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Catholic Activity: Don't Stress Sin Too Much


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In giving your child the moral training he needs, avoid the extreme of referring to all his transgressions in terms of how they will affect his relations with God. Keep a balance, so there will not be an abnormal fear of God. Here are some suggestions.


It is true that parents must never encourage children to be lax about moral matters, for a sin is always hateful in the eyes of God. Nevertheless, some parents — fortunately a very tiny minority use their child's religious sense as a weapon to force him to do things which should not normally be expected of him. A mother discovered that she could get her daughter to comply instantly with her commands if she accused her of "sinful disobedience" for failing to do so. Soon the mother had a means at her disposal to force the child to do excessive amounts of housework. As a result, the girl grew up lacking respect for authority and with a scornful attitude toward all the commandments.

When parents constantly thunder about sin, their children may develop an abnormal fear of God, viewing Him as a judge who will thrash them for the slightest offense. Such children may come to lose their trust in God's mercy — a trust they will need in later life to meet the crosses which will inevitably be theirs to bear.

In his book Your Child's World, Dr. Odenwald describes a nine-year-old patient who had become so terrified of the dark that he had extreme difficulty in sleeping. "This boy feared that because of his sins — really not sins at all but rather the normal actions of a boy his age — he would be severely punished by the Almighty," Dr. Odenwald writes. "Another boy reached the point where he confessed his sins to the priest on Saturday, but felt unworthy to receive Communion on Sunday because he might have offended God unwittingly by committing some mild offense. A five-year-old girl, who was attending a Sunday School, was so impressed by a sermon on hell and damnation that she could not get it out of her mind. Because of her one-sided introduction to the idea of punishment for sins, she displayed psychotic tendencies even at this early stage."

Activity Source: Catholic Family Handbook, The by Rev. George A. Kelly, Random House, Inc., New York, 1959

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