How can parents help children stay strong in their faith?

bible sea How can parents help children stay strong in their faith?One of the tough things about being a convert to a religious belief system is that you don’t have personal experience with raising children in that particular faith. I was recently talking to some fellow atheist-to-Catholic moms, and we all agreed that we feel like we’re fumbling around in the dark sometimes; it’s surprisingly hard to be a Christian parent and have no frame of reference for what a Christian childhood looks like.

Because of this, I’ve spent a lot of time soaking up wisdom from strong Christian families. For example, when I met a mother of 10 at a baby shower recently and heard that all 10 of her children (most of them grown) are devout Christians, I asked her a bunch of questions about faith and family life over plates of pastel-colored cake. When I overheard a woman at a social event remark that she and all three of her siblings have always had strong, vibrant relationships with Jesus, I struck up a conversation about how their religion played a role in their home growing up.

It’s been fascinating. As I’ve had all these discussions, I’ve been looking for trends: Are there any universal themes among the families with children who have maintained a strong faith live into adulthood? Any things that stand out as being bigger factors than others?

Let me rush in with the caveats here and say that I realize that raising faith-filled kids isn’t about doing this or not doing that. I don’t think that I can just ape everything these other Christian parents have done and — voila! — all my kids will be saints. If I’ve learned one thing in my time as a Christian, it’s that faith is about having a relationship with God, and relationships aren’t about formulas and checklists. I also believe that, when children fall away from faith, in most cases it’s not because their parents did something “wrong,” but rather because of some confluence of forces at work in each individual person’s psychological makeup and environment.

That said, I do think it would be helpful to those of us who still have young children (and especially to those of us who are also converts) to have a discussion about what the most important things are that parents can do to pave the road for their children to have a deep, lasting relationship with God. Again, there are no magic formulas, and whether each child chooses to follow the road that’s been paved for him is up to him and God alone. But what can parents do to set their children up as well as possible in that department?

In my little informal study, I found three factors that almost every single family had in common:

  1. The parents prayed for their children to have faith

  2. The children saw the parents rely on God in real, concrete ways (e.g. if the father didn’t get a big promotion at work he’d pray about what God wanted him to do next, express trust that God would bring good out of the situation, etc.)
  3. The parents and children prayed together at least occasionally

The families I talked to were surprisingly diverse in terms of the parents’ outward holiness, faithfulness to church attendance, type of schools the kids went to, amount of time spent in group prayer, etc. — yet all of them had those three factors in common. (And I should note that I’m using the plural “parents” as shorthand: I did talk to some single-parent families and families where only one parent was a believer.)

That data has given me a lot of great food for thought as I set out into this strange new territory of Christian motherhood, but I undoubtedly have a lot left to learn. I’d be interested to hear from you: What do you think are the most important things parents can do to help children stay strong in their faith?

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Enter the Conversation...

94 Responses to “How can parents help children stay strong in their faith?”
  1. Nadja Magdalena says:

    I am looking forward to reading comments here, as I am basically in the same boat. I was baptized at 33, and my husband came from a fairly nominally Catholic family, and he is the only one of 4 kids who is now practicing (he had left the Church for 17 years before I went into RCIA and dragged him along with me).

    Just yesterday I was in the confessional, confessing that I didn't think I was doing a very good job of showing my kids a love of Christ (I gripe too much) and a joy in my faith. So I get out of the confessional, get into the pew beside my 5 year old and do my penance. At some point during Mass he leans toward me–he hates going to Mass–and whispers, "When I grow up, I don't think I am going to be a Catholic." Argh!! Just shoot me now, kid! But it is the rebellion of a bored and temperamental 5 year-old, and he said it because he knows it is just about the worst thing he could say to me…so I must be getting through to him!

    • Stacy says:

      Just curious, what would be so bad about your son not being Catholic so long as he had a personal relationship with Jesus?

  2. ohhowhappy says:

    Walk the walk…nothing leaves a more lasting (bad) impression than hypocrisy. Genuine love for Jesus…for all He has done and is doing speakes volumes. We have 4 children and I am a first-generation Christian. After struggling with that role for a few years, I finally laid down the weight of my position and am trusting that God, the author and finisher of my faith, is also theirs. I'm pressing on towards the prize:) My kids see that, we talk about our faith, we instruct them concerning Biblical principles. The choice is theirs, and I hope that when they choose to follow Christ, it will be because they will see how much He can do for them. I know my relationship with them will play a role, so I try to live out what I know to be true of God. What they do with that witness is between them and God.

    I'm not Catholic, but I like reading you;) Bless you!
    ~Jen

  3. Jamie says:

    What a wonderful I idea to ask for advice on this. I am a cradle catholic, but my late 70s/80s rearing in the Catholic Church yielded 2 of 3 children who barely have a grasp on their faith. I had fallen away from the faith myself for a long time, but feel an intense desire to build in my children a faith that is unshakable, something I am certain would have supported me through many of life's trials.

    Living a faithful life as a parent has to be what I think is the #1 thing. This would include all three of your points: praying for the children, turning to God onesself, and praying with the children. But also, I think it is important to live this life with confidence and joy, not doubts and trudgery.

    I will be looking forward to your answers.

  4. Anonymous says:

    We recently went to a familyrosary.com convention and the speakers were Dr. and Mrs. Gregory Popcak, they are inspiring! He has a wonderful book that you may find helpful about raising children with grace. Our family has recently started praying the rosary at least once a week together…wish us luck!

  5. Beate says:

    I'd say pray for them. My sis and I grew up in a divorced family where faith was at many times non-existent. Yet my grandmother and one of her sisters prayed for us every day and neither of us ever left the Church remaining firmly grounded to this day.

    With my dc, hopefully I live the Faith joyfully even in the face of tragedy.

  6. Laura says:

    I know that in our case, in addition to the three things you've listed, having friends that are also strong in their faith has helped our kids to know that they aren't alone or "wierd". It has helped in many ways to keep them strong.

    God Bless.

  7. Athanasius contra mundum says:

    I think you hit the nail on the head with those three.
    I would definitely say the biggest reason I have remained and grown in the faith is my mom's example of prayerfulness and piety. I never saw it, but I am quite sure she has and always will pray for me and my siblings. I can also remember praying a few times as a family.

  8. Doogie says:

    As parents of five (soon to be six) we've learned how important it is to form our kids' concept of "normal". This isn't to say that we're creating some sort of narrow, bigoted worldview in their malleable minds, but rather that we're instilling in them the values we hold dear as the values that everybody should hold dear. Specifically, we avoid exposing them, especially before age 7 or so, to some of the darkness the world has to offer, replacing it with the light of natural law which God has hard-wired into us all anyway.

    Some would call this methodology "sheltering" and would denounce it. I see nothing wrong with sheltering one's children from harmful ideas until they have acquired a more discerning spirit; to me, that is a key role of a parent.

  9. Tami Boesiger says:

    Be REAL. Don't give faith lip service. Live it.

  10. Athanasius contra mundum says:

    Oh, I forgot in my last post: I feel that the Sacraments are a huge deal in keeping a family true to the faith. I know that they really helped in raising my siblings and I.

  11. Bonnie says:

    Hubby recently heard on EWTN radio a stat that if both parents go to church on a regular basis there is a 70% chance the kids will continue to practice that faith. 40% chance if just the mom practices. Almost 70% chance if just the dad practices. Those numbers aren't exact, but close.

    Along with those 3, the reverence my mom and grandparents had for their faith, and especially the Eucharist, had a HUGE impact on me.

  12. Peter and Nancy says:

    I'll second the hypocrisy comment. One thing I've heard from young adults who leave the church is that they have watched their professing parents behave unethically, have "secret" vices, or divorce.

    With that said, there does come a point where a decision to follow Christ is purely up to the child. One mother of 8 that I know has half of her children solidly living their Christian faith. She prays for the others' relationships with God, but can let go enough to see that they are adults and it's up to them and the Holy Spirit.
    Nancy

  13. Julia says:

    I'd add:
    Don't be afraid of doubt and struggles. When your child comes to you and says (or snarls), "I don't believe in God", it's okay to nod your head and reply, "Yeah, most kids go through a stage like that. In fact, even as an adult you'll go through times when your faith is warmer and cooler. Let's talk about how we handle situations like that wisely."

