What was Cain's issue really? It was his attitude. He needed an attitude adjustment; for some children, it is clear that attitude is the issue, but finding a way to reach them before their attitude leads them to disaster can be harrowing. As parents, that's our job. We can not be neglectful or complacent because what will happen will devastate the family and others who may be in the wake of the behavior -- think, Abel.
I realize that most of us will not be dealing with murder as a parenting scenario, but we do have to be cautious and diligent to make sure that the influences and circumstances that surround our children help them avoid serious sin. Believe me, I know that this is a daunting task, especially if you have a larger family. And, you won't be able to protect them from everything, God expects us to do our best -- that effort must be present and He will bless the work.
1. Pray for your children and tell your children that you love them -- and, let them see you do the same for your spouse and/or other family members. Make these two things a visible and sincere habit in your home.
2. Know your children -- make time to spend time with them. It's not enough to shuttle them from activity to activity -- they need you to be present to them. Read aloud to the family -- yes, even adolescents still enjoy this.
3. Know your children's friends by getting to know their parents. You will know what relationships to foster and which need more careful supervision. Trust your gut -- it's probably your guardian angel nudging you!
4. Read movie reviews, not every movie that says PG is suitable for an adolescent audience -- I use Plugged In
5. Make sure that priorities are clear -- the home is the domestic Church where Christ the King reigns. Establish that, and as best you can, with love, joy and reverence, try to encourage that spirit in the home.
6. Make sure that computer parental control are set and access is limited. The older the kids get, the more their school work requires the computer. Google searches can produce some horrifying results. Whatever browser you use on the computer your children have access to, make sure those levels are set to block unwanted content -- and block pop up and side bar advertisements.
7. TV -- yes, kids need some down time. They can't always be moving from place to place or have their nose in a book. But, do you know what's out there for your kids on seemingly harmless channels like Disney or Nick? Sit down and watch with them -- lots of teachable moments, I assure you. We tend to stay with the classics -- which I have to admit require some discussion, as well. Has anyone really watched I Dream of Jeannie or Bewitched for lounge lizard, sexual innuendo content? You should...but, it is leaps and bounds better than the disrespectful, adolescent arrogant, racy content that children are being offered in the current programming available to them.
There are hundreds, thousands, more suggestions to offer. These are just some basic tips to give you a place to start, or to reinforce what you are already doing at home.
If you have other suggestions to offer, please leave a comment.
Know that these are issues that even the most cautious and faithful of parents needs to address. St. Paul offers this in his farewell to the Church in Ephesus, which was my inspiration for today's piece:
Keep watch over yourselves and over the whole flock of which the holy Spirit has appointed you overseers, in which you tend the church of God that he acquired with his own blood. I know that after my departure savage wolves will come among you, and they will not spare the flock. And from your own group, men will come forward perverting the truth to draw the disciples away after them. So be vigilant and remember that for three years, night and day, I unceasingly admonished each of you with tears. And now I commend you to God and to that gracious word of his that can build you up and give you the inheritance among all who are consecrated. (Acts 20: 28-32)Paul has been "parenting" this fledgling Church in Ephesus. He has raised up the congregation and now, as all parents do, he has to "let go and let God" handle them. Paul has given them his best, as any dedicated parent tries to do -- even in adversity. He even admits to hurting within himself as he has had to discipline the flock. Doesn't every caring parent hurt inside when they have to correct behaviors that they hoped they had taught their children to avoid? But, just like we have to do with our children, Paul has provided the tools for them to try on their own.
But, Paul also reminds them to be cautious, to "be vigilant" and to "keep watch". What looks cool and sound like fun, may actually be detrimental to children's souls. Virtue is eroded first in what seems harmless, until kids become so desensitized by the harmless that the stakes must be raised for something to seem like "fun" anymore. Parents MUST teach their children virtue so that we can let them test their wings.
CAUTION PARENTS! Paul reminds us that "wolves will come" from within our flock and from the world. This is true. Don't let your guards down, but don't lose hope, either -- it's our job to be there to protect our children from all sorts of disastrous behaviors but, not to enslave them. Original sin makes it much more difficult to harness a bad attitude, but there is always faith, hope and love to combat that menace.
Keep them close to the Sacraments, especially Penance and the Eucharist. We don't need to keep them in a box wound in bubble wrap to protect them from harm, but without the proper formation in virtue and the constant example from within the home, they stand a greater chance of falling prey to the wolves and having to deal with the feelings of shame, like those of Cain. Take the proper steps now, to avoid the consequences later.
God bless you.