Updated: Sep 5, 2019
The job of every parent is to raise their children to be well-adjusted, responsible, and successful adults. Of course, that’s easier said than done, especially since the meaning of “well-adjusted, responsible, and successful” in our modern society is actually quite the opposite. For our purposes, “well-adjusted, responsible, and successful” means that the child:
will be a holy, practicing, knowledgeable Catholic
has the skills to earn an income and support a family or run a household, whichever their duty may be, and
be mature enough to enter religious life or raise a family.
This goal aligns with the proper ordering of priorities, namely, God first and family second.
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These three goals can be met by training your children at an early age in the three M's: Morals, Money, and Marketable Skills. And as you will learn below, this instruction must start in infancy and be reinforced continuously. Most importantly, children learn by the example of their parents, so the easiest way to instruct them is to practice the three M's yourself.
Passing along Catholic morals is the single most important thing a parent can do for their children. Why? Because the number one goal of every single person should be to get to Heaven, and for parents and married couples, to get their children and spouse to Heaven. However, strong Catholic morals also come with a lot of other benefits besides spiritual ones and touch on all aspects of our temporal life, from relationships to fiscal responsibility. Here are some realistic ways you as parents can teach morals to you child.
Emphasize virtue, especially purity, on a regular basis in an age-appropriate manner. Practicing purity and chastity not only protects their soul from mortal sin, but it also enables them to avoid single parenting, broken families, child support, and government assistance in the future. Children raised by a single parent either from divorce or out of wedlock birth are significantly more likely to live in poverty. And children raised by a single parent have a much higher chance of dropping out of school, joining gangs, and spending time in prison, affecting both future earning potential, employment prospects, and available housing, limiting their ability to successfully support a family in the future.
Ensure your child follows the Traditional Catholic Church guidelines on courtship. When you child gets old enough to start dating, you as parents should make sure they follow these guidelines. Essentially, this means that if the child isn’t ready to get married, then they aren’t ready to date or court; if an individual doesn’t show sufficient Catholic virtue, then a courtship cannot begin; and your child is never alone with them until they are engaged, but always interacting in a public or family setting. These guidelines not only protect your child emotionally, but also spiritually, since opportunities to violate purity are minimized.
Fathers, take your kids to church and lead the family spiritually. The most effective way to instill strong morals and ensure your child will continue practicing their faith when they leave the home is for fathers to take them to church and lead the family in prayers. Let me repeat that. Fathers, take your children to church! While it is great when mothers take their children to church, studies have shown that a father’s church attendance is the single largest factor in whether the child will continue attending church after leaving home.
Get your child started on a prayer regimen at an early age. A prayer regimen helps to make sure prayer becomes a deeply ingrained habit. This means as parents praying a rosary daily as a family, taking them to Sunday and Daily Masses, regular confession, frequent Eucharistic Adoration, and leading them in prayers before meals and at night before bed. A prayer regimen also sets a daily routine and creates order, which leads to an ordered soul. Buy them age-appropriate Catholic books that they can read during Adoration (such as Lives of the Saints for Children). Check out How to Create a Rule of Life for tips on how to create one of your own, and Praying with Your Babies & Toddlers for ideas to start a prayer regimen for even the littlest family member.
Create a strong family life. Eat dinner together at the table and not in front of the TV. Severely limit time in front of screens (e.g., TVs, smartphones, tablets) since this is the number one way in which the filth of the outside world can influence your children’s behavior. Proper order in the home, with the father as the spiritual head of the family, leads to proper order in the soul for all members of the family.
Teach them to suffer rightly. According to Fr. Ripperger, his father would always say “You have to raise a man a little lean”. This means that in order to raise a child to be a real man or woman, you can’t give them everything they want. Teach your child to embrace suffering and take responsibility for their actions with humility.
Be a model of detachment. Show your children that material possessions are useless unless they assist in getting us to Heaven. Live simply.
