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IComLeavWe: Day 4

This is day four of IComLeavWe on speed. As I make my way through over 100 blogs this week, reconnecting and leaving comments, I hope to feature a couple of posts each day and also list the posts that I commented on.

Featured Post – Please don't label me

I loved this image featured in Going around the messengers on The Meming of Life the moment I saw it.

You should read Going around the messengers to understand all of the controversy around this message. It isn't saying that you cannot teach your children about religion or expose them to religion. It is saying that you do not get to choose their religion. They do. I think that in order to give children that choice, we need to expose them to as many alternatives as possible. I'm thankful the mandatory curriculum where we live does that.

What I found particularly interesting about this image is that it can apply to more than just religion. In response to the post, I wrote:
I love that poster. Not only is wonderful from a graphics/artistic perspective, but I think the message is an important one and one that applies to more than just religion. Children have labels put on to them and decisions made for them due to their gender, grades in school, athletic ability, outward appearance, and more. Let's just let kids be kids and let them believe they can be anyone they want to be.

I wish there was less societal pressure for kids to act a certain way based on a label we have given to them. Until that has changed, I'll keep fighting for my kids to be exposed to as many options as possible and to question the assumptions that are put in front of them.

Posts I commented on today

  1. Bored Mommy: I'm NO Foodie

  2. Boycott Nestle and other action to protect infant health: Looking for justice

  3. Mama Saga: End of innocence

  4. Mamas Worldwide: Raising an Adventurous Eater

  5. Maternal Spark: The Humor about Motherhood

  6. MojoMom:  Caregiving is not a choice for any of us

  7. The Happiest Mom: More on moms, work & money: Interview w/Amy Tiemann, author of “Mojo Mom”

  8. The Meming of Life: Going around the messengers

  9. Michelle's a Mom: Morning Cuddles

  10. Mommy News Blog: Breastfeeding and Planes

  11. A Mother in Israel: Israeli Playdate Etiquette

  12. The Mother of All Parenting Blogs: Twitter Lists for Parents: Find Great Parenting Resources -- and Other Parents -- on Twitter

  13. A Mindful Life: Art Every Day Month - Day 20

  14. Mudspice: "Sleep, Baby, Sleep" Painting

  15. Muddy Boots Blog: Six Words

« Would you satisfy my curiosity? Transition from crib to big kid bed | Main | IComLeavWe: Day 3 »

Reader Comments (24)

What a wonderful image/message! Thank you for sharing :-) I'll post it on my own blog tomorrow (and link back to you for exposing me to it :-))

November 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKate

Thanks for sharing! This is wonderful! And you are so right, we have to be very careful about putting any labels on our children, especially ones that have negative connotations. They can be so damaging.

November 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCrystal Gold

I love that image, and the post behind it. I try to raise my kids atheist, they know about religions (as much as age-appropriate) but not be forced into one.

November 25, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSummer

I love the poster. We've worked on exposing our kids to a variety of beliefs and trying to be tolerant of all of them- my hardest times were when ds attended a very conservative, literalist summer bible camp with his best friend and came home announcing we were all related thanks to the flood: http://www.blogschmog.net/2006/07/28/literally-everyone-makes-mistakes-even-god/ is that story. Then he went on to decide all religions had been "disproved" by science, which he announced at prayer time at his little brother's nursery school. We have all extremes over here, and I'm hopeful in the end it'll all balance out nicely.

November 25, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmy

I don't agree with the concept in regards to religion. I do agree with not labeling children based on sex/gender/age, but I don't see raising them with a religious identity to be a bad thing. I don't see it as limiting at all.

We considered raising them to make their own decisions as adults, but later changed our minds. Our past--our children's past, is important to us. We want to raise them to understand and cherish it. We are traditional Jews. By definition, our children are Jewish because their mother is. We want to raise them in a manner so that they're comfortable within Judaism. We want them to understand it and find comfort in it. I don't see that as hurting them at all.

I don't see raising my children Jewish to be limiting to them at all. Instead, it's giving them a place to belong--a place where they can better understand where they come from and where they're going.

November 25, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterReiza


I am not in your house, so I don't know exactly how you practice your religion. I can give you a few examples though from my experience with regards to limits that were placed on my Jewish friends. I dated a Jew, knowing full well it would never become serious because his parents did not approve of him dating a Shiksa. I ended up marrying a half-German, who is not welcome in the homes of some of my Jewish friends' parents, despite being two generations removed from the war and not having any ancestors who served on the German side in WWII.

