Parents, don’t fear your child will become too naive

| Father Michael Schmitz | June 4, 2015 | 0 Comments

Q. I want to raise my kids in the faith and help them navigate the world to make good decisions. Obviously, I cannot shelter them from everything, or they will grow up being naive. But I cannot just let them be completely influenced by the world, either. Any thoughts on how to let kids be a part of the world but not of the world?

A. Let me begin by thanking you for this question. It is incredibly important, and many parents try to walk the line between protecting their children and overprotecting them to the point where they are naive.

In fact, the desire to keep children from being too naive has led many parents to abandon their God-given role as guardian of their children’s souls.

In the Rite of Baptism, immediately preceding the moment of baptism, the priest addresses the parents and godparents with these words: “. . . You must make it your constant care to bring him up in the practice of the faith. See that the divine life which God gives him is kept safe from the poison of sin, to grow always stronger in his heart.”

I know parents who are so afraid that their child will grow up to be naive that they are willing to abdicate this duty and place their children’s eternity in jeopardy. I have heard parents justify this by saying things like, “They’ll have to encounter it sooner or later . . . .” What a load of baloney. Study after study (and better yet, personal experience and common sense) reveals that children benefit from being protected from evil in the world.

“But I don’t want my children to be too naive.” I understand that. But at the same time, I have yet to meet someone who was “too naive.”

There are three potential consequences that might come from being too naive, and none of them are necessary. First, we might fear that our child will be so naive that they will be taken advantage of. They won’t know how the world works and will innocently trust someone who they ought not to have trusted. Just remember, “innocent” doesn’t mean “ignorant.” I’ve known people who were “simple” in this sense. Those folks weren’t innocent; they just weren’t wise enough to learn. But that is another issue for another day.

The second fear is that the child might be self-righteous. That is a danger. But I have met more people who thought that they were better than others because they knew more sin than the other kids. It can cut both ways.

Lastly, the fear parents have about their children being too naive is that they will be perceived as weird or different from the other kids. Question: Knowing what you know about the majority of youth and their behaviors, do you want your kids to fit in easily? Of course, you want them to be well-adjusted and able to get along with others, but that is something else. Do you really want children whose behavior is indistinguishable from other youth their age?

I will offer some more practical advice in next month’s column. For now, trust in the fact that you love God, your spouse and your children. Let your family be their “safe haven in a heartless world.”

Father Schmitz is director of youth and young adult ministry for the Diocese of Duluth and chaplain of the Newman Center at the University of Minnesota Duluth. Reach him at fathermikeschmitz@gmail.com.

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Category: Seeking Answers