Over the last two years, as I've studied and prepared for this new job, an unseen statement floated around education courses about respecting the parents of your students. Statements like "they know them best" were stated but what was left out was the clearly stated: "Parents are their children's first teachers."
The Catholic Church knows and recognizes this and has so much so that is a part of the Catechist. The kind-hearted volunteers who run parish youth groups and schools of religion are secondary to the parents, who are assumed to have taught their children about their faith from an early age. The greater education system also is taught to respect the critical role parents play in their child's education; moms and dads were the first to read their child a story or help them learn to tie their shoes. It is one of the joys of parenting.
But what does that mean for us as parents?
Although your children will spend more time with their teachers than with you as they grow older, you were and always will be their first. Your words and actions start teaching from day one. By modeling, you show your child what good, reverent worship looks like on Sundays. With correction and redirection, you help your little one learn how to respond appropriately when they feel frustrated, angry, or upset. Their little eyes are on you from the very beginning, which is why my son already knows to brush his hair and teeth. He also growls fiercely when frustrated, just like his mama (oops...)
We forget sometimes how big of a role we actually play. We aren't just the preparer or meals or tucker-iner at night. We are their teachers. We educate and guide them on how to handle daily life. Daniel Tiger has some great life lessons but what will stick is how you react and respond. What you do (or don't) each day.
It is important to remember during these critical times that just like family values, our faith and church values are formed first at home.
Par mindful of the role the Church (and society) inherently knows is not always easy but it is necessary to raise the best generation of Catholics our Church has ever seen. And that is exactly what is needed now, more than ever: a generation of young Catholics who will not compromise the integrity of their faith, who will strive to redeem their community of faith in the eyes of God and man, and who choose Christ above all else again and again.
We can blame the Church all we want; we can shake our heads and fists at the men who feigned piety, seeking earthly treasure. However, if we want real change, it must begin in the home, with the parents who are the first and more formative teachers of their young Christians.