Wow, what a great article.
As they mature, many youths choose to adopt the religion of their parents. (2 Timothy 3:14) Some, however, do not. What can you do if your growing child starts to question your faith? This article will discuss how Jehovah’s Witnesses handle such a challenge.
A couple thoughts right off the bat - many youths adopt the religion of their parents...isn't that very fact demonstrative of a giant hole in your doctrine that deserving ones find "the truth"? If it turns out that many children blindly adopt the religion of their youth, how can it be that a just god would kill them for something that is clearly a built-in psychological bias that, presumably, god was the one to build-in?
Next, it's interesting that they seem to be starting this article out referring to it as if it's a general problem regardless of what religion you subscribe to. Of course they say this as they send their members out to try to recruit other people's children into their cult. Hypocrite much?
Also I love how they passively force any JWs reading this to adopt whatever advice they give by simply stating it as a fact that 'this is how JWs handle this" instead of something like "here's some ways to handle this situation." They just assume that their word is taken as law by all JWs. They're quite full of themselves.
“I don’t want to follow my parents’ religion anymore. I just feel like giving up.”—Cora, 18. *
Of course - kids that don't want to continue on with your cult are just lazy and worn down and weak...it couldn't possibly be that they've discovered that they've been systematically lied to by every adult that they've grown to trust....
YOU are convinced that your religion teaches the truth about God. You believe that the Bible promotes the best way of life. It is only natural, then, that you try to instill your values in your child. (Deuteronomy 6:6, 7) But what if, as he grows, your child loses interest in spiritual things? * What if he begins questioning the very faith that he seemed to accept eagerly as a child?—Galatians 5:7.
Ahh yes, questioning one's faith is an emergency...but only if one is a JW. As is typical, they lead with "losing interest" as if the problem isn't with the cult itself, but with the commitment of the child. No, it can't be the cult's fault.
If that is happening, do not conclude that you have failed as a Christian parent. Other factors may be involved, as we will see. However, know this: How you handle your adolescent’s questioning may well determine whether he will choose to draw closer to your faith or pull farther away from it. If you declare war with your adolescent over this issue, you are in for a strenuous battle—a battle that you are almost certain to lose.—Colossians 3:21.
Well I wasn't thinking I was a failure until you put the idea in my head...now I'm depressed, what should I do about my new depression? Oh, right, more service and meetings and ritual prayer and obedience. Especially for those parents that have already "lost" their child to unbelief, this paragraph seems designed to instill a feeling of failure and weakness in the readers to whom it applies.
It is far better to heed the admonition of the apostle Paul. “A slave of the Lord does not need to fight,” he wrote, “but needs to be gentle toward all, qualified to teach, keeping himself restrained.” (2 Timothy 2:24) How can you show yourself “qualified to teach” if your adolescent questions your faith?
Never miss a chance to do some light programming. Remember: you're a slave.
Myth: Parents who are Jehovah’s Witnesses force their children to follow their faith.
Oh, this is gonna be good.
Fact: Witness parents strive to inculcate love for God in their offspring, just as the Bible commands them to. (Ephesians 6:4) Nevertheless, they realize that when a child becomes an adult, he or she will make a personal choice with regard to worship.—Romans 14:12; Galatians 6:5.
Oh, when you put it that way it sounds super reasonable. Of course you fail to mention the, often life threatening via suicide, consequences that are dropped on a child that makes the "wrong" decision. This is scarcely more accurate than saying that a robber demanding money at gunpoint isn't forcing anyone to do anything. They are, after all, completely free to make their own decision about whether or not to comply...lets just not mention that if they don't they get shot.
First, try to discern what factors might be contributing to your adolescent’s view. For example:
Before I go any further, I'm going to make a prediction: none of the factors contributing to this will be related to the child's genuine desire to know the truth or their performing accurate research on reasonable doubts of insane doctrine.
Does he feel lonely and friendless in the Christian congregation? “Because I wanted friends, I got close to several schoolmates, and it hindered my spiritual growth for years. I lost interest in spiritual things for the most part because of bad association, and now I have many regrets.”—Lenore, 19.
Does he lack self-confidence, making it difficult for him to speak up about his faith? “When I was in school, I was hesitant to share my beliefs with my classmates. I was afraid that they would view me as weird or as a ‘Bible boy.’ Any kids who were different were rejected, and I didn’t want that to happen to me.”—Ramón, 23.
Does he feel overwhelmed by the responsibility of living up to Christian standards? “I feel as if the Bible’s promise of everlasting life were at the top of a big stairway, and I am not even on the steps; I am far, far away from them. The fear of getting on the stairway has been so big that I have considered giving up my faith.”—Renee, 16.
Ahh, yes. They're lonely, they're lacking self confidence or they're overwhelmed. I'll sum it up in two words: they're weak. That's the only reason for "doubts." Any "doubts" are always fueled by some other motivation. Not by the fact that they're being forced to listen to dubious claims backed by spurious evidence, which typically leads rather naturally to doubt. No, they first have a problem, then they invent doubts as an excuse to take the easy way out. That's the only thing it could possibly be!
