Only recently have I personally been exposed to parents who insist on keeping their child’s mind open for a future time when they will decide the big things in life like religion, politics and sports loyalties. Actually, most are less concerned about sports loyalties and continue to freely brainwash their children to follow the team they want them to follow.
Are parents doing their children a disservice by leaving the larger life questions open-ended while the child grows and learns about other things? Is it even possible for a child’s mind to remain open; or will they just fill the gap with information from another source, since the parents are not giving out any information?
Starting school has long been the age when a smorgasbord of new ideas comes home from all those other children. Children bring home the names of new kids they have just met, the language, jokes and even mannerisms of their newfound friends. These come into a home that doesn’t understand any of these things. Very little guidance is given to parents about what comes next when their friend uses language not welcome in this household. In the old days, parents just washed out the mouth of their child with soap. DHS might be called if that happened today.
Can we teach our child how to weigh new ideas without brainwashing them into the habits we have grown up using?
Teaching critical thinking to a five-year-old is a tall order. They won’t have the skills to do that level of thinking for another 5-6 years. What we can do is model critical thinking and practice these skills in front of them to demonstrate their use. I have written previously about teaching 5-year-olds to drive. They learn how to sit, how to hold their hand on their imaginary steering wheel and even what to shout to unruly motorists who drive too slow or pass too abruptly.
Parents who insist on allowing their children to choose their own religion continue to send their children to school without any discussion of options. Education is forced while the faith is left open ended. I would argue that faith is far more important than education since faith has sustained many generations of people who never even attended formal schooling. The action of allowing our child to decide his own religion involves allowing him or her to remain home instead of attending any church services. What is really learned in the absence of any religious teaching is actually more akin to agnosticism or atheism. By letting them stay home we teach them that faith isn’t really all that important. Whatever we invest our time in becomes more important than the things we might have done with that same time.
Is it really brainwashing to teach our children Bible stories or sing “Jesus loves me” to them? The test comes when they ask questions or bring up alternate ideas about faith. Can we discuss these openly or does the introduction of something new automatically require eradication?
I would suggest that we recommend whatever life decisions we have chosen for ourselves and allow our children the freedom to ask questions, try alternate ways of expression and even make other decisions as they get older. It isn’t brainwashing if it is an individual choice being practiced and recommended. There will always be time to undo the previous teaching if they so desire.