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MilkyWay's avatar

In your opinion, should children follow the beliefs of their parents?

Asked by MilkyWay (13131 points ) April 25th, 2011

This question goes out to the parents on fluther. Do you think children should believe what their parents believe? If so, why?
Do you think it would be better for them to decide in what they want to believe in or not?
I know some people my age who are more or less forced to believe in what their parents do. In my eyes such a belief is useless as the person does not really understand or want to believe in it at all. But what do you think?

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43 Answers

yankeetooter's avatar

I think children should be allowed to form their own beliefs for themselves. Certainly, parents have a great amount of influence in what they expose their children to, and in the beliefs they follow, but ultimately children should be allowed to choose for themselves.

Carly's avatar

My parents are crazy. They think Obama is a terrorist.
I on the other hand do not.. and I think thats probably for the better.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

I think that’s the supreme test of parenting skills, letting the child chose their own path. I think it has to be their own path so they really own the beliefs. It’s a little easier to understand why parents resist letting kids chose, after holding my seven week old nephew for about an hour this Easter.

Coloma's avatar

I think setting a good foundation of trust, respect and honesty is important, otherwise, no!

To desire your children to be a cloned mirror of yourself is narcissistic and highly disrespectful to the child.

Your job as a parent is to encourage your child to follow THEIR dreams, not yours.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

We talk to our daughters about what we believe, and about what others believe. They’re free to make up their own minds about everything, but so far I think they pretty much stick closer to what my husband and I believe.

For some kids (at least until they’re older), I think it’s kind of a comfort thing, to “hold” the same beliefs as their parents.

ucme's avatar

My kids are (glorious) individuals & are encouraged to take their own path. Although for goodness sake, tidy your bedrooms once in a while….please! :¬)

belakyre's avatar

Children are inclined to believe what their parents believe. However, they should be free to choose for themselves.

Sure parents do raise them, but really that does not mean they have the right to tell their children what to believe in.

Parents shouldn’t view forcing upon their children their beliefs as “parenting”.

YoBob's avatar

I think it is healthy for children to question the beliefs of their parents. In fact, questioning “the establishment” is, IMHO, an important part of becoming a thinking individual.

That being said, there is a difference between questioning established beliefs and simply dismissing them out of hand. Generally beliefs that have stood the test of time have some foundation in truth or practicality. To just dismiss beliefs will doom one to repeat the mistakes of history. As one gets older one develops a perspective that the young and impetuous simply do not posses.

blueiiznh's avatar

You can’t force a person to believe in something just on that face value.
Eventually they will come to their own conclusions.
I feel you teach your children certain values, but open them up to form their own feelings and beliefs on things.
To me, parents who try to CONTROL their childrens thoughts and beliefs are simply that, Controlling. They are not allowing their children the opportunity to form their own opinions, beliefs and learn on their own.
This to me is very shallow minded and not preparing their children for the real world.

Blackberry's avatar

Of course not.

incendiary_dan's avatar

No, then we’d have a society of automatons (more than we do already).

@Carly A lot of Pakistani people agree with your parents.

crisw's avatar

No. I believe that one of the most important things we can teach children is how to logically evaluate the evidence for any proposition. I think that most Americans, at least, are sorely deficient in critical thinking skills.

JLeslie's avatar

If I had children I would want them to believe some basic things similar to me. That all people are created equal, that if there is a God and heaven, every good person can go, and that you should always use your brain to decide what seems right and good.

I actually would be very upset if my children became born again Baptists and every time I saw them they are thinking my soul was going to hell, and I should go to church with them. Not that every Baptists walks around thinking or saying that, I am just using it as an extreme example.

Being Jewish, I also care that we continue, that Jews continue to be in the world, as long as there is a world that has religion. So, I woukd be saddened if my child did not identify Jewish, but not traumatized. My husband was raised Catholic, so my kids would have some Catholic influences from his in-laws, and I myself like Catolicism, so I would guess there is some risk they might like Catholicism better than Judaism, but my husband did convert to Judaism.