  14. Kaitlin @ More Like Mary says:

    My only child is still in utero, but I have spent lots of time asking good Catholic familes how they "do it". I remember one mother being adament on the fact that children will keep their faith if it is LIVED in their families. Her suggestion was taking the children to pray at abortion clinics (at the right age), Catholic conferences, and to Church events centered around service. I haven't had a chance to practice that yet-but it seems like great advice!

  15. Anonymous says:

    As someone who grew up in a Christian home (Protestant) who left church for a long time, I would say that it's important for both parents to have an active faith life, demonstrated by going to church each week and by bringing God into the home. Only one of my parents was really involved in church and had a outward and visible faith in God.

    I also think it's important to teach your children not only through example, but also take an active part in their religious education. I remember hearing about God once a week from 10-12 on Sundays, and again during the holidays, but not much beyond that.

    Make sure that your faith is visible in the home every day, educate them in the faith and don't forget to pray for them! Everything is ultimately in God's hands.

  16. Sarahndipity says:

    I'm a cradle Catholic, and I stayed Catholic as an adult. But my brother, who is only 2 years younger and raised in the same house by the same parents, is an atheist. My mom is also the only practicing Catholic out of five sisters. I really don’t know how this happens – maybe it depends on the temperament of the child? I do think that kids need to see the parent of the same gender as a spiritual role model. My mom was a good spiritual role model for me, but I honestly don’t think my dad was a very good spiritual role model for my brother. He actually didn’t go to church with us until I was 7 or 8, and even after he started going to church I don’t ever remember him talking about God or praying. Any faith he had he kept very private.

    We always went to mass together as a family and my mom made sure we went to CCD from kindergarten until 12th grade – no stopping after 8th grade confirmation. My parents also subscribed to some Catholic publications that I used to read. I think that’s where I got my biggest grounding in the faith, actually. I used to get a Catholic kids magazine called “My Friend” and later a Catholic magazine for teenagers called “You.” I think both are out of print, unfortunately, but there’s a magazine put out by Magnificat called “Magnifikid” that has the mass readings, prayers, etc. I used to see my mom praying, reading a devotional, etc., but never my dad.

    We never prayed together, except before meals, and I don’t remember my parents talking about God or faith that much or talking about how they relied on God through difficult times. I guess my parents were good at following all the rules – going to mass, sending us to CCD, etc. – but also very private about their faith, and I wish they had been more open. My mom would tell me to “remember to say my prayers” before I went to bed but never prayed *with* me. I try to pray with my 6-year-old for a few minutes before she goes to bed. Oh, and I literally didn’t go to confession for years as a child – from about 4th or 5th grade to 8th or 9th grade – because my parents didn’t take us. I don’t know why. They were a little lazy in some ways.

    So my upbringing was a mixed bag in terms of passing on the faith, and resulted in one Catholic child and one atheist child. I want to emulate my parents in some ways but not in others.

  17. Marian says:

    Don't be too discouraged. In some ways. new believers often have the most infectious faith of anyone, fresh an real– and there's no better witness than that!
    I know what you mean about fiddling in the dark, even though my parents became Christians when I was 3. They began to go to church, and I went wherever they went (we moved a lot), attending activities and fellowship. My mom later got involved in a ladies Bible study, and even led a national organization for promoting use of "release time religious education" laws for students.
    At, home, though, my parents only did the following: my dad prayed a general prayer before many dinners and my mom sang "Jesus Loves Me" and "God is So Good" before bed when we were young. That's it. NEVER talked about faith (never talked about emotions, relationships or Life, either). Further, pride remained very, very strong in my house in some very specific ways that are unchanged 37 years later. The "walking the walk" is something none of us will ever do anywhere close to perfectly, but it's pretty confusing to a kid when huge areas of sin and attitude just persist on and on, despite church involvement.
    I know that the most important thing is to visibly live out in the home and fluidly talk about faith and your real walk, with all of it's ups and downs… and sometimes I feel that I have no idea at all how to do that, having never seen it from within a family. In that regard then I still often have the particular staleness or awkwardness or gunked up quality of a person who's spent a lifetime in a Christian accoutrement-ed home that didn't operate like a Christian home , without the energy– even with bumbling efforts– of a brand new believer.

    All that to say, don't discourage yourself because you're newer to the faith — you have everything in Christ Jesus that you need! We all just have the task of drawing near to him, pressing in close and learning from HIM how to put into action for our unique families what He has already gifted us with in Jesus!

  18. Marian says:

    In that regard then I still often have the particular staleness or awkwardness or gunked up quality of a person who's spent a lifetime in a Christian accoutrement-ed home that didn't operate like a Christian home , without the energy– even with bumbling efforts– of a brand new believer.

    All that to say, don't discourage yourself because you're newer to the faith — you have everything in Christ Jesus that you need! We all just have the task of drawing near to him, pressing in close and learning from HIM how to put into action for our unique families what He has already gifted us with in Jesus!

  19. Anonymous says:

    Wow what a great idea for a post!

    Be very open and honest with your children about your faith and even about the times when you lacked faith. Let them know that the Christian walk is not an easy one, that it's challenging but there is nothing better, nothing more fulfilling, and nothing more purposful. Show your child that he/she is not here for just you but that he/she is here for God. Make it so that your family is centered around God. He must be the homebase and the One that unites you all. Create an environment where you children know that they can come completely exposed before the cross of Christ and find unconditional love and acceptance. Let your children witness you experiencing a daily walk with Christ. When they wake, allow them to find you with your Bible, not on your laptop. Practice what you preach and let them see the light of the gospel. Children grow spiritually not only because of the controls that we impose on them from the outside, but because of what they catch from us on the inside. Most of what kids learn from their parents isn't taught on purpose and it is so important to grow aware of the messages that you are unconsiously sending to your children.

    God Bless you and your family.

  20. Leah says:

    Jen,

    I was really glad to see this post. This week, my blog’s open question ("Is Santa Claus a Bad Influence on Christian Children") also touches on how Christians try to raise their children Christian. It seems to me that the Santa Claus story teaches children that their parents will lie about big stories to get them to behave well or because they enjoy the story in the context of a tradition, which could undermine their faith in the stories parents tell about God. How do you mitigate this?

    –Leah @ Unequally Yoked

  21. Anonymous says:

    A Mother's To Do List:

    1. Love God
    2. Love Her Husband
    3. Love Her Children

    Anything more than that is optional.

  22. That Married Couple says:

    I've been wondering this myself, with our first child on the way. I really credit my own unwavering belief in God to my mother's faith and a strong church family. Really my only question is if I will/should do things differently since I am now Catholic instead of Protestant? Looking forward to reading everyone's comments!

  23. The Catholic Wife says:

    What a great post. I second encouraging a relationship with God as opposed to following the rules because "they're supposed to." For some reason, my brother has always seen faith as "someone telling me what to do," and with that attitude, I guess I shouldn't have been surprised when he rejected the faith altogether. Thanks for the reminder to keep encouraging the relationship over rules for my own kids.

  24. Kate says:

    Parent with the attitude that allows your children to understand their value as a child of God. As a mother, you are a potential world-changer through His strength. You have the oppurtunity to not only effect the life of your child but the lives of those in generations to come. Give your child oppurtunities to worship and praise not only inside of the church building, but in all places and areas of life. Talk to them about how God is holding the hand of His son or daughter and he will not, cannot let go. Sometimes kids have a tendancy to think God is just someone who is up in the sky who floats around on the clouds.
    Let them know that when you walk with God, you walk next to Him and he walks next to you. He is not at a distance and He is not above you or infront of you, He is next to you. Be a role model; show that you are so needy of His word and that you are caring for your children out of the love and abundance that He is giving you.

  25. Denise says:

    I am feeling on the tail end of this parenting journey. I have four children, three in their twenties and one teenager. (First grandchild due November 30) So far, so good. Everyone is still strongly committed to their Catholic faith. I think the items you mentioned are critical. Back when my children were much younger, I ran across the book by Bert Ghezzi, Keeping Kids Catholic. I read that book half a dozen times over the last couple of decades. Each time I read it, it had something new to say to me because my children were at a new developmental stage. One of the first things I did, when I started blogging several years ago was to run a series on this book and explore some of its Catholic parenting wisdom. Some of the caveats I took away are:
    1. Keeping kids Catholic means keeping parents Catholic. It cannot be a do as I say, not as I do scenario.
    2. Go to Mass every Sunday. Vacations, sporting events, etc. are not excuses to miss Mass.
    3. Pray together as a family, especially the Rosary. Little ones may not be able to last through an entire Rosary, but they can make it through one decade.
    4. Perform spiritual and corporal works of mercy together as a family.

