Talk to any 3- or 4-year-old and you will find a capacity to think about God. Researcher Justin Barrett says, “They already have something like an impulse to think about supernatural beings, to account for why things are the way they are and how things work in the world around them. They’re really inclined to make sense of it in terms of something like God.”
Cultivate that natural capacity as they get older.
So how does that work? How can parents, or any adult who’s caring for a child’s spiritual well-being, encourage engaging with the mind of God? Dr. Barrett continues:
You can ask them to consider: How does God think?
How might that be different from how they think? What is God’s perspective on their life, on the lives of those around them? This kind of engagement might be good for their personal development but it’s also great for their social, cognitive development.
Children’s social intelligence increases as they consider these kinds of questions.
There is evidence that thinking about others who have different perspectives is good for developing children’s social intelligence:
- others who look at things a different way
- others who feel something differently
- others who know different things
It helps them develop the ability to navigate the world around them
It builds up those muscles for thinking about other people who have different perspectives, and maybe loosen up the erroneous idea that I am the center of the world. How I think is the way everyone else thinks. What I think is right and wrong is what everybody else thinks is right and wrong.
God is a really interesting test case for that possibility.
Thinking about God, engaging with God, and considering the difference between God and them can help stretch a child. It can bring the understanding that I could be wrong about certain things because God captures the truth better than I do.
It is healthy for children from a very young age to begin engaging with how God thinks.
This post is composed of excerpts taken from a magazine interview given by Dr. Justin Barrett.
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