When Christian parents use the fear of suffering to elevate their children to their standards, they inadvertently invert the value system to which we all need to adhere in order to live up to God's standards. The very fears we must overcome to know, love and serve God with humility, are instilled in us and then exploited so that we learn to desire being loved and esteemed by the world above all else. The one thing all but the saints among us care about more than anything else on earth, more than money, more than power--both of which are but means to this end--is what other human beings think of us. The following illustrates what, in my opinion, is part of the reason why.
Litany of Humility
O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me. ("I refuse to listen to you when you talk in this tone of voice.")
From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, Jesus. ("Nobody likes a crybaby!")
From the desire of being loved... ("Nobody's ever going to want to marry you if you keep treating people this way.")
From the desire of being extolled ... ("You'll never amount to anything if you don't work harder.")
From the desire of being honored ... ("You'll never make honor roll if you don't devote yourself to your studies.")
From the desire of being praised ... ("Everyone's going to think you're a loser if you don't get a job soon.")
From the desire of being preferred to others... ("The coach is going to let the other kids play more than you if you don't practice harder.")
From the desire of being consulted ... ("Nobody's going to care what you think if you don't start thinking before you speak.")
From the desire of being approved ... ("I don't approve of the way you're dressed and I refuse to be seen in public with you.")
From the fear of being humiliated ... ("If you ever speak to me that way in front of your friends again, I'll embarrass you in front of everybody!")
From the fear of being despised... ("You should be ashamed of yourself! Just go to your room!")
From the fear of suffering rebukes ... ("I'll give you a good tongue lashing if I ever catch you doing that again!")
From the fear of being calumniated ... ("People will talk if they see you hanging around with the likes of him.")
From the fear of being forgotten ... ("You want people to remember you for what a nice person you are.")
From the fear of being ridiculed ... ("Everyone will make fun of you if you have to repeat this grade.")
From the fear of being wronged ... ("Well I guess you got just what you deserved, treating your brother like that!")
From the fear of being suspected ... ("How can I let you out of my sight if I can't trust you.")
That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it. ("How could you do that to your sister? Don't you want her to love you?")
That others may be esteemed more than I ... ("How dare you speak so disrespectfully to me. I ought slap your face.")
That, in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease ... ("If people don't think well of you, you'll never get very far in this world.")
That others may be chosen and I set aside ... ("You'll never make allstars with that kind of attitude.")
That others may be praised and I unnoticed ... ("Stand up straight and fix your hair. Don't you want people to notice how pretty you are?")
That others may be preferred to me in everything... ("No, I'm sorry, your brother gets to ride in the front seat, because he helped me pack the car.")
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should… ("Why can't you be more like John. He's such a good boy.")
Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val (1865-1930), Secretary of State for Pope Saint Pius X
Whatever we use to solicit our children's cooperation is what they come to value. If they didn't think it was of value, they wouldn't be motivated by it (or by losing it). Children may be born already valuing these things--I guess God's the only one who knows--but it's the responsibility of Christian parents to see that their values are ordered vertically, toward God. We fail to fulfill this responsibility whenever we say the kinds of things exemplified above. It's natural not to want our children to suffer, in this life or the next. Of course, we know that suffering in this life ends as soon as we embrace God's will. We do that by accepting it in each moment, not prophesying about future impending doom to coerce them to change this moment--and fast. We can and must correct our children's physically and spiritually dangerous choices. But until we embrace God's will ourselves, we won't see how to do it without infecting them with our own horizontal fears. This lesson is best taught to us by Christ, Himself, in his rebuke of St. Peter, from St. Matthew's Gospel, especially verse 23:
21 From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.
22 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. "Never, Lord!" he said. "This shall never happen to you!"
23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men."
24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done. 28 I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom."