The other day, I walked into the lounge-room to discover that Birdy was flicking through a bible.   She looked up at me and said, ‘I’m reading the bible, it says ‘Love you God.’  I’m not sure exactly where she got that from – I guess it’s a variation on ‘God loves you’ –  but it made me realize that even very young children can have an interest in and an awareness of spiritual stuff.

When it comes to talking about God, I think most Western people either fall into one of two categories… they teach their kids nothing about spiritual issues, because they’re not sure themselves, but they believe they are letting their kids choose for themselves.  Or they’re really sure what they believe so they indoctrinate them totally and give them a black and white view of the world.  (And don’t think atheism is a neutral position.  Atheists are just as likely to indoctrinate their kids as are people of faith.)

So what’s the problem with that?  Well, if you give your kids no spiritual input, then you’re really not giving them any choice. They simply won’t have the tools to seek God out if they wanted to, or to exercise any kind of spiritual life. We give our kids a teddy bear so they can seek comfort in that, but if we don’t give them any kind of concept of God, then they won’t have the option to turn to God for comfort or guidance or acceptance or forgiveness.  On the other hand, if we try to indoctrinate kids too much with our own particular strain of theology (or atheism), they’ll get a real shock when they get out in the real world and discover that there are many different views, even among people of the same faith.

The best way I can demonstrate the difference between teaching and indoctrination is that if your kids ask you a curly question, the indoctrination answer sounds like ‘The answer is x and anything else is wrong/stupid.’  A teaching approach says, ‘Well some people think x… other people think y… I believe x for these reasons.’  Or take the example of praying.  You can teach your kids how to pray, but you don’t have to put the words into their mouth.  For example, the other day Birdy prayed for her cousin, ‘Dear Lord, Thank you for Ella Bella so she can have a good sleep. Amen.’  It doesn’t quite make sense but the idea was there.  Like everything, what we do is ultimately going to be more influential than what we say.  So if we want our kids to learn certain values then we need to model those values.  And of course, if we don’t offer them any spiritual guidance, they’ll eventually find their answers somewhere else, in their friends, their TV shows or magazines. 

Have your children shown any interest in spiritual stuff?  What do you most want your kids to know about God?  If you don’t have a faith or are unsure, how do you deal with questions your kids have?  What do you do when two parents have very different ideas about God or religion? 

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