“Patience and time do more than force and rage,” said La Fontaine. If there is a domain where this adage is verified, it is truly in the education of children. Between the first cries of a child and the moment where this child, who has become an adult in turn, establishes a home, 25 years will pass. As knitting is done row after row, education is done day after day.
It is thus unnecessary to want everything right away. One can only ask of a child that which he is actually capable of doing or of learning to do. For example, with a little child, the present moment occupies all of his attention; he does not know, or perhaps knows little, how to put himself in the future, and thus foresee the long-term consequences of his acts. That is why he is so thoughtless. John, six years old, has left for school without a hat or gloves while it is snowing. Of course, he threw snowballs with bare hands during recess, and, certainly, he has caught a cold. It is unnecessary to scold him for his lack of foresight; to foresee such a chain of events still surpasses him completely. It is unnecessary also to try to motivate his older brother of 12 years to work in class by making the possibility of receiving “cum laude” on his diploma or valedictorian in his senior class shine before his eyes. At his age, this seems so far away, while the soccer match with his friend has a more immediate attraction.
However, when a child becomes capable of a task, it is not doing him a favor, quite the opposite in fact, to treat him like a baby in not requiring from him that which he can give. At 8 years old, Cecilia has never yet made her bed, nor set the table! This is because her mother does not see her daughter growing, and she does not think of asking this of her. Thankfully, a short stay at her Aunt Jeanne’s house has put things in order by facilitating her comparison with her cousins. On the same occasion, her mother has also seen that she can be much more exigent with Anthony, 6 years old, in the manner in which he assists at Mass. His cousin who is his same age does not wiggle at all and is even beginning to follow well in his little prayer book during Mass.
Education is a long-term work. It is not necessary to expect a child to correct his faults immediately. “I have already told you 20 times to wash your hands before coming to the table,” protests his mother. Courage, the habit may not be acquired until the 21st, or the 40th time. We must show the same patience with children that God shows to us adults, who confess the same sins so often. But “to be patient” does not mean “to give up.” Let us continue to ask for the good, without tiring of the slowness of the progress, without being discouraged by the failures that prepare the victories of tomorrow. By temperament, Mr. Dupont does not really see the necessity of everything having its place; when he was 10 years old, his mother regularly found the contents of his backpack left on the carpet of the living room and his dirty socks under his bed; his father did not cease to tell him to put away his bike somewhere else than in the middle of the driveway. Thanks be to God, and all the better for him, his parents were persevering. Today, without being obsessive, he knows sufficiently how to put away his things so as not to compromise peace in his household.
Education is a long-term work, thus everything is not lost if an error is made, if one too many words are said. What is an isolated incident compared to 20 years of affection, of care, of good examples and good influences? Paul is right in the middle of the adolescent crisis; he is sometimes so irritating that this time his father has lost patience and said something to him that he never should have said. Certainly, it is regrettable, and his father may have the impression of having ruined everything. No, everything is not lost. Paul knows, deep down, that his parents love him, that it was he who pushed his father too far by his attitude. The Holy Ghost gives the counsel of what to say to parents who know how to ask Him.
Education is a long-term work of which parents do not always know the final result. The moment of establishing oneself in life gives the indication. However, even with the best education in the world, a child remains free, free alas to choose evil over good. We see in good families children who “turn bad,” abandon religious practices or who live immorally. Nevertheless, may the parents not be discouraged: that which was sown in childhood will come to the surface again someday. This is why it is important not to spoil children, not to let them do whatever they wish at three or four years old: the “little” years prepare the years to come.
What a consolation on the other hand for aging parents to see their children in turn establish a solid household or respond to a priestly or religious vocation! These children who owe them their “successful” life before God form the crown of honor of these parents, in time and in eternity.