Faith-Based Parenting Pros and Cons
It could be argued that all methods of parenting are faith-based. When an utterly dependent little human being is placed in our care we cannot help but draw upon our own core beliefs about the nature of reality to guide us. Nor can we help but impart these same ideas to the child, even if we do so through nonverbal means such as body language, tone of voice, and the actions that we model. Our deeper spiritual convictions heavily influence the way that we live our daily lives, and the way in which we live directly impacts upon the lives of our children.
Like so much else in our lives as parents, faith-based parenting becomes a matter of offering up everything we have and then letting go of our attachment to the outcome.
To put it in the most general terms, children are happiest when they are comfortable with themselves. As they grow up, this happiness is further influenced by the extent to which they can cope with the difficulties and disappointments of life. In either case, a rich inner life is the most precious resource that they can draw upon. One of the greatest gifts that we can impart to them as parents is the opportunity for them to understand and explore their own inner lives. Oftentimes this may require us to resist the temptation to mold them to our own image and instead do whatever is necessary to support their true nature and allow it to unfold.
This, then, becomes the question: Will our personal religious and/or spiritual beliefs aid them in their quest to fulfill themselves, or not? To a certain extent, whatever faith we adhere to will benefit our children if it enables us to feel more secure and joyous about existence. The serenity of a parent contributes to the serenity of a child. By the same token, parental anxiety can cause children a lot of harm. Religion is not the only area where we encounter the idea that there is one right way to approach life and its challenges. Psychology, behaviorism, and various other sciences also adhere to this kind of hubris. The belief that following certain rules will lead us to salvation can also set us up for anxiety, guilt and frustration whenever we fail to live up to those rules. We should always question whether we want to bequeath such pressure upon our children.
When we consider the question of faith-based parenting we’re essentially asking whether or not children should adopt their parent’s values as their own, this is obviously a question that we encounter in many areas, aside from just those pertaining to religion and spirituality. As has already been pointed out, young children need to take on many of their parents’ beliefs about reality in order to survive and make sense of their world. But should not kids also, particularly in their adolescent years, be allowed some measure of freedom to make their own mistakes in the real soup of life and learn from them?
If our greatest priority is for our children to be fulfilled and grow to become who they truly are, then probably the best thing we can do is devote ourselves to whatever beliefs and practices we have found to be the most life-affirming and then offer these to them as a sort of “ground zero” place from which they can begin exploring themselves and their world. In time they may grow more devoted to the faith that we hold or they may depart from it and seek their own answers elsewhere. In this they should be allowed their freedom. Like so much else in our lives as parents, faith-based parenting becomes a matter of offering up everything we have and then letting go of our attachment to the outcome.