I don’t care if they are theists or atheists, as long as it does not change the logical brain God gave them.

picante's avatar

Beliefs are built from multiple influences of which parental input should be only a very small portion. Good parents provide opportunities for an array of opinions and experiences that ultimately inform the belief systems of the children.

ragingloli's avatar

While my ego tells me “Hell yeah!”, the only rational response is “No”.

derekfnord's avatar

Parents influence their children enormously, and to a large extent, they can control what their children do (at least until they’re of age and out of the house). But they can’t ultimately control what their children believe, even at a young age. At most, they could require that a child act as if the child believed something. But they can’t make the child actually believe it.

For example, they could require the child to go to their church on Sundays and sit through services, responding when required, etc. And they could make the child kneel beside their bed each night and say words, or say different words before eating each meal. But they can’t make the child actually believe the religion whose actions they’re following…

ddude1116's avatar

I was raised Catholic. For my confirmation, my mom gave me a Bible, which I began to read and pondered over and found a lot of things I didn’t agree with. Then I bought Siddartha and read it, and found that I preferred it to Catholicism because it just fit me better. I loved the whole transcendental way that people are blended into the World, but still I claimed to be a Catholic however many doubts I now had. Later, I began to read Kerouac, which gave me an insight into contemporary Bhuddism, and lead me to read Bhuddist scripture and found again that I prefer it. However, my parents don’t accept that I no longer wish to be a Catholic, and refuse any reason I give in defense. So no, parents shouldn’t force their kids to believe what they do, or they’ll resent it and never call home.

cookieman's avatar

No.

So far with my daughter, we’ve explained (numerous times) the difference between a belief and a fact. She knows what my and my wife’s beliefs are (which are slightly different from each others), and she currently attends Catholic school. We’ve also talked about the Jewish, Budhist and Muslim beliefs a little.

She’s eight so I expect this conversation will expand as she gets older.

Our goal is for her to be as informed as possible so she can form her own beliefs.

I told her, “If I tell you the sky is blue, go outside and look for yourself.”

skfinkel's avatar

Our goal as parents is to raise healthy, self-actualized children. While they are young, they need to know what our beliefs are so that they have some context for thinking. But if you teach your children in a way that is not threatening or frightening and encourage creative thinking, questioning, and personal responsibility, they will be able to make good decisions for themselves as adults. If you are raising your children in a totalitarian society, where fear is common and following the leader is the only way, it would be far more challenging than it is in the US, where we encourage individualism and freedom of thought and personal happiness. Your children might not always agree with everything you think, but if you have done a good job, you should be able to have civil and reasonable conversations with them, and the family can remain intact.

SuperMouse's avatar

I believe in exposing my children to as much information as I can and attempting to teach them the skills required to independently investigate for themselves. While the obvious connection to me here is with religions beliefs, I think this approach can be taken with social and political ideologies as well.

I was raised Catholic. My parents took me to church every weekend and holy day, sent me to CCD, and had me receive all the sacraments up through confirmation. Once I had gone through my confirmation (at 13 years old) they allowed me to decide for myself whether I wanted to continue going to church. I plan to do something similar with my own children. In our faith one has to be 15 years old to become an individual member. I will keep taking them to Feast and exposing them to the prayers and the Writings and when they hit 15 they will decide for themselves whether to continue or not.

Answers like the one right above mine are the reason @skfinkel is my parenting guru!

Cruiser's avatar

If my son came to me and said “dad, I am thinking of becoming a <so and so> believer” and we talked about his reasons, I would be a lousy parent if I did not support his desire as long as it was an informed decision he felt strong enough about to go through all that effort.

If it was cultish or really out there “religion” I still have a legal responsibility to “parent” my child till he is 18 and would then present a strong opposition and intervention to something I felt would be harmful or destructive in anyway.

captainsmooth's avatar

A parent’s responsibility to their children is to encourage them to think about and make their own choices.

zenvelo's avatar

I am doing my best to raise independent thinkers. Politically, they can believe whatever they want if they can defend it rationally. From a religious perspective, they can develop their own belief system when they are older (18), but until then I ask that they tolerate my liberal catholic beliefs.

They have to be able to support their beliefs, though. I would not tolerate racist or homophobic beliefs.

YoBob's avatar

@Cruiser makes an excellent point. It would be a poor parent indeed that didn’t encourage their children to think for themselves. However, it would be an even poorer parent who didn’t guide their children from obviously poor choices.