I think labels too create "us" and "them" divisions. I think it is possible to teach history, culture, and traditions without throwing up barriers.

November 25, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

More thoughts on religion and parenting...

Earlier today I wrote about my thoughts on an atheist bus campaign in Britain that encourages parents...

November 25, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterParenting: Curious Dad

I don't let my children decide *if* they are going to brush their teeth.

I don't let my children decide *if* they are going to eat healthy food or take medicine when necessary.

I don't let my children decide *if* they are going to go to school.

If I do not let my children make decisions that are related to to their physical health and intellectual well-being, why would I allow them to make their own decisions about their spiritual health at their tender ages?

It is my firm belief that they are born into my religion for a reason, and that the practice of my religion is what is best for their souls. Now, when they are adults they may choose differently (just as they may choose not to brush their teeth, eat healthy food, take medicine, or go to school or work) and I will have no control over them at that point -- but for now -- I will do my best to instill in them the religious values that I feel are best for them.

And, for the record, if they choose another religion, or none at all I will still love and accept them. They will be welcome in my home and we will, I pray, create a relationship based on mutual respect. But for now, I think I have every right to raise them in my religion, and not to expose them to every other religion and let their immature minds and souls choose.

November 25, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSusan

Issues of health and intellectual well-being are, for the most part, well documented in science. Issues of spiritual health are not. I believe that spirituality is a very personal thing and I do not think it is my place to impose my spirituality on another person without their consent. I can ask that they listen, I can educate them, I can share why I believe what I do, but I would not choose for them what their spiritual identity is going to be.

November 25, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

A belief that science must a defining factor in one's life -- is also a belief.

There are some things that go beyond science, and have stood the test of time.

You say you would not choose what your child's spiritual identity is going to be. I say it was chosen for them when their soul was put into their body for their mission on earth (But I recognize that this assertion does pre-suppose a religious belief.)

Perhaps you should not impose American values on your children either. Are you going to expose them to the value system of each country, for example, and let them choose which state they live in? Perhaps, when given a clear view of all cultures, they will abhore American culture, move to the middle east and become a member of the Taliban. Surely you must give them this choice -- right?

Please forgive the sarcasm, I am merely trying to make a point.

As one of my Rabbis once quipped, "You can be so open-minded that your brains fall out"

Not that I mean to insult you that you don't have a brain -- clearly you have a very smart one! -- It's just that I think it is possible to be too open minded.

I do see your viewpoint, however, I disagree with it and I refuse to apologize for teaching my child my religion with love and enthusiasm, hoping they will continue our traditions as they get older and pass it on to their children.

I sincerely wish you great joy in raising your children.

P.S. In college, I was a Religion Major. There is a time and a place for exploration....

November 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSusan

You said:

Perhaps you should not impose American values on your children either. Are you going to expose them to the value system of each country, for example, and let them choose which state they live in? Perhaps, when given a clear view of all cultures, they will abhore American culture, move to the middle east and become a member of the Taliban. Surely you must give them this choice — right?

I most certainly will not be imposing American values on my children. I assume they will pick some of them up from the media because American media is so pervasive around the globe, but I won't be imposing those values and in fact I will be doing my best to rage against some aspects of American culture (e.g. http://www.phdinparenting.com/2008/11/28/quelling-crazed-consumerism/" rel="nofollow">crazed consumerism).

I am Canadian. My husband is European. Our children are growing up learning four languages (so far, but we hope to add more as they get older), we travel internationally with them, we expose them to other cultures and value systems through the multiculturalism found in our community and our friendships.

At the moment, our children have to live with us because they are dependent on us, so they cannot choose "what state to live in". However, we will do our best to expose them to different cultures while they are living with us and we will give them the freedom to travel on their own (go backpacking, do overseas exchange programs, etc.) when they are old enough to do so independently.

November 26, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Liz (Mom-101) wrote an excellent piece in Brain, Child as part of a debate over whether it is right for parents to inculcate political values in their children (so, if you're a Democrat, do you raise your kids as Democrats?) - she said, basically, absolutely, and pinned part of her argument on the notion that if you're a spiritual person, you'll raise your children with your own spiritual values, and that politics should be no different. About which, I totally agree. It's part of what we do as parents: teach values. And we make decisions about which values (political, religious, what have you) to teach based upon, well, our own values. There's nothing wrong with that.

