I'm continuing to read From the Ground Up by Kathryn Copsey. I'm on a chapter now entitled "Damaged Spirituality". According to the author, a child's spiritual growth can be stunted or damaged through situations that threaten a child's natural openness, ability to live in the present, freedom of spirit, and the image of God within them. (In the reverse, a child's spirituality will be strengthened through situations where these four key areas are affirmed.)
Here are some things that work against and can ultimately shut down positive spiritual growth:
- repressing the child's natural curiosity and ability to see the world with wonder
- too much or inappropriate media access that take the joy out of simpler activities and expose them to negative adult values
- discouraging children from making choices
- damaging the sense of trust through inconsistency, unreliability, and insincerity
- shutting down a child's welcoming nature by discouraging or belittling them when they attempt to join in an adult conversation
- overloading the child with too many responsibilities and cares (impairs their ability to live in the present)
- lack of healthy boundaries
- lack or absence of unconditional love
- when shame is used as a tool of discipline or control
Children whose spirituality has been damaged or stunted will eventually deny their needs and disown them, or lose a voice for them altogether. They then develop coping strategies through behaviors that often drive the adults around them crazy. And though these behaviors can give caregivers gray hair, without them the child would "drown".
I think we all have made at least one or two of the mistakes above out of ignorance or frustration. And it's scary how many misguided "Christian" parenting books out there actually suggest doing some of them as good parenting. (I know at least one series that highly discourages giving young children choices! But, as Copsey points out, how can they "choose" a relationship with God if they have never been taught to make good choices?)
The good news is that God is much bigger than our mistakes, and that a child's spirituality can be restored. We can make good on our own mistakes, and then we can reach out and help hurting children along the path to restoration.
I'll be writing about that chapter soon!