“Morality is not just something that people learn, it is something we are all born with,” wrote Gareth Cook in his recent interview with Yale psychologist Paul Bloom in an issue of Scientific American (Nov 12, 2013) (italics mine).
The interview with Bloom continues:
“At birth, babies are endowed with compassion, with empathy, with the beginning of a sense of fairness.
The sort of research that I’ve been involved with personally, looking at the origins of moral judgment, is difficult to do with very young babies. But we have found that even 3-month-olds respond differently to a character who helps another than to a character who hinders another person.”
This kind of research supports the core of child-centered spirituality–
… that conscience, morals, character are in them already. That the way to develop children’s spirit is found in opening yourself up to their world, in asking them questions and answering theirs, in listening.
It is universal, but we still avoid the topic
Think about the last time you were in a discussion with people of diverse spiritual perspectives about how your child’s human spirit is developing. I’m guessing it wasn’t anytime recently at a play group, team barbeque, or playground bench.
Do we want to normalize it?
In light of the research, this topic is of more importance to children than many of us realize. I wonder if it would be in the best interest of the child to attempt to normalize the topic by talking more opening about cultivating our child’s spirit. For example, asking other parents to give you recommendations for some picture books their child likes with spiritual themes of forgiveness, equality or sharing. Or swapping stories of family spiritual experiences such as visiting an elderly friend or taking a nature walk.
What would it look like if you did that?
Would open interaction point us toward a framework that helps us understand ourselves and others and our place in the world?
Tweetable: At birth, babies are endowed with compassion, with empathy, with the beginning of a sense of fairness. Click to Tweet
Conscience, reason, character and more. All part of a child’s human spirit–ready for us to explore and cultivate with them.
Where are you seeing growth and change in the children you love? How are you helping to make it possible?
A story from my own childhood comes to mind as I reflect upon these questions. Last week I recognized one way my mother did this for me. It was last week when the doctor questioned me about my foot pain: “Do you wear pointy shoes or did you used to?”
I thought about my pointy shoes and those long-ago piano lessons
When I was 8 or 9, my piano teacher participated in NFSM and all her piano students had a yearly audition, a non-competitive adjudication. We were judged on individual merit in the areas of accuracy, continuity, phrasing, dynamics, rhythm, interpretation, style and technique. That meant four years of daily piano practice.
After going many tearful rounds with me about skipping out on practicing
my mother thought of a game-changer. We went to the thrift store and got dress-up clothes, including beautiful satin high heels. My father sawed off the heels so drastically that they were only slightly higher than my sneakers. But they were stunningly pointed.
After school, for at least one year, I got all dressed up, made dramatic entrances into the living room, walked across the Hollywood Bowl stage and, to deafening applause, began to play Czerny. Frequently I stood to bow before the adoring crowd of furniture.
With one small idea, my mother kept me in the game
so that fruits of character had a chance to ripen. In those four years I grew in diligence, reliability, consistency, and the wherewithal to push through when I don’t feel like it.
Tweetable: Does your child complain constantly about practicing a musical instrument? Try this idea. Click to Tweet
Young children generally experience Christmas like they do Halloween: one is a time to get presents and the other is a time to get candy.
Older children are more likely to hear friends speak of Christmas as Jesus’ birthday, which may give rise to questions about why Jesus is so important that his birthday is a holiday.
I asked some adults this question and here’s what they say
- Jesus was a good teacher. We can read the book of Luke in the Bible to learn more about what he taught.
- Jesus was born, not just as an ordinary baby, but sent by God to show us how to get closer to God and understand God better.
- Jesus was God’s gift to us, so we celebrate his birthday by giving gifts to each other.
It is not only Jesus’ teachings which make him so remarkable
…although these would be enough to give him a holiday of his own. It is a combination of the teachings with the man himself.
Here’s what Jesus himself said about why he came into the world
- My purpose is to give you a full and satisfying life.
- I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.
- The one who sent me is with me–I always do what pleases him.
Ask children why he gets his own holiday
Ask them what they think about Jesus and Christmas. Their answers in this 2 minute video may surprise you, bring you the biggest smile (laugh) of your day, and inspire you to ask them some questions.
Tweetable: Children try to answer simple questions about Christmas in a 2 minute video here. Click to Tweet
Name Child-Centered Spirituality
Date of birth December 9, 2013
Weight Light as a child’s heart; Heavy as the meaning of life
Length About 300 words per week
- First reader appeared who was not a family member or personal friend
- First subscriber signed up on her own, not because I begged
- When someone found enough merit in a post to “Share” it with his Facebook friends
- First language translation: German
A growing number of people trust Child-Centered Spirituality
We would be nothing without this community who shares the idea that children come to us with a vibrant human spirit, that we have the opportunity to develop and encourage what has already been placed inside the child.
So I’d like to acknowledge here (in no particular order) some of the efforts readers made to promote Child-Centered Spirituality in its first year:
- Seeing Richard’s “Like” on almost every post the entire year
- Michelle’s frequent “Share” with her social media networks, referring me to Alisha, and more
- Shan standing by me in Dec-Jan-Feb when I felt like throwing in the towel
- Conrad sharing the childcenteredspirituality.com link with his friends in Australia
- Parents, too many to name, who gave consent to use a story or picture of their children
The “we” you may not know
You’re welcome to take a peek behind the scenes of Child Centered Spirituality. Four people collaborate with me in the writing and distribution of the blog. Tara Miller edits and contributes ideas. Alisha Ule assists with social media and technical support. Annette Schalk does the German translation. And my husband Bob has been an unwavering source of support throughout the entire process.
Thank you for reading
Sadly, no way to get a piece of birthday cake to you, but this is the recipe I used for Snickers Candy Bar Cake.
Tweetable: A growing number of people trust Child-Centered Spirituality for objective thinking on a volatile subject. Click to Tweet
Here’s a summary of my favorite approach to answering many questions asked by children:
- Some people think X
- Some people think Y
- Some people think Z
- [optional] I think Z because___
- What do you think?
Here is how this approach plays out with Santa…
Take a question that comes up in some families at this time of year. There are many opinions on this subject. Below are quotes from children about whether Santa is real, courtesy of Answers.com, and in general they can be broken down into three categories.
The first group of children says that Santa is real
He wears a red suit, and he lives at the North Pole, making presents for kids and delivering them all over the world on Christmas Eve in his sleigh.
Yes, Santa WAS a real man. He lived in Turkey.
Santa is real and everyone knows it! He is so real because he has brought me presents every year and he will do the same every year. I love him too!
The second group of children says that Santa doesn’t exist
….and those things are impossible.
Totally not, it is just a silly rumor to get children to do what they are told.
No, sorry. He was derived from a person named to be St. Nicholas. He gave toys to children, and wore red bishop’s clothing. He also is believed to have dropped things down chimneys at night, to avoid being seen. But this was a long time ago and he died.
No there is no Santa as we know him, but there are nice people out there who are like mini-Santas. So yes your mom or dad were buying the presents, and there’s no point writing letters. I actually cried when my mom first told me.
The third group admits that he doesn’t have a tactile presence but is nonetheless real
… in the hearts and minds of parents and children and in the spirit of Christmas. We as a society make him real.
Well, Santa Clause is sort of real and sort of not because St Nicholas is Santa Claus and he lived a long time ago and gave to the poor and the wealthy making gifts out of wood.
Santa Claus is real to some people but not to others. He is real to all those who believe. Keep believing!
Tweetable: Here’s an idea of what to say when #children ask if #Santa is real. Click to Tweet