Serious disrespect... did I say the right thing?


Hi all,

I’m a brand new Catholic, and my wife and 3 children are all still Baptist. I desperately need some advice!

We have chronic disrespect problems in our family, especially with two of our children. My oldest (15) is almost constantly argumentative and disrespectful, and now our youngest (9) is developing similar traits.

This morning our youngest had a particularly bad morning with temper tantrums and abusive language to my wife. I stepped in and put a stop to it, but may have gone too far in what I said…

I told the children that not all people believe the same way Baptists do. Catholics (including myself) believe that chronic disrespect towards parents is a mortal sin, and puts one’s soul in danger. I told them that Catholics believe mortal sins need to be confessed to a Priest, and that their souls are in danger until this confession is made. Since they don’t believe in confession to a Priest, I strongly encouraged my daughter to spend time in prayer, confessing to God the morning’s disrespect, and to turn from this pattern of behavior.

Being Baptist, my wife and children STRONGLY disagreed with what I said about mortal sin, loss of salvation, and confession to a Priest. My wife has spent several hours scolding me for “scaring them and damaging my relationship with them.” She feels that now they may reject God entirely because of their anger towards me for what I said.

I’m feeling very defensive right now - I think that telling them these things was the right thing to do - I owe them the truth! I want them to take sin more seriously. Did I go too far in telling them about mortal sin, the eternal consequences, and the need for confession? It resulted in them being even more anti-Catholic than they were before, and now they’re “anti-Dad” too.



It resulted in them being even more anti-Catholic than they were before, and now they’re “anti-Dad” too.

Is that really your childrens’ assessment or your wife’s?

As for them being “anti-Dad,” well it seems to me that any kind of discipline would have gotten that reaction from them. That your wife takes their part and doesn’t back you up is the worst problem you have here, not you telling them about Catholic beliefs.

You need to have a private conversation with your wife about presenting a united front before your kids so they will take any discipline either of you metes out seriously instead of using one of you against the other (in this case using your differences abour religion) to get what they want. Remember, you and your wife are the adults here and need to be in control of your children, not the other way around.


I agree with Della. That’s always a problem in mixed marriages even with you being a new Catholic. I presume that you were Baptist before becoming Catholic?? You were once united with your children’s faith, if so. Spouses and children are not expected to ride along on the same journey that you did and in your time. While your fervency surpasses your family’s for the Catholic faith, you must not put your children in the middle. They were not raised understanding mortal sin and you should not “pound” it into them so abruptly. Becoming Catholic, which is an adult faith when it comes to comprehension, is a process.

Deal with their disrespect where they are, not where you are. As they observe you, as well as your wife, then they will see the beauty of Catholicism. And that is really what it is. Beauty…So we don’t want our fervent actions to veil that.

Anyway that’s my:twocents: . God Bless and welcome home…:slight_smile:


Thanks so much, Della and Teachccd. Very good points. I appreciate your advice.


I think you have every right to raise your children in the righteousness of the Lord. Did you come on to strong? Maybe. But emotions were running high. To be honest I would have spanked the 9 year old and talked later! It is not because you are Catholic that you ask them to respect you as their Father but because you are a Christian. The 15 year old has in her mind what she believes about confession etc but the 9 year old should not have as severe a reaction to that conversation as your wife is letting on. It seems to me (hopefully I am wrong) that your wife undermines you (behind your back perhaps?) and tells the kids what she believes and why Daddy is wrong. This is the only way I see a nine year old being able to say she does not beleive in confession and Daddy is wrong.

Here is what I would do. I would sit down with my 15 year old and 9 year old apart from each other and without mom. Reason I would talk to them seperatley is because of the huge age difference and their understanding. I would be totally honest with both of them. Tell them you are sorry for losing your cool. Talk to your 15 year old and tell her that you love her and want the best for her. Tell her you do not mean to beat these things into her head and you were frustrated at the time. Etc. Think about this before you do it. I would let me 15 year old know I do not expect her to change what she beleives just because I say it is right. Tell her you would be more then happy to study these things with her at least so she knows and understands where you are coming from. Also, let her know you expect to be respected. You are no less her Dad just because you are Catholic and it is still your home. I would set this down in very specific terms. If you have to see Dr. Ray Guarendi for ideas on dealing with rebellion in teenagers. This disrespect MUST be stopped and dealt with. You may need to sit down with your wife as well. This is probably VERY difficult on your wife and she let’s the kids know how difficult it is in no uncertain terms. I would also sit down with my 9 year old and explain the same things you do to the 15 year old but not using the same words etc.


