8 Parenting lessons we learned from Pope Francis
Pope Francis is known as a man of several admirable traits and is a good leader. Here are 8 parenting lessons that we've picked up from him.
When Jorge Mario Bergoglio became Pope Francis on March 13, 2013, no one could have predicted how big of an impact he would have on millions of people around the world.
Regardless of their age, religion or creed, people admire the Pope for being a man who has spent the last year or two doing whatever he could do to promote peace and unity.
Pope Francis has proven himself to be a man of several admirable traits, and has taught lessons that have touched millions of lives and that we, as parents, can adopt into our own when dealing with our children.
Listed below are some tips and parenting lessons that we learned from Pope Francis:
1. You are your child’s parent, do what you think is best for him
According to Jeffrey A. Krames, author of Lead with Humility: 12 Leadership Lessons from Pope Francis, when Pope Francis was a young boy, he became very ill.
The nurse who was taking care of him at the time, was instructed to give him a certain dosage of antibiotics but made the decision to increase it, because she knew from experience that if she didn’t, the then young Pope Francis would die.
This is a personal anecdote that the Pope shared with regards to “living on the frontier”, but it is applicable to parents too. As parents, we constantly receive advice as to how to parent our child.
But remember, at the end of the day, what you do with your child is up to you. If bottle feeding is easier for you and your baby versus breastfeeding, then go ahead and do so.
If your child isn’t ready for school and still has much to learn before stepping into the classroom, then don’t feel less of a parent if you decide to wait for the next school while his peers enroll for this year.
As a parent, you know your child well enough to know what’s best for him. While feedback from other people may be taken into consideration during decision-making, you will always have the last word.
2. Lead by example
When he was still the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Pope Francis would recruit priests to go to the city’s most dangerous slums. Despite the collar offering little to no protection for priests, Pope Francis would visit said slums to drink tea with the residents and to visit local priests.
According to Krames, in 2009, one of the priests kept receiving death threats after speaking out against drug use in one of the slums.
The then-Archbishop would walk the streets providing himself as a target for anyone who wanted to retaliate, miraculously, he left the slum unharmed and the priest who spoke out was never bothered again.
While this specific scenario isn’t something you’d find a parent and child in, it’s still a very profound example of leading by example. We often tell our children to do certain things that we ourselves are guilty of not doing.
Case in point, how many times have you told your child not to lie but have been caught telling a white lie or two?
When we contradict what we teach our children with the things we say and do, we send them mixed signals and add to their confusion as to what is right and what is wrong.
3. Play with your children
In a published interview in Argentinian publication, “Viva”, Pope Francis said, "Consumerism has brought us anxiety" and stress, causing people to lose a "healthy culture of leisure." Their time is "swallowed up" so people can't share it with anyone.”
“Even though many parents work long hours, they must set aside time to play with their children; work schedules make it complicated, but you must do it,” he said.
Childdevelopmentinfo.com agrees with this sentiment and re-enforces it by saying that, “Playing with kids builds a bond that will last forever. It lets the child know he or she is loved and appreciated. It opens the door for sharing problems and concerns when the need arises. It helps the parent get to know and under the uniqueness of each child. It is also great stress reducer for overworked parents.”
Tip: No matter how tired you are, make it a point to play or chat with your child as soon as you come home. It can be for as little as 10 minutes, or better, even longer. By doing so, you show your child that you prioritize them and makes them feel love and wanted.
4. Communication with loved ones is important
If there is one thing that the Pope is most admired for, it’s his willingness to communicate with different kinds of people regardless of their religion, age and creed.
He values communication so much and thinks that it is the basis of a good relationship that (with regards to families) he’s said, “Families must turn off the TV when they sit down to eat because, even though television is useful for keeping up with the news, having it on during mealtime doesn't let you communicate with each other”.
Tip: Talk to your child about their day, their other activities and listen to what they have to say without interrupting, or you can respond when asked to.
According to the State of New York’s Department of Health, “Effective communication is the basis for developing healthy and mutually rewarding child-to-child relationships and adult-to-child relationships… When you pay attention to children and encourage communication, you help children create a positive view of themselves and the world they live in."
5. It’s the little things that count
In January 2014, Pope Francis made headlines over the simplest thing: he left a voice message greeting a small community of Carmelite nuns in Spain, “Happy new year!”
It was endearing for many that Pope Francis, leader of the Catholic Church, one of the world’s busiest men, had time to do something so seemingly random for people that he didn’t personally know.
Who knew that such a simple act of random kindness would make international waves?
As a parent, your children look up to you. You are their equivalent of the Catholic Church’s Pope Francis.
As an adult, you may be understandably busy providing for your family that there may be instances when spending time with your child might be pushed aside. However, make it a point to make your child feel loved or that you’re thinking of them.
Tip: Leave your child little love notes in their lunch bags, call them at home while you’re at work or by praise them for the smallest things. You’d be amazed as to how big a smile your child will have when you do these little acts of love.
6. Sunday is for family
Pope Francis time and time again has emphasized the importance of families spending time together, which is why he was adamant that workers be given Sunday off.
Sunday is not just a day meant to spend with your children, but it may serve as your rest day. As a time for you to recharge in preparation for the oncoming week and is a day wherein you can spend time with your spouse.
In taking time off to rest and to take care of yourself, you recharge yourself enough to be mentally, physically and emotionally there for your family.
On the other hand, it is important that you spend time with your spouse to as “getting enough couple time builds intimacy, opens communication and strengthens your bond, which in turn strengthens your marriage”.
7. Respond, don’t react
In a list of tips that he gave on how to achieve happiness, Pope Francis mentions “proceeding calmly” in life: he said that individuals should have the “ability to move with kindness and humility”.
This is applicable to how parents deal with their children. When your child does something wrong, do not be quick to react in anger, to scold or to discipline them. Instead, empathize with your child and learn to respond calmly and with kindness.
Depending on the gravity of the situation, choosing to respond calmly and with kindness does not make you less of an authority, but makes you a parent who knows that reacting in a certain way will do more damage than good.
8. “Don't proselytize; respect others' beliefs”
While Pope Francis was referring to people respecting each other despite their difference in religion, this is applicable in parenting.There may be times wherein you and your spouse may not agree on how to discipline your child, or how to deal with a situation.
No matter what though, it is important to talk about it and to reach a compromise versus badgering your spouse as to why you are correct and why your method should be followed.
This should also be kept in mind when you meet parents who raise their children differently from the way you raise yours. You may feel that a parent is being too strict or too lenient.
If you are really good friends, you can prudently voice out your opinion, but do not push it.
Do you have any parenting lessons that you feel that you got from Pope Francis? Let us know by leaving us a message in the comments sections below!
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