Introducing your child to the concept and the reality of God – Part II
While we would imagine that most parents do not want their children to simply adopt the parents’ point of view on everything—and particularly their point of view on something as important as God—the challenge becomes one of providing the child with a free mental space within which to come to their own conclusions while at the same time offering firm and sure guidance, which every child deserves.
Children don’t want parents who are wishy-washy—and they don’t deserve them. They want and deserve more.
If a child is afraid of the policeman on the corner, do we tell her: “Oh, sweetheart, the policeman is our friend. There’s no need to be afraid of him. He’s here to protect us and to help us.”
OR…do we tell her: “Oh, sweetheart, I think the policeman is our friend. I hope there’s no need to be afraid of him. I wish that he were here to protect us and to help us. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.”
If your son is afraid to go into his room at night because he imagines there’s a monster under the bed, do you say, “Son, there’s nothing to be afraid of. Come on, I’ll go in there with you and show you.”
OR…do you say, “Well, son, I sure hope there’s nothing to be afraid of. Come on, I’ll go in with you and I’m going to wish with all my might that I’m right about this. But let’s keep the door open in case we have to get out of there in a hurry.”
Of course you offer the former, not the latter. You know that what your child looks to you for is certainty.
In all matters.
So the challenge becomes one of how to help your children feel certain about things, without robbing them of the opportunity (and the skill) of becoming certain themselves through the reaching of their own conclusions.
This is not an easy thing to do, and it can require us to sometimes walk a very thin line.
Self-discovery is the pathway to certainty
In nearly every situation in our children’s lives it seems to me we do our best job of parenting when we help them find things out for themselves.
Yet how can children find out for themselves about something as hypothetical (and that sometimes seems even to us to be hypothetical) as God?
And the problem here is that many other people talk about God in very definitive terms. So what your child is hearing on the playground, or in the home of friends, can sound very certain. Then, when your child comes to you for clarity, what do you say? That you don’t know? That you can’t be sure? That you have your own ideas, but it’s anybody’s guess? That we should all keep our fingers crossed?
Suppose your child comes to you and says he is afraid of God. Do you say, “Oh, sweetheart, God is our friend. There’s no need to be afraid of God. God’s here to protect us and to help us.”
OR…do you say: “Well, son, I think God is our friend. I don’t believe there’s a reason to be afraid of God. My own thought is that God is here to protect us. I hope there’s no reason to be afraid of him. Let’s hope I’m right.”
Let’s say that your daughter has heard at her friend’s house that God punishes us if we don’t do what He wants us to do. She’s heard that if we are not careful we could wind up going to “hell.” Now what do you say? “Sweetheart, that’s not true.” OR…“I certainly hope that’s not true. Let’s cross our fingers.”
Yes…these questions about how to proceed are not small questions. And we will begin to explore them as we continue with this series of articles in our next post. I hope you’ll join us for it.