Talk It Out
What underlying issue might your adolescent be facing? The best way to find out is to ask him! Be careful, though, not to let the discussion deteriorate into an argument. Instead, follow the admonition of James 1:19: “Be swift about hearing, slow about speaking, slow about wrath.” Be patient with him. Employ “all long-suffering and art of teaching,” just as you would with someone outside the family.—2 Timothy 4:2.
For example, if your adolescent balks at attending Christian meetings, try to find out if something else is bothering him. But do so with patience. Little good is accomplished by the parent in the following scenario.
Son: I just don’t like going to meetings anymore.
Father: [hostile tone] What do you mean you don’t like going?
Son: I find them boring, that’s all!
Father: Is that how you feel about God? You find him boring? Well, that’s just too bad! As long as you live under our roof, you’re going with us—whether you like it or not!
Yup, of course. The theme is that it's never just doubts, there's always some underlying weakness or problem with the child that has simply manifested superficially as doubts. Couldn't possibly be the cult at fault.
God requires that parents teach their children about him and that children obey their parents. (Ephesians 6:1) However, you want your child to do more than blindly follow your spiritual routine and reluctantly go with you to Christian meetings. If at all possible, you would like his mind and heart to come along too.
Except that's exactly what the cult demands of its followers - following blindly. Or lest we forget the now infamous 'follow any instructions received even if they don't make sense' directive in the watchtower?
You have a better chance of accomplishing that if you discern any underlying issues that might be contributing to his attitude. With that in mind, consider how the above conversation could have been handled more effectively.
Son: I just don’t like going to meetings anymore.
Father: [calmly] Why do you feel that way?
Son: I find them boring, that’s all!
Father: Sitting for an hour or two can be boring. What do you find most challenging about it?
Son: I don’t know. I guess I just feel like I’d rather be somewhere else.
Father: Is that how your friends feel?
Son: Well, that’s just it! I don’t have any—at least not anymore. Ever since my best friend moved away, I feel like there’s no one to talk to! Everyone else is having a good time. I feel so left out!
By drawing out the adolescent, the father in the above scenario not only gets to the underlying issue—in this case, loneliness—but also builds trust, thus keeping the door open for further discussions.—See the accompanying box “Be Patient!”
Ahh yes, the meetings aren't even boring, your child is just lying to you and to himself! They're not boring because of extreme monotony and repetition or because of the complete lack of informational content above a 3rd grade level, they're not even boring at all - he's mistaken his loneliness for boredom.
Talking to your adolescent might require the utmost patience on your part. But the payoff—building trust—is worth it. One teenage girl relates: “In one night’s discussion, I told my dad that I secretly had a social network page and a boyfriend and that I wanted to run away. He stayed so calm as he talked the whole thing out with me! I don’t know another dad who could just sit there and not start yelling at his daughter when he found out she had kissed a guy and was texting him nonstop. I feel like I can tell my dad anything. I know he really wants to help me.”
Really setting the bar low, aren't we? If you manage not to yell at your child for engaging in perfectly normal activities of youth, you're an exceptional parent the likes of you the world has not known! No consideration is given to the fact that this girl felt the need to have a double life so that she could explore natural impulses to have relationships with the opposite sex. Why could that be? Is it possible that her father (apparently unparalleled in his composure) is pushing an extremely repressive and damaging way of life on his daughter that makes it an almost certainty that she'll either live a double life or find herself in adulthood without the experience needed to make good decisions about who to date/marry? Nope, she just woke up one day and decided, for absolutely no reason at all, that she needed to have secrets from her (again, apparently reasonable) parents. If they're truly so reasonable and composed, why didn't she openly tell them about this boy before they started dating? If they're so reasonable and composed, why wouldn't they support their daughter in exploring life safely and maturely? It seems that she must have known that her father would have insisted on her repressing her feelings and desires instead of learning how to handle them appropriately. In any event, this example doesn't even pretend to be about the original topic of children doubting - they've now completely changed the subject to "kids are reckless little liars, don't trust them if they depart from anything the cult tells you."
In time, many young ones learn that if they confront the issue that is impeding their spiritual growth, they will usually feel better about themselves and their faith. Consider Ramón, the young man quoted earlier who cringed at the thought of identifying himself as a Christian at school. Eventually, Ramón found that speaking up about his faith was not as traumatic as he imagined it would be—even when it resulted in ridicule. He relates:
“On one occasion a boy at school was poking fun at me because of my religion. I got really nervous, and I sensed that the whole class was listening. Then I decided to turn the discussion around and ask him about his faith. To my surprise, he was even more nervous than I was! Then I realized that many young people have religious beliefs, but they don’t understand them. At least I can explain my beliefs. Really, when it comes to talking about faith, my classmates should be the ones who feel awkward—not me!”