  26. Kimberlie says:

    I think like others have mentioned, first and foremost pray for our children daily if not hourly. I pray for God to draw them close to Him, to work in their lives, and to place in them a desire to serve Him with their lives.

    Second, we pray with our children formally and informally (as in there is an ambulance or fire truck passing us and my children yell, "Mommy, let's pray!) We teach our children to pray for each other and for themselves. Every time they pray it builds their faith.

    Third, we are Catholic so we celebrate certain saints feast days and talk about them and how they lived their lives as Christians.

    Fourth, we model our faith in our home. We attend Mass each week, and on holy days, and the occasional daily Mass. Although Mass is an obligation, we never try to treat it as such because obligations can sometimes make you feel like, "well, I am going to do this but I don't like it and I'm going to hold my nose while doing it." Rather, we treat it as a privilege. All three of our children are adopted from Ch*na, and we talk to them about how Catholics and other Christians in their birth country can not practice their faith as freely or regularly as we do. It's a privilege.

    Lastly, we just try to love Jesus with all our hearts and trust Him with our children's faith. Over and over I have to remind myself, "these children are not mine but belong to God. He has plans for them, they have independent free will, He will call them to him, but they have to answer."

    Sometimes, I really get hung up and worried, especially when my 6.5 yr old says that he thinks Mass is boring, or that he hates church. I just have to offer up his little heart to Jesus and trust that the grace that was poured out on him in baptism, will continue to draw him to God throughout his life.

  27. Michelle says:

    I'm by no means an expert in this. However, I did grow up with some basis for the faith I have now (cradle Catholic with divorced parents and a mom who jumped around a lot during my adolescent years). And I have four children ranging in age from 9 years to 18 months. I agree with all three of the things you listed. And I am so glad you did bec ause I think I have been remiss in specifically praying for my children to have faith. I think I get complacent sometimes because my oldest seems to have a gift of huge faith. I am actually in awe of her faith and maturity at times and she is only 9!!!

    One other thing that I feel comfortable sharing here…: Seek out devout Catholic families and pray with them, hang out with them, introduce your children to their children. Proximity to faith-filled people is something I feel our family has gained a lot from.

  28. Colleen says:

    My mom swears that the nightly Family Rosary and the Home Consecration to the Sacred Heart are the two reasons why she raised 6 great Catholics. We are trying to pass on the traditions (although I hate to admit how often we miss the family rosary…)

  29. Susan says:

    I'm a 3rd generation Christian, and my adult children enjoy a personal, growing relationship with Jesus Christ. I agree with what's been said about prayer: at all times, in all ways – alone, together – you name it. If grandparents are praying too, all the better.

    Plus, it's been said, but it bears repeating: keeping it real, avoid hypocrisy, walk the walk.

    I would add (and this is tricky) – endeavor, with God's help, to model the grace and truth of God. In other words, instill a healthy fear of God, but don't leave out his loving-kindness and tender mercies. I hope that makes sense.

  30. mil says:

    My parents raised seven children, and all seven of us have a firm faith. Only one left the Catholic faith, and is now non-denominational but still a strong Christian. My parents, to this day, pray a rosary for each of their children, one child per day. My day is Thursdays. We prayed the rosary together as a family. Every time any of us speaks or leaves our parents we end every conversation by asking for a blessing or "bendicion" from them.

    My husband and I are raising 5 children. We try to pray as a family every evening (miss alot in the summer) and they never leave me without my saying, "I love you, God bless you." My mother always added, "and may the Blessed Virgin protect you" which I keep forgetting to add. But I'm trying!

  31. Lady Caitie in the Pretty City says:

    For our family, it is that mass is our priority. We're from Ireland and many years ago my great aunt would walk 5 miles to get to mass. On one particularly cold morning, she got back home and found that she'd dropped her purse. She hadn't realized it though because she hands, although thought to be clenched tight around the handbag's straps, had become near frozen. This kind of dedication and trickled down into our generation and my parents instilled in us a faithfulness to.. the faith! Vacation, minor illness, exhaustion.. Nothing has ever (and I mean ever) served as an excuse for missing mass.

    I find children are watching their parents so closely.. Watching, not only what they do, but how they do it. When parents say, even once or twice, "Eh.. We're just not gonna go today.." it gives children the impression that (a.) the mass is not that important and/or (b.) their parents are lazy and have no conviction. Both dangerous things for a child to think.

    As a parent, the best thing you can do for your child is to bring them to Jesus. You will never create a perfect environment for their faith to grow. But Jesus can. When you're at a loss, just bring them (and you!) to Him.

  32. Anonymous says:

    Be aware of the fact that the enemy has many many ways of derailing children and people in general from their Christian walk. It is so important to give children every spiritual advantage that you possibly can. Don't let the world convince you that sheltering is a bad thing. "Abstain from all appearance of evil" (I Thessalonians 5:22). Don't let your children become distracted from what God wants to do in their lives, He wants to bring good to the world through them.

    And also…
    "…If our children saw us doing "heartily as unto the Lord" all the work we do, they would learn true happiness. Instead of feeling that they must be allowed to do what they like, they would learn to like what they do…" -Elizabeth Elliott

  33. Hannah says:

    Show them that God is more than ways of doing things, more than being full of smiles and positive talk, more than just words and holy-sounding statements, commitments and standards. He is more than a Christmas story. Faith is not something that we can create on our own. Like you said, it is a relationship. God Himself is calling us to Him by name to love and follow Him. Ask God to give you the grace to saturate yourself in His Word so that you may be a vessel in which He uses to guide your children to the ways that are everlasting.

    Sometimes kids, especially teens, want to create their own identity separate from their family. And that's okay, infact it is healthy and a normal part of development. Just make sure that if they instead desire to be like others, make sure those others are also followers of Jesus. Expose your children to Godly people of all ages. Show them people who serve God in all different types of ways. There is not only one right way to love the Lord.

  34. Bethany Hudson says:

    I think you pretty much covered it–but as a Catholic, I would add a few more things:

    1. Receive the Sacraments together regularly.

    2. Be transparent with your own relationship with God. Children need to see what this looks like and realize that it influences everything else. They need to see WHY they should bother having a relationship with Christ, too (that's just how this generation functions–they don't take tradition or authority at face-value; they look for the reasons behind it).

    3. If both parents are believers–challenge and correct each other (in love, of course!) as necessary. Children need to see Christian accountability in action. They need to see the Holy Spirit at work in us lowly human vessels. That said, service projects as a family are also invaluable. BEING the hands of Christ is a big step toward knowing Christ. Some people work inside-out to faith; others do work outside-in.

    4. Ask your kids how God is working in their lives. Even young children can do this. Make it a regular daily or weekly question in your home: How do you see God the Father, Son, and Spirit working in you or in your world right now?

    Blessings, Jen!
    Bethany

  35. Anonymous says:

    -As soon as your child can write, provide them with a prayer journal. This can be a place to thank God, to ask of God, to reflect on Him, and a place for your child to write about the ways in which he/she sees God at work in his/her life or in the lives of others. I'm sure you have experienced how beneficial writing and blogging is for you, it is the same for children even in their most basic levels of writing.
    -Talk about God in casual conversation. I cannot emphasize how underrated simple and open back and forth conversation is. Talk to your child about your spiritual journey so that they feel comfortable sharing their journey with you.
    -Live in a way that shouts… the life that He gives is better than anything this world can offer and He is this only thing that can ever truly satisfy the human heart.

  36. Young Mom says:

    I think you are on the right track. I'm a kid who grew up in a christian home intense about passing on the faith, and so far it is having mixed results. I have a very different faith perspective than my parents, and I've struggled with why to believe at all. None of my other grown siblings are active participants in a church as of right now.

    I think the most important thing to remember is to be honest. Honest about what you struggle with, honest about why you wanted to become a christian. And listen to what your kids ask and talk about without judgement.

    As a product of "sheltering" let me tell you that eventually we kids figure out that our parents are deceiving and manipulating us, and then we struggle with resentment because of it.

