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My 12 year old refuses to believe in God
Should you force your children to go to church if they don't want to go?

A mother wrote to Slate’s Dear Prudence column that every Sunday morning her 12-year-old son “yells, pouts, and eventually succumbs to (her) threats” to attend church.  The battle does not end there. The mother further explains: “Then he takes his snarky and unhelpful attitude to Sunday school. He doesn’t believe in God... Do I force my son to go (to church) or give up?”

Forced to go through the motions

Many religious parents will agree that this mother is far from being alone. In some families inviting young ones to attend religious activities is usually met with resistance.

As a child I did not appreciate being woken up early on Sunday morning and being bundled up to church. I preferred spending the whole day in bed, watching TV or playing with my friends. I found the repetitive and ritualistic church services irrelevant to my young life. I went through the motions to please my parents. But deep inside my heart was left untouched.

The tea and biscuits served after the services were a little consolation. In my late teens, however, I chose a religion of my choice.

How to respond to rebellion

When faced with a child who is turning into an atheist some parents resort to forcing the young one to attend religious activities.  Unfortunately this rarely brings out positive results in the long run. At worst the child becomes more rebellious and may develop a deep resentment towards religion. Worship is not something that can be forced on anyone, not even a child.

However, totally leaving a child to his own devices may not be the best way to handle a rebellious child. It is up to the religious parent to reach the heart of the child. If your child doubts God’s existence then it’s up to you to prove to her that God really exists. Do not leave this responsibility to a priest or a Sunday school teacher. You should introduce your beliefs in an age-appropriate manner. It is important to let your child understand the benefits of attending a religious ceremony.

What if efforts to reach a child’s heart are fruitless? It may be in the child’s best interest if he or she is excused from attending religious activities for some time. Or you can find a way of teaching him at home rather than forcing him to attend religious meetings.

In spite of religious differences, you assuring your child of your love and continued support may, in time, help draw him child back to the your religion.

Disclaimer: The views of columnists published on Parent24 are their own and therefore do not necessarily represent the views of Parent24.

Do your children share your faith (or the absence of it)?

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