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Parenting with Humility

June 28, 2016 by  
Filed under Book Club, Vicki Burbach


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Life of Christ (Week 12 of 27)

“It is a not a mark of greatness always to affirm one’s right, but often to suffer an indignity.” – Life of Christ, Chapter 24, Paragraph 18

Parenting with Humility

Something about this quote made me think of successful parenting. Some of the families we most respect seem to have a more humble approach to parenting. Boundaries merge with compassion; humility with direction. They don’t take the “Might Makes Right” approach, but rather suffer many indignities that ultimately result in great honor and respect. In other words, even in parenting, great sacrifice – particularly the sacrifice of one's pride – seems to reap great rewards.

I don’t know about you, but I have a little trouble with humility and gentleness. As a parent, I've been known to err on the side of authoritarianism. Much less at 45 than at 25, but the trouble still rests there, just beneath the surface.

The truth is, this apple didn't fall far from the tree. With parents who each served over 20 years in the United States Air Force, I did not exactly grow up in a democratic home (that's democratic with a small “d” – as in the system, not the party).

When my father said “JUMP,” I think he actually did intend for me to ask “How high?” When my mother left a list of chores, they would be done by the time she came home from work, “Or Else…” (What was the “Or Else?” – we never found out. We did our chores.)

When it came to parenting, I believed my parents had it all figured out. Control your children and don't take any guff. After all, it worked for me. I was a pretty good kid (meaning I may have been far from perfect, but I certainly wasn’t rebellious).

In my twenties, I would see parents stand there while their little ones threw temper tantrums and think, “My child would never get away with that.” 

Fast forward a couple of decades.

Today, my child got away with that (at least to the naked eye). You'd think as the sixth child, she would be above that. But no. My youngest daughter is quite a pistol. And she was unbelievably naughty in the grocery store – we’re talking screaming at her mother naughty.

Yes, we left the store with her wailing and pulling on me; at home, we dealt with the situation. But to bystanders, I’m sure I looked like a total pushover.

Maybe I’m just tired. Or maybe I’ve gained a little wisdom over the past twenty years. I don't know. One thing I have learned is that my goal isn’t to force my child into obedience today, but to have a generous, compassionate, kind, respectful, disciplined and value-laden child in the long run.

This is getting harder and harder to do with each passing day. The world expects perfect parents, but then undermines our ability to best serve as parents to our children.

Don’t you often feel like you are parenting with both hands tied behind your back? Television and movies make parents out to be fools and kids to be geniuses. The Internet is the spawn of Satan if your kids look in the wrong places for the wrong things. Social Media can consist of peers cultural icons encouraging – through example if not directive – bad language, disobedience and disrespect.

As parents, everything seems to conspire against us, making it more and more difficult to raise good children. Just as devastating, it is becoming exceedingly rare for children to remain active members of the Church after leaving home. [According to Pew Research, the ratio is now 1:6. For every one person brought into the Catholic Church, six are leaving.]

The fact is that our authority is undermined in this culture and our kids know it. I’ve met people who took their kids to counseling and the counselor told them that Mass should be an option because their child may not share their religious views. Recently, parents in New Mexico were reported for making their teen spend his days in a tent in their backyard because he wouldn’t follow their rules (he was permitted in the house at night).

We are raising our children in a new world. There is no way for us to even know what effect the information age will have on this generation of children. Try telling your kids they will or else, and they’ll have ten friends instantly chime in, advising them to ask, “Or else what?!”

The authoritarian methods our parents used will not work with our kids. My kids may not listen because “I said so.” But there is hope. It occurred to me when I read the above quote that we are not parenting for today. We are parenting for a lifetime. The steps we take to form our children may not have an immediate affect. It may be years before our children realize the value of what we’ve been teaching. Lessons may stick for some sooner than for others. But just because they don’t stick today, doesn’t mean the seeds aren’t germinating.

The fact is that the world is promising all kinds of things that will not fulfill our children. Those temptations may glisten and glow, but when our kids get too close, they are bound to get burned.

And perhaps they will return to us for the healing salve offered by our Faith. By our values. By our love.

Once I heard Bishop Barron declare that love does not fight back against anger or defiance. Rather, as demonstrated through Christ's death on the Cross, love absorbs anger and violence through meekness and humility. It suffers indignity. Love does not force a beloved into submission, because the submission will be temporary and often insincere. Think of the iron bars that control a prisoner who is not contrite. Once the bars are gone, the crime will most certainly continue.

Maybe never, but definitely in this day and age, there is little room for authoritarian parenting to work.

