Leading by Example

Dash, apparently thinking himself quite clever, recently called his Grandma by her first name. She thought it was quite funny that he had picked up on what her name is and asked if he knew Grandpa, Daddy and Mommy’s names. He correctly identified Grandpa and Daddy, but announced that Mommy’s real name was, “Babe!”

In Dash’s defense, Mr. Incredible usually walks in the door and says, “Hi, Babe, how was your day?” It made me pause to realize just how much he picks up without any effort or thought.

Several sources have recently left me thinking about how our children really learn about our faith and build character. Being the checklist kind of person I am, I get excited when I read the kids books about saints and virtues…surely I am imbuing them with faith and character, no?

  • Monday’s reflection in In Conversation with God quoted Saint Augustine, “Strive to acquire the virtues you think your brothers lack, and then you will no longer see their defects, because you yourselves will not have them.”
  • Charlotte Mason speaks constantly about the atmosphere in the home. Karen Andreola quotes Charlotte, “Ideas are held in that thought environment which surround the child as an atmosphere, in which he breathes in unconscious ideas of right living emanating from his parents. Every look of gentleness and tone of reverence, every word of kindness and act of help passes into the thought-environment, the very atmosphere which the child breathes.”
  • In her introduction to Catholic Truths for our Children, Patti Armstrong writes, “To pass down information, we teach it intellectually; but to get our children to integrate that knowledge into a belief system demands our own good example…yes, we need to impart knowledge, but we also need to be living examples.”
  • And finally, in Heartfelt Discipline, Clay Clarkson discusses his revelation that raising godly children is not just about sowing seeds of good character: “The task is not to plant enough good seeds to crowd out the world’s weedy influences; it’s about faithfully preparing the soil of our children’s hearts,” so that they can be changed by Christ.

All of these relate to Monday’s gospel reading about removing the plank from our own eye before removing the speck from our brother’s (or son’s or husband’s) eye. It took me reading about the same idea half a dozen times to for the thought to crystallize in my 8 month pregnant mind. Perhaps it is more effective, though far more difficult, for me to exhibit the virtue of patience than to read a picture book to my boys about it. I realize that this is not an earth-shattering observation, just something I have been thinking about this week.

At lunch, as I turned around to get some (not eco-friendly and not destined for a compost pile) paper towels to wipe Jack-Jack’s hands, I found that Dash had placed his glass lunch plate on top of his glass cup and was saying excitedly, “See, Mommy!” I took a deep breath, working on exercising the virtue of patience rather than just talking about it.

Then he added, “Just like Father Phillip does it!” so proud of his recreation of the paten on the chalice.

I am so glad that I help my tongue in that moment. I calmly explained that, yes, Father Phillip does do that during mass, (and that if he became a priest, he could, too) but that we shouldn’t do that with our milk and lunch plate.

Trying to cultivate an atmosphere in our home that invites Christ and his Blessed Mother rather than preaching all day long is a much better way to bring our little ones closer to God!

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