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Teaching my kid to respect what others believe

Today I made Mo cry because I did a terrible job of explaining the importance of respecting others' beliefs. She goes to a Christian preschool and so she's learning a lot about God and Christianity. Some of it I take issue with and correct as straightup false (ie: that man walked the earth the same time as dinosaurs), but most of the time when she tells me about what she's learned, I just remind her that yes, that is what a lot of people believe but other people believe other things and it's all OK. I never make a big deal about it, but it's always part of the conversation, this idea that there is not one right thing to believe in.

However, today the conversation got a little more extreme. It started innocently enough:

Mo: Miss M told us that God made the whole world.
Me: Oh yeah? Cool. Like the people and the animals?
Mo: Yeah and even the trees and the flowers and seeds.
Mo: That's very cool. And that's what a lot of people believe, but not everybody.
Mo: But Miss M says the Bible is true.
Me: That's what Miss M believes and that's great, but other people believe other things and that's OK too.

But then I started talking about how she gets to believe whatever she wants, but she has to respect what other people believe too. And after 5 minutes of me fumbling through an explanation and her not exactly understanding and me at one point saying, "No honey, you don't get to tell people what to believe!" she suddenly welled up with tears and her voice broke as she tried to tell me something.

I felt terrible and quickly tried to understand what she was saying: "Why do I have to believe what other people believe but they don't have to believe what I believe?"

Turns out she didn't quite grasp the meaning of "respect" for others' beliefs. She thought I was telling her that she had to follow their beliefs and believe in something different just because another person does, and that's exactly the opposite of what I was trying to teach her!


We talked about it more later and I think she gets it. Sort of. It's hard when your teachers are telling you this thing is TRUTH and not giving you the space to understand that not everyone thinks the same and those that believe differently are not inherently wrong, and then your mom is all "Respect other beliefs!" and you don't even understand what she's talking about.

Fortunately, I'm confident we'll have versions of this conversation a million times as my kids grow up, and even more imporantly, they'll witness their parents and other imporant people exemplify this ideal throughout their lives. Hopefully it won't always be this confusing.

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Reader Comments (1)

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July 18, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterabal moyna

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