  37. Ann says:

    Not an expert here, but I don't think anyone is an expert – I don't think parents can truly take credit for a child following the faith – but we do – like when a child is well behaved, we are proud – but there are a lot of factors that make a child "well behaved" like his or her tempermanet, etc.

    I think the grace of God is most important – it converts hearts.

    I think living the faith, and having it a part of our lives as much as work or school or tv or social outlets is super important – kids know – does our faith affect our decisions – where we go, who we associate with – how we act – what we buy – what we eat, how we decorate, etc. etc. woven into our lives.

    Is our faith real – it is truly a "lifestyle" and not something we do in pockets – does it bear fruits, do the kids see the fruits of the holy spirit in our lives and in their lives

  38. Kate says:

    My parents have 7 children, all of whom are still practicing Catholics. They were far from perfect parents. But I think your three factors describe my family pretty well.

    They prayed for us. (We could hear them saying their nightly rosary in their room after bedtime, and I know we were their primary intention).

    They let their faith work on them. (Once after my mother and I had a spat, we went to mass still angry and then after mass she apologized to me and said that she realized in prayer that she was wrong. This was HUGE to 15 yr old me. If prayer could change my mother, there was something real going on there!)

    And we prayed as a family…very occasionally. It might be comforting for some of you other parents to know that even repeated failed attempts at establishing family prayer times can still have a lasting positive effect on your kids. ;-)

    And the last thing – they made it clear to us that their primary goal was to raise us to be good people and to get us to heaven. They didn't pressure us to look good, to achieve amazing things or to get the best paying jobs, they weren't concerned with appearances. As teenagers we only had two rules: don't do anything immoral or illegal – and if you ever have to choose between the two, better to do something illegal rather than immoral. That expectation kept us in the Church through years when some of us doubted or would rather no have gone, long enough to discover the beauty of our faith ourselves.

  39. Tapestry says:

    We had 4 children, we prayed the rosary together all during Lent, attended Mass every Sunday and holy days. We have a statue of the Sacred Heart in the house and a statue of St Francis outside,with crucifixes in each bedroom.
    They received all their sacraments on time and were given extra help because nothing was being taught the kids even at Confirmation time. Only that Jesus loved them and it was 'all good". One teacher even said that they had "evolved beyond transubstantiation'!
    This was the 80s and 90s our 2 oldest went to public school, the oldest has faith but not a regular church goes, the 2nd one has 'atheist' on her Facebook page.
    The other 2 were homeschooled, our son believes but is not a regular church goer, our youngest has gone into the darkness I won't even go into here.
    Point is they are still individuals and faith is a gift, you can only pray for them to be enlightened by God's grace and rely on His infinite Mercy.
    Amen.

  40. Anonymous says:

    Fear God, not man. If your kids are a little bit too loud in public for your taste, if they are wearing unmatching clothes, or if they do anything else that you think may make you look bad as a parent..then you are just showing them that you are fearing man and what man thinks of you as a parent. God loves us as individuals, he doesn't want us all to conform to the expectations of the world. Just accept your kids for who they are, just as Jesus accepts you.

  41. Jet says:

    Great comments!

    I think you're doing an excellent job, Jen! I often get discouraged and my confessor reminds me that Jesus loves my kids more than I possibly can and will bestow graces according to God's will and timetable. The lives of the saints often fascinate children interest and you probably already teach them to offer up sufferings and sacrifices to save souls, convert sinners, etc. Yours are already familiar with St. Anthony and I think children are amazed by St. Therese, too–and her sacrifices. I am trying to teach my kids to do the opposite of what they feel like–PRAY for the person who hurts your feelings or makes you angry, etc. We also try to pray for those in ambulances, accidents, hospitals, cemeteries, airplanes, etc. There are so many teachable moments in daily life–don't forget spiritual and world leaders, teachers, doctors, etc. You have the advantage of having young children, so you're getting off to an early start. Just remember how well you turned out and like my confessor tells me, fear is NOT from God. One more thing: my pastor recently spoke on Familiaris Consortio and he emphasized that we must model forgiveness in our homes. It's too easy to say "I'm sorry" but really humbling (even humiliating at times)to ask for forgiveness in both small and big transgressions. (Then, of course, tell the kids that by forgiving, you are not telling your sibling that hitting, stealing, screaming, hair-pulling, etc is okay….) I am trying to remember to ask for forgiveness after losing my temper or whatever. It sure is a lot tougher than the old "Sorry, honey, Mom's having a rough day."

    I would LOVE to pray the rosary together as a family. I need to start with just one Ave after a meal, as I am facing opposition from Dad and the 2 older ones.

    Prayerfully,
    Janet

  42. Tina Fisher says:

    Great post! I would agree with your three points. Now I better go and get praying for my children!!! :)

  43. Anonymous says:

    To me, one of the most important aspects of being a Christian is FALLING IN LOVE WITH JESUS CHRIST. This is something that cannot necessarily be taught or explained, but it can be witnessed. You have a wonderful calling as a mother and a wife to SHOW your children what it's like to be in love with Christ. Do it in a way that makes them want the same thing that you have inside of you- the love of God.

  44. Kami says:

    I once read the following…

    "As parents we will at some point or another feel like failures. I do a lot. And that's okay. We cannot parent alone. We are not God to our children. He is God. We mess up. He doesn't mess up and that is why I must as a mother draw my everything from Him. My children will learn more from me acknowledging my mistakes then me pretending to be or believing I am right. That is why humility has got to be the KEY to parenting. In pride I will try to draw my strength for parenting from nothing other than Jesus Christ…"

  45. Mike P says:

    Buy the Catechism of the Catholic Church accompanied with the compendium and teach everyone in the family what the church teaches. If your knowledge of the faith is weak your faith can be weak as well. You can't teach or defend what you don't know. Remember, the catechism is the Bible interpreted by the Magisterium assisted by the Holy Spirit for the faithful of every generation. You will begin to love your faith so much that the "light" of Christ will shine on your children as well as everyone you come in contact with during your life on Earth. Of course the truth will set you free to be charitable with prayer and frequent reception of the sacraments. Finally go the the late Fr. John A. Hardon, SJ 's apostulate web site Lifeeternal.org and order his mp3's. This man spent 50-75 thousand hours on his knees in front of the Blessed Sacrament praying and writing manuscripts. Aside from his numerous books {which includes a Catholic dictionary and catechism) he gave seminars on all aspects of our faith and THEY ARE UNBELIEVABLE for teaching yourself the faith. These Mp3 CD's are a gold mine to anyone who thinks learning the faith, in other words, learning what Jesus wants so that you can be authentically happy, never ends! Don't be fooled that RCIA or second grade catechism is enough. I have listened to Fr. Hardon many times and each time i hear something new and deep. As one of Mother Teresa's spiritual directors, this master teacher of our faith is up for sainthood being led by Archbishop Raymond Burke.
    Want to help your children stay strong in their faith….learn it than teach it and even if they walk
    away at least you know and they know they what they walked away from….the Truth.

  46. Vic says:

    Speak your faith. Since becoming a mom, I've realized the importance of talking about God, Jesus, the Bible, etc. more than anything else. Whether that's speaking it by modeling prayer / devotional times, discussing church sermons on the drive home from church (captive audience!), or just talking to God out loud as I go about my day. I'm reminded of the verse in Deuteronomy that talks about the importance of "writing on their hearts" – Historically the truths of who God is, our purpose on this earth, the relationship we can have with Him – all of that was done verbally for centuries. As much as I appreciate devotional books & Bibles for kids, I think it's easy to get sucked up into just reading out loud to them, assuming they're "getting it" & leaving the rest up to Sunday school teachers or something. Great post!!

  47. Lauren says:

    My parents raised 3 children who are all devout Catholics now. So I get asked this question from time to time as well. My parents are introverts and private people, and there was not a lot of personal sharing of faith. We did some occasional family rosaries, but never on a very regular basis. So what did my parents do that I think worked? For me at least, they filled the house with Catholic literature. And when we got to be teens, they saw a need for a youth group at a church when there wasn't. So they took it upon themselves to start one. We had lots of close friends from that group. Looking back, it was brilliant. As a teenager, what your friends think of you is HUGE. If you have friends that are faith-filled as well, you won't feel quite so alone in the world for turning down the smoking, drinking, and sex. They also encouraged us to go on retreats and conferences. And lastly, of course, even though they didn't do the best job of sharing their own personal faith in so many words, they LIVED it. We saw them pray together at night. We never missed Sundays or holy days. They treated each other with respect and my mom in particular couldn't be held down for a negative word about anyone. And we all knew it was because of her faith.

