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.
“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.
“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
Today’s challenge is prompted by a reader’s feedback about my new book, Child-Centered Spirituality. He wrote, “While I was reading some of the pointers, affirmations and discussion questions for parents to use with their kids – I was struck by the fact that I really needed to ask forgiveness from a friend I had recently said some harsh things to. A passage in the book poked me in the eye. I did the deed of contrition – and got an instant reply of thanks and ‘reconciliation.’ All those questions we should be posing to children, we should be posing to ourselves too. So your book operated on another level for me – Thank you!”
Questions as a gateway into our own spiritual life
What questions does he mean? Questions that make kids think. Those uncovering our need for a searching and fearless moral inventory–questions that poke in the eye. Discovery questions for kids who know there’s a better way. Those leading to reflection. Regular self-reflection can become a key to talk more openly and naturally with the children in your life.
Start by journaling your responses to these questions, suggested by Larissa Marks
- In a few words or phrases, describe how you are presently doing.
- How have you experienced the divine lately?
- What has been life-giving? What has been life-draining?
- What things are presently occupying your mind and heart?
Then by all means, engage some people you trust in conversation around these matters. It can be a spiritual director, a trusted friend, or someone whose spiritual journey you respect. Being able to talk with others is critical. Engaging with others in a safe environment can be a surprisingly healing experience. After all, none of us is really in this alone. We all need others along the road with us as we travel.
Tweetable: Once in a while, sprinkle thought questions into your car conversations with kids. Questions about the bigger meaning of life or its big picture. Click to Tweet
A friend of mine told me how he stepped up his grandparenting last January. He said, “I began writing a weekly letter to my grandkids (five live in Australia and two live in California). My main purpose is to tell them that I love them. I also share something about how God shows up in my everyday life, as well as to share about me and my family. I don’t get much time with the grandkids in Australia, so this is an opportunity to help them get to know their dad’s (my son’s) family.
He continued, “I share this with you because I’m convinced that I am to have a three or four generation perspective. I’m also convinced in my heart that if I don’t do this, no one will do it in quite the same way I am. Helping these young grandkids know that I love them and that I love God is imperative.”
Grandparenting through farming
George Hendry is a farmer in Napa Valley, CA. He has been farming the same vineyard since 1939. He spoke with me recently about his approach to bringing the younger generations into the family business. Notice the similarity to spiritual development. “I tell my grandchildren that farming is hard work. It’s not just a 40-hour a week job. It requires quite a commitment. Only go into it if that’s truly what you want to do. It’s okay if you don’t want to, but know what you’re getting into.
“The 3rd generation is on board and committed. It is yet to be determined what the 4th generation will do because they are still so little. I spotted some in the 2nd generation who were interested, and some who were not. It depends on their motivation. You have to really love farming and cooperate with what nature delivers to you. Don’t try to force things.” Mr. Hendry implied that relative to grandchildren, it’s the same principle: Let them discover who they are and what they are motivated to do.
These are two grandparents with a view toward legacy and destiny who continue to make an impact on their families.
Tweetable: Grandparenting with an eye toward the 3rd and 4th generations through two men’s personal stories. Read more here. Click to Tweet
Published ! The book that inspired the blog became a reality in November— Child-Centered Spirituality: Helping children develop their own spirituality. .
We talk with our children about the importance of school work, about physical health, about how to navigate social difficulties. We even talk with them about sex, drugs, and internet safety…or if we don’t we know we should. Why do we find it so difficult to talk with children about God?
This is a book to help you engage with the children in your life about their spiritual needs. You can order here,
Our team celebrates this published milestone.
Each team member–Tara Miller, Alisha Ule, Michelle Coe and Annette Schalk—had a vital part in producing the book or blog. And I am looking ahead to what’s coming!
A workshop about Child-Centered Spirituality in Pasadena, CA in April 2018 and seed ideas are emerging:
- Your unique role and responsibilities within the spiritual development of the important children in your life.
- Understand that children develop their spirituality according to their personality and temperament.
- A Spiritual Style assessment can help us be more focused on best practices with each child.
We want your feedback!
After you’ve read the book, what questions do you have? What worked? What didn’t work for you? Here’s some early feedback from one reader: “I might subtitle your book ‘conversation starters.’ Since each of us has a ‘God sized hole’ in our heart, this book helps parents and others recognize or initiate a spiritual issue (question), and respond well. As a parent I missed way too many opportunities because I wasn’t prepared, either for the question, or with a good answer. Your book is prep101.”
A word of appreciation
Thanks to each reader who found ideas here worth using with kids, and an extra cheer when you let us know that it made a difference in the child’s life. We wish you all the best in the coming year!
