[2] real world parents: preschool

yesterday, we began the real world parents blog series. today is day #2 and our topic is practical ideas for (non) traditional parents of preschoolers. i believe that most parents have a desire for their children to be people of great moral and spiritual character. and sometimes, i fear that in church we have a narrow picture of what it means to encourage faith in all types of families. hopefully today’s post will offer a few practical ideas!

what i’ve noticed at my own church is that parents are quick to return to church and desire a life of faith once they have young children, regardless of how far they’ve walked away from the faith. so how can we encourage spirituality in families with young children, specifically (non) traditional families who have a desire to raise faith filled children? i think mark matlock offers a great starting place in his book real world parents.

in the context of creating a great story that each family is telling, mark refers to a study done by researchers christian smith and lisa pearce, in which they identified things that have to be in place for kids to become spiritually healthy. while the study was done based on the faith beliefs of adolescents, i think the same applies to preschoolers:

1. strong & clear expectations w/boundaries, demands and accountability: the study shows that kids benefit most from understanding why those lines are there and what greater purpose they serve. effective parents are proactive about the parameters, and hold their children accountable to them.

imagine if we encouraged (non) traditional parents of preschoolers to think about the expectations they have for their children, and then offered training for holding their children accountable (this, i think is the hardest part). might be a great starting place for inspiring faith in the home.

2. emotional warmth & closeness: the study showed that children who experienced the truth that they were loved, were typically spiritually healthy children. parents showing love through quality time, touch, smiles, and gentle words were more likely to create an environment of warmth and closeness.

i think most parents desire this but often don’t know how to express warmth to their children, especially if they weren’t raised with their own needs for closeness met. what if we gave parents practical tools like: an idea each day on a calendar, or a simple text encouraging them to hug, or read, or play with their child, or what if we matched parents with mentors who expressing warmth came more naturally to?

3. cognitive autonomy: allowing kids to push back with their own ideas in a context of safety and acceptance often encourages children to have a firm faith foundation. the study found that developing cognitive autonomy helped kids develop a vibrant faith of their own.

now, of course preschoolers are pushing back, right? but, wouldn’t it be great if we offered training and encouragement for parents so they knew just how to create a safe context and allow for some healthy push back? by offering resources in engaging in healthy debate with young children, or encouraging children to make their own decisions and then discuss the consequences, or even how to handle temper tantrums in a way that makes them productive, we might really start to encourage this type of environment!

so, of course this is just the beginning of the conversation. we must continue to discuss how we can encourage faith in (non) traditional families. these are just a few ideas to get us started!


5 responses to this post.

  1. I appreciate the need for cognitive autonomy. All too often, we spend time telling our kids what to think when we should be teaching them how to think. That’s one of the reasons I wrote an article called “22 Ways to Teach Kids HOW to Think And Not Just WHAT to Think.”


    It would probably have to be adapted a little bit to work with preschoolers, but I think we should start the process young!

    Hope you don’t mind me linking to the article. This is one of those areas I feel very strongly about both with my own kids and those I minister to.


  2. Posted by amyedolan on June 8, 2010 at 6:42 pm

    wayne – of course, you can link to the article! that is exactly what i hope for on this blog – links, ideas, tweets that spur on further conversation!

    i agree, the need for creating environments in our churches for cognitive autonomy is so great! often, we are too focused on behavior modification, or rote memory. your 22 practical ideas are a fantastic tool for changing this!


  3. Great start on a wonderful series of posts! I’m looking forward to reading this week.

    As for this first post, I think #3 is probably the hardest for parents and those of us who work with kids to really grasp. It’s because we have no control over it. It’s hard to understand how letting kids push back on faith issues can help them to develop a vibrant faith. We’re so quick to correct what we see as erroneous views of theology.

    When it comes to preschoolers, I think this can be best practiced by encouraging them to talk about God and their experiences with God without trying to fix or correct what they are saying. We need to learn to listen and affirm their spiritual experiences and their desire to seek out God. If we are too quick to fix their views, then we run the risk of squashing their desires to connect to God on their own.


  4. […] blog series,and it has been a great week! if you’ve missed any posts, you can catch up here & […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: