Religious or not, we all must make decisions on how to raise our children. Just as religious folks vary widely in their child rearing styles, so do us atheist folks. The difference being, atheists are free to change their style any time without getting excommunicated from their church — though some choice may cost them a few friendships. 🙂
As I think of the choices my wife and I have made in raising our children, I chuckle thinking of how we oddly share several practices close to the choices that the Amish make.
Here is a short list of ways my family has somewhat distanced itself from common culture:
- Television & Commercials:
We don’t get commercial television or cable. We watch movies and programs on DVD — so no commercials and highly filtered material. We also limit TV time.
Because of the TV issue, my kids are not exposed to commercial sports and are not the “fans” of any team. We also do not go to local baseball, hockey, and football games for which our city is famous. (Mind you, we have gone to a few, but as mere exposure trip). But my kids participate in sports, as do my wife and I.
- Music & Dance:
Because of TV, my kids don’t see music videos and all the sexually dance culture. Similarly movies with adolescents kissing and such are still not allowed. But we dance a lot in our house and my kids play instruments, as do I.
We eat fairly naturally. We don’t keep sweets, soda, and very few processed foods. We buy whole animals, coop vegetables and such. We talk with our kids quite often about the bad food choices people make. We have to also teach them to not point out these bad choices to their friends or others. It is a delicate balance. For fun, see my post on my pre-mastication choice.
We raise chickens for their eggs and meat — previously we had ducks but just switched over to chickens. My wife slaughters them here on our property and my children watch. We also raise dogs. These exposures to animals and my interest in biology meant, to the chagrin of many adults that my kids understood the biology of sex from the age of about 7 years old.
We don’t send our kids to a church and I don’t hesitate to tell folks I am atheist if asked. To the chagrin of other adults, my kids will sometimes tell their kids that the don’t believe in any god, tooth fairy or Santa Clause. We try to teach our kids to hold back sharing this stuff, but it is tough. Our kids also are exposed to Buddhism with statues and practices in our house. For a fun example, see my Itadakimasu post.
I teach my kids to question many of the common explanations for history and politics they hear in school. We teach them that not all laws are good laws and not all adults are wise just because they are adults.
For the first 3-4 years of life, we co-slept with out children. I don’t think the Amish do this, but I thought I’d list it here.
We elected for an alternative, more gradual vaccination schedule for our children. Many Amish (especially the younger) now vaccinate, but many have opted out too — and sometimes with dire consequences.
When explaining our choices to folks, I try to soften the explanation by calling ourselves “Pseudo-Amish”. Some just laugh and move on to other conversations, but a rare few pursue discussion. But because of these choices, our kids are intentionally rather culturally naive.
We are happy with our choices and try to make our kids understand the values behind the choices. We also try to educate them about the surrounding culture with measured exposures and lots of discussions. We may change our strategies as our children get older and desire more freedom — but for now they don’t complain and are proud of the lives they have.
Note: I respect the Amish choice to pull out of culture. We use to live in the middle of Amish country and would buy from several local Amish producers. However, there is also much of the Amish culture that I also do not respect, but my use of the word “Amish” in my post title was not meant as derogatory. I was merely trying to point at the practice of intentionally pulling out of common culture. But it should be clear that, like the Amish, I too do not hesitate to judge much of common culture as undesirable. To soften the self-righteousness of my choices, I intentionally picked an image for the post that kind of hints at the possible downfalls of my family’s choices. HT for cartoon from here.
Questions to Readers:
- If you have kids, is there any way you also pull your family out of common culture?
- What do you see as the pitfalls in our choices?