Monday, December 13, 2010

The Key - the Easy Answer - to Raising Kids

I have heard some people who have left the Church claim that the Church is damaging to children. I simply can't accept that.

I have listened to too many educators in too many school districts all throughout the Eastern United States express the wish that all their students were as well-adjusted, respectful, happy, dedicated, bright and caring as the Mormon students. (and, yes, I understand that is a stereotype and there are plenty of exceptions) I know far too many wonderful Mormon children from all kinds of family situations to worry that raising children in the Church, in and of itself, will damage them. My own children were and are being raised in the Church, and, if I do say so myself, they have not been damaged by that upbringing.

Having said that, my major point is that each couple needs to raise their kids according to the dictates of their own conscience - and that nobody can blame anyone else for how they choose to do so. At the end of the day, raising my children is my and my wife's responsibility - not anyone else's and not the Church's. If I really believe something (one way or the other) and fail to act on that belief, I can't blame someone with whom I disagreed but to whom I ceded responsibility. That decision is mine - not theirs.

Kids can be raised in the Church by active, believing parents and end up beautifully - or really screwed up; kids can be raised in the Church by totally non-believing parents and end up beautifully - or really screwed up; kids can be raised in the Church by any situation between those extremes and end up beautifully - or really screwed up. The same can be said about kids raised with any other religious ideology - including atheism or agnosticism.

The key is not the classification we use to describe the parents, but rather the way those parents interact with their kids.

I personally will continue to raise my children in the Mormon Church, simply because, outside the issue of my own testimony, I know of no better foundation for children than what the Church's structure and programs can provide. I have seen just about everything out there, and I would choose the Church. I am honest with them about my beliefs whenever I feel I have to add a different perspective than what they get at church, but I do so in a way that does not denigrate those who provide that other perspective. I keep it to statements like, "I can understand why others believe that, but I see it this way," or, "I just don't know if that is true or not," etc.

Above all else, I refuse to transmit condescension and disdain and ridicule of others to my kids. I have seen what that has done in the lives of friends, and the result is condescending, disdainful and ridiculing kids.

I have no easy answer to raising kids, but I do believe it's mine and my wife's to figure out for ourselves and our kids. Period.

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