A child's upbringing commences at the moment of its conception child's upbringing commences at the moment of its conception. The embryo hears and feels in its mothers womb. Yes, it hears and it sees with its mother's eyes. It isaware of her movements and her emotions, even though its mind has not developed. If the mother's face darkens,it darkens too. If the motheris irritated, then it becomes irritated also. Whatever the mother experiences - sorrow, pain, fear, anxiety, etc. - is also experienced by the embryo.
If the mother doesn'twant the child, if she doesn't love it, then the embryo senses this and traumas are created in its little soul that accompany it all its life. The opposite occurs through the mother's holy emotions. When she is filled with joy, peace and love for the embryo, she transmits these things to it mystically, just as happens to children that have been born. For this reason a mother must pray a lotduring her pregnancy and love the child growing within her, caressingher abdomen, reading psalms, singing hymns and living a holy life. This is also for her own benefit. But she makes sacrifices for the sake of the embryoso that the child will become more holy and will acquire from the very outset holy foundations. Do you see how delicate a matter it is for a woman to go through a pregnancy? Such a responsibility and such an honour!
I will tell you something about other animate and non-rational beings and you will understand what I mean. In America the following experiment was carried out: in two identical rooms which were kept at exactly the same temperature flowers were planted in identical soil and watered in exactly the same way. There was, however, one difference: in the one room gentle, soothing music was played. And the result? Theflowers in that roomdisplayed an enormous difference in relation to the flowers in the other room. They had a quite different vitality, their colours were more attractive andthey grew incomparably better.
What saves and makes for good children is the life of the parents in the home hat saves and makes for good children is the life of the parents in the home.
The parents need to devote themselves to the love of God. They need to become saints in their relation to their children through their mildness, patience and love. They need to makea new start every day, with a fresh outlook, renewed enthusiasm and love for their children. And the joy that will come to them, the holiness that will visit them, will shower grace on their children. Generally the parents are to blame for the bad behaviour of the children. And their behaviour is not improved by reprimands, disciplining, or strictness. If the parents do not pursue a life of holiness and if they don'tengage in spiritual struggle, they make great mistakes and transmit the faults they have within them. If the parents do not live aholy life and do not display love towards each other,the devil torments the parents with the reactions of the children. Love, harmony and understanding between the parents are what are required for the children. This provides a great sense of security and certainty.
The behaviour of the children is directly related to the state of the parents. When the children are hurt by the bad behaviour of the parents towards each other, they lose the strength and desire to progress in their lives. Theirlives are constructed shoddily and the edifice of their soul is in constant danger of collapsing. Let me give you two examples.
Two sisters came tosee me. One of them had gone through some very distressing experiences and they asked me what was the cause of these. I answered them: 'It's because of your home; it stems from your parents.' And as I looked at the girl I said: 'These are things you've inherited from your mother.' 'But,' she said, 'my parents are such perfect people. They're Christians,they go to confession, they receive Communion and we had a religious upbringing. Unless it is religion that is toblame...' I said to them: 'I don't believe a word of all that you're telling me. I see one tiling only,and that is that your parents don't live with the joy of Christ.'
On hearing this, the other girl said: 'Listen, Maria, the Father's quite right. Our parents go to confession and receive Holy Communion, but did we ever have any peace at home. Our father was constantly complaining about our mother. And every day either the one refused to sit at the table or the other refused to go out somewhere together. So you see what the Father is saying is true.' What's your father'sname?' I asked her, She told me. 'What's your mother's name?' She told me. 'Well,' I said, 'the feelings you've got inside you towards your mother are not at all good.' You see, the moment she told me her father's name I saw his soul, and the moment she told me her mother's name, I sawher mother and I saw the way her daughter looked at her.
Another day a mother came to visit me with one of her daughters. She was very distressed and broke down in tears. 'What's the matter?' I asked. 'I'm in total despairover my older daughter. She threw her husband out the house and deceived us all with a pack of lies.' 'What kind of lies?' I inquired. 'She threw her husband out the house ages ago and she didn't tell us anything. We would ask on the phone, "How's Stelios doing?', and she would reply, "Oh, he's fine. He's just gone out to buy a newspaper." Each time she would think up some new excuse so thatwe wouldn't suspect anything. And this went on for two whole years. A few days ago we learned the truth from Stelios himself when we bumped into himby chance.' So I said to her: 'The fault's your own. It's you that's to blame, you and your husband, but you most of all.' 'What do you mean!' she said indignantly. 'I loved my children to the point that I was never out of the kitchen. I had no life of my own at all. I took them to the church and I was always telling themthe right thing to do. How canyou say that I'm to blame?' I turned to her other daughter who was with her and asked: 'What do you think about the matter?' 'The Father's right, Mom,' she said. 'Wenever ever enjoyed a single day when you weren't quarrelling with Dad.'
'Do you see then, how I'm right? It is youthat are to blame. You traumatized the children. They are not to blame, but they are suffering the consequences.'
