It’s something I’ve definitely wondered about before – what makes a child either take on or resent the faith of their parents? There are so many possible factors at play in a child – their temperament, school, friends, and interests. But according to a recent article, research (and a new book) by Professor Vern L. Bengston show that there are a few major influences.
Leading by example. This may seem like a common-sense finding, but it’s important – if parents actually live out their faith, their kids are more likely to appreciate the beliefs. Even if on a subconscious level, kids can definitely sense the duplicity of saying one thing and doing another. Also, this factor is made stronger if both parents hold the same beliefs, which gives more unity to the upbringing of their children.
A good parent-child relationship. No matter how great the example of a parent, if a child doesn’t feel close to them, they are much less likely to adapt their beliefs. A good relationship between parent and child would also mean a better and more practical understanding of the faith, where they don’t perceive the faith as just a list of rules and regulations.
A close bond with Dad. This one is interesting: apparently a close bond with your father is more important than a close bond with your mother for “religious transmission”. The only reason I can think of for this is the fact that God, in many religions, is a father figure – and if someone isn’t close to their dad, it would be much harder for them to want or appreciate a relationship with God.
Not forcing religion on them. I’ve seen this one time and again: parents are forceful with religion and too strict on their kids, so as soon as the kids reach legal age or are allowed a little freedom, they want to get as far away as possible. It’s important for parents to foster an atmosphere that encourages faith but doesn’t force it.
Being happy in your own faith. Because there is no better motivation for a child than seeing their parents living their beliefs, and in doing so, enjoying a joyful, meaningful and fulfilled life.