For most kids, their parents are like gods. I know I believed my parents were almighty and strong when I was young. The strength of this belief is similar to the strength of the belief in God’s existence. A belief is a thought, opinion or conviction about something, for which a person has confidence in the truth of its existence. Whether you believe in something or not has to do with how confident you are in the truth of it. It is the same for kids and their beliefs about parents. For example, whether a child believes in their parents’ love or not has to do with how confident there are in the truth of this love.
The hardest part for kids is that they are dependent on their parents to plant these beliefs in their minds. They will believe they are amazing only after their parents repeatedly tell them it is so.
Recently, I ran a leadership camp where we discussed the students’ belief that they were fantastic kids and that they were loved. As part of the camp activity, I asked the parents to write their child a ‘love letter’. This was hard for the parents to write and hard for the children to read. On the one hand, the children enjoyed it because it is great to see your parents’ love written on a piece of paper. On the other hand, it was sad because most of them did not know their parents felt like that. As part of the activity, the parents had to share some of the things they found challenging in life. The kids (primary age students), who considered their parents to be akin to Gods, were shocked to discover their parents sometimes felt confused, challenged, worried or not fully in control.
I started running this activity because many years ago, I received a letter from my own mom which left a big impression on me. I thought that every kid should have that wonderful trust and belief in their parents. The importance of this trust and belief is really easy to understand through the barbershop story.
The barbershop story
A man went to a barbershop to get his hair cut and his beard trimmed. As the barber began to work, they started to have a good conversation.
When they eventually touched on the subject of God, the barber said: “I do not believe that God exists.”conversation. They talked about many things and various subjects.
“Why do you say that?” asked the customer.
“Well, you just have to go out in the street to realize that God does not exist. Tell me, if God existed, would there be so many sick people? Would there be abandoned children? If God existed, there would be neither suffering nor pain. I cannot imagine a loving God who would allow all of these things.”
The customer thought for a moment, but did not respond because he did not want to start an argument. The barber finished his job and the customer left the shop. Just outside the barbershop, he saw a man in the street with long, stringy, dirty hair and an untrimmed beard. He looked dirty and un-kept.
The customer turned back into the barber shop and said to the barber: “You know what? Barbers do not exist.”
“How can you say that?” asked the surprised barber. “I am here, and I am a barber. And I just worked on you!”
“No!” the customer exclaimed. “Barbers do not exist because if they did, there would be no people with long, dirty hair and untrimmed beards, like that man outside.”
“Ah, but barbers DO exist! What happens is, people do not come to me.”
“Exactly!” affirmed the customer. “That’s the point! God, too, DOES exist! What happens is that people do not go to Him and do not look for Him. That is why there is so much pain and suffering in the world.”
Imagine that children see their parents in the position of God in this story. The point is that parents are not all-knowing and all-able. Sometimes, things are challenging for them. Kids need to trust their parents to do their best, to love them and believe in them (even if they are not always God-like). We, as parents need to teach our kids to come to us for help. We need to tell them repeatedly how we love them and how we are there for them. That way, they will not forsake us when we cannot fix everything, and there will be less pain and suffering in their world.
Be that worthy God to your child!