Francis said the role of parents is to teach their children with patience, gentleness, firmness and encouragement.

"Every family needs a father. A father who doesn't boast of having a child be like him, but is glad to learn righteousness and wisdom, which is the only thing that counts in life," the Pope told pilgrims gathered in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall for his Feb. 4 general audience.

This willingness to learn wisdom, he said, "is the best inheritance that can be transmitted to children, and you will feel filled with joy when you see that they have received and taken advantage of this inheritance."

The Pope's audience continued his catechesis on the family. For the past two weeks the Holy Father has particularly focused on the vocation of fatherhood.

During his Wednesday talk, Pope Francis turned to the passage in proverbs which speaks of the pride fathers feel as they watch their children mature in "wisdom and rectitude." This verse sums up the demanding yet essential role fathers play in both their families and in society as a whole, he said.

"A good father teaches his children by giving a daily example of love and integrity," the Pope observed. Fathers must constantly strive "to teach what the child does not yet know, correct the errors they don't yet see, guide their heart (and) protect them in discouragement and difficulty."

Fathers, he said, must discipline their own hearts in order to manage their children with patience throughout their growth and maturity.

It is the responsibility of fathers to guide their children with "closeness, with gentleness and with a firmness that doesn't humiliate," the Holy Father observed.

In a society where fathers are often absent, the Pope noted, it is essential that they fully participate in every aspect of family life.

"To be a good father, in first place, is to be present in the family, sharing the joys and sorrows with one's wife, accompanying one's children as they grow," he said, and pointed to the parable of the prodigal son as an example.

In the parable, the father watches and waits for his son every day, the Bishop of Rome noted, saying that this father knows what it means to wait with patience, to forgive and also to correct.

"Also today's children, returning home with their failures, need a father who waits for them, protects them, encourages them and teaches them how to follow the good path."

While fathers sometimes have to chastise their children, they never do it with "a slap in the face," he said, noting that while children often don't want to admit it, they need this gentle chastisement.

Pope Francis concluded by expressing his hope that all fathers strive "to protect their children and to teach them wisdom, faith and integrity" like St. Joseph, and prayed that fathers would "always experience our gratitude, appreciation and support."

He then offered personal greetings to pilgrims present from various countries around the world, including England, Wales, Finland, Sri Lanka and the United States.