To thank you for supporting us, we are giving away a free copy of the book to two lucky winners. Enter below:
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Tweetable: Publication of “Child-Centered Spirituality” book highlights the 4th anniversary of a practical, helpful website. Click to Tweet
Spiritual development is indeed a journey. Dr. James Fowler’s well-reasoned book, Stages of Faith, gives valuable resources for adults responsible for the spiritual development of children. How and when does faith develop? What should we know about the developmental stages?
I cannot improve on Maxine Handelman’s summary of Dr. Fowler’s empirical research into the spiritual development of children, so I offer you the “best of” here:.
What is faith development?
“Faith development is about making meaning of life’s significant questions, adhering to this meaning, and acting it out in his or her life span.Faith is a common pursuit and quest of all individuals. Faith development theory provides a place for God and religious ways of being without mandating them.”
How and when does faith develop?
“Faith formation occurs in relation to others. It can be in relation to parents, church-temple-mosque, [sacred texts], school, friends or any group of people with whom one interacts. Just as one’s intellectual abilities, motor skills and social behaviors change over the life span, so does one’s faith. Views of God will not remain the same. Faith can be nurtured, strengthened and enhanced.
What should we know about the developmental stages of faith?
- Stage 0 (birth to 2 years) — Early learning about the safety of their environment (i.e. warm, safe and secure vs. hurt, neglect and abuse). If consistent nurture is experienced, the child will develop a sense of trust and safety about the universe and God.
- Stage 1 (ages 3-7) — Faith is learned mainly through experiences, stories (including holy texts), images, and the people with whom the child comes in contact.
- Stage 2 (mostly in school children) — Children have a strong belief in justice and reciprocity. They experience God as almost always personal, with characteristics such as goodness, mercy, care and love.
- Stage 3 (arising in adolescence) — Characterized by the development of a personal identity and conformity to their faith community.
- Stage 4 (usually late teens to late thirties) — A stage of angst and struggle. The individual takes personal responsibility for his or her beliefs and feelings. As one is able to reflect on one’s own beliefs, there is an openness to a new complexity of faith.
Awareness of the general passages of faith can provide an anchor as we look back at our own lives, and look ahead to what children have in store.
Tweetable: Awareness of the general passages of faith development can provide an anchor as we guide children in theirs. Click to Tweet
My new book, Child-centered Spirituality: Helping children develop their own spirituality, is now available on Amazon – just in time for the holidays!
Where did Grandma go when she died?
Why doesn’t God stop bad things from happening?
Many parents have experienced a child asking difficult spiritual questions– usually at inopportune moments. While we stumble around trying to think of an answer, we feel inadequate… and sometimes startled by their questions. If you’re like most adults, you try your hardest to avoid thinking much about questions like these. So why on earth is a child asking you about them?
We talk with our children about the importance of school work, about physical health, about how to navigate social difficulties. We even talk with them about sex, drugs, and internet safety… or if we don’t, we know we should.
So why do we find it so difficult to talk with children about God?
Whether you are a parent, grandparent, teacher, foster parent, or other caregiver, this is a book to help you engage with the children in your life about their spiritual needs.
Purchase your copy in paperback here.
If you prefer the Kindle version, you can purchase it here.
Starting next week, new blog posts will go out every two weeks, rather than weekly. My focus is being pulled in many directions right now. Because. . . .
The pace of life speeds up
Personally, I am still adjusting my weekly schedule around a new job at a Hilton hotel property in Sonoma County’s (CA) wine country. I began teaching life skills at a transitional living house for single homeless women and children in Marin County. And I’m putting the final touches on the Child-Centered Spirituality book. There’s a lot to be done yet before publication.
The pace of publication
The book cover looks amazing. I’m thrilled with the graphic concept, which will be repeated inside through call-out boxes. The final edit work is almost ready to be sent over for formatting.
I’m downright excited at the thought of getting this book out into the world! If all goes as planned, it will be available November 1 on Amazon. Perfect for holiday gift-giving!
If you want to be the first to know when it’s ready for pre-order, be sure to pop over to the Home page and sign up. You will receive a complimentary PDF: Why Childhood Spirituality Matters.
The proper focus can change our pace
Everything I do, in every channel of my life, is part of a legacy that I’m making for my child. For my children, if I have more. I’m not motivated by much, certainly not money – but I’m motivated by that.
Eberhard Arnold 1883 -1935
Every child is a thought in the mind of God, and our task is to recognize this thought and help it toward completion.
Tweetable: Child-Centered Spirituality’s blog posting changes from weekly to every 2 weeks now. Check us out. Click to Tweet