How to develop a child's interior life

Hi all,

Hey, I have a simple question for anyone who can offer suggestions. I have a nine year old daughter and we homeschool her. She will get getting PSR instruction in our parish but my wife also teaches her religion as one of her subjects at home. She definitely gets the information she needs. We also go to Mass, say rosaries and family prayers together, and even do an occasional adoration, so she is also getting good habits instilled in her.

However, I want to know what we can do to have her not just know the faith and have good habits, but to internalize it and love God and want to please him not out of obligation or habit, but from her heart. My hope is that she will respect herself and others because of that also. She is a good kid and I love her, but I know how special my relationship with Christ is to me and want to be sure she will have it too.

I know I am not explaining myself well, but I hope you get the idea. How do any of you with kids get them to embrace their faith from their hearts and not just from their minds?



One thing I do with my kids is make sure to point out a behavior (good or bad) each day and mention how it affects Jesus’ heart. I.e. If my son is disobedient, I tell him that my job as his mother is to make sure he obeys and when he doesn’t, it makes Jesus feel disappointed (never angry). Or, if he shares nicely with his brother I tell him how proud that makes Jesus. I always try to emphasize Our Lord’s heart and His emotions. Fortunately for me, my son (who is almost 5) is very tender hearted and sentimental, so that method is effective. I’ve even overheard him saying “Jesus, I’m sorry I was so whiney today”. I don’t know what to say except to try to incorporate Jesus into any given situation. If your daughter is a sensitive person, discussing Jesus’ emotions and feeling may work. But I certainly feel you are on the right track by being a good example and encouraging devotion to Our Lord!

That’s good advice, thank you. I will make a point of doing that. I know the challenge is to meet them where they are so they can relate to what we are trying to teach them. My daughter can be sentimental and often retreats to be alone in her thoughts, and I hope she can have the disposition to invite Jesus into those times. As she gets older, especially into those teen years, it will be oh so important.

Thanks again :slight_smile:


Model it for her.

A priest I know says one night as (as a teenager) he was heading to bed he passed his parent’s open bedroom door. He saw his dad on his knees praying. It stuck with him.

I think you are on the right track as far as the adoration, going to mass and receiving the sacraments. Modeling the behavior is the best teacher. I too have a 9 year old, I take them with me when I go to confession (4x a year or once a season), adoration, mass and rosary praying too. If your parish has an altar server camp for kids (kids entering 5th grade in our parish) for children who wish to be altar servers, that’s a great incentive to have a closer relationship with Jesus, not to mention the graces she gets for helping in the sacrament of the mass. There’s a saying “It’s not taught, its caught”.

She will also perceive in your relationship with your wife the love and respect you have for each other daily in how you communicate with each other and treat each other. So that alone teaches her how to treat others.

It’s also a good reminder that all people are created in the image and likeness of God.

Thank you, RosarioD and KCT. I agree wholeheartedly with the suggestion to model it for them. Children learn foremost by imitating example, right? I hope she sees how important my faith is to me, as expressed by the devotion I show, and invite her to share as well. My concern was whether she would see mere devotional practices as simply obligations, or “faith chores”, or something like that. Of course, I want her to truly love Jesus, internally and personally. That is intangible and I honestly don’t know how to “teach” it, other than showing what it looks like in how I treat her, my wife, and others along with the devotion I give Christ. Maybe it all just boils down to that.


Some great suggestions oferred here. As a parent i dont think we can have a greater preocupation or responsability than that of instilling the faith and a true relationship with our Father to our children.

I was a cradle Catholic but I think that one main reason why I fell away was because there was a disconnect between my faith and daily life. My mother took us to church, prayed the rosary with us, read to us from scripture and the lives of saints but when it came to practically integrating all of this in our daily lives- at school, with friends, in the work environment, formation as future spouse and parent, we were really lacking. The world taught us its ways when it came to that.

So, with our children, we have started from a very tender age to make them aware of God’s ways, desires, emotions in relation to everything we do. We remind our oldest- the 4 yr old, that our Father and Mother Mary, our guardian angel and the saints are ALWAYS with us, especially when she complains that she doesn’t want to do a certain thing alone. We remind her that if she just calls on them they will respond promptly because they are sooo eager to be with her/ help her etc.