A psychological state is created in a child as a result of its parents that accompanies it throughout its life. Its later behaviour and its relationships with others are directly connected with the experiences that it carries withit from its childhood years. The child grows up and develops, but at bottom it does not change. This ismanifested even in the smallest expressions of life. For example, you get a craving forfood and want to eat. You take something and eat it, then you see something else and you want that. You feel hungry and think that if you don't eat you'll feel faint and you'll start to tremble. You're afraid you'll lose weight. This is a psychological state that has its explanation. Perhaps you never knew your father or your mother, and you feel deprived and hungry, poor andweak. And this psychological reality is expressed by way of reflex as a weaknessof the body.
A large part of the responsibility for a person's spiritual state lies with the family. For children to be released fromtheir various inner problems it is not enough for them to receive good advice, or to be compelled by force; nor do logical arguments or threats do any good. These things rather make matters worse. The solution is to be found through the sanctification of the parents. Becomesaints and you will have no problems with your children. The sanctity of their parents releases the children from their problems. Children want to have saintly people at their side, people with lots of love who will neither intimidate them nor lecture them, but who will provide a saintly example and pray for them. You parents shouldpray silently to Christ with upraised arms and embrace your children mystically. When they misbehave you will take some disciplinary measures, but you will not coerce them. Above all you need topray.
Parents, especially the mother, often cause hurt to a child for some act of misbehaviour by scolding it excessively. The child is thenwounded. Even if you don't scold the child outwardly but bristle with anger inwardly or look fiercely at the child, the child understands. The child believes that its mother doesn't love it and asks, 'Do you love me, Mummy?' The mother answers, 'Yes, dear,' but the child is not convinced. It has been wounded. The mother loves it, she'll caress it later, but the child will pull its head away. It refuses to becaressed, regarding this as hypocrisy because ithas been wounded.
Over-protectiveness leaves children immature
Another thing that harms children is over-protectiveness,that is, excessive care or excessive anxiety and worry on the part of the parents.
A mother used to complain to me that her five-year-old child was disobedient. 'It'syour fault,' I told her, but she didn't understand. Once I went for a walk bythe seaside with this mother along with the child. The little boy let go of his mother's hand and ran towards the sea.There was a sand dune thereand the sea camein directly behind it. The mother immediately reacted with anxiety and was about to s wards the boy who was standing on top of the dune with outstretched arms trying to keep his balance. I calmed herdown and told to her to turn her back on the boy while I kept an eye on him askance. When the boy despaired of provoking his mother's attention and causing her to
panic and scream asusual, he calmly climbed down
and walked towardsus. That was the end of it. Then the mother understood what I meant.
Another mother used to complain that her little boy wouldn't eat all his food, especially his yoghurt. The little one was aboutthree years old andtormented his mother every day. I said to her: 'What you should dois this. Empty the refrigerator completely and thenfill it with some yoghurt. When lunchtime comes you'll give Peter his yoghurt. He'll refuse to eat it. Inthe evening you'll give him it again and the samethe next day. In the end he'll get hungry and will try some. He'll throw a tantrum, but you'll just put up with it. There after he'll eat it quite happily.' That's just what happened and yoghurt became Peter's favourite food. These things aren't difficult, but many mothers are unable to do them and the result is that they give their children avery bad upbringing. Mothers who are always standing over their children and pressurizing them, that is, over-protecting them, have failed in their task. You need to leave the child alone to take an interest in its own progress. Then you will succeed. When you are always standing over them, the children react. They become lethargic and weak-willed and generally are unsuccessful in life. This is a kind of over-protectiveness that leaves the children immature.
A few days ago a mother came here in a state of despair because of her son's repeated failures in the university entrance exams. He had been an excellent pupil in elementary school and all the way through high school. But in the endhe failed repeatedly and showed indifferenceand had strange reactions. 'It's your fault,' I said to the mother, 'educated woman though youare! How else did you expect the boy to react? Pressure, pressure, pressure all these years, "Makesure you're top ofthe class, don't let us down, get yourself an important position in society..." Now he's thrown in thetowel; he doesn't want anything. Stop this pressure and over-protection andyou'll see that the boy will regain his equilibrium. He'll make progress once you let him be.'
A child needs to be surrounded by people who pray and pray ardently
A child needs to be surrounded by people who pray and pray ardently. A mother shouldnot be satisfied by giving her child a physical caress, but should also coddle it with the caress ofprayer. In the depths of its soul the child senses the spiritual caress that its mother conveys to it andis drawn to´her. It feels securityand certainty whenits mother mystically embracesit with constant, intense and fervent prayer andreleases it from whatever is oppressing it. Mothers know how to express anxiety, offer advice and talk incessantly, but they haven't learned to pray. Most advice and criticism does a great deal of harm.You don't need to say a lot to children. Words hammer at the ears, but prayer goes to the heart. Prayer is required, with faith and without anxiety, along with a good example.