Do children need religion? | Family Events


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My husband and I were raised in Christian churches but don’t share the same views about the role of organized religion in our lives. He isn’t churchgoing and doesn’t want to be. I don’t mind if he doesn’t want to attend church but I want our kids to be exposed to religion and go to Sunday school. Is it important that we agree on this? How can I explain their dad’s belief to my kids without undermining him or confusing them about the importance of going to church? Post answers on our Family Events Facebook Page.

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Last week we asked our Family Events readers to offer suggestions on how to slow down a young teen who is "12-going-on-17" and cares most about dating, "hot" clothes and make up. Here’s what our experts had to say:

"Your daughter is surrounded by a culture that sexualizes girls at younger and younger ages, throws "hot" clothes and thong underwear at them and encourages them to tart themselves up before they even begin to grow breasts. Undoubtedly she has a number of friends whose parents are more interested in whether or not their daughters like them than if they look like hookers-in-training. She NEEDS you to be strong on this, because you are the only ones out there that will try to protect her. Do you go to church? That can also be a healthy support system."

—Kristina

"We have had numerous conversations with our son about why he can’t see the movies his friends can, or why he can’t have a cell phone (he’s 13). We have him half the time, so after a few times of showing him that our rules were firm and WHY, he gets it now, thus he doesn’t ask "why can’t I" anymore. He is ready to just wait for that time when it’s appropriate for him to indulge."
—Kami

"Stop trying to be her Best Friend and start being her PARENT. I have a twelve year old and dating is not even on her mind. She tells me all the time she wants to stay a kid and I don’t blame her, she knows that becoming a adult is a lot of responsibility and hard work. She had wanted to get her ears pierced since she was little I told her on her 12th birthday she could, it gave her something to look forward to. When the time came two months ago she was like, "wow that went really fast." My question to you is WHY are you buying her these HOT clothes and make up it all starts with you."

—Eleanor

"You must remember that YOU are still her parent! Do not let her think that she is in control. Do not buy her inappropriate clothes or other items that should be saved for teenagers or older. Buy age appropriate books to read with her about puberty and relationships. Children CRAVE boundaries, but will always try to fight them — it is our job as parents to stand by the boundaries we set up."
—Phylis

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Back in 2008, I wrote a parenting book called "Bringing Up Geeks," in which I asserted a radical parenting philosophy: we ought to raise geeky children for success in life, and not for popularity in the seventh grade. (These goals generally are mutually exclusive).

Among the reviews I received was one by a blogger who liked my premise, my acronym for "GEEKs" — Genuine, Enthusiastic, Empowered Kids — and my ten foolproof rules for raising innocent, wholesome children. All in all, a great review.

Yet one paragraph troubled me. The blogger’s review encouraged nonreligious readers to dismiss out of hand one aspect of my geeky parenting strategy, raising a faithful child. "Nonreligious readers should probably avoid Rule 10, because it talks about the importance of spirituality in a child’s life… and how that helps them cope with some of the stresses of being a ‘geek.’"

First, it should trouble all of us that a reviewer would essentially offer, "If you don’t agree with something, don’t read an opposing point of view." This explains a lot about the tenor of our current civic debate, doesn’t it?

Moreover, I was saddened that the suggestion of raising faithful children can so easily be ignored without even considering the consequences to children.

Do kids need a spiritual life?

To be clear, I don’t evangelize any specific faith tradition in my book and I’m emphatic about that point. Here’s what I said: "This book does not advocate a particular faith expression…" Pretty straightforward, right?

Rather, my premise is that all the best research confirms that children are spiritual by nature — they crave answers about God and about the universe (How did God make mosquitoes? Why did God make my little brother?) — and they are naturally open to teaching about religion and spirituality.

In his seminal book "The Spiritual Life of Children," Harvard Professor Dr. Robert Coles concluded that his life’s work helped him to "see children as seekers, as young pilgrims well aware that life is a finite journey and as anxious to make sense of it as those of us who are farther along in the time allotted us." Coles concluded that soul-searching and a sense of spirituality exist from a young age in virtually everyone.

Equally important, research about children definitively states that those raised in households where a religious practice is present are more successful in several measurable ways, including school performance, self-discipline and avoiding high risk behaviors such as drinking, drug use and premature sexuality.

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Of course, that’s not a reason to practice a religion. We engage in a religious practice because doing so reflects our beliefs and values about God and our relationship to a Supreme Being as we understand Him. To ignore the spiritual development of our children seems to say, "Sorry kid… I’m just not interested in promoting that aspect of your personhood."

All I said in my book is that parents — the vast majority of whom claim they believe in God — should know what they believe about Him, understand their beliefs well enough to teach them to their own children, and then do so. It’s simply another aspect of child development that helps to nurture the whole person and offers deeper meaning to life in a world that often seems shallow and superficial.

I wish that reviewer had said this: Nonreligious readers will be challenged by a chapter that asks them to reconsider the spiritual needs of their children, but then again, something so important is worth revisiting from time to time.

Thanks for reading and sharing Family Events!

Take good care until next week,

Marybeth

Articles to Follow
Survey Results Spiritual parenting survey results

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Back to School Bishops want to send Catholic parents back to religion class

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familyfacts.org Religion and family from familyfacts.org

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Religion Clash When parents and teens clash over religion

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Bookstore
This week’s best buys at your local bookstore
Your Four-Year-Old: Chicken Soup for the Kid’s Soul:
101 Stories of Courage, Hope and Laughter

by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Patty Hansen and Irene Dunlap

Stop Second-Guessing Yourself - The Preschool Years: The Blessing of a Skinned Knee:
Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Self-Reliant Children

by Wendy Mogel

What Your Preschooler Needs to Know: Getting Your Kids Through Church
(without them Ending up Hating God)

by Rob Parsons

No More Push Parenting: Raising Kids for True Greatness:
Redefine Success for You and Your Child

by Dr. Tim Kimmel

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