Yesterday I shared how the words we allow to be spoken into our lives and into the lives of our kids matter. With this in mind it is important to seek out groups – whether of faith, friendships, or our families – which offer the tools necessary to living as healthy, wholehearted people. What follows are three essentials healthy families offer children. These are what I have uncovered as MY FAITH SHIFT affected how I see kids and how I parent.
Three Essentials Healthy Families Offer Children
ONE: Safety To Question
- Are questions safe or squashed in our homes and in our churches? Why?
- Do we lean in and answer well or offer the lazy retorts (Because I said so, I am the adult that’s why, Because the Bible says so)?
- Do our faith leaders encourage questions? Or do questions cause our teachers and leaders to become defensive?
How as a parent or adult in a family do you navigate questions? “Because I am the MOM I said so or because I am the adult I said so or because the Bible says so,” these are lazy answers meant to deflect. Really we should be able to give an answer – or be able to say, “I don’t know, but let’s figure it out together.”
Do we know why children ask “Why? Do I have to? What does this mean?”? Many people of faith and parents see children with questions as questioning their authority or “rebellion or disrespect.” They cringe when a child or other adult uses their, “NO.” And they deflect or try to work around it instead of respecting the “NO” between them. (Here is a great example story)
How can we lean in and see these questions not as a threat to our authority, but as a part of a child’s curious, imaginative development? Questions are normal and healthy and not sin or the end of the world. Push-back is good. Unfortunately in churches and families push-back is not always seen as healthy and mature. So I am asking – in your home is there safety for a child/teen to question you?
Two: Safety to Disagree
Parents and families need to be the safest place for our children to learn HOW to debate and disagree. We are their safe place. This is where they learn their opinions, ideas, wants, needs and HOW to appropriately express them without harming or bullying others. This is where they form opinions, ideas, and beliefs in a context where their hearts are deeply valued. Another person’s “NO” isn’t a threat to us.
Our children’s “compliance or cooperation” is not our parenting goal.
Their voices, their hearts, their spirits, their wills – these matter to our family. We aren’t about squashing who a child is to get what we want from them. And we aren’t going to badger them to death, or pull out the emotional manipulation card (shaming, guilt-tripping, nagging, or toxic silence) to control their spirits and choices. We respect what they decide even when we don’t like it. The safest place to disagree should be our homes and our churches.
Freedom to disagree and argue and to have a separate voice are essential pieces of healthy, wholehearted people and families and faith communities.
Three: Safety to LOOK, LIVE, CHOOSE Outside the Approved Box
There shouldn’t be a box. Our oldest daughter had a writing project where we sifted through a historical encyclopedia (Affiliate Link to our favorite Kingfisher Historical Encyclopedia Here) and she chose topics and people she might be interested in writing about. I learned a bit more about her merely by watching her choose what interests her teenage spirit and mind.
The person she ended up choosing to do a research project about was Gandhi.
We gathered a bunch of materials for her project and even checked out the movie “Gandhi” to help her study. I had never seen the movie starring Sir Ben Kingsley as Mohandas Gandhi and directed by the late Lord Richard Attenborough. (Affiliate LINK see disclosures for more details)
First of all Ben Kingsley – I forgot how much I love him as an actor. But this is a beautiful movie about a fascinating, holy man. In my Evangelical Christianity faith history this man would not be someone we considered righteous, informing, and needing to heard. “He wasn’t saved. So he is in hell,” thus sayeth those wise grownups of my youth. He is discredited by those small circles because of his devout Hindu faith.
However his deep faith shaped how he helped change nations. Is this not the work of a man who knew God? Many of my faith would say, “NO,” despite evidence to the contrary.
The lessons found in the story of his life – left me tender and emotional. He was a great man. A great man who knew God. And who are we to say he wasn’t? What right do we have to measure a man’s goodness or faith?
In healthy families and faith communities freedom of choice exists.
Our elders have no need to warn us about certain books or authors. We do not need approved reading lists. And no topic is too dangerous to consider or wonder about. Learning should not be scripted. We refuse to pull thoughts and ideas from an approved box.
However we do offer warnings about groups who tell LIES and live LIES and believe lies and then threaten the safety of others – certain cults and faith communities come to mind. But while we warn we understand the free will of people to choose. We encourage and guide with a sense of freedom and separateness NOT anxiety or fear at what they might find.
Gandhi’s life added another answer to the main question of my life, “HOW then shall I live?”
I learned something from him and his life even if I don’t agree with everything he represented.
I am no Gandhi expert, but the lessons of his story are clear: All people – no matter their beliefs – matter to God because we are all Children of God. He could see this and understand this. Therefore I want to know this too.
It is my desire to raise children who live in the overflow and understand the importance of deep questions, living with our doubts instead of fearing them, stepping beyond the religious boxes of fear, shame, and hiding, while giving space to those around them to do the same.
These were three essentials healthy families offer children.
What would you add?
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- Also a highly recommended book for those shifting faith (Affiliate LINK) – Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe Is Coming Apart
Finally this is part 20 from a series on Shifting Faith – Confronting My Church Wounds.
You can find the rest of the series below:
- Coming Undone
- Pit of Despair
- Healing Takes Time
- The Act of Seeing
- Mean Church Girls
- You are NOT Good Enough
- A Year of Silence
- Evangelicals and the “Gay Agenda”
- I Felt Duped
- Critical, Sexist Church Men
- Anniversary of Tears
- Conservative Christian Women Support Trump
- Generational Consequences of Violence Against Women
- Four Ways Faith Shifts Affect Children
- I am behind on a few of these.
- A missing post is my life as a mother of five living with an Autoimmune disease
- Can An Unhealthy Church Raise Healthy Children? – Sexual Abuse in the Church
- The Words We Allow