Parents must instruct their children in God’s law as Tobias did. He taught his son from his infancy to fear God and to abstain from sin (Tob. 1:10), and when Tobias thought his death was near, he gave him godly admonitions (Tob. 4:1–23).
Parents should endeavor to stifle evil propensities in their children, and bring them up in the discipline and correction of the Lord (Eph. 6:4). They should teach them to pray, beginning with the Sign of the Cross and the invocation of the Holy Name, and proceeding to the Our Father, Hail Mary and the Creed. The children’s daily prayers should be very short, so as not to become wearisome to them.
Furthermore, parents should set a good example for their children. We all know how much more influential example is than precept, and that what is seen makes a far more lasting impression than what is heard. The father and mother’s actions are the lesson books of their children; how careful should parents therefore be not to let children see them do anything blameworthy, and also to warn the servants not to say or do anything in the children’s presence that they ought not to see or hear. For the imitative faculty is strong in children; they are sure to do what they see their elders do. Let parents remember Our Lord’s words, “[H]e that shall scandalize one of these little ones that believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone should be hanged about his neck, and that he should be drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matt. 18:6). Those who neglect this warning will have reason to tremble, for if the soul of the child is lost through the parents’ fault, they will hear God’s voice saying: “I will require his blood at thy hand” (Ezech. 33:8).
In training their children, parents should combine kindness and firmness. Too great severity is a fault; for rebukes and punishments are a medicine, which if administered too frequently or in too strong doses, does more harm than good. It is not by incessant beating with the hammer that the goldsmith fashions the most elegant ornaments. To be always finding fault is a great mistake, but it is no less a one to let the children’s wrongdoing pass unpunished, to pamper and spoil them through ill-regulated affection and false kindness. He that spareth the rod hateth his son (Prov. 13:24). “Give thy son his way, and he shall make thee afraid” (Ecclus.30:9). To allow a child to have his own will in all things is highly reprehensible; he should be firmly, not sternly, compelled to yield.
Addressing child protection
4 days ago