Discipline puts an end to our inclinations, our delusions of doing our own will. It puts everything back on track.
Msgr. João Scognamiglio Clá Dias, EP, video below
Second Commandment for the Education of Children
Parents must harmonize authority with gentleness. The idea that the father should be as an ordinary friend as possible to his children is idiotic. Parents to a certain extent and up to a certain age represent God to their children. Children, looking at their parents, begin to form an idea about who God is and so authority must be maintained, but always with gentleness, never correcting without giving an explanation to the child — why this is being said to him; why this or that should not be done; or why something else should be done instead.
Human & Divine Justice
The following audio drama touches on a serious matter. It illustrates, in a dramatic manner, a sad reality that should not be ignored, but one that is very important to meditate on. This story begins in a very small poor house in the country… (listen below)
Parenting tip: Listen as a family, pausing to discuss after each part. Print the colouring page for quiet time after to ponder.
Forming Children to Love Authority
Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira
The art of education consists in training the child to see the reasonable side of authority—the beautiful aspect of hierarchy—to love to be under someone’s command, to love to obey.
At the time when my spirit was being formed, the Revolution insisted a lot on a terrible point, which it does not insist on today because it thinks it has already won over all souls and thus won the battle. When I was young, the battle was almost won, but there was still something left that resisted the Revolution.
The false idea was as follows: Goodness consists fundamentally in not causing anyone dissatisfaction, sadness, or a bad disposition of soul; so anything that represents authority is somehow contrary to goodness, because authority enforces the law, and every law is contrary to someone in some way. Authority is, therefore, a kind of institution whose purpose is to oppose and cause people to suffer. Therefore, the ideal world would be one in which there would be no authority—it would be the perfect world of goodness.
Authority prevents the wicked from tormenting the good
First, it is not true that the purpose of authority is to make people suffer. On the contrary, the world would be a living hell if there were no authority to prevent the wicked from tormenting… (Read more – click below)
…the good. It is because there is authority that thieves cannot steal or at least steal as little as possible, and murderers are afraid to kill. For example, it is possible to move calmly through the streets because there are traffic laws and there are authorities entrusted with enforcing those laws. Otherwise, either vehicles could not be used, and hence, men would be forced to walk, or vehicles would be killing people constantly.
In other words, authority exists for the enforcement of laws and the protection of the good. Authority is man’s friend, not his enemy. It makes him suffer—this is quite a quite different matter—because of original sin.
After original sin, man was left with his senses unregulated and wanting things all the time that he should not want. Authority opposes man in doing what he should not do. Therefore, in a certain sense, authority has an unpleasant presence. But if we imagine a society without authority, we will understand how very pleasant its presence is.
In a school, for example, authority must be strongly felt. When I was a boy, the following system was adopted: if a student talked when he should not, the teacher would tell him to stand in a corner, with his back to his classmates, for fifteen minutes, half an hour, or for the duration of the whole class, depending on how naughty he had been.
There were a hundred other things that made the student really suffer. If he only looks at it superficially, the child becomes an enemy of authority. But if he looks deeper, he understands that authority is a great protection for him.
The handrail of a staircase
A concrete example of how authority is a great protection would be to think about the handrail of a staircase.
You will often find boys who like to slide down the handrail of a staircase, rather than use the steps. If the handrail is smooth and lends itself to this, he comes sliding down from the top to the bottom. You may think it is funny, but it is in fact reckless. If he falls from a certain height, he could break his spine and be paralyzed for life. If he is ten years old, and lives to be ninety, he will spend eighty years lying in a bed, waiting to be delivered only by death, because he did not heed the authority that obliged him to respect the use of the handrail.
Authority plays the role of a handrail in life. In every sense of the word, authority is a handrail: it helps to guide and protect people. This makes authority acceptable and pleasant, as is the case with a well-built, beautiful handrail.
A voice with soft inflections and profound intonations
The art of education consists in training the child to see the reasonable side of authority—the beautiful aspect of hierarchy—to love to be under someone’s command, to love to obey. In this way, the child becomes a friend of the Counter-Revolution instead of a friend of the Revolution.
My mother’s attitude toward this problem was the following:
Her voice, though not that of a singer, was very pleasant for conversation, full of inflections. These were very soft, sweet inflections, which corresponded to the movements of her temperament, and communicated what she wanted them to express. As a result, her profoundly serious and deep tones, which were not reprimanding, made the gravity, the seriousness of what she was saying apparent. Her temperament was capable of great seriousness and, in speaking, she usually took everything she said very seriously. When she mentioned anyone of authority, she spoke with a certain respect and had a way, with her voice intonation, of making us sense why and in what manner that authority was to be respected.
Writing the first letters of “RCR”
Dona Lucilia always demonstrated the importance of authority. All the people and characters she told us about respected each other, were kind to each other and were gentle, giving an idea of an everyday life that for the most part has ceased to exist.
She helped me a lot to form a Counter-Revolutionary sense, precisely in this way: narrating stories and speaking, without giving theories, but modelling the children’s souls in every possible way, and always in the line of love for hierarchy and order in all things.
All this led me to compare the scenes I saw in Hollywood movies, like those cowboy stories, and other things that were ultra-fashionable for boys then—which I found horrifying. It led me to the realization of the confrontation between a society based on respect, as distinct from societies based on equality. It also led me to an instinctive understanding of how absolute and uniform equality cause everything to flatten, whereas there is something beautiful, illuminating and dignified—in a word, Catholic—about a society with inequalities.
In a certain figurative sense of the expression, the first letters of “RCR”¹ were written by her.
Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira (Taken from a meeting: 13/3/1993)
Dr. Plinio Magazine, no. 155 (February 2011)
1) The book “Revolution and Counter-Revolution”.
Video - Discipline
Without discipline, we cannot practice virtue as we should, because our inclinations will do exactly the opposite of God’s law.
Msgr. João Scognamiglio Clá Dias, EP
The Example of Dona Lucilia
Dona Lucilia was mindful of the fact that, as Fr. Antonio Royo Marin puts it: “Every man, marked by the effects of original sin, carries within him the seeds of a saint and of a reprobate.” She understood that the obligation of a good mother is to watch, to counsel, and to personally correct her children.
“I Miss Mama’s Scoldings”
The Revolution and Counter-Revolution in the Family
If only families were harmonious and lived according to God… Peace can only reign when there is, according to St. Augustine, tranquility of order.
Msgr. João Scognamiglio Clá Dias, EP
St. John Bosco - If Punish You Must...
“Let everything take place at its proper time,” the Holy Spirit reminds us. Punishing a child is very much the same. Choosing the right moment is very important. If we use so much care in healing an illness or an injury, should we not be equally solicitous in character healing? St. John Bosco
Here are ten points of advice we have extracted from a letter of St. John Bosco – to ponder and help families to form a philosophy of punishment that is appropriate and effective to be a truly Catholic family.
Will the child profit from the punishment?
Losing one’s patience and punishing a child when he misbehaves comes easy. Far more difficult is maintaining your composure while correcting him in a kindly manner and then being supportive regardless of his fault. This is the kind of respect that is reminiscent of St. Paul’s reaction towards the fickle behaviour of his new converts to Christianity. How often he wept over them and pleaded with them when they did not measure up to his expectations.
St. Gregory once wrote that we cannot force ourselves into the human heart. It is like an impenetrable fortress. The only way one can gain entry into it is through kindness and affection.
Be persevering and loving, and you will see that God will help you master even the most rebellious hearts.
“Let everything take place at its proper time,” the Holy Spirit reminds us. Punishing a child is very much the same. Choosing the right moment is very important. If we use so much care in healing an illness or an injury, should we not be equally solicitous in character healing? When a doctor treats a patient, he takes every precaution to prescribe the right medication and to instruct the patient to use it at the proper time. If he does not, the damage that results can be irreparable. The same principle holds when we deal with the character formation of young people.
The educator (parent) must learn to control his emotional outbursts. If he is ill-tempered and irascible, he will do more harm than good when correcting a child in that state because he is motivated more by his bad temper than by his sense of authority.
They are keen observers of our outward behaviour. They quickly interpret our interior feelings by a change in our facial expression or in our tone of voice. For them these are signs that reveal whether we are acting out of emotion or from a sense of duty. So if we are not in control and acting responsibly when a punishment is called for, its effectiveness on the child will be lost.
Allow some time to elapse. During this cooling-off period he will have time to reflect on what he has done, his emotional state will have subsided, and he will be in a better position to realize that the punishment he deserves is not unreasonable.
I have always been impressed by the way the Lord dealt with the hot-headed Paul, when the latter was “breathing murderous threats” against the first Christians. The Lord did not speedily strike him down with swift vengeance. He bided his time and when stricken off his horse, Christ revealed himself to Paul in all his power and glory. Forcefully, but gently, he made him see the error of his ways. Nevertheless, Paul, having lost his sight, had to spend many long hours reflecting how blind his behaviour had been. This analogy carries a valuable lesson on how to deal with rebellious and recalcitrant children… Be patient and loving and try to discern, with God’s help, the proper time and place to correct a child.
He blends compassion with his firmness. I know only too well that there will be moments when we will feel like exploding after a child has behaved in an outrageous manner. If our pent-up anger is released in a flood of violent words, nothing is accomplished, and the culprit, even though he knows he deserves to be punished, will himself feel anger and resentment in turn.
It may not be easy in the heat of the moment, to keep ourselves under control, but silent prayer is often our best immediate response… After all, Jesus forgave an entire town when its inhabitants refused to receive Him within its walls. Two of His disciples were even loud in their anger because of this insulting treatment of their Master. They wanted that town to be stuck down immediately by lightning as a punishment for such an affront.
There is a great wisdom in those words of the Holy Spirit: “Be angry but sin not.”
St. Francis de Sales, the model of our “Salesian Way”, gives us some very salutary advice in this matter. Francis, the epitome of self-control, had resolved early in life never to speak when his heart was disturbed. He used to say: “I don’t want to lose in a quarter of an hour all those precious drops of kindness which I have managed to store up, drop by drop, during my lifetime, and which I guard closely in the corner of my heart. The poor bee labours for months to create a small amount of honey which a person gulps down in a mouthful. Besides, why should I lose my patience and my composure in discussing something with someone who I know has no intention of really listening to what I have to say?”
Meet him halfway if necessary. Your sole aim should be to make the culprit realize where he went wrong. So do not expect an immediate conversion. Be reasonable. Once he admits his mistake, meet him more than halfway by lessening the punishment he has coming to him.
Therefore, an encouraging word to the youth who has been punished will make the transition more humane. In the difficult art of education, forgetting and forgiving a child’s fault can put us to the test. Again we look to Jesus as our model teacher. Nowhere is it written that He kept reminding Mary Magdalene of her sinful past. We marvel at the delicacy He used in helping Peter admit his weakness until he begged for forgiveness. When some of the apostles owned up to their disloyalty, all was quickly forgiven and forgotten.
… In my long experience of working with children, only the compassionate treatment of a child can bring about real change in the development of his character. A severe tongue-lashing, will not.
You cannot force a plant to grow straight by violently bending it. A child is much like a young plant which must be tended carefully and wisely nurtured to produce a straight and natural growth.
– When a child misbehaves or is disorderly, let him know that you are keenly disappointed in him. Make him realize that he has let you down.
– Any reprimand that must be given should be given in private and in a fatherly manner.
– Do not reprimand a boy time and time again. Repetitious corrections in time become meaningless.
– Trace out the consequences of his bad behavior to him. Then contrast that with the joy and good feelings that await someone who follows the rules.
(Taken, with slight adaptations for families, from a “Englished, not translated” version (by Michael Ribotta) of St. John Bosco’s letter entitled: If Punish You Must….
A Little Story
Sometimes few or no words are the best method of discipline for a child:
The Duke of Burgundy, grandson of Louis XIV, was considered an incorrigible child. François Fenelon, his tutor, however, succeeded in taming him down. And by what means? By a policy of silence and gentleness, accompanied with firmness.
The young Dauphin’s brothers, tutors, and attendants, received orders never to speak to him when he was roused to passion, or was in any way guilty. He thus found coldness and silence on every side. When the passion passed away, he understood the lesson that had been given, and would express sorrow and regret for his fault, and thus in time his character was entirely changed for the better.
Would that parents and masters imitated the gentleness of Fenelon, when correcting and reproving those placed under their care! (Catechism in Examples)
The Road to Damacus - How Our Lord Punished St. Paul
Jesus, whose voice had sounded in his ears on the sun-baked road, was punishing him, and it was only just. He knew it and would accept the penalty. He felt sure that Jesus would not punish him forever, that He would have pity on him, that He would spare him… Listen to this story from the Golden Legend of Young Saints by Daniel-Rops.
One Last Story...
The Bad Mother
One more story to emphasize the importance of discipline:
A certain boy had the habit of stealing from his neighbours trifling articles, which he brought home to his mother, who never chastised or reproved him.
When he grew older he became a confirmed thief. At length he was discovered in the act, and, being taken by the officers of justice, was brought before the judge, who condemned him to death.
When he arrived at the place of execution, he perceived his mother among the crowd, shedding many tears and bewailing his fate, upon which he begged leave to speak to her once more before he died. Permission being granted, his mother drew near, and he bent his head as if he would whisper something to her, but, instead of doing so, he caught her ear between his teeth and bit it off, regardless of her shrieks and reproaches.
Here upon the judge reproved him severely for his unnatural conduct, to whom he said : “I have only treated her as she deserved, for it is she who has brought me to this. Had she punished me in my childhood for my petty thefts, I should not, now that I am grown up, have been compelled to die on the gallows.” (Catechism in Examples)