  48. Lucy says:

    George Barna asked this very question, did tons of scientific research, and compiled his findings into a short, easy-to-read book, Revolutionary Parenting. Neither my husband nor I were raised to love God, and for the past year we've been researching this by reading books and talking to our role models. This book impressed me with its wisdom and practicality. I'll let you know how I think it goes when my newborn grows up…

  49. Shannon says:

    The three items you wrote about are definitely important, I think. I also agree that sincerity in we live our lives as parents is important. The other thing I try to do is to pray for my children's friends and future friends. I know that there will probably come a time when they will look to their peers and I pray that they have a peer group with a similar background as their own, at least with regard to morality and faith.

  50. Amy R says:

    This post and all the comments are making me cry – for the hope I read here, the hopeful and the hopeless. I'm right there in the middle of it myself – not raised myself the way I am hoping for my kids…trying to do the family rosary thing, going to Mass faithfully No Matter What, walking the walk. My older teens have helped with the Confirmation class, and that has, of course, strengthened their own faith.

    Anyway, excellent topic and conversation here!

  51. Ruth Ann says:

    Part I
    Jennifer, I believe you have lots of good advice among all these comments and from those to whom you spoke personally. I'll add a few reflections that may be a bit different, but not any better than those already offered.

    My faith was nurtured within a Catholic home, or maybe it was semi-Catholic. Dad was a practicing Catholic. Mother, although raised Catholic, abandoned her faith and became an unbeliever. But, she never discouraged the faith and practices of the rest of us. My siblings, both of whom are still Catholic, and I also attended Catholic schools: elementary, high school, and college.

    Two things made a huge and lasting impression on me. Dad prayed with us every evening at bedtime. He taught us our prayers AND he taught us to pray. Those are two different things. We used traditional Catholic prayers, but he also explained that we could talk with God using our own words. I did both on an everyday basis and still do.

    Dad also was a font of knowledge about all things Catholic, and I was curious and asked many questions. He was able, better than anyone else, to give answers that were intelligent, but yet understandable. I never felt babied.

    The Sisters who taught us had lots of common sense. I never heard all the silly things some ex-Catholics say they learned in school.

  52. Ruth Ann says:

    Part II
    Life was not perfect. My parents did divorce. But, by then—I was 10—my faith was firm. We lived with mother, but I took responsibility for making sure we kids practiced our faith. Mother was supportive. Dad was faithfully part of our life through adulthood.

    What really keeps us Catholic is the grace of God. It's a gift.

    My daughter, nieces, and nephew—all young adults—vary in their commitment to their faith, from atheist to considering a religious vocation. The secularized world in which they live is not as supportive of faith. But God's grace is with them and they are free to respond.

  53. Ginkgo100 says:

    Be there for your kid when it really counts. When they have a crisis with, say, a bullying teacher (yes, these are real, though rare) or depression during the teen years, be there for them. Our relationship with God is that of children with their father, and if they don't trust their earthly parents, it will be less natural for them to trust their heavenly Father.

    My second best advice is to make sure they know their catechism. Many kids, no matter how well they are raised, will choose to leave the faith; and if they come back to God someday, they need a foundation to know where to come back to, and how to do it.

    Both of these comments are borne from observations of people very close to me, by the way.

  54. Anonymous says:

    Make sure your children understand from an early age that worshiping Jesus is a privledge. There are places in this world where it is against the law to be a Christian. People literally risk their lives to gather and pray in the name of Jesus. They walk miles and miles just to sit on a cold floor inside of a shack, while at any moment the government could bust down the doors, discover what they're doing, and take their lives. We take a lot for granted in the US, and sometimes it's easy for people to either take or leave things that they consider to be easily accesible.

  55. J says:

    A few ideas:
    1) Maybe when your children are a little bit older, give them a rosary that was once yours. Make it special. Gifts that I inherited will always have a special place in my heart.
    2) Practice faith related family traditions- daily, monthly, and annually.
    3) Faith can be fun! Have the kids act out Bible stories, and have them act out right and wrong responses to different situations in the Bible.

  56. ck says:

    There was a mentally slow girl who lived on our street and my mother told me, "Erin is a living saint. When she gets to heaven, God will say 'I didn't give you much, so I don't demand much. Come on in'. But God expects more from you because He gave you more." It's little lessons like this that formed my Catholic worldview. I remember being shocked, even in early adulthood, that not everyone knew things like this that my mom taught me.

  57. Laura says:

    What a great post, as always! I went to a talk recently on this very topic, and apparently the research also shows how important it is for children to be involved in their faith community … to have other adults in their lives who are believers who care about them and walk through life with them.

  58. fabricdragon says:

    as someone raised Christian, who left the church/Christianity, and eventually (after bing in several religions) converted to Catholicism, i can tell you that the big things that drive people OUT of their religious upbringing are simple:

    1. lack of solid foundation in the faith (this means anyone with good rhetoric can make their religion sound stupid, because they just dont have the tools to argue or even understand their own side!)

    2. parents do not model participation OUTSIDE of church. (if you have to go to church, but other than that you only see your parents "say Grace" and they dont "walk the walk" WHERE the kids can see them…. it causes doubt)

    3. prayer is not a family activity. (the kids may be told or ordered to pray at bedtime, but if prayer is not a family activity, it must be "kid stuff")

    if you want to raise Catholic kids, i strongly suggest praying the Rosary together.(and discussing it) at young ages it teaches the basic bible stores, at older ages you can get into serious theology discussions.

  59. Liesl says:

    I think leading by example is the best way. I know that my parents taking the reins to create a religious ed program with some families when our parish failed to have a CCD program for years is something that stuck out to me. Also my aunt and uncle who are very devout have had a huge influence on me. Now that I am older and am stronger in my faith than I've ever been, I know especially being able to have discussions about faith and the Church with adults I look up to has helped to deepen my understanding of faith.
    That being said, I've also had some aunts and uncles and cousins (same side of the family as the very devout ones) who have left the Church. I can't say I'm sure why they decided to leave, but I think a big part of it was having an aspect of the faith that wasn't able to be explained to them when they questioned it. I am a big believer in asking questions – because that's how you learn – so being a parent that can answer questions that their children have (no matter how old they are) is also a big factor in raising (and keeping!) children to be strong in their faith.

  60. Anonymous says:

    Many good comments here. One thing that no one has mentioned, so I will, is the value and importance of good art.

    Beautiful art in the home touches the heart in a different and special way — and in a lasting way. Its value should not be ignored.

    There are first-rate reproductions of great art available today. Make some selections and have them expertly matted and framed to enhance their beauty. Hang them throughout your home — living room, dining room, in each child's room, etc., etc. — where appropriate.

    Beautiful crucifixes, too, are wonderful. Rabbi Zolli, the chief rabbi of Rome during the World War II who entered the church after the war's end, was fascinated by the crucifix he saw daily as a child when he visited a childhood friend's home. Looking at the crucifix prompted the child's interest in the man — Jesus — and ultimately, decades later, it led him into the church.

    Don't forget Our Lady. I have seen beautiful madonna statues.

    The sense organs are important. Let's use them.

    ~ Nona

  61. Valerie says:

    Sharing a couple of "guideposts" I've encountered, as a struggling rookie myself…
    I've found "How to Raise Good Catholic Children" by Mary Reed Newland to be a most lovely and helpful resource. Beautifully Catholic, it also has a lot of universal Wisdom and mere Christianity in it. With sweet simplicity, a seasoned, faithful momma shares her wise thoughts on how we can raise children "who are in love with God." She captures the ways we can embrace (and talk to our children about) the beautiful and the ugly, the mundane and the extraordinary facets of life through the lens of faith. I plan to re-read it over and over again, and it's probably the only parenting book I'll give a permanent place on my shelf. The table of contents and intro chapter can be read here: (don't judge a book by it's cover =)

    http://www.amazon.com/How-Raise-Good-Catholic-Children/dp/1928832865

    Also, I find that I have to work very hard at being free from the over-busyness and the mental and environmental clutter that keep me from TURNING TOWARDS God and my husband and children with all of my being. If I'm not in communion with God, and they don't feel in communion with me, I won't be able to help them experience communion with God. This is helping me: http://www.classicalliberalarts.com/library/scheduling.htm

    and so is this: http://www.amazon.com/Simplicity-Parenting-Extraordinary-Calmer-Happier/dp/0345507975/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top

    Perhaps these resources will bless you, too! Pray for me! I'm such an excruciatingly slow work in progress!