Of course she got into the princess (Disney) craze as everything she was receiving from others was usually with that theme. We started discussing what it means to be a princess of God and why the Disney princesses are not pleasing to Him - I.e they make exterior beauty an idol- she knows all about not having false gods from the OT so she willingly picked up every Disney princess book, puzzle, picture, penciletc that she had, put it in a bag and asked us to throw them away. she is also very aware of " modesty" and why we don’t wear mini skirts or sleeveless tops and dresses in church- and no where else really other than in our backyard. Technically, think of where you would want your 18yr old to be like and consider whether he has reached the appropriate level of those things at the current age.

I think overall, the mistake we have to avoid is letting our children believe that prayer time and mass time is when we’re with God and the rest of the time we just carry on normally.

Of course, my husband and I have to make the effort to indeed always remember that Jesus is always there, whether we’re going to church or shopping or visiting, just verbally saying, “Jesus, let’s do this, or go there” has a huge impact.

I would really love to hear more on this subject as I always feel we can do better and in all honesty, it’s nice that the kids learn their abcs early and know how to share, but if at the end of the day they don’t know Jesus on a personal level I will considered we have failed on the greatest level.

Good habits will help her, they are tools to grow closer to God…But I think that YOU need to be sure YOU are her model for embracing the faith.

Read the Bible, and talk about it
Do Bible studies as a family
Do charity work
Talk about your own interior life
Spend time in adoration, and talk about that
Act from your prayer life, and talk about it
Make your relationship with God the underpinning of everything you do
Forgive everyone who wrongs you, and talk about it

Are you getting the idea? :smiley: She will look to YOU first as her example of what God’s love is, and what her life should look like. I love it that you are already explaining modesty to her. She is not going to need to go looking for a boy or a man to shore up her self-confidence if you as her father give her the love she needs, and if you point the way to her Heavenly Father.

I think the new generations of Catholics are better at this dynamic faith life than my parents were - they were more into the form and not necessarily the faith. I still struggle with this although I do quite a bit better, but look at the Catholic youth of today and they are fully into the faith side of things, not just going to church and saying daily prayers, but the true inner architecture of faith.


Wow, this is all such helpful advice, everyone - thank you! I wasn’t sure I was explaining myself well enough but from your responses it appears you have understood what I am after.

Obviously, keeping Christ at the center at all times, and orienting my, and my family’s life, around that as a model to my daughter is the key. I know I already do some of that just as a matter of habit, but tending to it and cultivating it as a real commitment for her sake (and our family’s) is absolutely something I need to do more of.

TheRealJuliane, your “checklist” is really helpful in that regard. You can bet I will be using it. And yes, modesty is big in our household. My goal in it is to instill it in her not in a way that makes her feel she is covering up something “dirty”, but so she can love and respect herself from the outside all the way in to where Jesus lives. Of course that respect will be so vital in those tender future years that seem so close now.

If I may ask one more favor of you all in addition to the advice: can my family and I have your prayers? We are a good family and she is a sweet loving kid who does love Jesus, but this is so important and I know there is so much more we can do. :slight_smile:

Blessings and thanks,

Thank you for coming here and sharing your story! Please be assured of my prayers for your family!

I am not sure if this will help at all but will share my own experiences. When I have been irritated at my children, say we are in the car and I am frustrated because they are misbehaving or we are late…I have slowed down and said “Okay, mom has to calm down she is losing her temper. Everyone please say a little prayer for me.” Also I say out loud for them to hear me “Dear Jesus I am angry right now and I don’t want to lose my temper, please help me I love you Jesus.”

What I want my children to see is that I turn to Jesus not only at Mass or rosary but in everyday life. Especially when I am upset HE is the source I need! Not only that but it shows my children that I acknowledge my weaknesses in getting angry. Hope this helps a little.

the answer is to give attention to your own interior life and let your child see that you make this your top priority
protect your own private prayer time and let your children know what you are doing and why they may not interrupt you
when you pray for special intentions, invite them to pray with you
when you practice devotions, invite them–not force them–to participate
take them to adoration with you from a young age
protect your personal time, including personal retreat annually

if you do not give yourself permission to pray, you deny that permission to your family.

Monicad, that is a nice tip. We spend time and communicate with eachother as a family, so it only makes sense to acknowledge Jesus is there with us, make sure he is included, and talk to him along the way too. After all, he is the very enter of our family, right?

puzzleannie, that is a good point not to let my own prayer life be compromised in all this. I think I am doing ok in that regard since I am by nature a private person, and am more likely to be at fault for shutting others out than by not affording myself my own time and space. Good point about inviting but not forcing. So far, its not a battle to get my daughter to join me in what I do, although I do put my foot down a little when she starts playing in the middle of the rosary time, but I try to be patient :slight_smile:


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