Excerpts from “Raising Children Who Will Hold Onto the Faith in Our Secular Age,” an article by Dr. Philip Mamalakis

“Raising Children Who Will Hold Onto the Faith in Our Secular Age” is an excellent article by Dr. Philip Mamalakis that was published in PRAXIS magazine’s Fall/Winter 2016 issue. This article is an invaluable resource to Orthodox Christian parents with children of all ages. It recently came to our attention once again, and we have found it so helpful that we have decided to share a few excerpts with the Orthodox Christian Parenting community.

“Will our kids hold onto the Faith? …It’s easy to be worried or scared for the future of the Church, the future of our country, and our kids’ future… The temptation, as parents, when we’re afraid, is to parent out of fear: to control, to restrict, to intensify our monitoring or warn our children of all the possible dangers. Parenting out of fear is destructive to our kids. If we parent out of fear, we pass along fear to our children, and they will hold onto fear as they go out into the world. What our kids really need is to have the judgement and the skills to navigate the dangers of life, and our goal must be to equip them with those skills and that judgement.

“If our faith is nothing more than going to church, our kids will understandably drop that empty ritual as soon as they leave and replace it with something else on Sunday mornings that is easier… If we want our kids to hold onto our faith when they leave, they have to have it deep in their hearts when it is time to go. It has to be their faith, not just ours. That is the goal of parenting.

“How do we raise kids who walk in the light of Christ? …How do we get them to believe and to follow? Well, the short answer is, ‘We don’t.’ That’s not our role as parents. ‘Our goal as parents is not to transmit faith; that is the work of divine grace, and our task is to foster the work of grace.’ (as Sister Magdalen wrote in Children in the Church Today.) …Our role as parents is to foster the work of grace, to provide the environment around our children so they grow up to internalize God, Christ and His Church, as good, true, and right.

“Creating the environment for our children to grow in faith is, in some ways, like a three-legged stool. For this stool to stand, each leg needs to be in place. Each leg is critically important, but no one leg alone is sufficient. Those three legs are: the life of the parent [how we live]; the parent-child relationship [how we relate to our children]; and the connection between the home and the Church [living as the Church of the home]. Each aspect of parenting is crucially important, but no one aspect alone is sufficient.”

The article goes on to expound on each of the “three legs” of the stool, and is well worth reading in its entirety. To inquire about this article or to subscribe to PRAXIS magazine, visit http://www.goarch.org/archdiocese/departments/religioused/praxis.

Here are some additional quotes from the article, as well as links to related resources:


“The home is our primary mission field… the home is the single greatest influence on our personhood! …I really do believe that the greatest influence that we will have on the world is our children… We are forming their hearts and their minds and their souls and these people will grow up to lead the world…” Listen to Dr. Philip Mamalakis’ excellent talk on the subject of raising children who will hold onto the Faith in our secular age here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2zO_sptqYVM


“Successful kids know deep within their hearts that they are loved by God and by us and desire to freely return that love. Our goal is to help our children to see themselves and others as children of God, as icons of Christ, as holy images of God (Genesis 1:26). This is real self esteem.” ~ Dr. Philip Mamalakis, “Raising Children Who Will Hold Onto the Faith in Our Secular Age,” PRAXIS, Fall/Winter 2016, pp. 33-34.


“The single most powerful ‘parenting tool’ we have is the way we live ourselves. Children learn the most from modeling their parents’ behaviors. …We’re not supposed to be perfect, because that’s impossible. However, when we fail, do we take responsibility for our mistakes…, repent and get back on track? Trying to be a perfect parent will teach perfectionism, which is a disease, but repentant parents model the path of repentance for our kids. Only when our kids see the values and virtues lived out in our lives are they able to internalize these things as real.” ~ Dr. Philip Mamalakis, “Raising Children Who Will Hold Onto the Faith in Our Secular Age,” PRAXIS, Fall/Winter 2016, p. 36


“Parenting is about loving our children more than correcting them, and our corrections need to reflect our love for them. You can’t love a child too much, but you can love them in the wrong way. Our love needs to reflect God’s love for them. …Our children need to know that we delight in them, that we recognize that they are a gift to us from God, and our delight in them needs to inform how we relate to them when they’re behaving well and when they’re misbehaving. We might not feel delight when we’re tired or overwhelmed, but they are a gift, and we need to relate to them out of that truth, not out of our own frustrations and feelings.” ~ Dr. Philip Mamalakis, “Raising Children Who Will Hold Onto the Faith in Our Secular Age,” PRAXIS, Fall/Winter 2016, p. 37


“Our children internalize this reality of God and His kingdom when we connect the daily life of the home to the eternal reality of the Church. We do this by attending church regularly and by our regular involvement, as a family, in the communal life of the Church. We bring the external practices of the Church—the prayer, icons, hymns scripture readings, etc.—into our home life. For example, when we pray in the home we communicate to our children that prayer is real. Prayer becomes normal to our children because it is a normal part of the life of the home. Our children will internalize all the realities of the Church as we integrate them into daily life.” ~ Dr. Philip Mamalakis, “Raising Children Who Will Hold Onto the Faith in Our Secular Age,” PRAXIS, Fall/Winter 2016, p. 38


“It is the parents who co-create, with God, the stepping-stones to faith; who show by their words and actions, as best they can, the journey to theosis. It is their task, more than any other’s, to teach the special kind of communication we call worship. Symbols need explaining; explanations need giving. Our religious language, or the way we communicate our faith by everything we do and say, needs careful thought. Above all, remember that religious education is not something that stops at age sixteen. Growing in faith is a family affair.” Read more in Elizabeth White’s article, “Stepping Stones to Faith: Nurturing Orthodox Christian Virtues in Your Children” at http://www.antiochian.org/node/16620.


“Each chapter [of this book] ends with a list of practical ideas any parent might try to help cultivate character qualities such as attentiveness and silence. This small jewel could well be called ‘the Holy Fathers applied to parenting’.” Find the book, Walking in Wonder: Nurturing Christian Virtues in Your Children, at: http://store.ancientfaith.com/walking-in-wonder-nurturing-christian-virtues-in-your-children/


How are you helping your children to grow in their faith and to hang onto the truths of Orthodox Christianity in the face of the secular culture in which you live? This fall we will be writing blog posts containing practical ideas for daily living Orthodoxy in the home. Will you please help us by sharing your ideas? This form can help you think through your family’s schedule to think of ways that you as a family are living the Faith together. If possible, kindly pass on your family’s traditions in as many of the following categories as possible, and then submit your answers so that we can share them with the community.

Reminder: survey forms received by Sept. 1, 2016 will be entered into a drawing for a copy of the book Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker. (A total of three copies will be given away.)
Thank you in advance for helping the Orthodox Christian Parenting community in this way!



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