Wednesday, July 29, 2009

when a child isn't interested in Christianity

"I don't want to read the Bible anymore!"

Mother and daughter look at one another, one a smaller version of the other: straight blonde hair, fine nose, pretty features. The only difference is the mulish expression on the daughter's face.

She lies on the bed and turns her back, hunched over to express the maximum amount of disapproval. Her mother looks at her in exasperation.

Every night she sits beside her daughter's bed and reads the Bible, and every night her daughter listens. Until tonight.

The choices flash through her head. Get angry. Insist her daughter turn around. Keep reading.

She keeps reading.

"Well, you can refuse to listen if you want, but I'm reading the Bible to you anyway."

For an entire year they follow the same pattern: stubborn face, turned back, reading voice. She can picture the words flowing out of her mouth, around her child's back, across her closed ears. A year of reading to a back.

Until one day her daughter turns around.

The choices flash quickly through her head. Say something. Smile. Keep reading.

She keeps reading.


This is the true story of a mother I know, and her daughter, now grown, loving and serving Jesus.

A mother who trusted God's word enough, and who was wise enough, to gently persist without comment and without giving up. A mother who knew her responsibility, who wasn't scared of her child, who knew what her daughter needed. A mother who excelled in faithfulness.

I've been wondering what to do when your child doesn't seem very excited about God.

Now I know.


Gordon Cheng said...

Good one Jean! Thanks for the encouragement.

Nicole said...

What a wonderful example!!

Jean said...

It is an encouraging story, isn't it?

Prue said...

I love that. Any advice on a child who doesn't want to pray?

Jean said...

Prue, funny you should ask - I was talking to the mum in my post about this just last Saturday!

She regrets having made her children pray in front of the family, as one was far more articulate than the other, so it set up competitiveness.

My daughter has always been shy about praying in front of people.
I think it's ok to pray with and for kids. I've done this with my daughter for years, and as she gets older I just ask her to pray a sentence, then pray the rest - and often tell her exactly what to pray! Not like my friends with highly articulate kids who'll pray lots and lots! But her faith is no less real - I know she prays on her own at times.

Kids are all different and I think it's ok to take things slowly and make allowances for different personalities, rather than force them and make prayer a negative experience.

On the other hand, we do strongly encourage (with a punishment if necessary) our kids to pray during family Bible times on Sundays, but only 1 sentence, and we tell them what to pray: nothing fancy. Just to get them opening their mouths and learning to pray in front of others! But we make it as easy as possible for them to do this.

Anonymous said...

Dear Jean,

I just started doing quiet times with the 2 older children last night to start them off in the process of reading the Bible for themselves so your blog was a good reminder that it won't always be easy - they were keen last night because I'd bought them new materials! :)

On prayer, I find the encouragement to pray sentence helps our shy one.

William said...

Thank you. very encouraging!

Prue said...

Thanks for the advice Jean. My son is very shy about this sort of thing, and at bedtime prayers until recently he chose a topic of prayer and then he would repeat the prayer line-for-line after we said it for him. We have just started him saying his own prayer - very short, usually almost word-for-word the same as the previous night. One night he didn't want to do it, so I let him off, but advised him to prepare for the next night.

I don't want to scare him off, but I do want him to learn how to pray and feel comfortable doing it.

Jean said...

It's such a hard balance to get right, Prue, and I think it sounds like you're doing really well - giving your son baby steps and gently but firmly encouraging him to take them.

He sounds like our kids. Be assured, kids like this do become more confident - but very, very slowly - it helps if you remember this and are very, very patient, and happy with the tiny steps they take, rather than comparing them to more articulate children (a constant temptation for me when my kids are super-shy!).

Rewards are another way to help kids like this. Although if it's too hard for them they won't even want to do it for the reward! But they can be a good motivator.

I've noticed that the best teachers are the ones who gently but firmly encourage kids and let them grow at their own pace.

Anna said...

Hi Jean,

I started following the Lord when at 13 I read the "boring" book of Bible readings my parents made me read every night, and suddenly I wanted Jesus more than anything else. I'm glad my parents didn't give up,


Jean said...

Thanks for the encouragement Anna!

Tony said...

I think its really sad to ever punish a child because they don't want to pray as your comments indicate. Or to just persist in reading the Bible at your child when they ask you not to as this post describes.

Could she have asked why her daughter didn't want to read the Bible? Maybe they were frightened by it. It feels like she told her this is how you'll be getting love from me and in no other way.

Should her daughters faith weaken when she is an adult how will this mother love her?

Jean said...

Hi, Tony.

On the prayer issue: it probably depends on why the child isn't praying, whether it's through stubbornness (which happens!) or through discomfort and fear - in which case, yes, I'd agree, punishment is inappropriate (we don't make our kids pray out loud when the issue is that they are uncomfortable).

On the bible issue: yes, I agree that you'd want to sensitively address issues like fear; but I also think that there's a place for gently persisting with helpful practices even when kids are uncomfortable.

Knowing the mum I'm writing about, she would have done just that, and she will keep loving her kids, whatever their choices as they grow older. She would have expressed her love in all kinds of ways, not just by reading the Bible to her daughter.

Still, I hear what you are saying, and I agree, it's important to be careful not to insensitively force things on your kids, but to talk through the issues and how they're feeling and to keep loving them whatever decisions they make as they grow older.