… Dear Catholic Parent,
You can’t. Next question.
Seriously, why do we give our kids chores?
Because we are sadistic and enjoy their misery? Free child labor? We find their whines pleasing to the ear?
OK, maybe a little.
No, we give our kids chores because it teaches them responsibility. It teaches them that they are functioning members of a family and they serve a purpose.
So get rid of the notion that chores are bad.
Another trend I notice is that parents like to make prayer fun so it holds their child’s interest. This sends the wrong message – that only entertaining or interesting things are things worth doing. Also, that prayer’s is only useful as long as we are getting something out of it.
Not that we don’t get anything out of prayer. Some rewards of prayer are grace, comfort, and spiritual growth. But that’s not the only reason we pray, to get something in return. See the Five Types of Prayer.
We also pray to give God thanks and express our love to Him … whether we feel like it or not. That’s the key.
As parents do we not do that much for our kids – foregoing our own sleep to stay up with a sick child. Not because lack of sleep is fun, but because we love our kids. We suck it up and get the job done.
Instead of trying to make prayer fun and less chore-like we should be teaching kids the importance of praying even when we don’t feel like. Spiritual perseverance.
If Mother Teresa can experience a Dark Night, then what exactly makes you think your or your children will ever be immune to spiritual boredom and chore like prayer?
I know as a parent you worry that unless you make prayer fun your children will associate it with unpleasantness and grow up to avoid it all costs. It’s a legitimate concern.
But let me ask you something, as a parent is prayer always pleasant for you? And have you left the Church and abandoned your faith yet? Are your kids quitters? Do your kids have a tendency to quit everything the minute things get unpleasant?
No? I didn’t think so.
Put down the apostle puppets and quit trying so hard.
Just pray together. That’s it. Nothing fancy. No crafts required. No thick books full of footnotes and ribbons. Just pray and practice your faith.
Go to adoration at least once a week. Start a First Friday or First Saturday tradition. Go as a family to confession monthly. Have a weekly rosary, if daily is too much – but pray daily as a family even if it’s just grace before each meal.
The idea is to openly live your faith. And if the kids moan and wail, let them. Your only duty is to make sure your kids are spiritually fed, you’re not required to make them enjoy it. What kid do you know that loves their veggies? Did you feed them candy for dinner instead because it was fun and easy?
You see where I am going with this.
To re-cap, chores aren’t bad. Chores teach things like responsibility. Chores help kids define what is important within the context of family and home. We create chores for tasks that are important and to better manage the household.
So if you can make time to delegate chores and make sure important tasks get down, then why not place the same importance on prayer? Make sure it gets done.
This will teach your kids that prayer is just as important to a functioning household as doing dishes and laundry.
I know none of this sound exciting, but again, what makes you think prayer has to be exciting all the time? Prayer is not about how we feel, it’s how we feel about God.
And if you, the parent, struggle with a dry spell in your own prayer life don’t hide it away from your kids. Let them see this struggle. Explain to them it’s the natural ebb and flow of spirituality. Show them, through your own perseverance, that you place prayer above all else in your life – above convenience, comfort, and feelings.
Just keep praying.
PS – Just because you left the faith in your twenties to be a rebellious heathen doesn’t mean your kids will. Or just because you know someone who knows someone whose kid went to parochial school all their life and now wears black lipstick and listens to Slayer doesn’t mean your kids will too.
Every child has their own path. Your kids aren’t you. And no matter how well you try to bring them up, eventually they’ll grow up and do what they want and they’ll be little you can do to stop them.
So stop worrying about what you can’t control and trust God. Pray with your kids and pray for your kids and leave the rest to the Big Guy, m’kay?