  62. Anonymous says:

    A thought to add to the enormous response you're already getting on this.
    It would have helped me if my parents had TRULY given me the freedom to explore, discover and choose for myself. Them living their faith with integrity and in all honesty would then have been enough.
    In our situation my need to find my own answers instead of 'simply' embracing theirs led to a breech in our relationship. Not because they stopped loving me, but because it wasn't really something we could talk about: it hurt them too much that I was 'moving away from the faith' and it was hard for us as a family to 'agree to disagree'. So, I'd say trusting that the road your children walk is in His hands, truly trusting, also means letting go, and still being completely there if and when your children make other choices. So they will see in your example what they can expect from God, and know He is always there for them if they choose to return.

  63. Gerry Cudmore says:

    I'm experiencing the other end of the situation. I was raised Catholic by devout parents, and try to practice my faith. I go to Mass every Sunday and Holy day. My wife was baptized Catholic but had no religious upbringing. Her mother was Catholic and her father was Jewish, but neither was practicing. As a result, my wife is now atheist, and my 2 daughters pretty much follow her lead. I pray for them and try to set a good example. I'm sure my daughters prefer her way because they don't have to "waste" all that time in church when they could be playing. I find it frustrating at times, but all I can do now is pray and try to teach them my beliefs when I can.

  64. Kristen @ St Monica's Bridge says:

    Only one thing I could add to what has been said, don't let Jesus become a "fad." This comment is generated as a kid who grew up as a teenager in the hey-day of the WWJD? bracelets. I love it when I see families together at mass or see teens embracing their faith, but it is disheartening sometimes to hear a teenager talking about their faith and beliefs in a way that makes it sound "cool." A lot of kids I went to high school with who wore the WWJD? bracelets are not Christian any longer and some are militant in other faiths or atheism. It was cool to do it then, so they did it. With no formation, so, everything brought in to help (magazines, t-shirts, bracelets) needs the proper formation to follow it up.

  65. Anonymous says:

    Dear Jen and readers,

    I've been wrestling with whether or not to post this, because I am walking a very fine line between dishonoring my mother and father and speaking the truth in love . . . so I pray the Holy Spirit will help me to find the right balance.

    From my own experience, I will tell you this: As parents, do not waver on the teachings of the One Church. Do not allow any "lukewarm" stumblings to permeate your family.

    My siblings and I are adults now, and sadly, we range in our devotion to the faith. I truly believe that the problems started when several family members encountered heavy challenges – mostly health related . . . some mental, some physical, some both – and bitterness and negativity toward the Lord set in.

    I have now seen that there are many ways to stray from the Church. For example, my siblings would never have pre-marital sex, and would never support the culture of death in any way, but they are "drifting" regardless. My parents always demonstrated strength in their faith, but they indulged my siblings' anger, and that was precisely when, "I don't have to attend Mass every week or on holy days," and "I refuse to go to Confession," and, "Other churches are so much more accepting," started. And my parents, hurting for their children, let such behavior slide instead of facing it, answering it with Scripture and Church history, and dealing with it. I say these things not to criticize them. I know they suffered greatly and continue to suffer today.

    I'm fighting back tears now.

    Lastly, I would like to point out to all parents that marriage is a vocation, and a blessing indeed, but it is not a right. Myself, I was blessed to marry a very devout Catholic man, whom I can trust and respect as my spiritual head, and we bolster one another's faith – but that is not what Christ intends for everyone. Never tell your children, especially not your daughters, that they will absolutely marry one day. We have no guarantee of such things! Share with your children that His way is the best way, and that IF it is His plan, they will find spouses – and if not, they will discover much joy and fulfillment in whatever else He calls them to. Promising them things that we as humans cannot deliver on is a surefire way to disappoint them, and feed their disillusion with the Lord – when it is we who made the mistake, not Him.

    God bless you.

  66. Anna says:

    This is a great thread because we all get so busy and faith gets put on the back-burner.

    For me, developing routines is key – I need more good habits to employ in our household.

    Not sure if some of these have been suggested – didn't have time to read everyone's inputs:

    I take my daughter to Eucharistic Adoration 2-3 times a week when possible. She stays for 5-10 seconds – literally – but she prays and it's become a routine, creating a comfort zone for her. And most importantly, we know that Christ transforms us during that time.

    Also, I reiterate, take kids to Mass every Sunday. I was away from the Church for awhile and remember the distinct feeling of "coming home" when I started going to Mass again, because of childhood experience of going to Mass each Sunday.

    Also I want to put up a holy water font near our front door, so we lift our minds to God every time we leave and enter the house.

  67. Grace in my Heart says:

    As a new mother, I too, wondered these same things. Someone recommended the book, "The Art of Catholic Motherhood." The book chapters are several different Catholic moms sharing how they raised all their children to grow up being devout Catholics. The main themes are the ones you outlined here, but it is still a good read. I highly recommend it! :)

  68. Anonymous says:

    I have three adult children in their twenties that I consider strong Catholics. I will quote Mary Ann Budnik first.Her books promote a well balanced view on how to raise Catholics for life."That day the priest told us that if we were not raising our children to be saints, they would lose their faith in our pagan culture."This is from "Raise Happy Children Through a Happier Marriage". I suggest reading this first. My observations are start them young. Don't ever underestimate the value of the sacraments. Go to daily Mass together. Find a good priest and go to weekly confession together. If they are to young bring them along so they can be in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. Keep their souls clean and strong. Make everything revolve around the church liturgy. Make it fun! Celebrate the good things in our faith. Show them the best in our faith. Show them the best in music,art, architecture, books, movies,plays,etc. The good, beautiful and true. Don't ever underestimate their ability to see Beauty. The higher you raise them to, the higher they will go. I will say that I did homeschool my children. Make raising them to be saints a number one priory and pray for the energy and zeal to do this everyday. Also live in the present moment. Celebrate your family in the little things.

  69. ~ Nona says:

    Late last night (11:00 PM) I noted that beautiful religious art in the home can be fruitfully used. There are other things to use. Consider music and food.

    Let's start with music:

    The Christmas season is a period when there are beautiful hymns and Christ-themed music all over. And then there are those special beauties; Handel's glorious MESSIAH comes instantly to mind. Fortunately, the music treasury overflows. You'll discover your own favorites. Buy some CDs and have glorious music float through your home. Seasonal music, of course, but glorious music frequently (and maybe at all times).

    I can't think of any music that's distinctly Easter. Maybe someone here can come up with some good suggestions.

    Also there are wonderful, simply wonderful, chants. I can envision the idea of washing the dishes to certain chants.

    St. Augustine wrote about the power of music in these words: "How I wept, deeply moved by your hymnns, songs, and the voices that echoed through your Church! What emotion I experienced in them! Those sounds flowed into my ears distilling the truth in my heart. A feeling of devotion surged within me, and tears streamed down my face — tears that did me good.

    Now for food:

    A CONTINUAL FEAST is a marvelous cookbook to use. It carries seasonal recipes to use throughout the year, from the Christmas through Lenten and Easter seasons. Go to Amazon to read more about the book and, possibly, to order it.

    And then to get your "frequent dose" of recipe dollops and accompanying thoughts about the saints and others, visit the author's blog: http://acontinualfeastcontinued.blogspot.com/

    Remember: Catholicism is an INCARNATIONAL religion — body, mind and soul are, and should all be, involved. This is why the senses — visual, auditory, gustatory — can be so fruitfully used. (Recall again how powerfully music affected the great St. Augustine.)

    The sense organs are great gifts. Take advantage!

  70. Gina says:

    I'm going to be a little heretical here (and take this with a grain of salt, because I have no children!):

    My parents and I recently heard a sermon about how the best way to raise good Christian kids is to have them in church and in youth group activities and at church camp, etc., every time the doors are opened. When we left afterwards, I looked at my parents and said, "THANK YOU for not doing that to me."

