In the post Learning from others, the good and the bad( part 2)I touch on the importance of a child having a solid spiritual foundation to help them deal with their interactions in the world. However, I feel the above post ended prematurely and deserves more attention.
Attending to that one thing that is needful
All good parents strive to do their best for their children: feed them well, protect them from harm (where possible) support them with their education and get them into the best schools. But it amazes me how we can neglect the most important aspect of our children’s development: their spiritual growth and wellbeing.
This came to my attention recently when I went to stay with a lady in Yorkshire on a working holiday. During our stay we were exposed to the quite eccentric beliefs of our host. I felt that I had not adequately prepared Kai for such a situation, but to my surprise he handled it very well, see the post Woofing in Dewsbury. However, I wasn’t taking any chances and felt this was a warning to make more of a concerted effort to work on his spiritual development.
How do you prepare a child deal to deal with radical belief systems and other harmful influences?
In addition to trying to be a good role model (following Christian principles), I also thought it was necessary to begin reading to Kai from the bible. Our time in Dewsbury made me aware of one ominous fact: if a child has no strong belief system in place and they are exposed to someone, for significant period of time, that has strong beliefs,then there is a good chance they will adopt these beliefs as their own.
However, laying a spiritual foundation needs to be done with care. First and foremost, YOU the parent must be the child’s model but there should not be any pressure. I feel the need to read the word of God to my son because I know that I am not always the perfect model, but God is. I do not force Kai to read the bible or any other religious text. In fact, he is often asleep while I am reading to him. But at least I have the comfort of knowing that I am sowing some mighty seeds which will reap long-term benefits.
A solid spiritual foundation is the ultimate form of protection
In the seven Habits of highly effective people, Stephen Covey discusses how many people spend a significant period of time on activities that are ultimately meaningless in terms of long term benefits, while neglecting the crucial, nonurgent activities which can have far reaching consequences. Examples of what the author calls “quadrant 2 activities” (the ones we need to focus on) include, exercise, working on long term goals; I would include reading the word of God in here. On one occasion when I was especially frazzled, my son went missing; he ended up on a bus and managed to get about a quarter of a mile from where I was. Luckily, a fellow passenger chose to mind someone else’s business and alerted the driver; my son was returned to me, safe and sound.
Some may regard my belief that my faith keeps my son safe as highly contentious, what if he had not been brought back? How would my faith hold up under such extreme and cruel circumstances? My honest answer is, I don’t know. But in terms of justification for my faith I side with Socrates when he says:
“No sensible man would insist that these things are as I have described them, but I think that it is fitting for a man to risk the belief—for the risk is a noble one.” (Phaedo, from Plato, The Complete Works; Edited by J Cooper)