In short, when your teen aged child decides to announce:

(probably at a traditional family gathering to provide maximum effect)
“Dad, I’ve decided to become a follower of the Sri Rama Lamma Ding Dong and we believe in removing our testicles as a show of faith and chastity. After castrating myself this evening I plan to sign over my college fund to the church and move into the commune.”

You are well within the bounds of good parenting (regardless of how much your child and their new friends in at the Koom-Bai-Yaha commune scream about you imposing your outdated belief system) to tell them that it is not OK to mutilate themselves and sign over their college fund, no matter how much “faith” they have in their new found religion.

JLeslie's avatar

I think the truth is in the majority of these answers parents do want their children to believe as they do, or failry similarly. It might not be whether their child identifies with the same religion in name, but most people here want their children to generally believe as they do do in terms of religiousity I think. I always say I have more in common with a nonreligious Catholic than a very religious Jew.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I want my children to think for themselves and come to my beliefs because, let’s be real, I think my beliefs are good ones (who doesn’t think that about theirs?). I don’t want them to not question my beliefs though, I want them to question and understand why I chose them as my beliefs.

JLeslie's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir GA. You said it so well. I couldn’t sum it up so succinctly.

skfinkel's avatar

@YoBob yeah, that would suck. But I am thinking that before the night comes when the kid announces he is joining a cult, you might have had an inkling that he was headed in a dangerous direction. And frankly, if a teenager did make such a pronouncement and you were surprised, you are in serious trouble as a parent.

flutherother's avatar

No, you can love your children but you do not own them.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

I think it’s much easier for people to answer in the abstract if children should choose their own beliefs than to really let them do that each time something comes up. Many people who want their children to choose their own beliefs in theory would flip out if their child didn’t believe the same things as they did about how to handle smokers, which diet is the best, what exactly “slutty” is, if a woman should take her husband’s name, etc. Religion is only one part of our beliefs, and it can be a very small part, at that.

Pandora's avatar

Are you simply asking in a religious sense? If you are than no. Only because no one can make you believe something you don’t truly feel.
Is it even possible to make someone believe what you believe? Yes, but only through brain washing.
Do I wish my on ideas and beliefs in most matters could be passed down to my children and they believe it as strongly as I do? Yes.
If I did not believe my beliefs were true than I certainly wouldn’t be believing in it. We pass all kinds of belief to our children.
I believe if you commit a crime there is a pretty good chance you can get caught.
I believe in doing no harm to others unless it is to protect the people I love.
I believe a girl wearing a short skirt should wear underwear.
Can’t tell me most of you would be happy about having a child who wore short skirts with no underwear and commited crimes and went around hurting other people!
My point is our children are individuals and just because a parent may try to pass on their beliefs to their child doesn’t mean they are looking for a carbon copy. Heck my kids can do things I never could do. I don’t want a copy of me or my thoughts. I only wanted to raise well informed kids and then I prayed they made the decision that was right for them.
But did I influence them some. Sure but in time they tossed aside the ideas they didn’t believe in the same way I did with my parents.

lillycoyote's avatar

No, they should think for themselves and believe what they believe. Children are responsible to there parents until they are 18 but hopefully parents teach their children to think for themselves. That’s what mine did. But some of the things they believed in, their values I share with them, not because I think I should believe what they believe but because there values were worthwhile. It’s sort of ironic that the main reason that my mother failed in her efforts to turn my brother and I into good christians is that both my parents taught us to think for ourselves and neither of us thought christianity made whole lot of sense. We simply didn’t believe any of it.

Edit: Just so as not to give the wrong impression, my mother was sure as hell capable of thinking for herself, her parents also taught their children that, she just came to a different conclusion than my brother and I did.

seekingwolf's avatar

I think children should have to follow the rules of the house. But once they are adults, then they are free to make their own choices, within reason.

I was raised Methodist but I don’t believe that anymore. I broke away and have my own beliefs. Thankfully, my parents are 100% fine with it.

From my own experience, I think it’s harmful to the kids when the parents “force” them to believe things. It really can be traumatic. I think it’s good to gently expose them to it and get them talking and thinking about it. Dogmatic and strict rules only can work with common sense stuff (don’t run in the road, don’t sneak out of the house, don’t drink in my house, etc) but it really can have bad lasting consequences on a child’s emotional/mental growth if parents are that way with religion.

