Anita Draper
Catholic Herald staff

Lenten missions are in progress in parishes across the diocese as Catholics prepare themselves for Christ’s death and resurrection. In Rice Lake, clinical psychologist, author, speaker and radio and television personality Dr. Ray Guarendi was invited to speak for three nights, from Feb. 18-20, on topics related to parenting, marriage and the logic of being Catholic.

The mission began Sunday evening with a 5:30 p.m. Mass celebrated by Fr. Adam Laski, followed by a light dinner.

“You have a spectacular countryside,” Dr. Guarendi, known by his media name of Dr. Ray, said as he took the stage. On the drive over, “I saw nothing but lake after lake after lake.”

A self-described “shrink,” the Ohio psychologist said the question he hears more than any other is, “You got any kids?”

“I do,” he said. “I have 10.”

Joking about a parent’s vengeance – they embarrass you for the first 10 years when you are out in public, and then you get to embarrass them thereafter – he continued onto the No. 1 reason parents seek him out: discipline.

“What you are witnessing in American parenting today is unprecedented in human history,” something that has “radically altered” parenting from how it was for the older generation to what it is now, he asserted. The message coming from “the shrinks” is that parents are inadequate to the task of parenting.

Joking that if you lower your standards enough, you don’t have to do parenting at all, he made one of his main points: “You discipline because you love.”

If you don’t do it now, that child is going to get disciplined by the court system or some other authority in adulthood.

“Discipline without love may be harsh,” he said, “but love without discipline is child abuse.”

Our visceral reaction is that we don’t like undisciplined children. Despite that, the current thinking is that low self-esteem is the predominant problem when kids misbehave.

If you go online and type in “child” and “self-esteem” and hit search, there are more than 100 million options, Dr. Ray said. If you type in “child” and “humility,” the results are a fraction of that number.

“When’s the last time you heard a secular expert talk about humility?” he asked.

Speaking about the revocation of privileges as discipline – parents control every aspect of their children’s lives, and they have the ability to take back privileges as they see fit – he spoke about his own family.

His kids are diverse – white, Hispanic, biracial and black – and all of them have risk factors due to poverty, substance abuse, behavioral problems or other issues. With Ohio’s current allowance of abortion up to the day of birth, at least one of them would not have been born, he said.

Children with risk factors have increased probability of poor outcomes, and they are prone to challenging behaviors. Despite that, “I would not consider any of my 10 children strong-willed,” he continued. Now, that is the No. 1 adjective used to describe children.

The phrase “difficult child,” he added, “is redundant.”

“I think there’s a simple explanation,” he said. “The strongest-willed of my 10 children is not stronger-willed than his mother.”

These days, more women are telling Dr. Ray that they are the ones establishing authority. His message to men is to protect their women.

Recalling his own father, a “barbarian” by today’s standards, he said that despite that, he knew his father “loved me desperately.”

“Most of you are very good at doing the love part, but this is the other love part,” he added.

Discussing the “perception of authority” as an important parental strategy, he talked about his twins. Twice the 4-year-olds were rejected by potential adoptive parents because they were so uncontrollable, particularly the boy, who was violent.

Putting him to bed for the first time – something no one had been able to do for years – Dr. Ray held him in bed for a few minutes, and let go, and then an older sibling assured the child that there was no escape from their father or bedtime. The perception of quiet, confident authority worked, he said, and the boy was asleep a minute later.

Moving onto his next point – that in this “microwave culture,” we have short attention spans and want immediate results – Dr. Ray said this has impacted our conduct and raising of kids.

He compared sinning and going to confession with raising kids and trying to change their habits. We may confess the same sin over and over for 15 years, and likewise children will make the same mistakes again and again.

Unfortunately, in our culture, we look at kids like, “What is wrong with you?” and then try quick fixes like dietary changes, for example, despite that studies don’t support them.

He also scoffed at the “idea pushed on him” in grad school that there are no differences between the sexes – research supports the differences – and encouraged parents to trust themselves.

“We’re so over-psychologized in this culture,” he commented. “It’s bad.”

Finally, he addressed a couple of concerns for parents of grown children. First, he acknowledged when young adult life goes poorly, the current standard response is to blame parents.

Several of his children had drug and alcohol issues from their birth mother – it was hard to raise them, and some of those problems persist now that they are grown. In response, he and his wife are resolved to let it go, and not to “tether their peace” to those outcomes.

Likewise, parents who raised their children in the faith are worried about them leaving Catholicism, which is the case with 85 percent of college kids.

“I would like to prove to you logically right now that your days of beating yourself up over this is over,” he said. “Our Lord himself couldn’t get most people to follow him.”

“Let it go,” he advised. “You’re there to pray for them. You’re there to love them.”

Dr. Ray Guarendi, shown here in a media photo, spoke for three nights as part of the Lenten mission at St. Joseph, Rice Lake. (