Pope Francis: Parents must “re-assume fully their educational role”

At his General Audience yesterday, Pope Francis encouraged parents to not “exile themselves from the education of their children”, but to take responsibility of educating their children, in partnership with schools and teachers.

Continuing his weekly catechesis on the family, the Holy Father focused on the importance of the education of children, “an essential characteristic of the family” and the family’s “natural vocation”. Parents, he said, in spite of challenges – like work and even separation from each other – must put in effort to nurture the child: “It is difficult for parents to educate their children when they see them only in the evening, when they return home tired from work – those who have the good fortune of having work! It is even more difficult for separated parents, who are weighed down by their condition: poor souls, they have had difficulties, they have separated and so often the child is taken as hostage and the father speaks badly to him of his mother and the mother speaks badly to him of the father … they must not be used as hostages against the other spouse. They must grow hearing the mother speak well of the father, even though they are not together, and the father speaking well of the mother. For separated parents this is very important and very difficult, but they can do it.”

The pope lamented the rupture between the family and school. “Today the educational pact has been broken. And thus, the educational alliance of society with the family has entered into crisis because reciprocal trust has been undermined. The symptoms are many … At times there are tensions and mutual mistrust and the consequences naturally fall on the children”. On the other hand, he said, “the so-called ‘experts’ have multiplied, who have taken the role of parents even in the most intimate aspects of education. On emotional life, on personality and on development, on rights and duties the ‘experts’ know everything: objectives, motivations, techniques. And parents must only listen, learn and adapt themselves. Deprived of their role, they often become excessively apprehensive and possessive in dealing with their children, to the point of not correcting them ever: ‘You can’t correct your child’. They tend increasingly to entrust them to the ‘experts’, even for the most delicate and personal aspects of their life, putting themselves in the corner, and thus parents today run the risk of excluding themselves from the life of their children. And this is very grave!” He continued: “Evidently this approach is not good: it isn’t harmonious, it isn’t dialogic, and instead of fostering collaboration between the family and the other educational agencies, the school, it opposes them”.

Pope Francis reminded us that “Christian communities are called to offer support to the educational mission of families”, citing St Paul’s exhortation for the reciprocity of duties between parents and children: “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged” (Colossians 3:20-21). “At the base of everything is love”, he said.

Finally, he lauded the many “wonderful examples we have of Christian parents full of human wisdom”, who “show that a good family education is the spinal cord of humanism”. Asking the Lord to “give Christian families the faith, the freedom and the courage necessary for their mission”, he challenged parents to “return from their exile … and re-assume fully their educational role”.

Read the Holy Father’s catechesis here.