Jeruba's avatar

It’s up to the parents to teach their children what they want them to know. Leaving it to children to figure everything out for themselves is abdicating parental responsibility. There’s a long, long gap between forcing compliance and leaving a child rudderless.

This is meant to be general and not just about matters of faith: we teach them what we know and believe about how to get along in the world, how to treat others, how to take care of themselves, etc. We may or may not choose to teach them something we regard as “religious.”

We should teach them how to decide—how to weigh their own choices and determine their own actions. We start with small things and offer guidance; we don’t throw them headlong into cosmology before we help them figure out the right thing to do when playing with other children or performing a task.

When children are mature enough to think and act for themselves, they are free to embrace their parents’ beliefs as their own, adapt them, reject them in favor of something else, or reject them in favor of nothing. At that point it’s none of the parent’s business to tell them what to think.

Carly's avatar

@incendiary_dan I can understand their reasons more, but my parent’s reasons are very irrational and most people who meet them think they’re crazy. I personally don’t think any US politician is just good or bad, I feel everyone, including our country’s leaders have flaws, and honestly, you just can’t please everyone in America.

basstrom188's avatar

Only if they want to

creative1's avatar

I believe in my children having their own beliefs as adults and I want them to see every option there is out there to make their own decisions.

You do this by teaching your child right from wrong, manners, consiquences and giving them guidence as they grow. Let them explore their world to become the person whom they want to end up becoming, while also being there to give them the guidence and protection they may need. Of couse you have your beliefs but by being open in others beliefs you are letting your child also know its ok that they may have their own beliefs in the end. My children see I have friends of different races, religions, sexual orientation and etc. I want the them to make ultimately the decision of who they want to be when they grow up, I just want to be there to help guide, protect and enjoy being with them while they discovering it all.

Coloma's avatar

I have always asked for my daughters feedback in her growing years, and, we had the best discussion a few years ago ( she is 23 now ) about her feelings on my and her fathers parenting skills.
I asked her if she felt I ever pushed her too hard, how she felt about various things I encouraged her to get involved in, etc. It was a wonderful heart to heart and she expressed no regrets, didn’t feel resentful about anything and admitted that she saw how I might have over compensated due to her dads extreme lackadaisical approach. ( He was identified with being the ‘cool’ dad and not identified with the practical and ethical part of parenting.)

It was very heartwarming and intimacy provoking for us both. :-)

I have several friends that have some serious ego issues with hearing their childrens feedback, I have tried to tell them that they must be able to HEAR and VALIDATE their adult kids feelings, but, to no avail.

Nothing is more humbling than asking your children what THEIR opinions are about your parenting. Try it..it might lend itself to some wonderful closeness. ;-)

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@Coloma Or, it might lead to finding out that they think you did a really, horrible, awful job. I mean, it’s probably going to lend itself to closeness if they think you did at least an ok job, but I promise that if my parents asked me that and I answered honestly, it would not lead to closeness but rather I’d be kicked out of their houses.

Coloma's avatar

@MyNewtBoobs

Of course. If your parents were assholes, well…nothing else to call it. lol

aprilsimnel's avatar

If the kids as maturing people test out their parents’ values for themselves and conclude that those values are right for them, then that’s when they should accept them. Just accepting values by parental fiat denies the kid their own agency, and regardless of what parents might think, kids are not supposed to live their lives for their parents’ benefit or by their parents’ whims.

Kids need to learn how to make decisions and determine their own values. Nothing is sadder than a grown person squashing themselves down and not living their own lives because otherwise, they’ll make Mummy or Daddy angry.

mattbrowne's avatar

Of course not.

There’s only one exception: I expect my children not to believe in and support perverse ideologies such as neo-Nazism.

montague11's avatar

I think if the parent practices racism then they shouldn’t and instead seek out those who treat everyone as equals even if you don’t agree with them..Children go to school with the need to want to fit in out of peer pressure so they take on the beliefs of those they want validation from.This is a problem in my sons school.They don’t practice treating others with respect because they see their parents me against the world mentality and think that is the best way to conduct themselves even if it hurts someone else.My son is learning real fast that trying to make sense out of racism and social intolerance is a waste of time.

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