Excerpted from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy “…the moral philosophy of Immanuel Kant (1785, 1788, 1797) … Indeed, most contemporary discussions of respect for persons explicitly claim to rely on, develop, or challenge some aspect of Kant’s ethics. Central to Kant’s ethical theory is the claim that all persons are owed respect just because they are persons, that is, free rational beings. To be a person is to have a status and worth that is unlike that of any other kind of being: it is to be an end in itself with dignity. And the only response that is appropriate to such a being is respect. Respect (that is, moral recognition respect) is the acknowledgment in attitude and conduct of the dignity of persons as ends in themselves. Respect for such beings is not only appropriate but also morally and unconditionally required: the status and worth of person is such that they must always be respected.”
Emmanuel Kant, the eighteenth century philosopher sounds quite Catholic in his views. Of course neither did he give, nor should we expect any modern day philosopher to, credit Jesus Christ who over 2000 years prior taught us of the dignity of and our responsibility to respect the human person. Why is it today that respect seems to be an endangered act or concept? The respect for and dignity of human life is no longer universally accepted but subject to personal whims, circumstances and opinion. Respect for the elderly is becoming a public debate issue. The Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist is respected and believed by only 30% of self-described Catholics. Police officers, the justice system, and authority in general is often disrespected in today’s society. And parents and grandparents many times are not given due respect, whether in a specific instance or more generally, by their children and/or grandchildren.
God gave each of us the unique gifts of free will and of reason. Thus we have the freedom to choose good or evil, right or wrong, and wise or unwise, and respect or dis-respect. Thus, disciplining our children is the process or act of “educating them in the right use of their reason and freedom” as said so elegantly in Catechism paragraph 2228. And so the question is, how do we educate and/or discipline our children first to respect and then to obey out of respect for our requests of them? And/or, if you already have some issue where your children/grandchildren do not appropriately respect you or your wife or another family member, what are some strategies to change or modify their understanding and their respect?
NOTE: In 2012/2013 the topic regarding Disciplining Your Children focused on methods of discipline used by men and their families in the Fathers Team. For 2013/2014 we re-use this topic and change the perspective from discipline methodologies to the perspective of discipline within the context of respect as discussed in the Catechism teachings that accompany this topic.
1. Matthew 21; 28-32 – The Parable of the Two Sons.*
“What is your opinion? A man had two sons. He came to the first and said, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’ He said in reply, ‘I will not,’ but afterwards he changed his mind and went. The man came to the other son and gave the same order. He said in reply, ‘Yes, sir,’ but did not go. ‘Which of the two did his father’s will?” They answered, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you. ‘When John came to you in the way of righteousness, you did not believe him; but tax collectors and prostitutes did. Yet even when you saw that, you did not later change your minds and believe him.’
2. Hebrews 12 7-11
7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers to discipline us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time at their pleasure, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
1. Paragraph 2214
The divine fatherhood is the source of human fatherhood; this is the foundation of the honor owed to parents. The respect of children, whether minors or adults, for their father and mother is nourished by the natural affection born of the bond uniting them. It is required by God’s commandment.
2. Paragraph 2215
Respect for parents (filial piety) derives from gratitude toward those who, by the gift of life, their love and their work, have brought their children into the world and enabled them to grow in stature, wisdom, and grace. “With all your heart honor your father, and do not forget the birth pangs of your mother. Remember that through your parents you were born; what can you give back to them that equals their gift to you?”
3. Paragraph 2216
Filial respect is shown by true docility and obedience. “My son, keep your father’s commandment, and forsake not your mother’s teaching. . . . When you walk, they will lead you; when you lie down, they will watch over you; and when you awake, they will talk with you.” “A wise son hears his father’s instruction, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.”
4. Paragraph 2228
Parents’ respect and affection are expressed by the care and attention they devote to bringing up their young children and providing for their physical and spiritual needs. As the children grow up, the same respect and devotion lead parents to educate them in the right use of their reason and freedom.
Small Group Questions
1. Is there anything you can take home and use for child discipline in your family?
2. Have we strayed too far from common sense discipline to the new age – ‘let the child express themselves’ approach? Are we letting kids grow up without realistic boundaries?
3. How do you and your wife do in agreeing (ahead of time) on discipline approaches for the kids?
4. How does discipline change from toddler – to adolescent – to teenager?
5. Is positive discipline a possibility with a large family? Is it unrealistic?
All resources were found by internet searching and are not necessarily Catholic sources and/or may not necessarily conform to Catholic teachings.
1. Consider discussing an aspect of your relationship with your children where there has been in the past or where there is currently an issue with their respect toward you, your wife or toward another family member. What did you do about it and what was the outcome?
2. What will you and your wife do differently in the future to better transmit the importance of respect from your children or grandchildren?
Reid Rooney, updated 8/16/2013 by Andrew Schmitt