Do Children Need Religion?
For healthy psychological development, kids need to know there is something greater than themselves.
BY: Dr. Erika J. Chopich
"Setting the alarm on Sunday mornings is inhuman...God should know that!" Those were my adolescent thoughts every weekend when my parents forced me to church. "I can get more out of my headphones and the Beatles." It was this way as far back as I can remember. Early Sunday school, then later Bible studies, liturgies in another language, all culminating in a weekly teen rebellion against God and my parents. I would brood the entire hour's drive to church just to make my parents as miserable as I felt. It never changed in all those years.
I look back thirty-five years later and bless my parents for the gift they gave me. I no longer practice their religion, but I live with every pore in my body believing in something greater than myself. My faith is as easy as breathing, and during times of great challenge, I don't have to search for God or strength. Everything I need is already there and will always be.
I have seen my peers dedicate themselves to never raising a child that way. "I will never force my child into religion the way my parents did" became a mantra. "I will wait until they are old enough and let them choose for themselves." Those choices, along with the "feel good" experiments of the seventies, have been a dismal failure. The result is an ever-increasing growth of what I call "entitlement fixated" people. It is so pervasive that, had I the power, I would make it a new personality-disorder designation.
When children are raised to never know failure, they can't savor success nor appreciate the motivation that second place instills. If they don't learn that we must, at times, do things we dislike for a greater good, they don't learn self-discipline. If we don't instill empathy early on, they may never know the complete joy in giving. And if we neglect their spiritual natures, they may never truly trust God.
I see behind me a generation largely of lost souls looking for God under every rock and crystal, believing they are so special that all of life's challenges are someone else's fault and someone else's duty to resolve. They are spoiled, arrogant, and have no sense of healthy boundaries or respectfulness. How can they, when they themselves have replaced God as the center of all worlds? This is the legacy we have given them. We have absolved them of failure and endowed them with unlimited specialness-therefore, tragically, they cannot arrive at the simple truth that there is something greater than themselves.
My early spiritual training was a little rough around the edges. Yet at least there was something there-a foundation on which to build my spiritual life. I was given a sense of divinity and an eye for all things sacred. I am not the center, but rather, a necessary part of a great whole. My participation in goodness and love and acting on what is right furthers my sense of self and God more than all the awards, accolades, and accomplishments I could ever accumulate in a lifetime.