It is a profound truth that nothing is created evil. At the beginning of Genesis, God looked at creation and saw that it was good; and He looked at mankind and saw that it was very good.

From this the theologians have realised that evil is typically the seeking of one good (say, happiness) in ways that are opposed to other goods (say, truthfulness). Thus a child may tell a lie to stay out of trouble. The child’s intention (happiness) is a good one: it is in fact God’s ultimate plan for us. But the means he or she uses are not good: and that is damaging both to the child and to the good he or she seeks. Ultimately we will not be happy if we build our lives on lies rather than truth.

So one of our roles as Catholic Dads is to help our kids to understand the right relationship between various goods; in particular to help them to look at the longer term good rather than be seduced by short-term pleasures.

Otherwise we spoil our children; quite literally: we ruin them. If we indulge their short term desires and teach them that that is the way to live, we deny them the development in maturity that they will need if they are to grow spiritually (and emotionally and psychologically, come to that).

This project is, of course, totally at odds with the culture in which we find ourselves. A consumer culture relies on us striving to make ourselves happy by acquiring things – and also relies on us not being happy each time we do so, so that we move on to our next purchase.

In the same way, fidelity and life-giving monogamy are the God-given and time-tested ways to achieve something approaching lasting happiness in human love. But our culture hates our bearing witness to that truth, as it implies that the path of self-fulfilment through ever-changing romantic relationships is in fact childish and perverse – as it is.

One of the most important ways to help our children develop the necessary virtues is to teach them to practice self-denial. That builds the habitual ability to say no to the immediate gratification of desires, in the knowledge that the future will be better as a result. It can start early, with our approach to food, bedtimes, TV watching and so on. Then as they grow, we can let it develop in other areas of their lives.

And kids get this stuff: they know that an athlete who fails to train, eats junk food and parties all night is not going to be able to perform.

Once kids understand that the laws of the Church are the same as the rules a coach might give an athlete, we have made some real progress: if you want this prize, then here’s how to win it.

As we persevere down this path, they will start to enjoy it: they learn to love salad, early rising, occasional treats rather than perpetual indulgence. Life has more flavour and more variety.

And as with everything we try to teach our kids, personal example is the pre-requisite. Unless we live lives of self-denial and spiritual discipline, we cannot reasonably expect them to do so. Sometimes, it is important to have things as standards within your household: the way we do things here. But it is also sometimes best not parade these things in front of them, but let them discover them over time – say when they ask specifically what we do for charity. In that way they feel that they are entering ever deeper into understanding what Catholic life is really like.

So that’s the challenge for this week: to consider how we can teach our kids the right relationships between competing goods: the short term and the long term, the transient and the eternal…

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