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Eight Habits of Highly Effective Fathers.

 

by Chris Erickson, June 2000 Lay Witness Magazine

  1. Educate yourself in the Faith.
  2. Put what you learn into practice by forming good habits.
  3. Teach Christ's Truths through your own experience.
  4. Pray together.
  5. Spend time with your children.
  6. Guard the windows to the soul!
  7. Be vigilant over your children's friends.
  8. Make your home a place of tranquility and peace — beginning with loving your wife.

By Chris Erickson with improvements by Mike Humphrey

Eight Habits of Highly Effective Fathers.

1. Educate yourself in the Faith.

Read a chapter or a passage or two from Sacred Scripture and the Catechism each day. St. Jerome tells us that ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ. Pope John Paul II encourages families

"to use the Catechism of the Catholic Church to learn about the faith and to answer the questions that come up, especially the moral questions which confront everyone today."

Listen to God's Word to us as revealed through Scripture and Tradition. In addition to the Bible and the Catechism, there are many other worthwhile books and Church documents, such as Pope John Paul II 's 1981 apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio (on marriage and family issues). We cannot pass on to our children what we ourselves have never taken the time to learn.

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2. Put what you learn into practice by forming good habits.

Satan knows the Scriptures better than Scripture scholars do, Knowing God's instructions won't benefit us if we don't live them. A father's primary responsibility is to be a Christian witness to his children.

Our homes can be a haven of moral virtue if we foster it through our own example. We preach in vain if we do not practice what we teach.

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3. Teach Christ's Truths through your own experience.

Jesus asks: "For what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life?" (Mt. 16:26). The Holy Father reminds us that parents are the first and most important educators of their own children. Teach your children about God through your own experience. There is a great difference between "knowing about God" and "knowing God." Share with them simple stories of faith that reveal how you relate to God in your everyday situations. Tell them about your discernment, your trust, your prayer, your dependence on God, and your love for Him. It doesn't need to be anything weighty. God ought to be as real to them as you are. Avoid the attitude that says,

"My child can learn about religion at Sunday school."

If religion is a subject set aside for an hour on Sundays, your child most likely will be a "Sunday Christian", if he keeps his faith at all. Wouldn't you protest if your child were instructed only one hour each week in literature, mathematics, or some other subject?

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4. Pray together.

Mass, Confession, cerebrating feast days, reading the Bible or a book on a saint and, above all, daily prayer can all be done together. This bonds a family in the faith, and every strengthening of family bonds is a victory for society. Our Holy Father affirms that

"prayer needs to become a regular habit in the daily life of each family."

Even if you only have five minutes of nightly prayer with your children, do not underestimate its value. A child into his adult life those memories — those "seeds of faith." Think of the abundant harvest if a father devoted more time to family prayer! Some pray the Rosary each evening with their children. If that sounds like too much, don't let it discourage you from saying other simple prayers together. If they are sincere and from the heart, they will reap a great reward.

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5. Spend time with your children.

Don't let the pursuit of success or wealth cause you to miss your child's fundamental need to know you as a father. We can teach our children a great deal about Our Lord and ourselves simply by spending time with them. The great truths of our faith and how we personally relate to those truths can be taught through ordinary conversation, fixing cars, collecting bugs, camping, fishing, hiking, gardening, or sports: Any type of hobby allows wonderful opportunities to intimately know each other and to exchange ideas.

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6. Guard the windows to the soul!

Keep a careful check over media influences that can lead your family astray. What if, in place of TV and videos, dad invited two strangers to come into his home to entertain his family? The family sits down with their usual bowl of popcorn, and this time they're entertained by strangers in their home groping one another, and engaging in sexual innuendo in their word, dress, and conduct. Shocking? Unacceptable? Yet we often allow the same sorts of things into our house through the media. These are insidious poisons that strike at our fundamental religious beliefs and actions. Fathers, don't dull your family's sense of sin! The world is already hard at work doing it. With a little diligence you can find wholesome alternatives. It is critically important to inculcate strong moral values into your children at the earliest years so as they mature, they will freely choose to apply these same rules of prudence when viewing videos in other homes.

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7. Be vigilant over your children's friends.

Get to know your children's friends, or at least try to determine whether their influence is good or bad. No kid is going to be perfect, so avoid being over scrupulous. If you find a particular friend to be a thistle in the growth of your child's faith, talk about it with your child and permit your child the opportunity to be a witness and to set an example for his friend. If that fails to correct the behavior, step in and speak directly to his friend, letting him know what you expect if he wants the relationship to continue. Obviously it isn't so simple with teenagers. In these situations, I believe you will achieve better results by appealing to your child's values and concepts of right and wrong. Teach your teenagers to accept responsibility for their spiritual welfare. The best aid a father can have in teaching his teenager is a good memory! Be sympathetic, honest, and remember that "more flies are caught with honey than with vinegar." Spacertop

8. Make your home a place of tranquility and peace — beginning with loving your wife

Love your wife as Christ loves the Church (Eph. 5:25). That's a tall order, but your sons will relate to women in much the same way you relate to your wife; and your daughters will learn from your example what to desire and expect from men. St. John Chrysostom said the home should be a "little church," a miniature kingdom of God. Is your home too stern, too demanding on the children? Is dad too busy and mom often irritable? Does the mood reflect a menacing storm? If so, each will seek their freedom and go their own way. Value honesty and hard work, offer great love, admit mistakes, ask forgiveness, and laugh much. Adorn your home with constant reminders of your Christian faith: A crucifix reminds us of the precious price Christ paid for us; sacred pictures or statues bring to mind events in the life of Our Lord; a favorite Scripture verse or two or an open Bible remind us of what is most important in life. Avoid making others uncomfortable by either exaggerated asceticism or flamboyance.

Fathering is undoubtedly a challenge, and it has been so since antiquity. But the Lord has given fathers the responsibility and the grace to meet the challenge. Probably the most important attributes a father can have for the welfare of his family today are courage and a quiet confidence in God. An exceptional example of courage and quiet confidence, as well as quiet obedience, is the "guardian of the Redeemer," St. Joseph, the preeminent model of "true fatherhood."

We should look to him as our model.

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About the Author

Chris Erickson works in the editorial and marketing departments of Emmaus Road Publishing, the publishing arm of Catholics United for the Faith in Steubenville, Ohio

Please report any and all typos or grammatical errors.
Suggestions for this web page and the web site can be sent to Mike Humphrey
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