The first time Caroline asked me a difficult spiritual question I was not prepared. I love theology, discussing doctrine, reading meaty books, studying the Bible, etc., but discussing these topics with a little girl wasn’t on my radar!
And yet many gifted and 2e children ask the hard questions, often long before you expect them to do so. They think about life, death, God, and matters of faith in ways many adults never do.
I admit my first response internally was to briefly freak out. It really was. That quickly turned into a thought of something like, “Can’t I just catch a break!?!?!?” After those thoughts raced through my mind in a matter of a few seconds, I tried to honestly and succinctly respond to her question.
As David and I were talking about this, we tried to determine how to handle these kinds of questions in the future. We know they are coming. We know that gifted and 2e kids rarely respond well to the “because I told you so” method of instruction. I also have read widely and know that some Christian and/or homeschooled children are seriously blindsided when they leave home and the protective theological cocoon their parents have raised them in.
These are some of the principles we’ve come to based on our own faith experiences and watching others around us successfully parent their children in the faith (as well as learning from the people who admit they screwed up and how they would do things differently).
The Importance Of Honesty And The Truth
This is a foundational value in our home. We state openly that we are a family that tells the truth to each other. The truth is directly tied to trust and that’s a biggie. It’s part of the reason we didn’t do Santa. I know good people disagree about this, but I wasn’t going to lie to my child for years and at the same time tell her that we value always being truthful in our home. We tell Caroline she should always tell us the truth and she can depend on us to be honest with her.
No Question Is Off Limits
We tell Caroline she can ask us or tell us anything, anytime. There is no such thing as a dumb question and we always take her thoughts seriously. If she has doubts about something, I want to know about it. I want her to tell me what she thinks rather than feeling I will be angry or disappointed because she is having thoughts of her own that might be contradictory to what we believe. I can’t answer her questions or guide her to answers if she’s afraid of being honest. We tell her point blank that she can feel free to tell us anything.
Speak Often Of Our Faith
There is a difference between speaking authentically about our faith and preaching at her. We avoid preaching. But we do speak as authentically about our faith as often as possible and in natural ways. We tell her stories of how we have seen God work in our lives and how He has answered prayers. We share with her the important stones of remembrance that line the path of our lives both separately and together. We talk about how she is a specific answer to prayer. We have always made it clear that our faith is not just something we do on Sunday (which is a good thing considering how much we have struggled with church attendance). Our faith is an integral part of who we are and informs our decision every day.
We Ask Her For Forgiveness
Never ever underestimate the power of modeling this to your child. When we are short with her, grumpy, or otherwise sin against her, we confess it to her and ask her forgiveness. She cannot learn how to ask for forgiveness unless she sees it modeled. David and I apologize to each other in front of her. We say, “I forgive you” in front of her. If we aren’t willing to confess our sins, how can we expect her to take our faith seriously? Because she has seen it modeled, she also will ask for our forgiveness when she does something wrong. She also knows that while there may be consequences, our love for her never changes (which goes back to the idea of feeling free to ask any question up above).
Embrace The Wonder Of Creation
David and I are both naturally geeky and we find the world fascinating. We find creation fascinating. The Bible tells us that God speaks to us constantly through His creation and I find it so true. We regularly share our amazement over what God has created.
Understand All The Views
We want Caroline to know and understand the different views people have about life, including those that deny God and Jesus. We want her to understand why people believe certain things we don’t believe as well as why we don’t believe that way. We are not doing her any favors if we don’t speak honestly about the various beliefs out there. She’s going to run up against them eventually and I vastly prefer we’ve already considered them in our home.
As she gets older, we will try to help her to understand the tension of not being able to be certain about all aspects of faith. It’s called faith for a reason. I cannot answer every question for myself and I’m sure I won’t be able to answer every question for her.
Who Ultimately Loves Her
Looking back, David and I can both see that our parents gave us a foundation in the faith. We are both profoundly thankful for that. But God also used other people in significant ways in our faith journey. I have no doubt that He will do the same thing for Caroline.
We prayed for many years for a child, specifically a girl. We also specifically prayed that God would make her strong. (What were we thinking!?!??!?!? LOL!)
As much as we love her and want what is best for her, we know that God loves her far more than we could ever try. He has had His hand on her life in ways we can see so clearly. We will pray for her and instruct her, but ultimately she belongs to God and we trust Him to provide the answers she needs.
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This post is part of my Raising Gifted Children in the Christian Faith series.
Another good one, Sallie. Thanks for sharing.
I love this series, even though my three kids are in their thirties.
My oldest son is gifted. When I was telling all three of them long ago how I had prayed for each one of them before they were born and how God blessed us with exactly what we had asked for, his response was: “Well I would certainly feel sorry for us if you didn’t get exactly what you wanted.”
