Education of the Will
The two chief faculties of the soul are intellect and will, splendid powers of the human soul created in the image of God but in which original sin has left deep wounds: ignorance in the intellect and malice in the will. The education of the will is of crucial importance for a child’s entire life. This is what will make of him or her an adult and a Christian. Dear mothers, the education of a child’s will is a noble and arduous mission that is the keystone of its entire education. Indeed, before God and men, your child will be worth what its will is worth. If it is good and strong, your child, with the help of God’s grace, will inherit heaven; if it is weak and craven, your child is headed for the worst downfalls.
The education of the will consists in cultivating in the child the love and pursuit of the good despite the obstacles. To do this, we must strive to teach the love of what is good, to provide worthy models, and to stimulate daily the training of the will by means of the most ordinary actions.
Let’s teach our children first of all to love what is good. We ought to know how to encourage them, and to acknowledge their good deeds. We should be interested in what they love and what they seek, so as to be able tactfully to guide—or correct—their choices, form their tastes, and guide them in their choice of friends.
Children need to be stimulated by examples, so let’s give them models: in the life of our Lord, in the lives of saints and Christian heroes, let’s teach them to love and to admire virtue and valiance. Love calls for and leads to imitation. Let’s also point out to the children the example of the simple, hidden virtues in those around us. The mother ought to speak to them about the courage of their father, who sets out daily, despite weariness or bad weather, to work for the family’s livelihood. The father ought to point out to them all their mother does tirelessly: cooking, housekeeping, countless thoughtful acts of devotedness to her family, and so on. The example of those around them in their daily life ought to be a stimulant to the children to do good too. We should often remind our children that we are made for heaven, and that this life is only a pilgrimage, more or less long, and that we must be heading for our goal: God, God whom we must love above all things in and through the least actions of daily life. “To please Jesus” should become a child’s genuine desire.
It is the daily repetition of little efforts sustained by grace that gradually forges the will: the children will become habituated to do what they ought to do before doing what they like. For example, at the end of a short break, necessary after school, the children will do their homework before going out to play; they will tidy up their room and make their bed in the morning (once they’re able to) before running off to other occupations. The children should be trained to eat whatever they are served and not to snack between meals, to obey promptly and willingly, not to procrastinate, not to whine over trifles... How many little occasions there are in daily life in which the children, prompted by an adult, can little by little form and fortify their will! What an inestimable treasure for the future!
The child must learn to will, but also to will with perseverance in spite of the obstacles encountered on the way. Only those who persevere reach the goal. Let’s encourage our children to keep on going till the end: to start over a badly written homework assignment, not to tolerate sloppily done homework. Let’s teach them to finish what they begin, to remount if thrown from a horse, not to turn back if it starts to rain during a walk. The children must learn to ardently and wholeheartedly desire a greater good. It’s raining and the weather’s bad? Well, let’s sing as we walk. A child is sulking, he doesn’t like these vegetables? then let’s have a big smile to please Jesus! Doing a chore takes a lot? Then yes, I’ll do my best for the salvation of souls. When a child takes up an activity (learning a musical instrument, a sport, or even a game), in the beginning he discovers the attraction of the novelty, which quickly wears away when it comes to daily practice. That is when the child should be encouraged to persevere by showing him the desired goal. Except for obvious lack of aptitude, do not let the child give up an activity when he “doesn’t feel like it anymore,” but help him to will it.
Dear mothers, the good seed will spring up for eternal life!