Upbringing by James Stenson

(by Dr. Mary Clark )
Not too many books are available presenting the basics for good disciplining of children from a Catholic perspective. Upbringing, however, with the subheading “A Discussion Handbook for Parents of Young Children,” is just such a book.

James Stenson, the author, though unmarried, has had more than twenty years of experience in disciplining children and teens in Catholic schools as a principal. He is also active in the Catholic lay group known as Opus Dei.

Mr. Stenson has become a popular author and speaker among Catholics, especially home schooling parents, because he is practical from a Catholic viewpoint. Not only does Mr. Stenson rely on his own experience, but he has interviewed many Catholic parents who have been successful in the disciplining of their children.

His first point is that parents must be determined to raise their children toward responsible adulthood.

The fact is that many parents today are listening to the secular society telling us that our childrenhave “rights.” Parents become anxious about disciplining their children in fear of trampling on their individuality or personality development.

However, through Biblical admonitions as well as through the teachings of the Catholic Church, we are required to “train up our children in the way they should go,” namely in the way of being obedient to the commandments of God.

Mr. Stenson writes that parents must teach their children by telling them again and again if necessarywhat they must do, by giving good example themselves, and by insisting that the children practicewhat they should do. Parents must make a “conscious effort to teach the children through word, example, and practice.”

Specifically, we must teach certain virtues, such as the virtue of prudence, the understanding thatthere is objective truth, and that everything is not simply a matter of opinion. We must teach justice, that people are owed things as a matter of right. We must teach fortitude, the ability to endure for the sake of a greater good. We must teach temperance or self-control, mastery over the temptation to be lazy.

Children need to feel that they are needed in the family. They need to be given jobs or chores thatare really necessary to be done. Parents, but especially fathers, need to give good example to children regarding work responsibilities, such as being on time, doing things in the right way, being accurate, and so on.

It is vitally important for children to form strong will power and the willingness to sacrifice for a greater good, such as for the family. Children need to be taught that they will often need to forego their ownwants and comforts in order to carry out their duties and responsibilities.

Mr. Stenson writes that the television has replaced good conversation. Television sells a make-believe world of power and glamor and joy. Parents need to teach their children about the real world of the people they see on television. Parents need to point out that these people on television are often leading morally bankrupt lives, and are people we would certainly never invite to our dinner table. Even sports “heroes” are not usually good role models for children.

Basic concepts our children need to accept must include that happiness comes from a simplelifestyle. Mr. Stenson says that poorer families turn out stronger children, people not tied down to possessions. When difficult times come, strong character and will power, and the habitual virtuous life will carry our children through.

Happiness comes from self-sacrificing love.” After all, this is what Jesus taught us from His death on the cross. He was willing to sacrifice His life to bring us the happiness of heaven.

The happiest people you will meet are those who devote their powers generously to the service of others.” Our children need to meet the Mother Teresas of our parish and community, and join them in volunteer work.

Christian discipline is based on a Christian value system. It is not simply a matter of rules and regulations and punishments. Disciplining children becomes a matter of very little disciplining when children listen to the word of God, when they see good examples of the virtues practiced by their parents, and when they themselves are trained to practice good virtuous habits.

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