Parents can make a big impact on their children when it comes to religion and morality because kids often model what they see. Even though teenagers crave independence and often rebel against their parents, many still respect the morals and belief systems they grew up with. Many uphold those same values and religious beliefs as the adults in their life and raise their children with similar standards.
1. Religious Service Attendance
Parents can affect their children's religious beliefs by attending religious services. Young adults report that two of the most powerful factors that influenced their religious beliefs were the religious lives of their parents and how often they attended religious services with their parents during their childhood and teen years, says Christian Smith and Patricia Snell in their book, “Souls in Transition." Children and teens learn about religious doctrine and morality from pastors and religious leaders, but more importantly, they uphold those values because they absorb and model their parent's beliefs.
2. Spiritual Example at Home
Children and teens are perceptive and impressionable, so they pay close attention to their parent's behavior. When they see their parents praying, reading religious materials, watching religious TV shows, giving to those in need, treating friends and family with respect, dealing honestly with others, showing integrity and demonstrating love and compassion, they often mimic those same behaviors. They might attend religious events or support ministry opportunities because they see and respect their parent's involvement. However, the reverse is also true. Children who see their parent's hypocrisy or lack of interest in religion might also follow those same lifestyle patterns.
3. Moral Choices
Children view parents as role models and mentors and are influenced by their moral choices. Parents often make mistakes. It is important to share failures and successes with their kids, so their children understand and respect their moral values, despite imperfections and shortcomings. Parents who appreciate others, show generosity, act with fairness and uphold mature ideals help children and teens make wise moral choices, writes psychologist Richard Weissbourd on the Psychology Today website. When children view their parents as moral, honest, devoted individuals, they are more likely to practice the same behavior.
4. Child's Behavior
Religious parents can have a positive effect on their children's conduct. Richard Petts, a sociologist at Ball State University in Indiana, reports that children with two parents who frequently attend religious services, children raised by a strictly religious single mom and kids in married families with only a religious mother are least likely to act out, according to the Live Science website. Children raised in these homes are less likely to engage in physical fighting, arguing and bullying.
- Souls in Transition; Christian Smith and Patricia Snell; 2009
- United Methodist Church: Religious Parents Influence Young Adults
- Association of Religion Data Archives: National Study of Youth and Religion, Wave 3 (2007-2008)
- Psychology Today: Moral Adults -- Moral Children
- LiveScience: Religious Parents Can Be Mixed Blessing for Kids
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