Speaking recently about the family Pope Francis offered his unique form of spiritual, common sense guidance.
He told a personal story about an occasion when he was rude to a primary school teacher, who promptly called his mother. When his mother came to school the next day, she made him apologize to the teacher and then disciplined him when he got home. Today, instead, he said, parents reprimand the teacher who tries to discipline their child.
He then said it is obvious that the current situation is “not good” or “harmonious,” since it tends to put families and schools in opposition rather than in collaborative relationships.
Further he claimed that parents today are “puzzled by the new demands made by children” and the complexity of life, so that many are “paralyzed by the fear of making a mistake.”
Another problem is that “Educating children is difficult for parents who see their children only in the evening when they return home tired from work.”
“It is even more difficult for parents who are separated, who are weighed down by their circumstances,” he said. He urged separated parents to “never, never, never take a child hostage” by speaking ill of the other parent. He recognized that being separated is “a trial” but added that “children must not be the ones to carry the weight of this separation or to be used like hostages against the other spouse.”
The advice the apostle Paul gives to both children and parents in his Letter to the Colossians (Col 3, 18-21) that children obey their parents in all things and that parents never drive their children to resentment — is “a wise rule,” he said.
To exasperate a child is to ask them to do things they are not able to do, the pope explained. Rather, children must be accompanied and “grow without being discouraged, step by step,” he said.
He also encouraged families to practice patience. “Even in the best of families, there is the need to put up with each other,” he said. “But that’s life. Life is not lived in a laboratory, it’s lived in reality.”
If families were able to recover their pride in being the primary educators of their children, he said, “many things would change for the better, [both] for uncertain parents and for disappointed children.”