Notes on Orthodox Parenting

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The following are Notes based on a presentation Given by Fr. Athanasius Raheb on Parenting on Friday May 9, 2008 at the St. Marina Young Professionals Meeting.

2 Samuel 13 tells the story of Amnon, son of King David, who rapes his half-sister Tamar and is later killed by Tamar’s brother Absalom.

Amnon was consumed by his lust and desire of Tamar (“becoming thinner each day” V.13:4) and contrived to have her. Upon completion of his horrible act, he threw her out – for he could not face his own weakness and shame. Tamar runs away and hides for she is burdened with the shame by no fault of her own. Tamar’s brother Absalom allows his anger to “ferment” revenge upon Amnon, just as Amnon “fermented” lust against his sister. Seeds of sin nurtured into an intoxicating rage that over come the weak.

And where is their father David in both of these cases? David loved his children to the point that he destroyed them with his indulgence. For he denied his children nothing – gave them their ever want. And since nothing that has limits can satisfy – his children continued to want. David did not speak to Amnon, with regards to his crime against Tamar. There is no mention of any disciple at all. Further, David knew Tamar was hiding and nowhere is it written that David went to console her with the shame of this terrible act thrusted upon her. Not once does he say to her, “Daughter your shame is on me,” or does he try to console her to show he recognizes her pain. And, David ignored the anger fermenting in Absalom (Tamar’s full brother). The silence and inaction of David caused even greater damage. For his lack of action; allowed Amnon to feel as if he did nothing wrong, which further violated Tamar and fed the fuel of Absalom’s vengeance upon Amnon.Thus, David’s silence put his son Amnon in jeopardy.

Being a parent is not always being liked by your children. Being a parent is sometimes being the “meany” from time to time. We should not indulge our children’s every want and desire and then expect them to appreciate the church or even value the cleansing nature of fasting. For in our vain actions of showering our children with whatever they want, the abyss of their want and need will never cease and they will never be satisfied. Only Jesus Christ is without limits and therefore only He can satisfy and quench the raging flames of desire.

Denying our children the things they want teaches them very valuable lessons, for it empowers them with control over their own urges and desires. For today they may desire the latest video games or cell phone, but tomorrow they may desire something even more expensive (both in the cost of money and of consequences). By denying our children the right of want, they embrace fasting and this allows the nurturing growth of Christ in their life.

There is yet another example of how indulging our children destroys not only their life in this world, but also their life after as well. In 1Samual 3:13 we read about the curse of Eli’s house and his vile sons. Here we see how Eli did not punish them nor did he restrain them in their vile acts against God. Eli was killed in the most embarrassing way, robbing Eli of any dignity. This was a planned death against Eli by God. This was the end of the house of Eli.

We, as parents, are charged with giving our children the gift of life twice – both the first natural life and the second ever-lasting life. Yet, do we not rob them of eternal life if we do not raise them in the respect of God’s will? When we give into their ever want and desire what good have we served them? What good have we served God?

Denying our Children Encourages the Value of Control and Fasting. For giving in to their wants suppresses the will to restrain and encourages the never-ending cycle of want and need. There is nothing wrong with them being; hungry, being dirty, or being without the latest and greatest toy, gadget or doohickey. Raise not the ever-empty mouth of the wanting child with anything other than the fulfilling love of the Holy Father. For the never-ending demand of want and desire is an abyss – a bottomless pit, thus pointing to where they shall end up. Thus “Restraint” becomes a training process.

Do not Encourage Bad Behavior. By condoning, excusing or even ignoring their wrong behavior is a form of encouragement. Does the gardener say of the weed that is stealing nutrients from the soil from the fruit-bearing plants “Oh it’s just one weed.” Or “Oh it’s okay, it will go away.” No. The vigilant gardener attacks every weed with tenacity. Because he knows that each weed will lead to more and they will choke the fruit-bearing vine. We too should do this with regards to raising of our beloved children in our Lord’s garden. For every bad act nurtures further bad acts, choking the growth of good acts.

Participation in the Church Activities. Such as fasting, praying, communion, and confession exposes them to the value of a church-based life. It will also expose them to the community of the poor, of the needy, of the family that has nothing. These activities should be as commonplace for the child as is watching TV, playing video games, or eating fast food.

Lessons are Learned More from Mistakes than from Successes. Correcting behavior through understanding and enlightenment is hard and demanding on us, but it is what Jesus Christ did with his children. By enlightening their eyes to the wrong paths of their choices we empower them with the right tools to over come future trials. For children are born with a feeling of invincibility, thus we must instruct through valuable life choices. When they do something bad, ask them, “Show me son where in the Bible Jesus did what you are doing?” or “Find for me in the Bible where Jesus or God did this or that, that I may understanding God’s will in your actions.” The seed of repentance is born from acknowledging mistakes. How can we entrust our children to learn the beauty and value of repentance without correction. In reading 2Samual 14:32 Absalom wanted to know what his “iniquity” was. Even after he had murdered his half-brother (Amnon) to avenge the rape of his sister, Absalom did not feel he had done anything wrong.

Teach them to Clean up Their Own Messes. This teaches responsibility. Doing it without anger teaches them the lesson of responsibility. But with anger, they do it for the wrong reason. Cleanliness is next to Godliness. Do not have them do it for monetary reasons either – for this too encourages the wrong expectation and behavior. Encourage them to do it for their own personal desire.

Be Vigilant of What is Entering Your Child. We protect them from colds and viruses, should we not also protect them from bad influences as well? Do we monitor the food but then let them watch whatever TV they want? Do we monitor their friends but give them video games with terrible themes? Fasting is from more than food, but from anything that would take them away from God. Fasting is learning control. Otherwise we raise a generation of slaves – as the Hebrews did.

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