I appreciate the sentiment expressed in the post you've cited, but I think that accepting and embracing that sentiment requires a belief (yes) in value relativity. If you're someone who believes that values - or faith - are *not* relative - that some ideas/faiths/value-systems are better than others, then it's a bit harder to accept. (You don't have to be doctrinaire to be opposed to relativism: I believe, for example, that freedom is better than oppression, democracy better than tyranny. Those values are not, to me, relative. I wouldn't dream of teaching my children that, well, a dictatorship is good for some people, and, yeah, I like democracy, but that doesn't mean that it's better than tyranny, and all those people living under dictatorial regimes? They probably love it and it's good for them and one day you could pursue tyranny, or seek to live under it, too! etc.) I happen to be very uncomfortable with any kind of relativism as a belief system - and it is that - but more than that, I know from my own experience that it's possible to be raised in one faith and encouraged to be open to others. I knew about the faith that I was raised in - because I was raised in it - to be able to make really informed choices about faith as I matured (such choice ultimately leading to me leaving that faith). Not all religious education is indoctrination - in fact, I'd say that much of it is not, if the rate of decline of observance in, say, the Catholic church is any evidence.

I've written about this at length, and will probably write about it again, so I'll stop now. Fascinating discussion, though.

November 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCatherine

Here's one of the posts I wrote on the subject, in which I argue that children need to be exposed to faith, meaningfully, if they are to be able to make meaningful choices around faith as they mature: http://blog.beliefnet.com/theirbadmother/2009/09/when-the-path-is-dark-ii.html



November 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCatherine

My husband and I are atheists but we celebrate Jewish holidays. We teach our daughter about all religions and observances as they come up (she's only 3 so her understanding is still limited). We don't teach her that god exists because he doesn't, but we do teach her that everyone has a right to believe in whatever they choose so long as they don't try and force their beliefs on anyone else. We're also Libertarian and when she's able to understand more we're going to teach her about the importance of freedom and individual rights. I don't see that as any sort of indoctrination because I think that anyone who believes that they have a right to abridge your freedoms is immoral. I want her to grow up knowing that she's the sole owner of her own body, mind, and destiny.


"A belief that science must a defining factor in one’s life — is also a belief."

This is a fallacy. Science is based on actual observations and constant testing of ideas. Religion is based on belief without proof (faith). Those are two completely different things and are not at all comparable.

November 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLimor

I think there is a big difference between exposing your children to your faith and imposing your faith on your children.

I could draw a parallel to food. I cook for my children and probably more often than not, I prepare foods that I like and that I think are good for them. However, I do not force them to eat those foods if they do not like them and I do give them opportunities to try food that I do not cook and do not like.

So I am exposing them to my preferences and perhaps even educating them about why I think they are best, but I am not imposing my preferences on them. I will tell my son what my favourite food is and what my spiritual beliefs are. But I will not tell my son what his favourite food is and I will not tell him what his religion is.

November 26, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Thanks for sharing. I left a comment there about my experience.

November 26, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

That's a good analogy - food. So I guess my feeling is that, along those lines, one does well to 'feed' their children what they think best, all the while ensuring that they're aware that there are other foods/cuisines out there, and that it's up to them to decide what they like best.

That said - the not telling kids what their religion is... I wonder if that could be confusing. Would you not tell your kids that they're Canadian? I mean, they can, after all, choose to leave Canada someday. If a child's family is, say, Jewish (and here's the other issue, when religion is also a matter of culture and heritage), why not acknowledge and celebrate that? They can still be made aware - as they mature and are able to understand these things - that they can forge their own path, spiritually. Why deprive a child of some key aspect of his identity v.v. his family? Or is it the idea that religion shouldn't be part of their identity? Being Catholic, being Christian, was part of my identity growing up - but it no more circumscribed the parameters of choice for me than did being Canadian, Anglo, a British Columbian, a 'Connors', what have you. Some aspects of that identity I abandoned, some I did not. Having had them attached to me at any point in my life did not chain me to them, and they were very important to my sense of self and family and community as I grew up, and I'm grateful for that.

November 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCatherine

Thanks for coming by and commenting - and for the link! I appreciate it :)

November 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHeather

My husband and I are both atheists, but we are not necessarily raising our children to be atheists. It is entirely up to them. I haven't even really mentioned to my 6 year old that I personally do not believe in god because I don't want to sway him. So, for us, I treat religious education the same way I treat sexual education (or anything else really since we unschool). I give information when asked or when the interest is obvious. Fortunately, my husband and I both took a few classes on religion in college and are well-read, so we can teach the kids the beliefs of many different religions if and when they are interested. I personally will not take them to church until they are older because I had a very, very bad experience going to church with a friend when I was young. Yet, I did take my little boy to a baptism when he was about 4 and I explained some things to him. Someday we might take them if they are interested, and we would take them to a variety of religious services.

