Our six-year-old has a strong aversion to religion, to the point where he gets upset when people pray or say grace in front of him. He says it’s because he doesn’t understand why someone would talk to someone they can’t see. While my husband and I aren’t particularly religious, my mother-in-law insists on buying him religious books, which he refuses to read. Will he be missing out on something crucial to his development if he doesn’t learn about religion?


I don’t know if I would describe your son’s response as an aversion to religion as much as confusion or even distress about something he considers incomprehensible. Children your son’s age can be quite literal. Often, they can only believe someone exists if they can see him or her for themselves.

Consider also that you and your husband may be communicating your religious views in subtle ways your son could be picking up on. It’s possible that he is rejecting religion in an effort to emulate you. At the same time, his resistance to reading religious books could simply be a response to the pressure he seems to be feeling from his grandmother to do as he’s told.

While your son is just about to enter a phase of cognitive development that will likely allow him to handle the idea of prayer better, exactly what and how much religious teaching he receives is your decision as his parents. There are many ways a child can learn good human values and experience spiritual growth. Religion can be one of them, and so can family activities and community involvement.

Written by Dr Ruwa Sabbagh. Originally published in Today’s Parent, December 2008.

Tagged on: