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Jeremy McLellanSeptember 29, 2020

1. Submit to God. As a Catholic parent, your goal should be to see your child’s will consecrated to God. This is not the same as consecrating their will to you. That is called abuse.

2. Get your child vaccinated against original sin. A priest can help with this. Make sure you record it on video so you know it is not a placebo vaccine. If enough children in your neighborhood get baptized, herd immunity develops, which helps protect pagan children.

3. Do not project adult psychology onto your child. Children are not “manipulative.” They are not trying to ruin your day or night or life. They are not having a “temper tantrum” the way adults do when told they need to wear a mask in grocery stores. They literally do not understand their emotions, and it is incredibly hard.

2. Get your child vaccinated against original sin. A priest can help with this.

4. Making your child your therapist is a terrible choice. Your children cannot fix you. It is not their job to comfort, soothe or make you less lonely. If you go to them to fulfill your own needs, it will damage them and you. Their only job is to be children.

5. There is nothing wrong with misunderstanding or arguing with your children. This struggle does not signify that you are failing as a parent; it is how they learn to communicate their emotions and needs. If you could read their minds they would never learn to talk.

6. Get some noise-canceling headphones or earplugs for when your baby is screaming, especially if you have sensory issues or anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder. You will still hear your baby, but it will take the edge off. 

3. Making your child your therapist is a terrible choice. Your child cannot fix you.

7. Dads, be physically affectionate with your children, especially your boys. Make eye contact and smile. Strength comes from inner security, which comes from the knowledge that the world is fundamentally good. This is what Jesus saw in the face of his parents. Remember that your child’s understanding of their relationship to the world will come from their interactions with you and your spouse. Is the world chaotic and confusing, impossible to navigate? Or is it loving and good? (Read Hans Urs von Balthasar on Jesus and the face of Mary.)

8. Do not draft your children (or allow them to be drafted by others) into the culture wars. If your toddler is terrified of President Trump or talking about abortion, something has gone wrong. Give them a foundation of virtues and values they can later use to make political judgments.

9. Liberals: Do not be afraid to adopt traditional gender roles. Relationships need clear roles, and there is nothing wrong with using traditional ones as the default and adapting as you go. Conservatives: Do not be afraid to adapt. Roles were made for man, not man for roles.

10. Never scold your child in front of other people—especially in front of other children and particularly their friends. Take them aside and speak to them alone. This will prevent humiliation, and they will be more receptive because they are not trying to save face. (This is true for adults as well but especially children.)

11. When you restrict your child’s freedom they will often try to exercise their agency in ways that do not make sense to you as a parent. This can be a source of much confusion for parents. Example: You turn the TV off so they start demanding a waffle or wanting to change their shirt. Let them do this!

12. In fact, it is a great habit when restricting their freedom to offer them another way to exercise their agency. This will prevent so many problems. “It’s time to leave the pond and go home. Do you want to walk or ride in the stroller?”

[Podcast: How living in L’Arche made Jeremy McLellan a better person (and funnier comedian)]

13. Do not micromanage how your child interacts with others or apologize for them when they talk to strangers. It is totally fine for your kids to talk to strangers. Just make sure you are nearby.

14. Make sure your kids know that “feelings are for feeling.” They need to learn from experience that strong feelings have a natural cycle of rise, peak and decline. Try to be with them during their tantrums instead of shutting them down.

15. Understand risk. Let your child take as many small risks as possible, where the downside is small. Meanwhile, do everything you can to bring their “risk of ruin” (death, permanent injury) to zero. Many parents get this backward.

16. Put your phone by your child when you drive. This will keep you from texting and, when you arrive at your destination, prevent you from leaving your kid in the car.

16. Put your phone by your child when you drive. This will keep you from texting and, when you arrive at your destination, prevent you from leaving your kid in the car.

17. While we are at it, kids are not “obsessed with your phone.” They are obsessed with you, you are obsessed with your phone, and they want to see what you keep paying attention to more than them.

18. Try not to compare your kids to other kids. The goal is for them to keep moving forward. Avoiding comparison will help them see other kids and siblings as comrades instead of enemies. Even in capitalism, the vast majority of economic activity is about cooperation, not competition.

19. Multi-tasking does not work with kids. Playing blocks while you are scrolling through Twitter is a recipe for disaster. If you can, block off chunks of time to focus on just them. Take shifts with your spouse. Better to take some breaks from your kids for a few hours than be with them 24/7, constantly frustrated.

20. Ask for help. The nuclear family is good, but it cannot survive without the extended family or a generous community of other parents willing to pitch in.

I hope this has been helpful. If you disagree with any of it, don’t worry. It probably just means you are a bad parent. And that’s O.K.! It makes the rest of us look good.

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