This is a tricky issue. I think that it's very important for us not to label others as a religion and make judgments based on that. And yet I do think that religion is so much a part of some people's lives, families, and culture that it just doesn't make sense to NOT pass that along. And yet, it also seems that you can pass along those values without it being about the religion, but then supplying the religious reasons when asked. It also seems possible to be religious and share religion with our children, while not attaching too much importance to the label.

I think that the labels themselves are not all that problematic, but the importance we (and I mean as a culture, as individuals, parents, etc.) attach to them is the problem. If I find out someone is religious and I assume I have nothing in common with them simply because of the label, then that's not right (and I'm possibly missing out on a wonderful friendship). Of course, even if the labels aren't the problem, it does seem that the only way to disconnect labels and judgments is to get rid of the labels. I do understand that point of view. And I totally agree that this is true for all kinds of labels, not just for religion. I was the Smart one and my brother was the Athletic one and those labels were very, very limiting.

I don't know.... these are just my initial thoughts on this. I know there are some religious families who would basically disown their children for choosing a different religion and that is a problem, too. So there are a lot of problems with labels, and yet I think that people can teach their children religion without it being limiting. So perhaps there just isn't one right answer to this? No one-size-fits-all way to deal with labels.

November 26, 2009 | Unregistered Commentercraphead

I think this is a fascinating discussion, and I agree with you in spirit. My concern is the practicality. Most of us, especially children, find it difficult to live in a way that it counter to the majority, established culture. There is peer pressure and the constant need to be one of the crowd. If all children are presented with all options, pretty much everyone will just choose the majority culture of the community. In a place like Montana, why would anyone choose to be Jewish or Muslim or follow Native American customs or speak another language, with all the hardships it brings you by not being in the majority? I present to you that true respect comes out of loving each other because of these differences. This idea is of letting kids decide on their own is more appealing to the "majority" culture than a minority one, because they have less to lose. Their culture is already the accepted one.

But how can anyone pass down any minority heritage if the children are presented with all options?

Of course, this doesn't mean that everyone should learn about other cultures and be respectful. And it is each person's decision to choose their own path. I'm not an advocate of fanaticism or even religion. There are so many influences on children -- from TV, from school, from friends -- none of them being shy about teaching their values, good or bad. Why should parents opt out of the equation?

Frankly, I don't see the world presented in this idealistic vision as a happy one. In all practicality, when left to their own devices, 99% of everyone will just choose the common choice, the primary consumer or religious culture, and those with minority views will even be seen as odd ducks. I am more for protecting the rights of minorities than advocating a boring world where everyone assimilates into a majority culture.

November 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNeil

Interesting thoughts Neil.

I am also all for protecting the rights of minorities. In fact, the school curriculum related to religion and ethics in our school system is based on that need in particular. The former curriculum was too heavily slanted towards the Roman Catholic majority where I live. The new curriculum recognizes the role the Roman Catholic Church has played in the history and traditions of our area, but celebrates the current multicultural and multi-religious context. I think by teaching the people from the majority heritage about minority heritage, we give those in the minority a better chance of being able to pass along and preserve their heritage rather than being assimilated or shunned.

November 26, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

My trackback is above, but in case some of you missed it, if you're interested in this debate, you may like to read my two blog posts responding to this one over at Curious Dad (and Annie's reaction to them both):



November 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterChad Skelton

I feel strongly about not picking my children's religion for them. But I also see a great benefit in being part of a religious community during childhood. Not just exposing them or teaching them about religions of the world, but actually engaging in religious ritual, traditions, attending worship services, etc. I'm a Unitarian Universalist which is a religion that is very committed to acceptance and tolerance of all spiritual paths. My children attend my church with me and go to RE classes. Even with such a liberal faith, I'm still very conscious about not imposing my beliefs on them and having the focus be on helping them work out what they believe. I'm grateful that my religion supports me in their faith development. Our "Coming of Age" program, walks our teenagers through a process of exploring what they believe (or not) about the world. If they are ready they prepare a "faith statement" to the congregation about what they believe. Any beliefs are accepted from them (including atheism), with an acknowledgement that faith is evolving and that is likely to change throughout ones life. I wish I'd had something like this as a kid, to help me honestly and openly explore my spirituality.

July 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKara

[...] The post concerns an atheist-sponsored bus campaign in Britain that encourages parents not to automatically label their children with their own religion (originally brought to Annie’s attention by the atheist parenting blog The Meming of Life). Here’s the billboard: [...]

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