I read of a study which showed that religion has a positive influence on children (Foxnews.com: Religion is Good for Kids by Melinda Wenner, Tuesday, April 24, 2007). The study was conducted by John Bartkowski, a Mississippi State University sociologist, and colleagues.
In the study, parents and teachers of more than 16,000 children (most of them first graders) were asked to rate how much self-control they believed the kids had, how often they exhibited poor or unhappy behavior, and how well those children worked with their peers. The data was gathered.
Next, the data was compared to some questions asked of the parents. Things like: how frequently the parents said that they attended church services, and how much they said that they talked about religion with their children.
The results? Melinda Wenner reports, “The kids whose parents regularly attended religious services – especially when both parents did so frequently – and talked with their kids about religion were rated by both parents and teachers as having better self-control, social skills and approaches to learning than kids with non-religious parents” (ibid).
Bartowski lists three things that he thinks religion does to help the child. First, religious networks provide social support to parents. Children who are brought into such networks and hear parental messages reinforced by other adults may also “take more to heart the messages that they get in the home.” Secondly, the types of values and norms that circulate in religious congregations tend to be self-sacrificing and pro-family. This ‘could be very, very important in shaping how parents relate to their kids, and then how children develop in response.’ Thirdly, religious organizations imbue parenting with sacred meaning and significance (ibid).
The Bible says, “These words, which I command you today, shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7). “…A child left to himself brings shame to his mother” (Proverbs 29:15). “Fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).
What if they don’t want to attend? Should I make them? We make our children attend public school. We make them eat their vegetables. Dave Miller asked, “Do you remember your mother insisting that you eat your vegetables? Her rationale was (1) They’re good for you and (2) you must learn to like them. Our culture is losing all of these sage bits of wisdom and insightful truths about life, and human existence, and moral value. Like virtually everything of value in life, one must grow, cultivate and develop one’s involvement in life’s activities” (Piloting the Strait, p. 187). Is this any less important? It is true that at first they may resist attending, but who knows if they show up, they may well receive encouragement from others and learn a great lesson and application from God’s Word.
Remember that you are the parent. You are responsible. God said of Abraham, “I know him,… he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do righteousness and justice” (Genesis 18:19). But of Eli we’re told, “I will judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knows, because his sons made themselves vile, and he did not restrain them” (1 Samuel 3:13).