Let me preface this by saying I'm an unapologetic Christian mom of two daughters, ages 6 and 10, and I'm raising to believe in God and know Jesus as their savior. We pray often, count our blessings daily, and read scripture together, which of course I tell them is God's Word. We even somehow manage to make it to church most Sundays without killing each other.
Now there are some people who might say I'm doing them a disservice and impeding their ability to differentiate between fantasy and reality. You know, because Jesus walked on water and made lame men walk, which is like zomg! impossible! Um, yeah, that's kind of the point of miracles. Anyway ...
A new study in the July issue of Cognitive Science claims that "young children who are exposed to religion have a hard time differentiating between fact and fiction."
Researchers studied 66 5- and 6-year-olds from both public and parochial schools in their perceptions of different types of stories. The kids were presented with religious, fantastical, and realistic story types to see if they could "identify narratives with impossible elements as fictional."
They found that the religious kids were more inclined to believe things like talking animals to be true than their secular friends. Probably because their parents read them The Chronicles of Narnia, where talking animals are no big thing.
The study concluded:
In both studies, [children exposed to religion] were less likely to judge the characters in the fantastical stories as pretend, and in line with this equivocation, they made more appeals to reality and fewer appeals to impossibility than did secular children.
Flip side to this equation could be that secular kids are taught to lose their sense of wonder and imagination at an earlier age than their Bible-believing friends, but maybe that's just me.
Seriously though, they're kindergartners! Are we really going to say that kids who are taught to believe the Bible is true are somehow developmentally delayed because they're more likely, at age 5 or 6, to believe fantastical things?
My 6-year-old is somewhat convinced that our gray tabby cat has feathers, because an occasional stray feather the same color as her fur slips out from the down sofa cushions. I'm sure this is entirely due to a lifetime of Sunday School and summers of Vacation Bible School. Insert eye roll here.
Who cares if kids this little can't perfectly distinguish between fantasy and reality? So what if my daughter thinks the cat has feathers? She'll eventually figure it out, but what she's gaining by growing up with a relationship with Christ is so much better. She knows that God made her, knew her before she was born, and loves her always and forever.
More from The Stir: On Raising My Kid Without Religion (& Praying She Turns Out Okay)
If someday my kids decide that they don't want to follow in my faith, that's their decision to make, and I of course will love them regardless. But being raised with the concept that they were wonderfully made by a God who loves them very much and has a plan for their lives, even when things seem hectic and out of control, is something that can't be learned in a book -- oh wait, yes it can. Everyone all together now! The B-I-B-L-E, yes that's the book for me, I stand alone on the Word of God, the B-I-B-L-E, Bible!
Do you think raising kids with faith is detrimental or beneficial to their development?
Image via Jenny Erikson