Strong fiscal responsibility at a young age yields large returns in the future that go beyond fiscal stability. For example, the number one cause of divorce is money problems, which can be avoided by properly managing finances. Nevertheless, it is important to remember that money is amoral, meaning it is neither good nor bad. Rather, money is a tool which can be used for either good or bad purposes. You want to ingrain in your children good money habits, so that they see money as a tool for doing good, rather than using it to pursue their own pleasures. Here are some ways to do this:
Give your child an allowance. I highly suggest giving each child an allowance at an early age, as soon as they can understand the concept of money. Allowance gives your child experience managing their own finances, starting with the basics and increasing in complexity and responsibility as they age. There are many ways to distribute an allowance, but the way I prefer is described in Should I Give My Child An Allowance?. This method teaches responsible spending and saving, generous tithing, and important life lessons. An allowance also helps instill strong moral character, assisting with the first of the 3 M’s: Morals.
Teach them the difference between Good Debt and Bad Debt. Since credit card debt is bad debt, you may be surprised to find that I recommend that you add your teenager to your credit card as an authorized user (if you have a credit card) or help them open a student credit card (often with a credit limit of only $500). The best way to teach them to avoid bad debt in the future is to teach them to avoid bad debt now! Teach them to use credit cards responsibly by paying them off in full each month, and show them how much they would have to pay in interest if they didn’t. It’s better that they learn to use credit cards responsibly when the stakes are low rather than learning the hard way, as many people do when they find themselves in tens of thousands of dollars in credit card debt. Also, go over the fine print of the credit card with them, so that they understand what terms are often hidden in the fine print.
Help them open savings accounts. As soon as they become a teenager, help your child open a savings account at a real bank to start saving up an emergency fund and then for college or a car. When they start driving, help them open a checking account, so they can always access their money to buy gas or in case of emergency. As soon as they start working and earning taxable income (usually between ages 16-18), open a Roth IRA in their name. Then they can immediately start saving for retirement. Why is this important? Not only does it get them to think about long-term goals and plan for the future, it also makes financial sense by taking advantage of compound interest. A 25 year old saving $1000 per year for 10 years invests $10,000 dollars total, but winds up with $157,435 by age 65 with an 8% interest rate. With the same interest rate, a 35 year old saving $1000 per year for 30 years invests $30,000 dollars total, but only has $122,346 by age 65. So starting to save for retirement early has a huge advantage!
Teach them to balance a checkbook and create a budget. This teaches from the very beginning to set aside a certain percentage of their paycheck for retirement, tithing, an emergency fund, and for large purchases such as cars or a downpayment on a house. When they get out on their own, they’ll already have long-term goals in mind, enabling them to avoid frivolous spending.
Present them with alternative to four-year colleges. Many other alternatives to a four-year college exist, including community colleges (which have significantly lower tuition rates than four-year colleges), trade or technical schools, and apprenticeships, many of which you can begin even while in high school. Choosing these alternatives typically results in much less student debt, and it surprises most people that you can even earn a higher income in careers following these alternatives than with a degree from a four-year college. It’s true! I have a cousin in his 30s that is an electrician making over $100,000 per year, and he never went to college and never took out student loans. Forcing kids who don’t belong in college or don’t need to go to college saddles them with unnecessary debt and reduces earning potential (you can’t make much income as a college student!). Not to mention that the modern college campus is a cesspool of vice and immoral ideologies, which you don’t want to expose your child to unnecessarily.
By the time your child turns 17, they should know every skill needed to run a household plus several other essential skills. Check out Basic Skills Every Child Should Have Before They Reach Adulthood for a list. It’s also a great way to brush up on your own skills. The goal is for your child to have a basic understanding of each of these skills and be able to use them with minimal instruction by the time they are adults. Therefore, it is imperative that you help them develop these skills over their childhood. Knowing these skills have several advantages:
These skills can be used to earn an income as a side gig or a full-time job, especially following a sudden layoff or unexpected expense.
Knowing to do these skills saves money by cutting expenses, because they can do these things themselves instead of hiring someone else to do it (note that some skills, such as non-trivial plumbing or electrical work is best left to a professional).
Pursuing these skills builds character and teaches discipline.
Your child is able to explore a wide range of activities and make a more informed decision in pursuing a career.
The Boy Scouts have this mastered with their merit badge system, but with their recent slide into liberalism and political correctness, you may decide to teach your children these skills at home instead.
Is mastery of the three M's sufficient for a child to become a successful adult? What is lacking? Let us know in the comments!
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