As parents, one of our greatest responsibilities is the upbringing of our children so that they, like ourselves, will develop a love of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We have hopes that they will grow up to live according to the commandments, to become good teachers and maybe even a priest. Further we hope they too will have children and able to nurture them in their faith. Any good parent asks, "What can I to do to nurture the spiritual growth of my child?"
Our task of parenting begins while the child is still in the womb. If we live a good spiritual life during this time of formation, pray daily, participate in the Sacraments, living a good Orthodox life, our child will be born sanctified. This is also important in our task of upbringing after birth as well. We help our children grow based on how we practice our faith. If we lead spiritual lives, the our children will be more disposed to live a similar life and grow to help others in society by their service in the church and other good works that they may do.
If our children do not see us praying daily, or find we do not attend church regularly, or take them for communion but do not partake ourselves, when they grow up they will likely have the same habits or even worse. Children learn by the example we set. We pass on our values through our actions. There is no Sunday School that will be able to overcome the bad habits of parents.
This is the same advice given by Elder Paisios who says,
"Everyone should help the children, each person in their own way, with their good example, so that the children may be regenerated, live peacefully in the life and ultimately go to Paradise."But what do we do when they rebel and disobey, even though we are setting a good example? Elder Paisios reminds us that "children are helped chiefly by the example we set and not by force".
The love parents show for each other effects the love the children have for their parents and others. Elder Paisios says,
"When children see their parents have love and respect for one another, behaving with prudence, praying, and so on, then these positive images are imprinted on their soul. This is why I say that the best inheritance the parents can bestow upon their children in their own spiritual devotion."Children need lots of love as well as much guidance. They need to know that their parents are willing to listen to them and care about their troubles, so they will willingly sit by their parents side to share their problems knowing they will be loved and receive affection as well as guidance.
Isn't it a problem these days that life is so busy that we often do not have the time to listen and give this attentive love that is so needed by our children? Do not our modern day work schedules often leave our children alone to fend for themselves, leaving them immersed in video games and other pastimes. It seems there is too often not sufficient time for parents and children to receive parental love and guidance. I know many families who no longer eat their meals together. As I was growing up eating together was always the daily routine. I must admit that I myself had a busy work schedule during the week but my wife was fortunate to be a stay-at-home mom. We always ate dinner together even though it may have been a bit late. We used to say jokingly, "I guess we are eating with the rich people again". I tried to keep my weekends open for family activities. In reflection I am not confident that I gave what I should have to the well being of my children thinking that my success at work was what was most important for them, but in reality this may have been putting material well being ahead of spiritual well being. It's important to have quality time with them each evening and especially when they come home from school or any other event. We need to have a well paced life where our time returning home is not one where we are exhausted and stressed looking for recovery. When we arrive home worn out we do not have the tenderness needed to nurture our children.
Remember this thought from Elder Paisios
"Children imitate their parents even from the cradle. They pick up everything they see adults doing and record it on the empty "cassette tape". This is why parents should struggle to cut away their passions. I doesn't matter if some of these passions were inherited by them from heir own parents; they will still have to give an accounting to God, not only for not struggling to rid themselves of them, but also for being responsible in transmitting them to they children."
Reference: Elder Paisios of Mount Athos Spiritual Counsels IV, pp 99-107