These days, everyone’s constantly up in arms about something. Something’s going wrong, someone’s hurting someone else, this or that corporation or group or the mother down the street…they are messing us up!
One complaint that I see often is how wrong it is to “indoctrinate” our children. This is especially aimed at religious people. “We need to leave them the freedom to believe what they want to! Stop indoctrinating your kids in that nonsense!”
That statement is utter nonsense. And said by hypocrites. We are all indoctrinating our kids, every single day.
What is “Indoctrination?”
When people say “indoctrinate,” they mean “Teaching children a system of beliefs exclusively.” Typically, they are referring to a system with which they don’t happen to agree.
That’s part of parenting. Your job is to teach your children about the world and what to believe in. It’s no different to take your kids to church three times a week than it is to take them to a political rally or a pride parade. We purposely steep our children in our lifestyle, our beliefs, everything that is important to us.
In fact, many things could be considered ‘indoctrination’ really:
- Beliefs about men and women
- Beliefs about religion/spirituality
- Beliefs about food
- Beliefs about discipline
…just about everything we do on a daily basis can be done many different ways. There are many ‘gray areas’ in life, and every time you tell your child your opinion on something, you are ‘indoctrinating’ them.
Some of you will argue that most of these don’t really count as indoctrination, but they do. Children, especially ones too young to go to school yet, pick up on their parents’ mannerisms, actions, belief systems, etc. just by being around them and having daily conversations with them. Every time they ask a question they get your perspective on the matter. And they believe you, unquestioningly. That is what indoctrination is.
Take, for example, this scenario:
A parent and a child are driving. A car cuts them off. The parent gets angry — “Stupid driver! That idiot shouldn’t be allowed on the road! That was dangerous!”
The child now sees that the parent believes that that sort of driving — cutting closely in front of your car — is dangerous. They also see that the parent yells and insults the driver. They are likely to repeat this behavior (insulting someone who did something they consider unacceptable) and may relate this story to others. “Somebody went in front of my mommy’s car and she said idiot.”
We all know children say the darndest things…
Children are Sponges
While that example is fairly mundane — we’ve all become frustrated while driving and made comments about the lack of wisdom on the part of the other driver — it stands as an important point.
Children are sponges. Every single thing that you do is teaching them. And they trust you. They believe you. Their worldview is you-centered. What you tell them to believe, they will. This applies to little things, like how to handle bad drivers, and big things, like religion.
Yet, somehow, people miss this. They think that taking children to church, or praying with them daily, or reading from the Bible together is some sort of special indoctrination, that is different from any other sort.
Some of the same people who would yell “Indoctrination! Unfair to the children!” would cheer for those who are taking their children to a rally to support midwives, or against Monsanto. They aren’t different — in each case, you are steeping your children in your beliefs! Small children (under 4 or 5) really don’t know or have an opinion about religion, midwifery/women’s rights, or Monsanto/GMOs independently. If they say anything, it’s because they’re parroting what you have taught them.
It is absolutely impossible to avoid “indoctrinating” your kids in your own beliefs and lifestyle. And what’s more, you shouldn’t try.
Our Job is to Indoctrinate
If we don’t teach our children how to act and what to do, how are they supposed to know?
They learn to treat others with respect because we do it. They learn about Jesus because we talk about Him. They learn about eating healthy food because we model doing it and talk about the differences between healthy and unhealthy. (And yet people only complain about one of these!)
A good parent steeps their child in the family’s beliefs and way of life. They teach them and train them and model for them the correct behavior. And then, when they are older, encourage reflection and exploration of various ideas, philosophy, belief systems, etc.
Every person goes through developmental phases. As young children, they simply absorb the world around them, and they see everything as concrete, black and white. Your job then is to teach them what you believe, give them a framework for “handling” the world around them.
When they are older, and can think abstractly, it is your job to help them question their beliefs, to explore what others believe and why, to help them understand what is going on. They will then either accept or reject what you have taught them. The teen and young adult years are the time for this. Young childhood is not.
Please! Indoctrinate your children. Take your job as a parent seriously, and teach them what you want them to know. Teach them what you believe and why you feel so passionately about it. Share your worldview with your children — it’s your responsibility to do so.
What do you think about indoctrination?