Raised to Love

Parenting is a team sport.

This charming conversation reminds us that no one parent has all the answers. We all have qualities essential for family life. And we all have weakspots and bad days. Humility is a key. One school chaplain who has helped many marriages never tires of telling parents, 'Humility is the most important virtue for a parent'. Nobody knows all the answers.

'Humility is the most important virtue for a parent.'

Fr Frank Garcia

Humility opens us for true communication. When we think we know better, we don't listen. And a poor listener is a poor parent... and a poor spouse. Did you hear the words of Roger Federer after, seemingly heartbreakingly,losing that 13-12 fifth set, Wimbledon final this year? The interviewer said, 'And now you go back to being a father?' Roger replied, 'I go back to being a father and a husband.' All good parenting starts with united parents. United, at the very least, in everything related to their parenting.

The bottom line is that unless we are attentive to others, we can fall into the individualism, that is the opposite of genuine care and affection, and ultimately of justice and love. We owe others our best. This is a timeless principle. The great thinker Plato wrote, 'Justice in the life and conduct of the State is possible only as it first resides in the hearts and souls of the citizens.' Our attitudes at home must play out in the public square and at work. In even more specific fashion, Cicero proclaimed that ‘The first bond of society is marriage.’ Augustine along the same lines, taught that family is the first source of peace in the state. An astute nineteenth century French social analyst wrote, 'Tell me what kind of family you have and I’ll tell you what kind of society you have.' The bottom line is that parents need to be united otherwise society suffers. And sadly, this is exactly what we are seeing in Australia today.

'Tell me what kind of family you have and I’ll tell you what kind of society you have.'

Frederic Le Play

Fathers do matter, so parental unity is a must

Research published by a team led by Elena Mariani in the European Journal of Population in May 2017, in a study entitled 'Family Trajectories and Well-being of Children Born to Lone Mothers in the UK' found that children who are not raised in a home with both biological parents in their first seven years are disadvantaged by health measures and both cognitively and socio-emotionally in their development. In reviewing the literature they found, 'Most ...studies argued that children who grow up in a household with two married biological parents do better overall than those growing up with a single mother, and that parental separation is negatively associated with a variety of child outcomes. Overall, the evidence suggests that there is a negative association between the father's absence and child well-being.'

Strategies that work

Some mums and dads look forward to a chat at a fixed time every day, each breaking their work to show their true priorities. Other dads and mums go for a walk, barring hurricanes, every night after dinner. One dad, with a most stressful job, was so appreciative of a sympathetic ear on arriving home each night. Another was careful to compose himself into the right frame of mind on arriving home, realising that his first five minutes of attention, or inattention, will speak volumes about his priorities. Another dad whose wife was chronically unwell, would resolutely drop everything to be back for peak hour. What do you do?

* Good listeners usually prefer to listen. Do you prefer to talk or listen? * Do you schedule time daily to talk with your better half about your children? * Are you the first to apologise when there is a tiff? Humility is quick to admit its own faults. And it is always two way. * Do you pull down the shutters and stop communicating in certain situations? * Do your thoughts go many times each day to the needs of your spouse?