If you have children in school, you’ve most likely experienced the conversation that upsets many parents. It’s usually framed by some variant of “My teacher said” or “I read/saw online” followed by some new “truth” your child has supposedly learned. This “truth” may be so far from the truth to be almost laughable to you, but to your child it can become a hill to die on.
For some families, this conversation can lead to years of arguments, debates and even fractured relationships. It can create a dynamic where your kids may reject God and Christianity more because you believe in it, than because they have any rational reason for their rejection.
There’s a simple question you can ask, to teach your kids to begin thinking more critically without setting up the beginnings of an unhealthy dynamic that lessens your ability to teach and point them towards God. The question? “How do you know that is true?”
This question works best when preceded by, “Hmmm. that’s interesting….” It shows your willingness to learn something new, because sometimes your kids will have learned something new that is true and will help you out in some way. Then the follow up question asking how they know the statement to be true, is where your guidance can grow.
Now, be prepared for the inevitable response that Mrs. So and so or some celebrity or influencer or book imparted the original knowledge. Try to swallow your impulse to roll your eyes or diminish the source in some way. Rather, follow the answer with a similar question asking how that person learned this to be true.
Once you get to this point, you will have to proceed in ways that best meet your kids’ personalities. Some kids will respond they don’t know and will walk away rather than dig any deeper. That’s okay. You may or may not want to mention that you’d be interested in hearing more when they find more evidence, but until then, you will be skeptical because you have learned accepting “truth” without doing your homework can cause a lot of problems later.
Eventually, the seed will be planted that not all “truth” is really true. That question will be there when they are burned by a “truth” they later discover is a lie. Chances are at that point, your question may become something they begin to ask themselves without prompting from you.
For those who have kids who enjoy reading and researching or if you homeschool, you can suggest they do some research to see if there is evidence to support or refute this new “truth”. You can spend time teaching them the difference between reliable and unreliable sources and the danger of only listening to those who already agree with what you have decided is true. If you want to really teach them well, consider exploring logical fallacies and Christian apologetics.
A small handful of you will have kids who will use the question as a springboard for their rebellion against God. They may reply by asking how you know God really exists or some other question you may struggle to answer easily. The truth is that if your children respond this way, avoiding asking them to examine what they believe won’t make them less rebellious towards God. Their hearts are already rebellious and if you know now, you may be able to still reach your children for God. Otherwise, you may not find out until years later when the rebellion has become hardened and is more difficult to root out.
The good news is those hard spiritual doubt questions do have answers. Good answers. Evidence based answers in most cases. If you need help, look for apologetics articles and books by people like Lee Strobel and others. I mention Mr. Strobel because he began his career as a journalist back in the days when you had to fact check sources and information. He uses and teaches those techniques as he explores a number of topics that can confuse people about God, the Bible and Christianity. They also come in editions for different age groups, so you can find one best suited to your child’s reading ability.
The next time your child comes home with a “truth” to share, ask your question. Encourage your kids to examine everything by the Bible – even if they heard it from a preacher or well known Christian. Teaching your kids to think critically can actually strengthen their faith and cause them to reject the lies of the world and false teachers. It’s worth taking the time to ask the question they need to be asking themselves.