From the HouseTops, Catholic Magazine

Saint Benedict Magazine

Effects of

Home Influence



On Young Minds

by Rev M. McDonnell

Influence is as quiet and as imperceptible on a child’s mind
as the falling of dew upon a flower. In innumerable instances
the most secret influences for evil are at work for months,
and even for years, imperceptibly breaking down the barriers of conscience in youth, while fond parents are unaware that any evil is present, until disaster comes, involving in ruin those whom they love as their own life. Not all at once does any heart become utterly bad, but the error lies here, that parents do not in time become aware how early the seeds of vice are sown and take root. It happens as the Gospel states: While men sleep the enemy sows the seeds of vice and goes his way. Generally it is best not to scold children, but soberly and quietly to reprove them. 

They are more easily led to good by example, and to good deeds by others, than threatened into obedience by scolding and punishment. Impress on the infant mind the deepest regard for honesty and truth—the love of God and of the neighbor, and the welfare of the child will be secured not only in this life but in the life to come. One pagan mother, Cornelia, considered her well-trained sons her jewels, and the chief ornament of her life; shall Christian parents regard their children less? A daughter may be intelligent, well educated and religious; nevertheless, she cannot honor her parentage as the son who is not ashamed to serve his God according to God’s own appointment through the teachings of His Church; who has enough manhood to despise evil associates, clubs, and secret societies. Parents should talk well, talk much, and talk at home. 

A father who is habitually silent in his own house may be, in many respects a wise man; but he is not wise in his silence. We sometimes see parents who are the life of every company into which they enter, but dull, silent, and uninteresting at home among their children. If they have not mental activity and mental stores sufficient for home and abroad, they ought first to provide for their own household.


Impress on the infant mind the deepest regard for honesty and truth,
the love of God and of the neighbor,
and the welfare of the child will be secured
not only in this life but in the life to come.

It is better to instruct children and make them happy at home, than it is to charm strangers and amuse friends. A silent home is a dull home for young people, a place from which they will escape if they can. They will talk of being “shut up there;” and the youth that does not love home is in danger. I know of no more agreeable and interesting spectacle than that of brothers and sisters playing and singing together. The reason why so many become dissipated and run to every place of amusement, no matter what its character, making every effort possible to get away from home at night, is the lack of entertainment at home. Every household, no matter how humble its condition, should have its domestic amusements, fireside pleasures, quiet and simple they may be; nevertheless they will make home pleasant, and not leave that irksome place which will oblige the youthful spirit to look elsewhere for joy.

But you must remember that, abroad your child is doomed to battle with the general corruption of the world, low thoughts, low aims, low tastes, and the lower manners of the generation in which his lot is cast. He will have to battle with inveterate prejudices against his Faith, against the influence of the current literature of the age, hostile to all that Divine Faith teaches us to look upon with fear and reverence; against a human respect more seductive and degrading than the witchery of the fabled enchantress of old who held out to the thirsting lips a cup full of delights, and then changed all who tasted it into beasts and kept them beasts forever.

The best way to move a young heart is to please it. The surest way of turning a person from one pleasure is to give him a greater pleasure in the opposite direction. A weeping willow, planted by a pond in a pleasure-garden, turns all to one side in its growth and that the side on which the water lies. No pruning its roots or branches, will avail to change its pattern. But place a larger expanse of water on the opposite side and the tree will turn spontaneously, and hang its branches the other way. So it is with the out-branching affections of the human heart. Follies and vices on this side are sweet to its depraved nature. To be sure, the joys are shallow, but it knows no other, and to these it instinctively turns: to these it grows forth. It acquires a bend in that direction from which no human hand can turn it. It can never be turned unless you can open a rival joy, wider and deeper on the other side. Thanks to Almighty God, greater are the joys which the precepts of the Gospel, rightly understood and faithfully practiced bring, than all the enticements which Satan can spread out.