    Every child is different, I think. For some, living in a whirl of church activity may be the best way to keep them on the right track. It would have driven me around the bend. My parents didn't make me go to Sunday school or youth group because I hated it, but they made sure I was in church every Sunday and sent me to Christian school and encouraged me to read the Bible every day. And more, they embraced and lived out their faith every day. They weren't caught up in a lot of the Christian cultural fads, but that was all to the good.

    And so for me, faith "took."

    That's my story. Take from it whatever is helpful, and throw out the rest. :-)

  71. Louise says:

    Jen,

    Thanks for this great idea. I think about this issue often and I'm enjoying reading everyone's different responses.

    Here are a couple points I remember from a parenting talk by an excellent Catholic speaker:

    1. Teach your children to obey your voice. If the child learns to obey her parents' voice when she is young, she will be more likely to listen for and obey God's voice when she grows older. This means that if you say something, you have to get up off your [chair] and do something about it. For example: if you say, "John, put your shoes away now" and John doesn't, you dont't just keep saying it louder and louder. Rather, you right away get up and help him do it or give him consequences for not doing it or whatever. If you teach them that they only have to obey you when you speak a certain number of times or in a certain way (ie shouting) then that is only what they will do. It is a lot of work to teach your children to obey your voice, but it is worth it in the end.

    2. Forgiveness is a key aspect of the Christian life. Your child needs to see you model "asking for forgiveness" as well as forgiving others. When you do something to them that you shouldn't have done (ie disbelieve them when they're telling the truth, scream at them when you shouldn't, etc) be sure that YOU GO TO THE CHILD AND ASK THEM FOR FORGIVENESS.

    I don't know if those are necessarily the most important two things, but I have found them very helpful.

  72. Julie M. Elizabeth says:

    I'm a cradle Catholic 22 year old, and one of the things that really kept me going was knowing how important it was in my family. Never missing mass, family dinner every night (there's 6 kids and 2 working parents, not always easy but done every day) and talking about it. Kids pick up on when things are important. It's also important to have that community of fellow believers, friends and family who also witness to the faith. Curiosity will get the best of them and they'll start reading about Saints and the Church, etc. and then move on to deeper and more sacramental parts of life.

    Parents can help kids stay strong in their faith by making it real and living it, even if it wasn't in one's own childhood. This is about making it right for the kids, and it sounds like you're on the right track. :)

  73. JMB says:

    Love the Church and be kind to one another, especially spouses to each other. My parents never dissed the Church in front of us. They were far from "role model" Catholic parents – we rarely did a family rosary, had "mid meal" prayers and split up for church often times, but they loved the Church, and loved being Catholic. They had friends, socialized and we were "in the world". We were truly blessed – 8 kids, all Catholic adults now, our brother is priest.

  74. Anonymous says:

    I think there are three or four comments that stress being able to defend the faith so I'm adding to that part of the discussion. What I noticed bringing up my children is that around twelve to fourteen years old and AGAIN around eighteen to twenty there is a time where you must give answers to question. Like – if God is everywhere how come he's not in hell? If children cannot defend their faith they will give it up. Little ones do it automatically but at these other moments kids need direct specific help. "Read this." "See here in the Catechism…" And don't think they'll look it up for themselves at that moment. Give them words at those moments.

    Jane M

  75. johanna says:

    What a lovely, refreshing and helpful idea for a blog–a true sharing among brothers and sisters in Christ! I will pass it on to my children. As a grandmother, now many times over,it makes my heart rejoice to see the deep thought and effort you are putting into your responsibilities as parents. Please take up the challenge; if your little ones are "bored' in Church, think of starting a Sunday school in the back of the church for the first part of Mass so that they can understand things on their own level. Parents: constantly feed and upgrade your own faith by reading and attending educational and spiritual training opportunities (retreats, cursillo, marriage encounter, etc)so that you can shine with Christ's love for your children, and have the means to answer their questions. While you need to continue to study to be well versed–better than the so-so Catholic–in your faith, there are also wonderful, joyous, inspirational books to give you the courage to rise up to the challenge of our faith. When you are facing tough times and extraordinary problems, please allow an old grandmother to share with you her true story to help put things in perspective, and to show how, through miracles and the tender touches of a Lover, God is among us still. My book, newly published, is called 'Graffiti On My Soul' and written under the pen name Johanna. You can check it out on my website: http://www.eloquentbooks.com/GraffitiOnMySoul.html

  76. Sandy C. says:

    My mom's example of faith caused me to return to church (Protestant) after my first child was born. (Mom died when I was 18.) For my own children, we used a method I wouldn't recommend. My husband was not a Christian when my kids were little and I attended church in spurts. (Sometimes it didn't seem worth the fight.) When I became more committed about my faith, my kids saw the change in me. Then my husband converted and they saw a HUGE change in him and in our family life. The kids were 12 and 10 at the time and the difference faith made in our lives continues to influence them. My son is now 22 and became Catholic this year. My husband and I will be in RCIA this fall. I continue to pray for my daughter, now 20, to join us in the Catholic church.

    Pray and be real and let your kids see how your faith impacts your daily life.

  77. mr bill says:

    A parent can do no more than set an example, discipline, educate, love and pray for their children. Mothers should look to the Blessed Virgin for quiet strength and loving help, fathers to St Joseph. No matter what trials we encounter, look to the Holy Family.

    Monday thru Friday just before bedtime, together as a family, pray one decade of the Rosary, parents say at least one more decade for your children. As a family eat dinner together, a family must communicate and this is the best time for learning about what is going on in your children's lives. Expect whining, stubbornness and revolt, this is all part of growing up but as a parent accept it with love and good humor.

    A major influence in my becoming Catholic were the signs of devotion, family prayer and parental love that I felt in the homes of my childhood Catholic friends.

  78. Lauren says:

    Gina,
    I wanted to comment on your comment about sticking your kids in a whirl of church activity. And that is that you have to know your kid's personality and whether or not they will dig that kind of thing, or if it would be too much. I just wanted to comment further because I was one that mentioned that my parents encouraged us to go to retreats and conference. And by that I mean, probably once a year. And they were life-changing for me.

  79. Suzanne says:

    I grew up among Christians in the Bible Belt. My family are at least nominally Baptist, and my mother put some effort into basic childhood religious teaching–seeing that my sister and I learned some Bible stories, went to Sunday school sometimes, etc.–but it was all pretty shallow and most of it dried up by the time my younger sister was old enough to pay much attention. I was an unbeliever by 13.

    I spent my twenties and early thirties as a neo-pagan. The thing I heard again and again from pagans in online discussion groups and also in RL, about why they were pagan, was that, "Religion for us pagans isn't something we do for an hour on Sunday, but something that suffuses our daily life." Look beyond the self-congratulatory tone and the exaggeration I suspect was often at play in the part about how paganism affected their daily lives. These were people who at least WANTED religion to affect their daily lives, wanted it to be important; or, to put it another way, they thought that if religion really were important, then it would affect your daily life. They didn't see that in the Christian homes they came from. So they looked elsewhere.

    As I said, I heard this "just an hour on Sunday" thing again and again. That's why I think the most important thing Christian parents can do is to make expressions of the faith be part of your daily life. Not every family will do that in the same way, but there have been some great suggestions on this thread–different kinds of daily prayer, praying for firemen and ambulances when they pass you, saying "I was wrong, please forgive me" when you mess up, having religious art in your home, reading Bible stories to the kids, having Catholic literature in the home, discussing the faith, and so on. Fun stuff like special decorations or meals for some of the holy days or saints' days would be great too.

    I think it would also be a great idea to occasionally let your children know that you don't always find the faith easy to live. Maybe letting the kids know that you also find it hard to pray for people who've wronged you or, for another example, to refrain from gossipping, but that you try because you doing what God wants is important to you. Obviously you have to use some discernment here (I can easily imagine an adolescent saying, "Why should I go to mass when even you admit you're sometimes tempted to sleep in"), but this seems to me a good way to let them know that religion does affect your daily choices and that you think living the faith is worth it even when it isn't easy.

  80. Flexo says:

    I realize that raising faith-filled kids isn't about doing this or not doing that. . . . faith is about having a relationship with God, and relationships aren't about formulas and checklists.

    So, I missed the whole discussion, I see.

    But this quote captures it precisely, I think. It's not about doing Christianity with your kids, it is about living the faith, having Christ in your heart. It is not what you do, but what you are. It is not about being "a" Catholic, it is about being Catholic.

    With kids, it is about having Christ be a part of their very being, part of their nature. That does not mean praying and going to Mass and doing explicit Catholic activities all the time, so much that they come to be bored and hate these things. But it does mean some prayer and going to Mass regularly — as part of one's normal, natural routine, and not making a big deal of it and not as fulfilling some "obligation." It means having a crucifix and some religious art on the wall. It means letting them see you loving others, living the virtues.

    It means not bad-mouthing the Church, or the music, or the priests, or the bishops, etc., ever. The Church is their mother, as much as you are. And just as no one should talk smack about you to them, neither should a parent say such things about the Church in the presence of their children.

    It means instilling in them a thirst for Love and Truth, and helping them to discover that the entirety of the Faith is grounded in love and truth. It means being a light to them, letting them know about hope, true authentic hope — that although we are in the world, we are not of this world, and one day all the things of this world will turn to dust, but they need not worry, even if everything they have is lost, they need not worry if they have The One True Hope.

    In short, it means fulfilling your Confirmation mission — to be a witness for Christ in all that you do and are.

    And then realize that they WILL stray. And let them. Let go of their hand and let them stumble in their attempt to walk by themselves. After you've done what you can, let the Holy Spirit do some of the work. Give Him something to do, rather than thinking that you have to do it all yourself.

  81. G says:

    It doesn't look like you need anymore suggestions to this post but I have to say that its very important in this culture to make sure your kids understand that we (Catholics, our fam) does not apologize bc we do things differently. E.g., when Suzy wants to date at 14, the answer is no & the reason is bc we know that she's too precious to trust to anyone else at that stage of her life. When confronted with: "I am the ONLY one in my class who can't", we say, "That's not at all surprising bc we do things differently bc we our beliefs are different etc etc."
    I.e., We model Believing Catholic Behavior & are not intimidated by our own children. Imagine.

  82. N. Trandem says:

    The three most important things you can do:

    1. Family Rosary – daily if possible. Even just doing a decade together if you're strapped for time.

    2. Family Rosary

    3. Family Rosary

  83. J & A says:

    I haven't read all the comments, so my $.02 might be repetetive…

    I think it's imperative for kids to see their parents pray, read the Bible, talk about Jesus/God/etc. daily and bring faith into every aspect of daily living.

    My parents implemented a really neat technique when I (and my siblings) were growing up – in many circumstances, instead of just telling us yes or no when we asked to do/have something, they told us to check the Bible to see if God had any "words of wisdom" for us. I remember wanting to get my ears pierced when I was about 10 or so and my mom sent me to the Bible with a pen and paper to see what I could find. I discovered several verses about bodily adornment, including earrings specifically, and presented my findings to my parents…who then took me to get my ears pierced!

    As a Catholic, I think sometimes parents err on the side of cramming the catechism into their kids' heads instead of focusing on the relationship with Jesus aspect of Christianity – I don't quite know why that is, but I've struggled with that myself as a parent and my hubby and I are really trying to balance Catechism with the Bible itself (i.e. don't tell the kids what the catechism says, relate it back to the Bible and WHY it says what it does) as well as demonstrating to our kids what a prayerful relationship with the Lord looks like.

    Yikes, I wrote a novel. Sorry 'bout that!

  84. Anonymous says:

    practice what you preach. especially practice the virtues of honesty and humility. I can imagine that it would be difficult to admit your mistakes to your children, and to show them that even parents are only human and that you are striving to be a better, more loving, fair, understanding parent to them. But to do these things, in my humble opinion, would plant the seeds of the same virtue in a child. oh, and always, ALWAYS, bring them to church. making them involved in church activities would help a lot.

  85. Gina says:

    Lauren — very true. That's why I stressed that every child is different and that the whirl of church activities does work for some kids. Thanks for reinforcing that.

  86. Kansas Mom says:

    I'm sorry I don't have time to read all the wonderful comments!

    I'm reading Gregory and Lisa Popcak's new edition, Parenting with Grace, right now. The first four chapters are a fascinating argument for self-donative love shown by parents to children as the way to teach them about the relationship between God and each of us — and how they should develop their own abilities to serve their families and communities. They focus mainly on the two virtues they believe are most important: love and responsibility. I haven't read the book yet, but I'm beginning to feel like they have a grasp on how to live the life Christ wants for a family in a way I haven't seen before.

    My Catholic childhood did not provide an exceptionally sound basis for my faith, though we went to Mass and CCD, sometimes even Catholic schools. My own children are still very young, but I very much hope to give them a stronger start.

  87. Anonymous says:

    Put their souls first. Pray a lot.
    Put family second.
    Everything else is third.

    and be realistic about moral development. Get the book "Raising Good Children" by Thomas Lickona and use it a guide to what to expect from your children at certain ages.
    My children are 24, 25, 28, 31. All of them are papists.

  88. Anonymous says:

    as scripture says, Trust in God, not man.
    People are sinners. But we all belong in church. People are wrong. But God isn't. That's why we have confession and the Eucharist.
    Teach them apologetics.

    About the rosary.
    A friend told me to go into the living room and pray the rosary out loud and that my children would eventually join me.
    They did.
    If they don't, say it anyway. Be sure they hear the names of the mysteries you are meditating on.
    Pray it out loud while you watch them, while you clean house, while you are in the car. Tell them, I will say a rosary about that and do. You are going to hit some rough spots – when you really feel it is not necessary or you feel too tired or bored, say the rosary.

  89. Anonymous says:

    One more thing about the rosary – the friends I have who have children who don't say the rosary as adults, said it with their children, but said it
    r e a l l y s l o o o o o o w,
    with lots of extra intentions, made it very boring or super infantile and NEVER SAID prayers of deliverance with their children other than the St. Michael prayer. Get JPII's Latin rosary to get up to speed on this; he shows how to be reverent and keep up a good tempo at the same time.
    Also, tell your children stuff before their friends do. Don't lie, don't sugarcoat or set up unrealistic utopias. They will have to fight to be good – make the fight fun!

  90. Lenetta @ Nettacow says:

    Lots of great ideas here! I linked to this post on my weekly roundup (and, as I was scrolling through the comments, I saw A Continual Feast recommended – coincidentally, in my roundup post I also linked to ACF's blog!) Thanks for sharing, everyone!

  91. Anonymous says:

    I can only comment as an Anglican (Episcopalian). Both my husband and I were christened as children but then grew up in non attending households but were confirmed as young adults (19 and 21).

    Do not be afraid to move church if it suits your family – not every 12 months obviously – but we changed 2 years ago after 13 years. Our children were begging not to go to church – they hated it and we weren't happy. Our new church is very geared to all ages – it took us a few weeks to get used to the different formats – but we are truly part of a church family now and the children (14 and 11) would be horrified if we missed a Sun morning.

    Ignore your family if they are not church oriented. None of ours are – and we have had to field a lot of criticism for taking the children to church etc. We just keep telling them that it is important to us and that the children enjoy it.

    Try to focus on Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter as real "church" times rather than secular celebrations. I love "A Continual Feast" (as mentioned earlier) and also the Mennonite "A Simple Christmas" – we made a Jesse tree last year – but used the Catholic version online for our readings. We even did the simple thing of our Magi starting out in the kitchen and moving towards the crib each day and the children loved it. My husband was sceptical but he got into the spirit as well.

    I try each day to integrate our faith into our lives and to talk to the children about what is moral as well as what is cool and to compare and contrast the two. We also try to live our faith by buying ethically and letting the children know what we are doing

  92. Michelle says:

    I aggree with much of what people said in regard to how relationships are handled in the home regarding forgiveness, openness, etc. Here are some other points.

    1. Attend mass every Sunday and every Holy Day (even on vacation)
    2. Post the Pope’s prayer intention for the month somewhere in your home
    3. Hang a crucifix (that has been blessed) in all bedrooms
    4. Pray the rosary every Sunday as a family, and everynight with your spouse
    5. Have your home blessed before moving in
    6. Always have a rosary, blessed candles and holy water near by
    7. Fill the home with Catholic literature (such as magazines for each appropriate age range in the home, and Catholic literature regarding architecture, art, the bible, the life of Jesus, Catholisism itself, history, books about saints, etc.)
    8. Fill your home with Catholic games and toys for kids such as the ungame (Catholic version)

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