A Family Belief… OR… A Personal Conviction

I’m not necessarily in this place personally, but I’m just around the corner with my 12 /2 year old and my 10 year old following right behind.

I’m speaking to the tension that exists between our families’ beliefs and our own personal convictions.  

The longer we wait to allow our kids to substantiate their own personal beliefs and require them to hold to a family belief, the less of a foundation that they will trust in when they leave your home.

Example.
My kids are starting to watch movies where they can hear some choice words that “we don’t say.”  They understand through school, friends, and environments that they are in that they cannot control what other people say.  I want my kids to understand the value of choosing better words to describe or identify something rather than slang, cussing, or cursing. 
The FAMILY BELIEF brings rules that have consequences for using that kind of language in my home. However, that’s not enough to cause my kids to hold these beliefs as a personal choice, especially when they are not in our home!

This applies to all areas of life & faith – our kids HAVE to take steps to make their faith and beliefs their own! It might look different for every family in what areas and ages you want to take these steps, but here are 3 steps I believe can help the next generation go from Family Belief to Personal Belief. 

1. Explain WHY.

Our youth need to know WHY we believe what we believe (I certainly hope YOU know why you believe what you believe). It’s simply not enough to say “because the Bible says so.”  They have to know WHY the Bible is an absolute truth they can trust as a foundation of their lives.  They have to know WHY agreeing with Jesus is not only the BEST option, but often times the one that will cause the most tension in their lives.  When they get to a certain age, WHY becomes more important than the behavior or rule itself.

The command to not sin is as equally important in the WHY as the command to love your neighbor as yourself!  

2. Give Choices.

Our kids at certain ages need to be able to make their own choices…even if their choice will lead to failure (obviously, not moral failure or life altering mistakes, but real failure that has real consequences). This is probably the hardest one for me and most parents. When my kids fail, I feel like I’ve failed. But, I’m not sure where this belief comes from. If my kids don’t have safe environments to fail in while they are with me in my home, then how am I preparing them to experience failure when they leave my home.  This continues to be a challenge for me, and I’m still working through what choices are good to allow them and at what age.  I’m not sure I will always make the right call…but if I’m not at least attempting to move in this direction, I am not really preparing my kids for the life of risk, reward, and failure that is coming in their lives.

3. A.M.A Culture.

Serious father talking to teenage son at home by piano

Our kids need to be able to Ask Us Anything (A.M.A.= ask me anything). If we really want them to make good choices based on their personal beliefs, then we need to help them PROCESS their beliefs through 1000 questions. Sometimes us explaining WHY we believe something just opens up more questions about companion beliefs that they also need answers to. So, we need to help them understand and process their beliefs through entertaining questions that you might not enjoy them asking or even feel like you know the answers to. This is A GREAT THING!  I’ve had a few opportunities in the past to counsel with young students & their parents when they had an issue that both the student and the parent really didn’t know the answer to. PLEASE DON’T MISS THESE OPPORTUNITIES. The willingness for those parents to come in with their kid and BOTH ask questions and LEARN together will be with that child forever. The example is of a dependence on God that doesn’t end when you HAVE all the answers or when you become an adult, parent, or even grandparent.

I’m sure there are more helpful steps and suggestions that I’m missing, but these three are the ones I’m working on right now.

Perfection is unattainable as a parent, so that’s not the goal.

These are not boxes to check and everything will be just fine.  When my kids leave for college, there will be many things (I’m sure) that I wish they knew or I had done differently. However, if I can set them up for a life of tension & faith that is rooted in a personal belief system that was rooted in a family belief, then I believe I am setting them up for as much success as I can.

What are some steps you are taking to transition your kids from a family belief to a personal belief system?
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Matt Dawson is a pastoral leader, communicator, and blogger who desires to discuss the tension between life and faith, and help people experience life fully alive!

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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