It is possible to bring an Ignatian perspective to parenting. My wife Sue and I don’t claim to be the best at this all the time, but the basic thrust of it goes like this.
Taking the First Principle and Foundation (FPF) seriously means seeking to discover what kind of person God has created our daughters to be. I paraphrase the FPF this way: God creates us to render praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and everything on earth ought to help us achieve this primary end.
Parenting—especially the adoptive variety, which we’re in the midst of—is about helping our daughters in the process of self-discovery. (In a way, adoption makes this discovery easy; we have no preconceptions about our girls having the same interests as we have.) It’s about cultivating time and places for reflection, always asking God for insight into how to render praise.
Another way of thinking about parenting in an Ignatian vein is by seeing the formation of character as a process similar to Ignatian discernment. We want to encourage practices that help form them—practices like prayer and liturgy, reading and exercising, friendship-making and so on. Ignatius’ spirituality borrowed heavily from Thomas Aquinas, who borrowed heavily from Aristotle—who said that all actions aim at some fundamental good. For Ignatius, that good was expressed in the FPF. As parents, then, our job is about helping our daughters to both praise God in the everydayness of their lives, but also keep an eye open for the larger question of who God is inviting them to become through their gifts.
We can’t impose that vision upon them; too many parents, it seems to me, drive their kids to some vision of excellence they’ve decided is necessary in a market-driven world. They must be outstanding students; they must excel at some sport; they must have all sorts of activities which help build their applications to the best colleges, and so on.
For us, the different challenge is to find the ways that their personalities unfold, but not to drive them always to succeed. Rather, we provide them opportunities for self-discovery, and rejoice or lament with them at respective successes or failures. And through the whole process we (hopefully) take time to simply marvel at their beauty, which is (as for all of us) a reflection of the God who has created us in his image.