A Priest's Family is More Important Than His Parish - The Significance of a Father's Example

Father John (Krestyankin) said to a fellow priest: “Your first parishioners are your children. If you lose them, then all your other labors are worthless. Your family and children are more important than your parish."

"First of all, responsibility should be inculcated in boys." says Archpriest Theodor Borodin, father of six boys and two girls. "They should learn wrestling and drawing and engage in household chores."

— Father Theodore, what mistakes did you make in raising your sons at first?

I regret that they were punished more often than necessary, because I could not solve this or that issue regarding their behavior in other ways. Now, with the younger ones, I can almost do without punishment. But for this, parental skill must be manifested. It does not come just like that. In addition, for the first ten years of the priesthood, I went to talk about God wherever I was allowed to go: to schools, universities. And so I wasn't at home enough. And the time that you have to spend with the child does not return; If you lose it, you cannot catch up. Because at every age your son needs you in a certain way. And if you aren't there weekdays or weekends, then to one degree or another this breaks your connection with him.

As Father John (Krestyankin) said to one of my priest friends: “Your first parishioners are your children. If you lose them, then all your other labors are worthless. ” Your family and children are more important than your parish. 

— You are the father of six boys. Can you highlight any nuances in the education of boys specifically?

The point of any upbringing is to raise a person, try to make as few mistakes as possible and teach him how to live without you, while living right. He must be taught the principles of a normal healthy life. This cannot be achieved if the child is not given an ever-increasing share of freedom in order to prepare him to use it correctly. A boy is a future man, that is, a person whom we would like to see as an active and strong-willed subject of this world. We must give him this freedom, hold him responsible for the decisions made, and respect this freedom ourselves, not be afraid of it. The area of freedom of a boy, starting from a very young age, should slowly increase. This is the main principle of the education of an active, responsible man. If his mother always decides for him (as often happens in a family where there is no father), then he grows up as a person who can’t do anything, is unable to make any decision and follow through with it,  and is not able to answer for others.

— You have said more than once that it is good to teach boys wrestling. Why is this important?

Since the aggression and anger of this world comes from different directions, in different forms, he must be able to withstand this, and not necessarily physically. After all, sport is not only the ability to fight, it is the education of the will. If a person learns to fight, then this educates his will very well, especially the male will. If you look at boyish groups — youthful groups of teenagers — we will see that usually there are boys who are involved in some types of wrestling. At the same time, no one bullies them, and they usually do not bully anyone. For the first six months of classes they walk and talk to everyone, rejoice, show each other things, and then just start to be silent. They calmly shy away from conflicts and most often do not humiliate anyone.

They often lack bragging and nasty arrogance — they don’t have to prove anything. They know what a loss is, they know what pain is, what long physical work is, they know what a fight, sparring, and confrontation are. These skills also help in spiritual life, because the spiritual life is an invisible struggle. At the same time, sport teaches a person to calmly relate to losses in everyday life.

Sports and a competent, non-degrading trainer helps, among other things, to cultivate qualities that we, adults, are so lacking in life.

— Reading the memoirs of people who went through the trials of the last century, you see that the ones who were most persistent, and all who survived, were those who grew up in love, and sports achievements did not play any role. 

Of course, in childhood, a person should get the experience of living in a space warmed by love, and then he will rely on this experience as a foundation for the rest of his life.

But this does not mean that he does not need fighting skills. They are not about sports, and not always about physical strength, but, I repeat, about the education of will, self-discipline.

Do you find even one weak-willed martyr?

These were people with a steel will — women, men, elderly, young, children, adolescents, monks. Otherwise, how would they confess Christ?

— But is it really necessary to educate the will by wrestling? You can also break the child.

We need a good, experienced coach of an old school. There are trainers like these who are also engaged in education. It is enough to see sin once so that it penetrates into a person and settles into him from within. Likewise, it is enough to see a good example. And if, for example, a boy is brought up without a father, he can see who the real generous, noble, strong man is, self-confident and at the same time humble, using the example of a coach, and then copying his whole life from the external to the internal. And this can very much help with and partially compensate for the lack of dad. Or to compensate for the dad’s bad example when the dad works, as they say, as a sofa driver.

Our children are growing up with both father and mother, but six months after I sent them to Sambo classes, I saw very strong and very delightful changes in their character. But, again, it is not necessary to educate them only by wrestling. The will must be brought up; one must expect his son to follow through with his decisions — if he said he would do it, he should do it. He must have some sort of household chores, which he must fulfill. He must be able to restrain himself, to keep promises. This is all developed by parental effort.

Some of the children find it easier, others harder, but this must be addressed. We need to assign some spaces of responsibility — here you take out the garbage, you wipe it off the table. And you do not lag behind the child until he himself learns to recognize this problem. When he himself learns to follow through: it's time to do it, and I do it — this is a huge victory. Because this mechanism of responsibility can later be applied to anything he does. We all have responsibilities in the family. The principle of “whoever is free does it” does not work. Because when you just say, “Why don’t you help mom?” — the child does not hear you. He needs, in addition to cleaning up his bed and his desk, some other general task.

— Housework responsibilities are often what many today consider to be women's work. That is, is it nevertheless necessary to depart from the tradition of the division of labor around the house?

Christ washed the feet of the disciples at the Last Supper. This did not fit into any framework or tradition, because the feet were washed by slaves. And He said: “You call Me Teacher and Lord, and speak correctly, for I am exactly that. So, if I, the Lord and Teacher, washed your feet, then you must wash each other's feet. For I set an example for you to do the same that I did to you ”(John 13: 13–15).

Therefore, our first, most important law is love. If you see that a loved one is feeling bad, then what does the gender matter? You just need to help.

And the children — they see and feel everything. If dad and mom come home from work, but dad sits at the computer and plays "tanks", and mom cooks dinner for everyone, and he still yells at her, then no matter what good things he says, it's not love. They just don't learn love. Love is conveyed by example.

— Is there any difference in the education of boys and girls?

Of course there is. They are very different in and of themselves. In different periods they are different. It is no accident that the best school education includes separate classes for boys and girls. A girl who is 8 years old manages to understand, remember and learn much more than a boy who is 8 years old. And everyone needs a different approach. It also seems to me that boys need to be taught more about volitional action and responsibility, so that they can become heads of their families.

— The will is strengthened by wrestling and chores. Is there anything else?

Yes, anything, any kind of activity! I studied at an art school and I remember that at the end of the summer everyone brought home the amount of work that they had had the will to accomplish. 

Irina Vatagina, a well-known icon painter and restorer said that the future archimandrite Zinon (Theodore), when he came to the monastery and showed Maria Sokolova his works, he brought them in such numbers that she said, “We just didn’t see anyone else who worked like that.” These were huge piles. This is in addition to what he painted at the art school. This man was very different from the rest, simply because all his will was directed to drawing. And that was the result.

When you yell at a child, put pressure on him, and demand that your will work for him, you will not strengthen his will. Letting go completely and letting him do what he wants is also not an option, because his will will not be strong enough. Here we need wisdom, care, and prayer so that we ourselves will not replace his will, while at the same time the work will be accomplished. It is very difficult. And with each child, and with each boy, it is also a separate task, which is always solved in a special way.

Source: pk-semya.ru — Translated by Kimberly Gleason 

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