Painting by John Arthur Elsley

From Questions Parents Ask About Their Children, Fr. Donald Miller, C.SS.R., 1950’s

At what age should a child be taught the facts of life?  

The boy or girl should be taught the facts of life from the dawn of reason on. Not all at once of course, but gradually, as interest awakens, questions are asked, and the child’s physical development calls for preparation through knowledge and information.

The trouble with most parental explanations of sex — if such explanation is given at all — is that it is usually given all at one time; and it is given either too early (this is rarely the case) or too late (this is too frequently the case).

The correct procedure is to allow the instruction to grow with and out of the child’s development. When he is approaching a physical crisis in his life, the crisis should be explained in advance. When he comes up with a question about these facts, the question should be answered in a way suited to his age.

The big developments in his life should be explained as they arise and in a casual and informal manner.

Sex instruction should be in other words matter of fact, gradual, suited to the development of the child, designed to meet and satisfy and allay his curiosities, and be presented as naturally and as simply as God intended all life to be.

I intend to instruct and train my boy, but I don’t want to nag him.  

Instructing is an art. Nagging is an abuse. Instructing is crisp, brief, pointed, personal, effective. Nagging is slow, iterated, querulous, dull, ineffective.

Correction should be given all at once — and then dropped quickly.   Nagging goes on and on.

Right correction distinguishes between things that are important and that need amending. Nagging is constantly to dog the child, to make little distinction between what is really important and what merely annoys the parent.

Correction should make a sharp impact upon the guilty.   Nagging is like the slow madness of the Chinese water torture — drip, drip, drip, until the victim thinks he is going mad.

Instruction, training, correction are blessed arts.   Nagging is a nasty nuisance.

If a sixteen-year-old daughter has never brought up the subject of sex, never asked questions about it, is it advisable for a parent to bring the subject up first?

Not answering the question right now . . . . I am reminded of the mother whose little girl, five, came to her and said: “Mommy, where did I come from?” The mother sighed. Now was the time, she felt, to answer honestly the question she had been asked.

So she said, solemnly, “Since you want to know, sit down and mummy will tell you.” And she did, in considerable detail.

At the end the child looked very bored and said, “Well I just wanted to know. The little girl next door said she came from Pittsburgh.”

As for the question . . . . . I’m afraid once more that sixteen is too, too late for the start of much intelligent instruction.

It may be that the girl is totally incurious. That is rare.   It may be that she had got instructions from other sources. These may have been very bad . . . . imperfect and incomplete . . . . . totally misleading . . . . , or correct.

Even if the last eventuality is true, the parents come with their explanations very tardily. If the other eventualities are true, the situation is worse.

A wise mother seeing a situation like this and realizing that up to the present she has not been wise at all might frankly ask the girl if she had any questions about birth and children that she wanted answered. If the mother is careful and observant, the daughter’s answer may be the mother’s lead.

She will know from the child’s apathy, embarrassment, quick flight, or frank interest what her assignment is.

It seems to me totally unnatural for children to discuss marriage with their parents.

A prolonged and detailed discussion of the sex relation by parents and adolescent children . . . . , that would be difficult.

A careful preparation by the parents of the children for the children’s physical development and future sex experiences . . . . . what could be more right and natural?

A discussion of the joys and obligations, the possibilities, the difficulties and delights of parenthood and home management, the happy associations of a good man and a virtuous wife . . . . these seem to me charming and gracious and wonderfully helpful.

To Mothers: “Instead of setting yourself up as a model of wisdom, it is much wiser for you to act the role of guide and confidante. This gives your child a much better feeling of security and fulfills your destiny of mother as well, because your children then find you a real individual in your own right. Personal success and happiness in life come only in the knowledge of our usefulness to others; as a mother, you have this opportunity in your own home at all times. You need not look elsewhere where for it.” – Fr. Lawrence G. Lovasik. The Catholic Family Handbook http://amzn.to/2ChxzZA (afflink)

Be humble and your home will be a happier place! 🏡Wonderful sermon!

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book suggestions

To the modern mind, the concept of poverty is often confused with destitution. But destitution emphatically is not the Gospel ideal. A love-filled sharing frugality is the message, and Happy Are You Poor explains the meaning of this beatitude lived and taught by Jesus himself. But isn’t simplicity in lifestyle meant only for nuns and priests? Are not all of us to enjoy the goodness and beauties of our magnificent creation? Are parents to be frugal with the children they love so much?

For over half a century, Catholic families have treasured the practical piety and homespun wisdom of Mary Reed Newland’s classic of domestic spirituality, The Year and Our Children. With this new edition, no longer will you have to search for worn, dusty copies to enjoy Newland’s faithful insights, gentle lessons, and delightful stories. They’re all here, and ready to be shared with your family or homeschooling group. Here, too, you’ll find all the prayers, crafts, family activities, litanies, and recipes that will help make your children ever-mindful of the beautiful rhythm of the Church calendar.

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