The 7 Building Blocks provide a clear framework for fulfilling our sacred mission as parents. The Building Blocks work together to build and maintain connection between parent and child, to foster a rich family faith and Christian identity, and to create the emotional atmosphere necessary for Christian communion and spiritual growth.
- Children need unconditional love in order to thrive, but we can send them conflicting messages about how we feel about them. Our words, actions, and countenance can send them the message that they need to do the right thing or achieve the highest awards in order to earn our deepest held love.
- Loving our children intentionally and unconditionally requires 1) emotional openness, 2) a recognition and affirmation of their unique, unrepeatable value, and 3) our willingness to be changed by our children.
- Get to know each child as a unique human being. Understand what’s behind your child’s eyes and in her heart at each developmental stage.
- Recognize any of your old wounds so that you can parent your child appropriately and with awareness, and not from a place of fear or anger unrelated to your child.
- Play is one of the most important ways children connect to us, work through their fears and frustrations, and build their self-confidence.
- Enter a child’s play world on their terms. Be willing to be silly and goofy on occasion!
4. Radiant Faith
- Your family can enjoy a shared faith life that’s alive and radiant, a faith that becomes a tremendous witness to other families, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, of the truth and beauty of Christ’s message.
- Allow your home to reflect the abundant joy and hope of our Catholic Faith. Learn about the Christian virtues together; explore and celebrate Feast Days and Saints Days with crafts, special parties and teas, and sharing books together; develop a family prayer plan and pray together regularly.
- Children, especially young ones, will absorb our attitudes about attending Mass and growing in the Faith. If we’re excited and enthusiastic, it’ll be contagious! We can help our children see both the obligations and the opportunities of living out our Faith. The heart of our Faith is love and hope, and the opportunity for transformation and renewal.
5. Gentle Discipline
- The heart of effective discipline is the connection between parent and child. Without a secure connection, discipline will be a frustrating power struggle.
- The goal of effective discipline is for the child to build a conscience and self-control, not to break the child’s will or to coerce obedience through threats. In an empathic, nurturing home a child is never humiliated and parents don’t use their superior size and authority to intimidate children into compliance.
- Growing up can be confusing and frustrating. By learning what to expect at each developmental stage, you can empathize with your child better. We can’t expect a 3 year-old to have the self-control of 6 year-old. Each developmental age comes with its struggles and joys. If we educate ourselves about child development we can understand our child’s feelings and needs better, so the balance tips towards joy!
- Balance work, play, and prayer in your home. Do all these things as a family. Each family member contributes to the upkeep of the home and meal preparations as is appropriate for their developmental age. Even very young children enjoy being included in the routine with small jobs, like helping unload the dishwasher, mopping, or dusting.
- Every parent needs a little time alone to refuel. How much time you can spend alone and how frequently depends on various factors in your home, including the availability of your spouse or a babysitter and how young your children are, but remember that you will be parenting for many years. Don’t run out of gas early on!
- Take time to exercise and eat well. This can involve the kids! Children love to ride their bikes with parents who might be running or biking. Make a hiking plan and explore different hiking trails in your region. Children love to help with food preparations, like making salads and kneading bread dough.
7. A Strong Marriage
- If you treat your child will respect and affection, but fail to do the same with your spouse, your child may still enter adulthood with a relationship handicap. Your marriage models for your children how to treat others in close, intimate relationships. She’ll obviously be better off and very blessed for having received warm, consistent love from her parents, but it’s like she will have received only the appetizer to a delicious meal and missed the main course!
- Speak about and to your spouse with deep regard and love; perform little acts of kindness to make his or her life easier. Be willing to serve even in small ways.
- You and your spouse are called to help one another on your paths to heaven. See your spouse the way Christ does, as a precious and priceless soul on a journey to a Divine Destination.
Remember, please, that I’m presenting here an ideal! We all have limitations and every family hits rough patches. Also, anytime we gain new insights about ourselves and our parenting, it often takes a while to implement a change. It’s part of the human condition! But comprehending these ideals can help us move toward wholeness personally and as a family with God’s help. Just start with small efforts in one or two areas, and ground your efforts in prayer.