Cait Fitz @ My Little Poppies
Love this, Sallie! You know I can relate 🙂
We prayed for an intelligent child. Hooboy, did we get it in spades!
Thanks for this. It’s so important that questions of religion and faith are spoken openly and honestly with these kids. Because of their unique perspective on the world, they certainly have spiritual questions that many adults never even consider. I love that you are being open about other faiths as well – so important in our ever-shrinking world.
W didn’t pray for an intelligent child, but we did pray for a strong one. I can relate! LOL!
We will be open with Caroline and try to answer all her questions to the best of our ability. If we don’t know the answer, we’ll seek it out together. But we are Christians and it is our hope and prayer she will follow Christ.
It’s like you have been in our home. Frankly, having (what I assume is) a gifted child is somewhat terrifying when it comes to matters of faith. My experiences with talking to my 4 year old daughter about faith have been nothing — NOTHING– like my friends’. Their kids happily babble prayers after them, thanking God for puppies and flowers and Grandma/pa, etc. They easily seem to accept whatever their parents share about faith. Not so for us. My daughter questions EVERYTHING. She wants to know why she can’t see God. Why she can’t talk to him like she can talk to me, etc. She asks in depth questions about God, Heaven, death. She’s four, and her questions stop me in my tracks. So many of them are SO theologically deep and complicated. She also won’t accept “pat” answers. She’s too smart for that. She wants real discussion.
I mentioned to my husband the other day that I can understand a parent losing their faith with a child like this. Because faith is just that– FAITH. It’s not practical. It’s not explainable. Her logical brain wants to make sense of things in a way that is just not possible. It’s awesome and terrifying at the same time. I’m so grateful that she won’t just accept lines that she’s fed. But I also can’t answer many of her questions. And sometimes in talking about it, everything feels so insufficient, so made up, so silly. Am I feeding her stories? My faith doesn’t waiver deep down, but when I hear the words coming out of my mouth, they sure sound far-fetched sometimes. Faith is so very UNlogical.
And it feels so vulnerable. So very vulnerable. Especially when it comes to the idea of others (people who don’t know her as well) speaking with her about faith matters. Having children has made me want to protect them from misused “faith” or fear-based “faith” or faith crammed down their throats. “Good behavior” is often how faith is presented for young children (as opposed to grace-based faith). And with a logical, straight-forward child, I worry she will latch onto the behavior-based side of things. And that faith will become about “rules” for her. And lose the Joy.
Anyway, I appreciate you sharing this. I haven’t had other parents express similar feelings. Most of them just LOVE talking about faith with their children. But it has been hard for me. Rewarding, but hard. In the end, I wouldn’t have it any other way, but that doesn’t mean it is an easy path.
Oh Claire! I do so get what you are saying, especially the part about it sounds so illogical when it’s coming out of your mouth. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been speaking about faith matters to Caroline and it feels/sounds hollow to me. I wonder sometimes if part of that is with these kids you are really forced to boil it down to the specifics and not all the other “stuff” that gets attached to the practice and outworking of our faith. Like you said, I don’t want to burden Caroline with the “good behavior” interpretation of Christianity. It is so much more and so much richer than that.
I think another aspect (and I’m thinking out loud here) might be the fact that these kids are so darn mature in so many ways, but they aren’t mature enough in ways to be spiritually mature. So if an adult asked us the same question, there would be so much more we could draw on both personally and from their own life to flesh out a thoughtful and rich response. With a small child who has no real life experience and little ability to think abstractly, it is HARD to come up with an adequate answer that addresses their important question but also sounds real and feels authentic to us.
Thanks so much for bringing this up! The timing was really good for me as I’ve been thinking about some of these faith issues again this week with the Christmas holiday.
I’ve been looking online for homeschool Sunday School for our nine year old son. He’s asked some doozy questions that I naively thought I could find answers to from our local Christian Bookstore. They tried to help, but either the books suggested were too simplistic, or else they were written for an adult (with adult themes we weren’t ready to reveal to him).
For now, I am doing my best to answer him according to my knowledge of the Bible, and have also purchased some of Kent Hovind’s DVD’s, which have been extremely helpful in not only answering DS’ questions, but also entertaining for our family.
An ongoing lament our son has is wishing Adam and Eve had not sinned. We’ve gone over that they are just like we are and so we would have done the same in their place, and he understands that, but he longs for perfection. He loves to hear about the Millennium and the New Heavens and New Earth.
Thanks for someplace to talk about this.
I’m glad you found your way here. I’m not familiar with that DVD series. I’ll have to check into it!