Not much to say about this...they continue to change the subject and avoid the real issue - what if the kid has real, legitimate doubts about cult doctrine that can't be answered?
TRY THIS: Draw out your adolescent by asking him how he feels about being a Christian. In his own view, what are the benefits? What are the costs? Do the benefits outweigh the costs? If so, how? (Mark 10:29, 30) Your adolescent could write down his thoughts on paper using two columns—the left-hand one for the costs and the right-hand one for the benefits. Seeing his assessment on paper may help your adolescent to identify his problem and work out a solution.
Get your kid to make Pascall's wager!
Your Adolescent’s “Power of Reason”
Parents and experts have observed that there is a marked difference between the way young children think and the way adolescents think. (1 Corinthians 13:11) While young children typically think in concrete, black-and-white terms, adolescents tend to reason on things more abstractly. For example, a young child can be taught that God created all things. (Genesis 1:1) However, an adolescent might wrestle with such questions as: ‘How do I know that there is a God? Why would a God of love permit evil? How can it be true that God has always existed?’—Psalm 90:2.
The lesson here: think like a child. We don't want people who's mental capacity rises even to the level of adolescence, regress yourself and your children to the point that they'll think in black and white and blindly accept authority...that's the way to live to be sure!
You might feel that such questioning represents a step backward in your adolescent’s faith. In reality, it may well represent a step forward. After all, questioning can be an important aspect of a Christian’s spiritual growth.—Acts 17:2, 3.
But only if your questioning leads you to double down on being a JW!
Furthermore, your adolescent is learning to use his “power of reason.” (Romans 12:1, 2) As a result, he is able to appreciate “the breadth and length and height and depth” of the Christian faith in a way that he simply could not as a child. (Ephesians 3:18) More than ever, now is the time to help your adolescent reason on his beliefs so that he can develop firm convictions regarding his faith.—Proverbs 14:15; Acts 17:11.
"help your adolescent reason" - read: wear them down by forcing them down the endless road of nonsense "reason" that the cult has published until they just don't have any fight left in them and the concede that the cult must be "the truth"
The Value of a Mentor
Sometimes youths are helped when an adult outside the family provides encouragement. Do you know someone whose spiritual outlook could be an inspiration to your adolescent? Why not arrange for him or her to spend time with your son or daughter? Your purpose is not to abdicate your responsibility. But think of Timothy. He benefited greatly from the apostle Paul’s example, and Paul benefited greatly by having Timothy as a companion.—Philippians 2:20, 22. *
Keep throwing more and more authority at the kid until he submits out of sheer exhaustion or becomes distracted by someone that he actually looks up to. Whatever you do, don't address any actual doubts head on, because that's a battle you're sure to lose.
TRY THIS: Go back to the basics with your adolescent, revisiting subjects that you—and he—might have taken for granted. For example, have him think about such questions as: ‘What convinces me that there is a God? What evidence do I observe that shows that God cares about me? Why do I feel that it is always in my best interests to obey God’s laws?’ Be careful not to force your views on your adolescent. Instead, help him develop his own convictions. That way he will find it easier to build confidence in his faith.
If your kid has doubts, punish them with study topics that are even more basic and boring than they're already used to! That'll show them that doubt only reaps punishment and it'll teach them to repress any negative feelings about the cult because it only makes their lives worse!
“Persuaded to Believe”
The Bible speaks of the young man Timothy who “from infancy” knew the holy writings. Yet, the apostle Paul urged Timothy: “Continue in the things you learned and were persuaded to believe.” (2 Timothy 3:14, 15) Like Timothy, your adolescent may have been educated in Bible standards from birth. Now, though, you need to persuade him so that he develops his own convictions.
This paragraph is a little all over the place with a pretty poor analogy drawn to timothy. - are we to tell the kids to continue on like paul told timothy, or are we meant to persuade as timothy apparently was before paul told him to continue? Was timothy persuaded from infancy? If so that's a bit of a misnomer...you can hardly call directives handed down to an infant "persuasion." This paragraph is so poorly strung together that I don't even know how to criticize the actual content...
The book Questions Young People Ask—Answers That Work, Volume 1, states: “As long as your adolescent lives under your roof, you have the right to require compliance with a spiritual routine. In the end, however, your goal is to instill love for God in your teen’s heart—not simply to elicit some mechanical action.” By keeping that goal in mind, you can help your adolescent become “solid in the faith” so that it becomes his way of life—not just yours. *—1 Peter 5:9.
Try to brainwash your kid but, failing that, you'd better be damn sure that they keep going through the motions and serving the cult. If, in going through the motions, they actually manage to recruit someone, the cognitive dissonance is sure to overwhelm them into staying in the cult - so there's always hope
ASK YOURSELF . . .
How do I react when my child questions my beliefs?
How could I use the material in this article to improve the way that I react?
God forbid they publish something without demanding that you incorporate it into your psyche by envisioning yourself following their instructions...