Born to connect with the divine

A cornerstone of Child-Centered Spirituality is this conviction: We are born with the capability to connect with the divine, and this activity is centered in our soul or spirit.

New York Times columnist David Brooks adds his observations about humanity’s innate spirituality: “Of course people are driven by selfish motivations—for individual status, wealth and power. But they are also motivated by another set of drives—for solidarity, love and moral fulfillment—that are equally and sometimes more powerful.”

I’ve summarized Brooks’ thoughts below and you can read his entire column here.

People have a moral sense.

divine babies feel “They have a set of universal intuitions that help establish harmony between people. From their first moments, children are wired to feel each other’s pain. You don’t have to teach a child about what fairness is; they already know. There’s no society on Earth where people are admired for running away in battle or for lying to their friends.”

People have moral emotions.

“They feel rage at injustice, disgust toward greed, reverence for excellence, awe before the sacred and elevation in the face of goodness.”

People yearn for righteousness.

“They want to feel meaning and purpose in their lives, that their lives are oriented toward the good.”

People are attracted by goodness and repelled by selfishness.

divine help in snow“NYU social psychologist Jonathan Haidt has studied the surges of elevation we feel when we see somebody performing a selfless action. Haidt describes the time a guy spontaneously leapt out of a car to help an old lady shovel snow from her driveway.”

“One of his friends, who witnessed this small act, later wrote: ‘I felt like jumping out of the car and hugging this guy. I felt like singing and running, or skipping and laughing. Writing a beautiful poem or love song. Telling everybody about his deed.'”

Your child’s spiritual development is vital. Your efforts are neither wasted nor ignored.

One of the things I particularly like about this column is Brooks’ way of communicating the universally recognized nature of morality. We all instinctively recognize it when we see it. He captures our natural yearning for good, which still recognizing how challenging it can be to live out. It’s not easy, but it is worth it… and so is teaching it to our children. Moral teaching fits with what they already know on an instinctive level and helps them make sense of the world.

Tweetable: Child-Centered Spirituality champions balance in our efforts to guide a child’s physical, spiritual, intellectual and emotional development. Here NY Times columnist David Brooks shares observations about spiritual (moral) development. Click to Tweet


Helping kids make decisions: the forced choice approach

By guest blogger Tara Miller

forced choice exerciseOften in life, we are faced with choices between two—or more—good options, but we don’t have the time, energy or money to do all of them. We have to choose. It’s especially difficult to choose when both options seem quite good.

When the person making the choice is a child or teenager, it can be particularly tempting to simply tell them what you think they should choose. After all, you have experience and insight that they don’t. However, if you want them to truly commit to their own decision, they’ll need to take ownership of it themselves.

The “forced choice” approach

Here’s a coaching-based exercise you can use called the “forced choice” approach. In this case, I used it with my 18-year-old daughter who was choosing a college this spring, but it could be applied to any situation where there’s a choice to be made between options.

Knock-out factors

My daughter had first narrowed down her choices using some “knock-out factors.” These are criteria that would make her decide against a school outright. For a serious student athlete, a knock-out factor might be a school not having a good basketball team. My daughter had two knock-out factors: she wanted a school that was out-of-state and she wanted one where the campus felt like a positive fit on an intuitive level. One school looked perfect for her on paper, but when she went to visit it failed the knock-out test. It quickly fell off her list and she didn’t apply there.

forced choice universityAfter the narrowing process, she was left with two colleges. Both of them seemed to be equally good choices, she had been accepted to both, and she could picture herself attending either school rather easily. So how should she make this decision?

Think through the reasons

I started by asking the opening question: “What are you seeking to accomplish by going to college?” This question was designed to help her think through her reasons for going at all and to consider what she most wanted from the experience. She responded that she wanted to get a degree so she could go on to graduate school; she wanted the opportunity to make friends and live away on her own, and she wanted what she called, “the college experience.”

Criteria to evaluate

Then I asked her, given that processing, what criteria she wanted to use for evaluating a college.  Here are the options she generated in no particular order:

  • good opportunities to make friends
  • professors who are engaged and available
  • good preparation for graduate school
  • good financial package/pricing
  • opportunities for fun off campus
  • good study abroad program
  • an acapella group

Compare options: Which is more important?

Then came the forced choice part. I asked her to compare each option with each other option and ask, “Which is more important?” No ties or passing, and sometimes she found the choices very difficult, such as when I asked, “Which is more important—a good financial package or a good study abroad program?” Whichever option she deemed more important got a tally mark, which created rankings.

So she made 21 choices– comparing each item with each other item. Here are the rankings she came up with. The tally marks at the end of each item reflect how many times that item was chosen over other items, resulting in a weighting of how important each item was to her.

  1. good financial package/pricing (6)
  2. good study abroad program (5)
  3. good opportunities to make friends (3)
  4. professors who are engaged an available (3)
  5. good preparation for graduate school (3)
  6. opportunities for off-campus fun (1)
  7. acapella group (0)

Some takeaways

The financial package held a lot of weight for her as she was concerned about going into debt. She really, really wants to study abroad– even more so than she had thought. An acapella group is just a nice-to-have, not an essential. Off-campus fun doesn’t mean as much to her as opportunities to make friends on campus.

forced choice coin tossShe can now use these criteria—weighted by importance—in order to decide between colleges. And if two schools come out basically the same even when compared, there’s always the coin flip test: toss a coin in the air, call it, and when it lands gauge your level of disappointment or excitement.

What are some choices the kids in your life are currently facing? How might you use this exercise to help them make decisions that are most in line with what they value?

Tweetable: Is your son or daughter processing an important decision? One mom shares a coaching exercise she used that helped her daughter choose which university to attend. Click to Tweet