Clinical psychologist Ray Guarendi signed books and spoke individually with parents after giving a talk in Ottawa Oct. 2. He believes the Synod on the Family needs to look at the importance of strong fathers in the family. Photo by Deborah Gyapong

Synod needs to stress importance of fathers

By 
  • October 9, 2015

OTTAWA - A popular American psychologist and author told an Ottawa audience he hopes bishops attending this month’s Synod on the Family in Rome will address the importance of strong fathers in the family.

“I think they need to emphasize dads taking a much more faithful leadership role,” said Ray Guarendi, a clinical psychologist. “We guys have a tendency to leave it up to the women, and everything says and the research concludes that a strong male figure is something very needed for the development of boys and girls.”

Guarendi, the author of more than a dozen books, is also a radio and television host, a public speaker and frequent guest on TV programs such as Oprah. He expects Synod fathers will “reiterate as a group the traditional God-design of men and women, passing on the faith and life to the children.”

“I think so often in the history of the Church, we’ve seen they’ve had to speak about things that used to be taken for granted,” said Guarendi, the father of 10 adopted children. “Now they have to reinforce it and people are thinking they are going to come up with something new. No, they are simply saying, well, given certain societal movements, we had better reinforce this.”

In Ottawa to speak to Catholic parents, Guarendi said he believes those who expect Pope Francis to “make some dramatic changes in Catholic moral teaching are going to be greatly disappointed.”

“As he has said, he is a son of the Church,” the psychologist said. “People confuse his pastoral style with a view that the Church needs to alter itself. You take a complete Pope Francis and that’s not the way it is.”

A Catholic, whose wife is a convert to the faith, Guarendi offered many practical tips on how parental leadership in the home can produce a happy family and good results for children.

Speaking to about 75 parents, Guarendi challenged some of the popular advice coming from experts on how to raise children.

Two examples of advice he disputes: Never tell a toddler “No” and never send a teenager to their room for a punishment. That type of advice from “people with letters after their names” is nonsense, he said.

In the 1990s, Guarendi and other experts interviewed 107 parents who had been selected as heading “outstanding families.” These families had a combined 387 children.

The number one house rule in those families is respect, Guarendi said. Yet today’s experts have “told you you have to let your kids express themselves.” This has resulted in a phenomenon he calls “battered parent syndrome.”

“If you are wondering whether your child is disrespectful or expressing himself, try doing the exact same thing to your boss, your best friend or your mother-in-law,” he said. Try saying, “Whatever!” or rolling your eyes, he said. Then ask them afterwards if they still like you.

Guarendi stressed the importance of parents’ taking authority in the home. “Children view us as someone they can challenge,” he said.

For children who are defiant, the psychologist recommended a full blackout on all the privileges the child receives in the home, except for basic nutrition. When the child loses his favourite TV program, toys, books, dessert in succession that sends a message.

Though six of their children were adopted as infants, four had bad histories of neglect and time in foster care, including a set of twins he and his wife adopted at age four. The boy of the twins used to kick his foster parents and even Guarendi when he visited prior to taking them home. At their home, when it came time for bed, the boy went into a full tantrum.

“I had to let him know there are some non-negotiable things and going to bed is one of them,” Guarendi said. He carried the boy to bed and gently held him down until he stopped fighting and realized he would have to obey. a

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