As parents we are meant to teach our children what it takes to thrive physically, emotionally, financially and – most importantly – spiritually. We can use force to control behavior for a while. We can wield ultimatums, use absolutes and require submission without consent – whether our children are five or fifteen. But most likely, those methods will not take.

Perhaps there is another way.

Meekness was the method Jesus used with the apostles. He put up with their ignorance and roughness and even their infidelity. He treated sinners with a kindness and affection that caused some to be shocked, others to be scandalized, and still others to gain hope in God's mercy. Thus he bade us to be gentle and humble of heart. – Saint John Bosco

One thing many of us have already learned is that we cannot control other human beings. We can demonstrate, encourage, advise and lead. But we cannot force our wills upon another soul. Successful parents have figured this out.

Many times we may suffer injustice in the name of love. We may suffer countless indignities along The Way.

But the mark of greatness is not always to affirm one’s right


Reading Assignment:

Chapters 25-26

Discussion Questions:

1. Are there any lessons you've learned as a parent that would help the rest of us to become more Christ-like in our approach?

2. Feel free to comment on anything from our assignment this past week!

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About Vicki Burbach

Vicki Burbach is a wife and homeschooling mother of six children ages four to sixteen years who relishes the calm inspiration of spiritual reading amidst the roller coaster of life. A passionate convert to the Faith, Vicki is an avid reader who started the book club so she could embark with like-minded bibliophiles on a spiritual journey through some of the greatest Catholic books ever written. She is author of the new book How to Read Your Way to Heaven - A Spiritual Reading Program for the Worst of Sinners, the Greatest of Saints, and Everyone in Between. You can also find her at

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  • Ann Marie

    As a grandmother of twelve, and a mother of six, I have seen significant changes in society over the span of about 48 years. When I was raising my six children, society and culture more or less “had my back”. They shared the same mores, and values, for the most part, that I wanted to instill in my children. Things started to change in the seventies, though. Perhaps due to Roe v Wade; the birth control pill; media became more explicit; parental rights started to be chipped away at, etc., etc. Today, it seems as if the culture and society we live in are at odds with everything we hoped to pass on through the generations. It’s extremely difficult to argue the merits of religion with children who have been exposed to atheistic professors and friends. Everything that we thought was right is now wrong, and what we believed to be wrong is now exemplary. We need to desperately pray for our young people because the world has become a den of iniquity on so many levels. Satan is having a heyday right now, but we have to hold on to the belief that the Church will prevail in the end.

    • Vicki

      Ann Marie,
      I agree wholeheartedly! Satan is having a heyday and we are caught right smack in the middle of his tumultuous storm. Thank goodness we have the “ark” of the Church to keep us safe amidst the roaring winds and the rising sea. I have confidence that the HS will answer our prayers by keeping our children safe aboard as well (note the confidence is not based on experience in this world, but on hope in Christ’s promises:)). God bless!

    • marybernadette

      That is why Our Blessed Mother pleads for all of us to ‘pray the Most Holy Rosary and consecrate the family to her Immaculate Heart’ and of course ‘penance and sacrifices.’ We know that next year will be the 100th anniversary of ‘Our Lady Of Fatima’ and we just need to read again Her
      prophecies given to the three seers’ about what is unfolding.

  • Mary Therese

    Vicki, you said it so well, and as a mom of 5, I agree with you. Ann Marie–I agree too with your perspective of the loss of those who “had my back”–I truly feel that so often as well. Not sure I can think of other lessons I’ve learned that you haven’t already mentioned.

    The one line that struck me this week, was this: (also in Ch. 24) “Had the people rendered to God His due, they would not now be in their present state of having to render too much to Caesar.” Just made me think of our society today. A dear friend of mine believes the remedy is so simple–just get back to prayer (the rosary!), and I reflect on my own lack of prayer time. I might consider myself a “good Catholic”–but have I really rendered to God what He’s due? I think I’m more than a little short….

    • Vicki

      Mary Therese – Aren’t we all? Thank you so much for the great reminder. God is Good. And He hears our prayers. Imagine the power inherent in the prayers of a society full of mothers – those who have so much at stake as we send our very hearts out into the world. May we all spend more time on our knees:)!

  • Monica

    This is very insightful, and really resonated with my heart. Even though I’m not a parent, I’m the oldest of one sister and often times find myself being bossy. I like what it states in the last few statements:

    One thing many of us have already learned is that we cannot control other human beings. We can demonstrate, encourage, advise and lead. But we cannot force our wills upon another soul. Successful parents have figured this out.

    Many times we may suffer injustice in the name of love. We may suffer countless indignities along The Way.

    But the mark of greatness is not always to affirm one’s right…
    May the Holy Spirit be with you all as we all strive to become more like Christ.

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