How to Raise Christian Kids: Two Tips and One Error

photo-1470843810958-2da815d0e041_optTruth is precious and error is easy. If you love your children, you hope they love the truth. As a Christian, I naturally hope my (now adult) children will embrace goodness, truth, and beauty. My experience (four grownup theists!) and years of teaching (mostly college) suggests there are two good ideas and one very bad idea.

Here is the bad idea: trying to make or manipulate one’s kids to accept reason. I would not make them if I could. Why?

Mind control is a kind of witchcraft, not the good Harry Potter kind, but the bad mind control kind. Here is a truth: when all was good, God put humankind in a garden and let us choose. If the best parent was willing to let us choose, even badly, we have to accept that we should do the same. I want my kids to be liberated in their hearts and minds. Who wouldn’t if they love their kids?

Here is a mistake not to make: Do not force ideas on children if you can help it. 

What should we do? Hope and I tried to live our faith: same people in church, teaching philosophy, or playing the trumpet. We did not want fakery or lies We often failed, but tried to say when we failed. We wanted to train thinkers, passionate lovers, and doers. Our kids, we hoped, would surpass us and so they have.

Christianity encouraged us to do two basic things:

Teach logic, passion, exegesis and expose kids to ideas as they grow. 

Jesus is the Divine Logos, or Word. This idea includes logic. If you love God, then you will wish to be like He is. God is reasonable and logical. To think like God is to think reasonably, cooly, and using the laws of logic. Math helps here as well. Dealing with abstract objects, things that exist but are immaterial, is excellent preparation for dealing with all of reality: matter and ideas.

Passion (as Plato and the Bible point out) is a good thing, because it powers us, motivates us to act. We love so we do. Passion can be informed by reason and submit to intellect. Training our passions is good, because a human should never be dominated by mere desire. We wish, but wishing is not enough! We need to be hearty, loving people, but those whose passions cooperate with the intellect and not overrule the mind!

Head and heart must be taught to agree.

Sadly, most people do not read well. They cannot follow an argument so teaching exegetical skills is necessary. Read. Read out loud. Fill the house with books. Recall that we are the people of a collection of books! As children get older, intentionally expose them to ideas that you think bad and discuss.

Keep discussing.

Accept disagreement and keep talking. 

My adult children and the parents (!) do not agree on some things. Good. That is a sign we taught them to think for themselves. These disagreements are sometimes hard, often temporary, and can be enjoyable. It is hard when we do not all attend the same type of church. Temporarily each of us tries on a different kind of idea. When my adult children learn something new, it stretches me. One will challenge my literary taste, another my moral limits, a third my view of film, and a fourth my ideas about economics. I am often wrong.

This is a joyful thing, this learning from my children. My adult children honor us by talking to us, taking shots, and enjoying time with the family.

This much I know after decades of dialog with students. Bringing men and women to mature Christian manhood and womanhood, making adult Christians, is based on the Biblical ideas of dialog, disagreement, and development. I have not stopped learning from my children ever since my firstborn corrected me about spiders being insects! What a joy! What larks!

 


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