One of the problems that parentís face as they raise their children is how to help their children respect individuals with beliefs that are unacceptable, without accepting their beliefs. Dangerous ideas exist everywhere that can appear reasonable and appealing.
One of the traps many fall into is to believe that if someone does not believe like we believe they are inferior or bad. This idea is appealing because it provides a child with the false security that life is simple. This belief allows one to judge others rather then their ideas. It makes the other person the enemy and justifies personal attacks on the individualís character, judgment, and integrity. But the most insidious result of accepting this idea as legitimate is the impact on the child himself.
When a person accepts the belief that others are bad or inferior because of belief, creed, or outlook then their own growth is halted. When an individual rules out the possibility that the other person, even if different, has the right and perhaps even the obligation to think as they choose (as long as they do not harm others) then the door of learning and discovery is slammed shut.
As Americans, we all cherish the freedom to believe as we choose. But when a person or group feels that others who hold unconventional beliefs can be criticized or attacked for their beliefs we weaken our own right to believe what we choose. By protecting the rights of others to believe as they choose we champion this right for ourselves.
Parents should always champion the right of individuals to believe as they choose. If another person chooses to worship a tree, science, or money, it should make no difference. When another personís right to believe as they choose is respected, we all are respected. We need to teach our children to have faith in their own beliefs and ideas. If a cherished belief or idea is true, in time, others will also discover this truth. Have faith in your own beliefs.
The problem many of todayís youth have is that they do not know what they believe. This is probably due to the fact that many parents believe that they do not have a right to pass their beliefs on to their children. Many parents forget the price they have paid to develop their own ideas and beliefs. The beliefs that they have forged for themselves as they have lived and grown can be the greatest gift a parent can give to their child.
A child with no basis for his belief system can be swayed by any idea that is available. A child who has a basic belief system established or is using what was shared by parents has a foundation. The ideas they are exposed to can then be measured against what they already possess. These children are less likely to accept untried or untested ideas. The child is free to change and is not imprisoned by his lack of belief.
In todayís world of controversial ideas none of us (children included) can afford to be ungrounded. A child needs to be taught foundational beliefs so that the wisdom of the past is available to them as they evaluate the ideas of others. Parents need to teach and live their children to respect the right of others to believe as they choose while not necessarily choosing their belief.
Share your beliefs. Teach the wisdom of the past by retelling the stories your parents told you. Read good books. Help your children learn to love this country and the ideas the brought it into existence. Work with your children. Play with your children. Be available to counsel with your children.
I do not know what my children will choose to believe. I have no control over that. But I can make sure my children know that I believe in respecting the beliefs of others while holding strongly to my own beliefs. I can let them know that I believe in the sanctity of marriage, the importance of family, and the important and the different roles both the Mother and Father play. I can let my children know that I believe in the sacredness of life even before birth. But most of all I can let my children know how important and meaningful my relationship with my Father in Heaven is. Then armed with this awareness they can hammer out their own belief system without condemning those who choose or have embraced other beliefs and ideas.