You Have To Leave This To Them

If it’s hard for most parents not to push their beliefs on their kids, imagine what it must be like for a bishop. Obviously they believe very deeply in something—so deeply that they have dedicated their lives to it. And they’re just supposed to let their kids figure it out for themselves?

Well… yeah.

As David McCullough points out in his fascinating book The Wright Brothers (grab at The Painted Porch, it’s amazing), Orville and Wilbur’s father was a bishop in the Church of the United Brethren in Christ. Yet, unlike many religious people and so many parents then and now, he had a light touch about it. “Interestingly, for all the Bishop’s dedication to church work,” McCullough writes, “religion was scarcely ever mentioned in his letters to his children, or in what they wrote to him. No framed religious images or biblical quotations were part of the home decor, with the exception of a color print of Saint Dorothy, hanging to the left of the fireplace in the front parlor, but that was part of the room where Orville customarily propped his mandolin against the wall, and she was the patron saint of music.”

Clearly, ​Bishop Wright modeled his religious teachings​ because his boys were decent and kind and honest. But just as he gave them room to explore their education—allowing them to choose their projects over school from time to time—he did the same with their spiritual journey. He gave them room. He did not indoctrinate. He did not shame or pressure. The important thing for him was that they were good people and that they were happy, not that they agreed with him or did what he said.

And so it must go for us and our families, not just in matters of faith but also politics, career choices, lifestyle choices and every other kind of choice and belief there is. ​Our job is to help our kids become who they are​, to discover what they would like to discover. We’re not minting copies of ourselves. We’re not developing followers.

It’s their life, their beliefs. We have to give them space. We can model. We quietly make our case. And then we have to leave the rest to them.


We think this idea—that you have to be your kids’ biggest supporter—is so important that in The Daily Dad book, the entire month of August is on the theme. The month of August in The Daily Dad: 366 Meditations on Parenting, Love, and Raising Great Kids is titled, “Always Be A Fan”—it is, as we’ve said, the greatest gift you can give your kids.

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