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Parenting Rules to Live By

One of the best resources for Catholic parents (besides the Me & My House program, of course!) lives very close by. It is the mom and dad in the neighbourhood who are accumulating their wins and losses, all the while taking mental and conscious notes of them.

“We’ll never let our kids do that again!”

“We’ll definitely be doing that with our next child.”

Statements like these are gold.

They are nuggets of wisdom gleaned through hard earned experience. In many ways, they are like the final pages of a book that reveal whether all of the tedious pages before it are worth the effort.

Are you thinking about getting a tutor for your kids? About signing your children up for cadets, or making your ten year old more responsible for the family chores than your nine year old? Chances are that there are parents in your immediate vicinity who have considered doing these things, and even have a very strong opinion about them based on their experience.

In fact, I have come to see a most interesting pattern in the parenting world. Though I can’t be dogmatic about it, the principle generally holds that for every year that a man or woman is a parent, that same man or woman tucks away one very important parenting rule to live by. And if that same parent has more than one child, it is a safe bet that you can double the number of parenting rules they have acquired.

Think about that for a moment.

The principle generally holds that for every year that a man or woman is a parent, that same man or woman tucks away one very important parenting rule to live by.

That means that the mother of three down the road who has been parenting for five years probably has ten REALLY solid pieces of advice to give you about the early years of parenting.

It means that the couple up the street who have two teenagers could, if you pressed them for it, come up with two dozen or so insights that could really save you a lot of time.

So why aren’t more parents asking around?

Obviously, there is the trust issue.

Very few of us enjoy asking for help, let alone projecting an image of oneself that calls our authority to parent into question. After all, it’s one thing for self-doubt to enter into our heads, (Shouldn’t moms know this?) but it is altogether different to have others join in the song.


We wrongly believe that the only mothers to ask about mothering are the super moms, and the only fathers to ask about fathering are the superdads.

And when we look around ourselves for these types of parents, we have to admit that they are far and few in between.

Here’s a secret …

Every super parent I know (and I know quite a few) doesn’t discriminate on their sources.

In fact, more often than not, these parents want to know what the jailed father considers the best piece of advice to give to his sons.

These parents want to know what the woman from the broken family would do all over again if she got another crack at it.

And why would they want to know this?

For the simple reason that failure is often a better teacher than success. It hits us harder and leaves a mark that is difficult to ignore. And when it comes to parenting, arguably the most important job on the planet, we tend to look at what we could have done differently or better or both.

So if you haven’t yet, then I really encourage you to draw up your own list. If you have been a parent for three years then you should be able to articulate at least three really solid parenting rules to live by. If you have been a parent for ten years, then I expect to see at least ten rules. You get the gist.

However, once you finish, it is important that you take a look at what is NOT on your list.

Do you have a strong opinion about your kids’ dating? How about where kids should spend their money and the jobs that they should or should not be hired to do? There are an ocean of parenting rules to live by that are out there right now and held with deep conviction by moms and dads near you.

So go out and ask them, the perfect and the not so perfect parents. You might be surprised by what you learn.

in Christ,



Patrick Sullivan is a Catholic Speaker and the President of Evango, a Catholic Media Organization that seeks to build a culture of Catholic evangelization and missionary discipleship. Patrick travels internationally to speak at Catholic events, parenting conferences, and to lead retreats and parish renewal missions. He is the creator and host of Me & My House, the Catholic parenting program that is transforming how we minister to parents in our dioceses, parishes, and communities. Patrick lives in beautiful Barry’s Bay, Ontario with his loving wife, Kyla, and their nine children.

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