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Difficult teens? Look to St. Monica for inspiration


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Cerith Gardiner - published on 10/23/20

How a 4th-century saint is a modern-day parenting pro.

As my children have grown into young adults we’ve definitely had our ups and downs. When things were tricky I’d end up questioning my skills as a mom, and question who my kids were becoming. However, I’d inevitably take a leap of faith and believe (and pray fervently) that everything would work out in the end.

Of course, there’s no knowing what the future holds, or what path my kids will take. As much as I can try and guide them to what I believe is right for them, they’ll inevitably be confronted with situations that they’ll have to deal with themselves. My role is to make sure that they can always be guided back if they take the wrong path.

As my mother has shared with me countless times, we never stop being a parent, ever. As our kids get older we have to adopt a different parental role, which can be more conflict-ridden and have greater consequences, but our job is to hang on in there without giving up.

Interestingly one of the greatest examples of parenting a troublesome child doesn’t come from a forum or parenting book, but from a 4th-century African saint — St. Monica, the mother of the once wayward St. Augustine of Hippo, the ultimate bad boy who turned his life around.

St. Monica not only had to contend with her husband’s (and mother-in-law’s) violent flare ups, but also their annoyance at Monica’s deep Christian faith. Yet, Monica prayed for them, over and over, until her husband converted just before his death.

Meanwhile, her 17-year-old Augustine was far from being a model child. He was sent off to Carthage for an education, and as with so many adolescents, he came back home with very different views than his mother concerning religion. A devastated Monica kicked him out of the house.

However, thanks to a vision and spiritual guidance, Monica later appreciated that she needed to reconcile with her son and set about following him to Milan to try to convert him to Christianity. After many years, her determination paid off. Augustine turned away from his checkered past and converted to Christianity at 31, dedicating his life to Christ and becoming one of the most significant figures in the Church’s history.

St. Monica’s example is one every parent can cling to when times are tough. Her message is resoundingly clear: never give up on your child, at any age. With faith as your cornerstone, there is always hope.

If you are struggling with your teen, you can also look to these pearls of wisdom to help you get through these demanding years and take comfort that you’re not alone!

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