Kids, religion and behavior

There is no shocker in this news article title: Study: Religion is Good For Kids.

According to surveys of parents and teachers, the most well-adjusted and well-behaved children have parents who agree on religion and attend services regularly (which I assume means closer to once-a-week than every-Christmas-and-Easter).

The study did not address which denominations had the best behaved kids, but I can guess that Bible Baptist parents have the most polite kids with lots of “Yes, Ma’am”s and “No, Sir”s. I hope nobody spends a lot of money doing a survey to conclude what is pretty obvious from free observation.

Buried at the very bottom of the article was one huge caveat:

It’s also possible that the correlation between religion and child development is the other way around, he said. In other words, instead of religion having a positive effect on youth, maybe the parents of only the best behaved children feel comfortable in a religious congregation.

“There are certain expectations about children’s behavior within a religious context, particularly within religious worship services,” he said. These expectations might frustrate parents, he said, and make congregational worship “a less viable option if they feel their kids are really poorly behaved.”

Yes, I suppose it’s possible that organized religion is driving away all those bad kids. You know, on the one hand they’ll preach that you’ll go to hell if you don’t come to church, but on the other hand they’ll tell you that your brat isn’t welcome there. I could see that, sure. Because limiting access to Heaven and making it a private club is really what it’s all about! (But that’s okay: I’m in! I’m in!)

Yes, I’m sure it’s because churches make bad kids feel unwelcome that inspires parents of good children to suddenly start going to church for no reason whatsoever. I’m sure the behavior correlation has little to do with a parent’s sense of right and wrong, the teaching of consequences for our behavior and personal responsibility for our actions, and the emphasis on treating others as we wish to be treated out of love and honor for God (and not just because we happen to be in a good mood at the time).

But if this is the case, then there are a whole lot of parents who aren’t getting the message. Just stand in the back or the vestibule during any Catholic Mass and you’ll see lots of frustrated parents with poorly behaved children. That’s where you’ll find me!

8 thoughts on “Kids, religion and behavior

  1. LOL — I’m in the vestibule with my two year old quite frequently too.

  2. We have always believed, and lived by, the idea that “they don’t learn to behave in church unless you bring them there!” We know so many parents who attend Mass separately, without their children, until the children reach school age.We’ve logged plenty of vestibule hours with our kids, and eventually they all learned what to do. (And the older ones learned that it’s good to serve the church by participating in choir or being an altar server.)Now we are encouraging our choir director, who brings her active two-year-old. SLOWLY, he is getting better. Since she plays an instrument, the whole choir helps take care of him at Mass. And we’re happy to do it, because we know the payoff will be great, later. (Yes, many of us miss the readings or the homily because he is trying to climb the backs of the chairs….but he’s learning.)

  3. < HREF="" REL="nofollow">This article caught my eye as well<>. I am actually grateful when a news headline has something positive to say about religion. I also think all the head scratching intellectuals trying to figure out why this works is pretty amusing. <>Maybe God really does exist and prayer really does work?<>

  4. I’m there with you….wait, no, I’m with my girls *outside* the church!

  5. I’m hiding in the bathroom down the hall…cause it ain’t a mass unless we all make a trip the the bathroom.

  6. I completely agree with barb, sfo. Our 5 year old and 3 year old are actually pretty well behaved and pay attention during Mass in large part, I think, because we’ve been bringing them with us from the time they were babies. I’ve recently bought them children’s Mass books to follow along with and expect them to participate as fully as possible in the Mass: sitting, standing, and kneeling at the appropriate times (no laying down or slumping in the pews) and reciting or singing the parts they know. My sixteen month old, however, is another matter entirely. She tends to get restless and “vocal” which is only to be expected, given her age. When that happens, my husband or I will take turns walking with her in the foyer where we can still see and hear the Mass, until she calms down and we can bring her back in. One elderly lady sitting directly in front of us last Sunday, however, turned around and as I extended my hand to say “Peace be with you”, she thrust her finger at Meghan (my baby) and said “They really need to have a cry room in back–they’re making one, you know”. I was so hurt, and honestly, I HATE the idea of a “cry room”, which, in my humble opinion, serves only as a place for children to act up without teaching them anything about the importance of reverence or respect during the Mass.Anyway…just my two cents.

  7. Sorry, Melissa. I think this woman is the reason Christ said “Love your neighbor.” The people we have to deal with on a daily (or weekly) basis are the toughest ones to love!I, too, have seen crying rooms usually used as playrooms. My last church did a major rebuilding and expansion and did not include a cry room for that reason alone. They had a huge vestibule with sound piped in loudly and everyone was expected to respect the Mass even if they weren’t in the church proper. And at the later Masses, there were so many children that the church itself had to be the cry room!I swear when I was a kid, the cry room was just like the church and everyone was expected to behave. Maybe it’s my faulty memory…I really don’t think that my kids or anyone else’s are “bad”. You cannot expect a child to behave as an adult. It is a gradual process and takes decades to get a mature human being! Even my older children require correction from time to time on days when they get up on the wrong side of the bed. That’s normal and doesn’t make them (or me) bad.I do think that adults who regularly go to church have discipline (it is so much easier to sleep in or go out to brunch instead) and feel answerable to a higher authority. They raise their children with that philosophy and discipline too.

  8. Michelle, I’m smiling. This is a good post. The notion that only parents of well-behaved children are drawn to church is, of course, ridiculous. It sounds like somone is really groping for a reason to not acknowledge that faith has an effect on people, including chiildren. As we all know, churches are full of poorly behaved children. And in fact, all children have their day at being one of them, right?

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