Let Your Kids Ask Any Question They Have

I want the hard questions about the faith to feel very familiar to my kids when they come up. I want them to have wrestled with these questions in my household, sometimes instigated by me, and not when confronted by the social pressures of a broader world hostile to Christian faith.

By Travis Dickinson Published on March 16, 2019

The most important thing to tell your kids when they doubt their faith is that they’re normal they are normal! It is not a sickness or a sign of a spiritual flaw. It is an opportunity to grow in their understanding and faith, or so I have argued.

But how do they grow in this?

There’s no question that’s off limits.

My wife and I have a policy with our kids: They are allowed to ask any question they might have. There’s nothing — and I mean nothing — that is off limits. If one of our kids hears inappropriate language that he/she doesn’t understand, they are allowed to ask us what the words mean. If one of our kids doesn’t think something said in a Bible lesson or even in Scripture sounds right, they are allowed and encouraged to ask us.

My wife and I have a policy with our kids: they are allowed to ask any question they might have. There’s nothing — and I mean nothing — that is off limits.

Now, sometimes we’ll postpone answering the question. We have four kids ranging from middle school down to first grade. So our first grader may not be ready for a deep discussion about certain delicate topics. We may postpone an answer until we can talk privately with our middle schooler, for example. So they know they can ask anything they want to, but they also know they need to ask appropriately when little ears are around.

I want deep questions to feel familiar.

Our hope with this is twofold.

One, we want to create a culture in our family where it’s normal to ask questions and think critically about their life and faith and all that this entails. Here’s a critical moment in the life of a Christian kid who has embraced the faith of her parents. Let’s say she has read and is familiar with the gospels. But one day a person points out the differences in certain parallel passages of Scripture and claims these are contradictions.

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This can come as an absolute shock. She’s likely to wonder why this never came ip in all her years of Sunday School and church. She may even go on to suspect she’s been sold a bill of goods. How different would this be if she was quite aware of the differences, and knows how they are reconciled?!

I want the hard questions about the faith to feel very familiar to my kids when they come up. They should be wrestling with these questions in my household, sometimes instigated by me. I don’t want those questions to come only as they’re confronted by the social pressures of a world hostile to Christian faith. They should be used to asking deep and difficult questions. They should be able to think for themselves before they become wholly confronted with a world that’s happy to tell them all they “should” believe.

I want our kids to come to us.

Second, we want to create a family culture where our kids come to us when they have questions. Every parent will, at some point, say to their kid, “Do this, because I said so!” I think this is completely appropriate. It’s called parenting. A parent has the privilege and the right, to set the rules. So a parent doesn’t need to always appeal to some further rational principle in telling the kids what they are to do.

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However, I think saying, “Believe this, because I said so” is a really bad idea. Here’s why: If this authoritarian principle is your child’s guide for forming his beliefs and worldview, what happens when he is sitting in a biology or philosophy class with a professor who is hostile to his faith? You’ve literally taught your child to believe his authority figures, rather than to think critically about ideas. Now his authority figure is not you (or his pastor or youth pastor).

I want my kids to see me, among other things, as a reliable guide for life’s deep questions. The irony is that if I demand to be the just-because-I-said-so authority in their life, I’m likely to be dismissed from this post at some point. But if I teach them to think critically for themselves, they are likely to come to me as they work out their worldview.

Resisting an Unthinking and Hostile World

We live in a post-Christian world. We also live, in many ways, in a post-rational world. Our culture is not one of pluralism and tolerance (in the good sense of these terms). There is one “right” view about almost everything (e.g., gender, sexuality, politics, morality, etc.). And fitting in to this is almost impossible to resist unless we plan to seclude and shelter our children from the rest of the world for the rest of their lives!!! Or we teach our kids to think critically so that they may see the truth, goodness and beauty of Christianity. I’m going with the latter.

 

Originally published at travisdickinson.com. Reprinted with permission.

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