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5 practical parenting tips from Sts. Louis & Zelie Martin, saints who raised saints

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The best part is you might already be stellar at a couple of these.

Is your child difficult to discipline? Do your kids copy all of your bad habits? Are you worried about your temper-tantrum prone toddler?

Well, you are not alone. Sts. Louis and Zelie Martin, parents of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, had these same struggles and had to discern what to do.

Sure, they turned out to be the saint-parents of saint-children, but parenting wasn’t easy for them either, and they didn’t always have the right answers.

What they did do was persevere, and keep struggling to meet the needs of their children, raising them in a household of love.

Here are five helpful parenting tips from these holy parents of the Little Flower, which can help us today as we struggle to raise virtuous children in the modern world.

Dedicate each child to God from the very beginning

Zelie had a custom immediately after every birth of dedicating each child to God, using the following prayer.

Lord, grant me the grace that this child may be consecrated to You, and that nothing may tarnish the purity of its soul.

While the fruits of this dedication were not immediately evident, it reveals how she was intentional in her parenting style. She wanted all of her kids to become saints, but didn’t wait around to start working toward that. She knew that “now” was the best time to get started.

Love your children with superabundant amounts of affection

It is easy to forget how much our children need love — lots of it. Louis and Zelie loved their children with great affection, making sure their children knew the great love they had for them. Celine Martin wrote about her father, “Hard as he was on himself, he was always affectionate towards us. His heart was exceptionally tender towards us. He lived for us alone. No mother’s heart could surpass his.”

One way that Louis did this was by using little nicknames for his children that showed his particular love for them. He called Marie, “the diamond”; Pauline, “the fine pearl”; Celine, “the dauntless one”; “good-hearted Léonie”; and Thérèse, “the Little Queen” or “bouquet.”

Don’t give up if your child is difficult

Zelie reassured her brother in a letter not to worry if a young child was hard to manage.

Do not be uneasy if you find your little Jeanne manifesting a temper. That will not prevent her from growing up to be an excellent child later on, and even to be your consolation. I remember how Pauline, up to the age of two, was the same, and how distressed I was about her–and now she is my best. But I must tell you that I did not spoil her, either. Little as she was, I let her get away with nothing.

Pauline was not the only child in the Martin family to create parenting stress. Both Thérèse and her sister Léonie greatly distressed Zelie. However, Zelie and Louis didn’t give up and continued to struggle, even though their work seemed fruitless at the time.

Be an example of charity for your children

Our children follow our every move, both the good and the bad. Louis and Zelie did what they could to model for their children how to treat others. Celine wrote how her father was patient with others, even when they were harsh with him.

Once he went with me to collect the house-rent from a tenant; it was in the main street of Lisiuex. The woman refused to pay, and ran after him crying insulting things. I was horrified, but he remained calm and made no reply at all, and he did not complain about her afterwards.

How can we expect our children to be patient and kind to other people when we do not first model it for them?

Play with your children

Nowadays it is too easy to set your child in front of a screen and hardly ever play with them. However, sometimes our children need our attention, even in the realm of play. Celine wrote of her mother, “She even willingly played with us, at the risk of having her own day’s work prolonged to midnight or after.” Louis joined in the games as well, often making little toys for his children, making up games and singing songs with them.

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