You are very perceptive!.. and I very much appreciate your wisdom. Yes, the undermining is a significant problem - not only with my wife, but my in-laws as well. In fact, my brother-in-law is the pastor of my wife’s Baptist church, so every time I mention something about the beliefs of the Catholic church, a chorus of debate and ridicule erupts with the entire family. (BTW… relationship between in-laws and wife can best be described as “enmeshed.” They visit very frequently, and live closeby.) I’m hoping that I can instill a bit of skepticism against the “Baptist brainwashing” that is going on. I’d be happy if they opened their Bibles and asked “Does it really say that?”

Thanks to some of the excellent resources at St. Joseph’s communications, my wife is at least seeing WHY I now believe the way I do, and I think she may be slowly moving away from her “anti-Catholic” mindset. Praise God for that! I’m trying not to say “too much” - but I want to take advantage of opportunities that present themselves. She has heard a couple of tapes reflecting on the writings of the Church Fathers - very powerful.


The toughest thing for many people not in full communion with Church teachings to grasp is the fact that people may disregard parts of the Truth or not believe in any of the Truth - but that does not in any way shape or form make it any less the Truth.

It also sounds as though you and your wife need to know how to present a united parenting front for these two kids. Common ground does exist between Catholics and our seperated brethren…respecting ones’ parents is a very good example of such common ground.
You are your family are in my prayers.


I’m sure they know that we have to "honour our father and mother " and to not do so is a sin, which seems to have started the problem in the first place.

As for the mortal sin, well they don’t understand it, but dis-honouring your mother is sin, and parents taking sides isn’t good, you need to pull together instead of pulling apart.



I have not read the other responses and maybe what I am about to say someone already posted here. Based on what you posted I conclude the following:

  1. You and your wife need to be on the same page as far as discipline for your children is concerned.

  2. You did not do wrong in telling them the truth, however, the way you said it to them (i.e., the tone of voice…etc…)., might have been wrong.

  3. You and your wife need to do some talking alone and then talk to the kids.

  4. Explain to them about Catholicism. Basically tell them what it is about and how other religions are plain “buffet” type of religions in which they take whatever they want from the Catholic Religion.

Do you and your wife argue in front of them? If so, that might be another factor as to why the children are acting this way.

Do you know why people scream at each other?


I would for sure put a stop to ANY and ALL debates that go on in your home in front of your children. This does not help them and only serves to confuse them more. Those whom they love are all disagreeing on things they have been taught are detrimental to their salvation. I would in no uncertain terms let relatives know that there will be NO undermining of your faith in front of your children and their will be NO debating in front of them or they are not at all welcome. You figure out how to word it.

You have your work cut out for you but with the Grace of God all things are possible.


Please stop allowing your kid to speak to the woman you married in that way…this is totally out of line. I think it would be wise for you to consult with a priest you feel comfortable with , in order that he guide you on family matters. Can i ask all bloggers to pray for this family…God bless you all !


Does this disrespect pre-date your conversion? Is it directed at you or at your wife (or both)?

I don’t think children disrespecting their parents need to be handled in a specifically Catholic or Baptist way. It is against the 10 Commandments which all Christians hold to (or at least all the varieties I know of).

As others have said, you and your wife need to be on the same page on how your children should behave and how to discipline them. There are lots of great parenting resources that you can both use from many different Christian and secular sources. Maybe check through your local library’s offerings.

We should also model the behavior we want our children to develop which means being respectful to them and especially to your wife (and her family). If your oldest is 15, the issues with your in laws aren’t new and you should have developed some strategies for dealing with it by now.

You probably will want to use a different technique for reining in a 15 yo than a 7yo and they probably have very different reasons for their actions. If your 15 yo is really rebellion against your conversion (as opposed to more usualy teen angst), then giving her (him?) some reading and offering to have discussions on it, would probably be the best solution. Those should be one-to-one sessions maybe over a meal or coffee at a local resturant.

Your little one might also just need more attention. On a Sunday morning with the family splitting up to attend different churches it could be just more than a 7yo can handle.

Does your parish offer a vigil mass? Sunday evening or very early Sunday mass? If so, you should try to attend one of those so you can also go with your family to the Baptist church. Not because you believe what Baptists teach–but to be together with your family. And also, it would probably be easier at some point to have them start attending mass with you occasionally, if it doesn’t conflict with the service they normal attend.


