Revolution of Mercy: How Kindness Changes Everything
by Bonnie Landry
In Revolution of Mercy, Bonnie Landry argues that there is a better way to parent and discipline (teach) children than through using rewards and punishments. That way is via "compassion, consolation, and tenderness."
St. Pope John Paul II wrote in "Familiaris Consortio" that the "mission of the family is to 'guard, reveal, and communicate love." Landry acknowledges that it can be easier to love and respect and affirm the life of babies, the elderly, the infirm, and pretty much anyone living outside of our house than it treat our own children with love and patience. Why is that? Because we are not responsible for how all those people turn out and those people (usually) are not trying our patience on a daily basis. Landry urges us to "remind ourselves of the dignity of our own children" and treat them accordingly.
We get angry at our children because we do love them. "Our reactivity comes from the great chasm we see between our desire for them to become ideal adults and how few of those qualities they manifest at the age of two or seven or twelve." Working on reacting in a loving, positive manner requires daily efforts at self-control and a whole lot of prayer. We need that grace from God.
Landry emphasizes that a kinder, gentler approach does not mean condoning or permitting bad behavior, but rather shaping their character through example and a positive relationship. We need to "walk beside" our children, "to accept, ponder, and offer wisdom." When our children wrong us or others, we need to forgive them. "We do not condone the wrong, but forgive their sins in charity."
As Landry points out, she has "never, ever regretted being kind." In Revolution of Mercy, she makes some valid points. It is definitely important to focus on the relationship we have with our children before everything else. I don't know that it is possible to completely take away rewards and punishments as a parenting tool, especially with younger children, but if we focus on developing the the relationship first, we should have much less need of them.
Revolution of Mercy is worth reading, especially if you currently have a less-than-ideal relationship with your children. It is firmly based on Catholic teaching and emphasizes the need for prayer and a vibrant sacramental life. It is focused much more on the "why" of parenting this way than in offering practical examples of how to do it. Landry does offer suggestions of other resources for that piece of the equation, but it would have been good to have examples of how one should respond in various situations. Overall, however, it offers much food for thought.