Do Your Kids Know Why They Believe What They Believe?
As a longtime teacher, I had the pleasure of working with thousands of kids and their families over the course of my career. I spent time with kids not only in a classroom setting (where you would be surprised what kids reveal, right there, for all their peers to hear), but also in private conversations, in small groups, on retreats and school trips where kids let down their guard and opened up.
If I had to share one takeaway from those experiences, one great insight that I have gained about kids today, it is that the vast majority have opinions and belief systems that they cannot support or defend. This makes sense, of course. Without the benefit of life experiences, of mistakes made and lessons learned, of discussions with people they love and respect who represent different viewpoints, they are at a distinct disadvantage. They are operating from a place where attitudes have been implanted and instilled by parents, friends, and the media, without the thought and reflection necessary to truly understand them.
The result is kids who don’t know why they believe what they believe. This doesn’t mean they don’t have conviction. In fact, they’ll fight to defend a belief that they can’t really explain or even define. The problem with that is that those who would disagree, who would take the opposing stance, have also taken the time to educate themselves, to formulate sound arguments, and with just a few jabs, your children will be on the mat and the countdown to their defeat will have begun.
As Christians, we believe in the Bible and make God the center of our lives. The Bible is our rule book, our guide for how to treat others, how to conduct ourselves, how to prioritize, and how to live. Jesus set the standard, and although we’ll never be him, we strive to do what he would do. It makes sense and provides structure and a moral compass for our children. Going to church every Sunday ensures that our children are surrounded by others who share the same beliefs, that they grow up praising God through song and prayer, and that they have spiritual leaders available to them for counsel or support.
All of these measures – plus a strong Christian home – help to foster children who grow into Christian adults. But the older our children get, the more exposed they become to others with vastly different belief systems. At that point, they will at the very least be questioned and at the most be violently confronted by those who feel just as strongly that Christianity is a ruse. And the question then becomes: Can your children defend and support their beliefs? Do they know why they believe what they believe?
I’ve had to face this challenge many, many times during my life. I grew up in the church, went to Christian school, attended church every single Sunday, and prayed daily. And the first time a non-Christian asked me why I believed something in particular, I stammered and stuttered like a fool. Has it happened to you too? And have you done your best to help your children prepare for this inevitability so they don’t look and feel like fools?
Thinking, questioning, and studying the other side are not dangerous; they are absolutely necessary. Our children need to know what other religions espouse. They need to know and understand the Bible. They need to be able to answer the most common questions others ask about our Christian beliefs. How can there be a God with so much suffering in the world? Where is your proof that God exists? How can you believe that there is only one true path to heaven? Why isn’t it good enough to just be a good person?
These are questions they will hear, if they haven’t heard them already. Are they equipped to answer?
This summer, while the kids are off school and have a little more free time, why not talk to them about the reasons behind their beliefs. Help them to think, to question, to study, and to learn everything they can about the most important part of their life – their Christianity. Don’t shy away from the tough questions. Embrace them, and give your kids the best gift any parent could give their children – insight into who they really are.
Rebecca Deurlein is the author of Teenagers 101: What a top teacher wishes you knew about helping your kid succeed, and CEO of the path to success company Teenager Success 101. She blogs and writes internationally, speaks to parents across the nation, and loves every minute of living in
Sugar Land, TX. Find her on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Huffington Post, or through her own blog A Teacher’s Guide to Understanding Teenagers. All can be accessed at www.rebeccadeurlein.com.