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Advice to fathers

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Remember that a family is a community of two communities: that of the husband and wife, on which rests that of the children.


I thought for this week following Father's Day I would try to remember and collect the best advice I know about fatherhood. Here it is:
First, and above all, pray for each child each day. If possible, pray at Mass, and name them one-by-one, raising them up, during the elevation of the host. They do not belong to you. You have them as a trust. Raise them up then to God.
Then, each day, offer physical mortifications for them. Divide up the hours of your work and offer different times for each. If you lift weights, for instance, offer up a set for each. As a father, your mortifications should cost you, physically. A father is meant to offer up his body for his children.
Be a spiritual leader of your family through example. Be the first to suggest a family rosary in the evening. Be seen reading the New Testament in the morning. Say the blessings before meals and stop for the Angelus.
Develop a strong will. Train your will. Do difficult things; do not be soft on yourself. Take cold showers. Get up early to run. Eat and drink less than you want. You cannot expect from your children what you do not demand of yourself.
Unseen impurity hurts your children. Who knows why, the connection is mysterious. But be assured that if you look at porn "in secret" you are exposing them to danger.
Give complete attention to your children when you are with them. Smash your phone ("pluck out your eye") if it causes you to sin.

Remain youthful. Crawl on the floor; join in sports; play board games with them. To remain youthful, you will need to remain fit. Always have the spirit of a young father.
Deliberate with your wife at least once a year about the physical, emotional, spiritual, and educational development of each of your children. I know a couple who kept a file on each child. At least go away with your wife on a retreat and spend a day on this kind of consultation.
Remember that a family is a community of two communities: that of the husband and wife, on which rests that of the children. Never neglect your relationship with your wife: it is the foundation. Don't foolishly sacrifice it "to the children": you won't be doing them a favor. The best gift you can give them is the shelter of a solid marriage.
You and your wife are peers. Indeed, you must "submit to one another in Christ." But at the same time, remember your headship, and when necessary insist on it.
Seek the concrete advice of older, more experienced fathers. Find ways to meet them. Organize "fathers' discussion groups" and invite them.
Pass on something you know to your children. If for example you are a carpenter, and you teach no child the art of carpentry, how sad is that! If you are a banker and your child remains financially a simpleton, you have failed.
Have the right ambitions for your children. Do not mislead them by signaling to them that your happiness is that they get into a prestigious university. Make it unmistakably clear that your only wish is that they be good, and strong, and just, and prudent. Meanwhile, pray for their vocations.
Read aloud to your children. Pick big books that take weeks to read, so that you "live a life" with them through that book. "The Lord of the Rings." "The Count of Monte Cristo." For younger children, "Narnia" and the "Little House" books.
Do not waste time yourself and insist that they waste not a minute of time. Ban video games -- because they waste the gift of life.
Admit no double-standard in entertainment. There are no "adult movies." Your unanswerable argument should be, "Would your mother or father watch such a film?"
Take your daughters on dates and your sons on adventures, one-on-one. Be convinced there is nothing better you can do than spend time with your children.
Be alert to how your relationship to your children must change when they change from a "pack" of little ones, who effortlessly go along with whatever you say, to budding adults who want to begin to relate to you as quasi-equal friends. And then you must treat them as you would want to be treated.
Keep in mind always the adult you want them to be and raise them to become that adult: do not seek to freeze them in childhood.
Raise your children to be conversant with the world. Put the Wall Street Journal on the breakfast table each morning: they will develop the habit of reading it. Yet, teach them to be savvy in interpreting "news."
Let them see you at work. Find ways to bring them to your workplace if they cannot see you as a serious worker at home. They need to understand why other adults admire you.
In family life, appeal frequently to what Our Lord taught. Make it clear that the word of the Lord sets the standard of your household. But to do so, you must be familiar with the life of the Lord, so that you live your own life on his pattern.
Tell them that you are sorry if you make a mistake or go to excess. If you lose your temper or do something foolish -- in front of everyone -- admit your mistake.

- Michael Pakaluk, an Aristotle scholar and Ordinarius of the Pontifical Academy of St. Thomas Aquinas, is a professor in the Busch School of Business at the Catholic University of America. He lives in Hyattsville, MD, with his wife Catherine, also a professor at the Busch School, and their eight children. His latest book is "Mary's Voice in the Gospel of John." You may follow him on X (twitter) @michael_pakaluk.


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