Ours is a somewhat unique situation - I’ll try to explain…

Yes… the disrespect has been going on (especially with the eldest) for quite some time. It is usually aimed at my wife, and occassionally aimed at me. I ALWAYS address it when I am home. Yes, we’ve read many parenting books, and sought professional, Christian parental counseling.

We’ve had a very difficult 18 year marriage. My wife is very loving and affectionate (example: just hand-delivered a love note to me at work!) and has many positive traits, but also has some serious anxiety issues (similar to Bipolar II), for which she has been in counseling for many years (CATHOLIC therapist, who she really likes!).

Her family (the enmeshed one…) has a great deal of love, and yet at the same time, a great deal of disrespect, especially between my wife and her mom. Due to this engrained (and ongoing) behavior, I don’t think she expects better behavior from our kids. I wonder if she’s unconsciously “creating” the same atmosphere in our house as she experienced in her childhood.

The kid’s disrespect towards me (to my face) is significantly less, since I’m more “consequence oriented.” They don’t like getting grounded and having privileges revoked. I suspect that there is quite a bit of “behind my back” disrepect going on, and I can’t do much about that.

Due to her anxiety issues, she is also prone to much (!!) intense (!!) conflict. (As a side note, her Mom is very similar in temperament, and they also have a very contentious marriage. Again, I wonder if our marriage is being “shaped” to match what she experienced in her childhood.)

In addition to the almost constant conflicts with me (very often in front of the kids), she often joins the kids sides when I am handling the discipline. She frequently offers excuses for their behavior (in front of them), and now is surprised that they blame others. This happens even when I am disciplining them for showing disrespect TOWARDS HER. In her defense, she has been working hard on controlling these “protective mother hen” emotions, and is doing somewhat better in this regard lately, especially considering that I have recently joined the Catholic Church which was very difficult for her.

I do not discipline severely or in anger, although frequently the interactions get heated when I am “outnumbered” by my wife and kids joining together. I am working on controlling myself in these situations, but I’m frustrated that these situations NEVER existed in the first place. Reasoning with her and discussing parenting techniques has not been all that effective - there are too many emotions involved on her side.

Anyway, you are correct in assuming that we are not presenting a united front. It is a very chaotic household, and I’m doing my best to give the kids the best upbringing I can in spite of the circumstances. My eldest is showing the exact same anxiety issues that my wife and mother-in-law have.

I have been counseled to have input into the kid’s lives “separate from” my wife’s involvement - weekend trips on the motorcycle, etc… in an effort to break from the very frequent arguing, and provide some stability and minimize the “I’m on Mom’s side” attitude that has been pretty strong among the kids, especially since I converted to Catholicism 4 months ago. (BTW… yes, I was Baptist previously)

Whew! Sorry that got so long! I certainly do appreciate your prayers.


Who spanks us for the craziness we put our kids through?? Parents undermining each other, Baptist versus Catholic. These are children, for crying out loud. Tend to the disrespect without hitting while under high emotions and deal with faith issues later. If two adults can’t come to terms with their faith diversities, what can you expect from a 15 and 9 year old?? We talk about truth and our Catholic faith. The truth for these kids is in the form of a question; How can God cause mom and dad so much distress?

These are not theologians. These are children who need proper guidance. And speaking of disrespect, what example do these children see when parents are putting each other and in-laws down in front of them?? The epitome of disrespect…:frowning:


hmm, depends on the situation.
Why your wife would be foolish enough to argue with you is beyond me.
It’s very simple, "Honor thy mother and father."
If they aren’t doing it, they are literally disobeying God. Catholic or not - it’s a sin to disobey God. Whether a sin is mortal or not, is not the reason it shouldn’t be done. We should not sin because it seperates us from God.

Would your wife prefer to teach them it’s okay to disobey God and disrespect her?

To me, this didn’t have anything to do with either of your religious beliefs and could have been handled without any religion being mentioned at all.

Do not ever argue faith with your children or with your wife in their hearing/sight.

Answer questions honestly and gently, but do not argue it!
Truth is not something a person can argue. It is simply what it is. You can discuss it. You can explain it. You can refuse it or accept it. You cannot argue it.

**Frankly, my dh has absolutely zero tolorance for any of our children speaking rudely to me and I’m not silly enough to let the kids think he is wrong to insist they speak to me respectfully. I suggest you talk with the wife and agree on how to deal with this. Crack down on the oldest first. These behaviors have a serious trickle-down effect!:wink: **


Whoops!.. I realize this is going to sound petty and defensive, but the “putting down each other” idea is a misunderstanding. I’m not suggesting that the atmosphere is healthy for the kids, but it’s not due to me griping about my wife and her family in front of the kids.

Not that it helps the kids at all, but the fights that we have are almost always “anxiety oriented” and deal with silly things - not putting one another down. Example: last night after the kids were in bed, I noticed that the oven had been left on, and asked if it was pre-heating for something. My wife forgot to turn it off, and became angry angry that I noticed it. She lashes out in her anxiety - not because she’s trying to put me down.

I learned very early in our marriage that I shouldn’t criticize my wife’s family!! She’s very loyal to them - as well she should be - they’re great people.

I speak of the in-laws very favorably in our house. I love them very much (and they love me back very much, too), and they are always welcome in my home. They visit almost daily, and are a welcome presence. They’ve had a hard time with my conversion to Catholicism, and are somewhat vocal about it - they all wear their emotions “on their sleeves.”

The “debate and ridicule” that I mentioned previously isn’t directed at me, per se. I’m sorry that I didn’t clarify this better. They ridicule the Catholic faith in front of the kids. Example: yesterday afternoon, her folks came over, and her Dad was laughing about how “foolish” it is to confess to a Priest when we can go straight to God. I don’t appreciate his comments, but it would do more damage to confront him, so I just changed the subject.


First of all, tomch, I only speak in kindness and charity. My words may seem strong but it’s meant for the best.

When your in-laws berate Catholicism in front of the kids they are ridiculing you implicitly.The kids see adults acting childish. Your changing the subject is a good quick fix but the underlying problem remains.The kids know this. Your wife will side with her parents at this point because she is not Catholic. This just makes sense.

I don’t know all of the details but in general there’s one rule of thumb. Don’t burden kids with adult decisions and problems. In my personal experience, Baptist theology is in major disagreement with Catholic theology. You have a long road ahead. Read " Rome Sweet Home" By Scott Hahn. He journeyed a similar road out of the Presbyterian Church.

Thank you for the clarification although I can fully understand your fervency for your new found faith. I can’t get enough of our faith and I want to shout it from the rooftops. For now, however, whisper it to your kids and your wife. This will be the hardest thing for you to do. I almost caused my son to leave the faith because of my very vocal lectures. I backed off and he’s coming back (slowly). He is visiting the many fundamentalist Christian gatherings.

In closing, Focus on the disrespect at hand with your kids. Don’t move into faith tangents. (I did many times) Be the best example that you can and leave the rest to God. may the peace of Christ be with you and your family…teachccd :slight_smile:


Why say all that you said anyways?

A good stern talking to about absolutely being required to respect their mother and then a swift punishment such as grounding, no bike riding, no tv, no computer, no allowance, etc etc is going to hit home.

I am not judging you, but from the words you used in your post, it sounds as if you simply are using these little instances as excuses to go on about your faith.

Sharing the faith with your family is awesome! But why not try to treat the kids like kids who did something wrong first, then bring out a Bible lesson later when things are calmer?

Pretty soon, your kids will connect the dots. Catholicism will be connected to unhappiness.


Dr. Ray has a neat audio series on discipline

I’ll tell you one thing–when Dad says something it has a greater impact than when anyone else says anything. :cool:



The problem is chronic. It’s totally out of hand - happens every day. When I’m home, I DO address it swiftly and use appropriate punishments. But when I’m gone (or not in the room at the time), my wife does not hold them to the same level of respect (or obedience). When I hear what’s going on, I intercede and demand that they treat my wife with respect, but I can’t monitor the situation effectively when I’m not there.

I’m sure the kids are confused about the different standards, and this is why the problem is ongoing. One of my reasons for saying what I did was because I wanted them to realize that God is watching their behavior, and HE will hold them accountable to HIS standard when I’m not around to catch them in their misbehavior.

I admire the Baptists for their fervency, but in my opinion, they aren’t as attentive to the “pursuit of holiness” as they could be. Why should they be? They think they are already eternally secure, no matter what they do. As a result, there’s not much of a deterrent to being disrespectful (or other sin) when Dad isn’t watching. In other words, the “Faith Alone” doctrine has no “teeth” when it comes to keeping one from sin. I was hoping that my mention of the “mortal sin” issue would give them reason to pause and consider their actions a little more, and to realize that there might be some “teeth” after all.

I do agree with you about bringing up the “lesson” at a more positive time instead of as part of the discipline session. That makes sense, and I’ll definitely do that in the future. I certainly don’t want to equate Catholicism with unhappiness! Thanks for your suggestions.

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