I've definitely considered the fact that my children are going to make choices in their lives that I don't agree with, or even consider harmful to their lives. It's something most parents have considered, I think.
If one or more of my children became religious, I would be severely disappointed, no doubt about it (as disappointed, I think, as my mother is in the fact that all three of her children are now atheists).
I think our relationship would certainly be affected by such a choice, but I hope that we'd find other values we can share so that our relationship does not dwindle down to nothing. And I also hope that we'd be able to discuss our differences in a kind and rational way. I am further aware of the possibility that the relationship might have to end, which is heartbreaking to consider.
Their choices in the future (and many of their choices now) are not under my control, so I choose to focus on my part, the things that are within my control. As long as I am doing my best and behaving virtuously, then I'll be able to handle whatever possible future disappointments may come.
To that end, I am consciously working to establish the kind of healthy relationship with my children while they are still young that will become a good foundation for a new kind of adult relationship with them later. I'm also sharing with them the ideas that I think are essential to living a happy, rational life, and modeling for them my own best efforts at living that happy, rational life.
It's the best I know how to do for our future relationship now, and I accept the possibility that they may make choices I disagree with. Should they choose to become religious as adults (or do something else I believe strongly to be wrong and harmful), I know I will have done my best while they were under my direct care and influence.
I would respond initially by following the same method that I have followed throughout my own child's life so far: I would ask the child what religion actually means to him or her, why he or she believes in it, what is the scope of the belief, where does it lead in action, and so on. I would want to let the child explain his or her motivation, and why he or she has decided to abandon reason -- if that's what being religious means to my child. I would want to help my child to see the whole picture of what man's life objectively depends on. What I would do next would depend on the precise nature of my child's affinity for religion and aversion to reason.
Here is a broader description of how I strive to apply Objectivism to the challenges of child raising in general. It is my answer to the question: "How does trade apply to children?"
(a) Children, by their nature and depending on their age, are not entirely autonomous. They cannot survive on their own, but must rely on help from adults. Furthermore, children come into the world by the choice of adults. Those adults thus have a rational obligation to accept the consequences of their choices, including the parenting responsibilities that apply toward their children.
(b) The long-range goal of child-raising should be to encourage and support the child's development of independent rational judgment, emphasizing basic reality orientation as a firm base for any later development of imaginativeness and/or social interactions.
(c) As developing humans, children should be dealt with by trade, to the maximum extent possible and reasonable for the child's age and developmental state. Children should be taught and encouraged to respect others as fellow rational individuals, to respect others' property, to deal with others by rational persuasion and trade rather than by any form of physical force or self-sacrifice -- and, above all, to appreciate whatever values they receive from others (both material and non-material) and to fulfill any commitments they may have agreed to perform in return.
(d) But children must also accept discipline from their parents when it is rationally needed, such as when the child is initiating physical force against others, or doing something hazardous to himself or others, or seriously mistreating property (even property considered to be his own), or being obnoxiously loud or rude. Parents need to establish consistent, rational rules and explain them to their children when needed, along with appropriate, consistent enforcement.
(e) Discipline has many forms. Simply withholding "privileges" for awhile can often be enough, especially when the overall relationship is positive, involving mutual respect, trade and parental generosity of time and attention toward their children.
(f) Children should also be taught when and how to deal with physical force initiated against them by other children. Children as well as adults need protection from physical force, and adult supervisors ideally should intervene promptly in issues of bullying, fighting or serious verbal abuse among children. When such supervision is lacking, it becomes vastly more difficult or impossible to define a proper course of action for children who become victims of physical force.
(g) With mutually respectful trade, including practical guidance from adults when children want it (as they normally do sooner or later), children can be a highly rewarding source of enjoyment for their parents as they grow and develop.
My own child is not yet an adult, and I have no control over the choices my child will make as an adult. But I certainly find it encouraging to see the total context and level-headed outlook that I have endeavored to help my child develop. I may well be in for a bitter surprise during and after my child's college years -- it certainly happens -- but we'll see. I've done everything I can think of to help my child to see independently what it takes to live productively and happily, and why any form of religious belief falls short.
answered Oct 21 '10 at 01:21
Ideas for Life ♦