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Hello and a Quandary I have!
Posted: 09 June 2011 08:50 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Hello to all I am a 37 year old Theatre practitioner From the UK. I am also a father of an 19th month old beautiful daughter. My quandary concerns her. I am a sceptic and agnostic. How would people advise me to educate my daughter in matters about the world of fairies and other magical elements? I don’t want to crush the magic of childhood obviously, but I also don’t want to lie to her about mystical bullshit!
Some help would be most appreciated.
It is also good to have found this site to discuss matters with like minded enlightened people!

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Posted: 09 June 2011 09:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Hi Gary,

I wouldn’t worry about it. Parents have no influence on how their kids turn out. Don’t believe it when others tell you otherwise—they have no data to support such claims. Easter Bunny, Santa, Harry Potter, etc., are fun and completely harmless. 

Welcome to the forum!

[ Edited: 09 June 2011 10:37 AM by George ]
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Posted: 09 June 2011 10:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Hi Gary! I’m new here also, just joined 2 days ago. My visits have been enlightening to say the least. This is a wonderful forum. Some people disagree with others’ opinions, but few of them are rude. I have been struggling to find like-minded people for many years, as all of my family are devout catholics, yuk, and I live in a very conservative religious area.  I love this forum!
You sound like a great dad, concerned with real life issues. Your daughter is lucky. I have to disagree with one of the responses that says she will believe what she wants no matter what you say. This is true to some degree, however bestowing your beliefs (or non-beliefs) as absolute truth on your child can cause a lot of stress and confusion. Been there, done that. My mother still tells me that although I’m a pretty good person, I’m going to hell for not “embracing the lord”. She gets mad when I laugh.
I have two grown daughters and one teenager. Like you, I struggled with what to tell them when they were little. I went along with the santa claus and easter bunny things but never said anything about god and they didn’t ask when they were very little. They were all around six years old when they confronted me with the validity of santa claus, easter bunny, fairies and boogie monsters. I answered them truthfully, that they don’t exist. When they questioned me about god, I told them that I’m not sure, in my mind there are no facts to either prove or disprove god’s existence, I keep my mind open but I lean toward atheism. However a lot of people, including their grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends, do believe that god exists. As my daughters grew, I answered their questions as best I could and offered them books to read and also I would take them to church, any denomination, if they wanted to go and that they could make up their own minds on the subject when they were older. “Whatever fits your heart”, I would say. Two of my daughters are agnostic and one is a true atheist. If I had brought them up with religion, I’m certain that my oldest would be a believer. Not so sure about the other two. But what’s most important, is that they are free-thinking intelligent skeptical young women that I’m very proud of.
I think that if your daughter asks you point blank about magical creatures, no matter what her age, answer her as honestly as you can in a way she can understand. Even though I pretended about santa claus when they were little, it didn’t scar them to find out the truth.
Don’t know if any of this helps. Enjoy your baby girl. They grow up very fast!

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Posted: 09 June 2011 11:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Barchie,

I purposely didn’t mention God, because the religion topic is a little more complicated than, say, Harry Potter or Santa. Parents do have a big influence on the religious label of their kids, but according to some twin studies—not a flawless tool, nevertheless, it’s the best we have for now—the long-term (!) effect on their religiosity (i.e., church attendance, religious discussion, observance of religious holidays, religious moralizing, etc.) is almost nonexistent.

You have told us that your mother is religious, but you’ve never mentioned your father. Is he religious? The same would apply to your kids: Is your wife religious? Carefully selected personal anecdotes, however, don’t account for much; you should already know this as a sceptic. The scientific evidence seems to be pretty clear on the fact that we get most of our personality from our genes (here is your influence as a parent) and the rest comes from our friends and the matter of good old luck. But even the peer influence seems to fade out as one gets older and somewhere within the fourth decade of your life it’s pretty much gone. Yes, when your wife tells you you’re sounding more and more like you dad, she is right. We all do.  grin

[ Edited: 09 June 2011 11:14 AM by George ]
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Posted: 09 June 2011 03:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Welcome Gary.  Glad to have you here.  As a mother and a person with a psychology degree, I think parents have a lot of influence on their child, despite what George says.  However, I wouldn’t lie to them about fairies and alike not being real.  You can let them know Santa is just a game or whatever.

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Posted: 09 June 2011 04:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Welcome Gary.  As I’ve said here a number of times, my mother used to sit me on her lap and read a wide variety of fairytales starting when I was probably a bit less than three (possibly because she liked them herself and I gave her an excuse).  She followed the words with her finger so I learned to read very early.  Since the stories from different cultures disagreed with each other, when I asked she told me they weren’t real, but still a lot of fun to read. My father bought me comic books when I was five or six, and I loved them, too.  When my aunt, a devout and controlling Catholic, criticized my father for letting me read trash and not giving me religious instruction, he said, “I don’t care what he reads, just so long as he does read.”

She then bought me a child’s bible which I loved because it had a whole new set of fairytales that were fun to read, but which I had no reason to believe. 

As you’ve seen, one of the posters here thinks the elders have a great influence on the child’s beliefs, while another feels one’s beliefs are much more strongly controlled by genetics.  I suppose that’s so, because there are very few Christians in Pakistan, India, and Israel.  And there’s only a small percent of Moslems in Ireland and Italy.  See, the genetics in those countries must determine the beliefs the children are born with.  LOL

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Posted: 09 June 2011 06:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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No, Occam, you’re not being a wiseass this time, you’re just not paying attention to what I said. I said that parents have a big influence on the religious label. That’s why there are very few Christians in Pakistan.

[ Edited: 09 June 2011 07:20 PM by George ]
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Posted: 09 June 2011 07:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Mriana - 09 June 2011 03:45 PM

You can let them know Santa is just a game or whatever.

Yes, “or whatever.” I hope you’re paying attention here, Gary. Don’t forget that Mriana has a psychology degree. BTW, so does Dr. Phil.

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Posted: 09 June 2011 07:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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George - 09 June 2011 07:00 PM
Mriana - 09 June 2011 03:45 PM

You can let them know Santa is just a game or whatever.

Yes, “or whatever.” I hope you’re paying attention here, Gary. Don’t forget that Mriana has a psychology degree. BTW, so does Dr. Phil.

Dr. Phil is a joke.  If you think that little of psychology and sociology, why do you even bother?

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“Sometimes in order to see the light, you have to risk the dark.” ~ Iris Hineman (Lois Smith) The Minority Report

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Posted: 09 June 2011 07:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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I don’t think little of psychology at all. It is people who put a title before their name to appear authoritative or commit an appeal to authority and accomplishment fallacies that I don’t take too seriously.

[ Edited: 09 June 2011 07:18 PM by George ]
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Posted: 09 June 2011 07:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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George - 09 June 2011 07:16 PM

I don’t think little of psychology at all. It is people who put a title before their name to appear authoritative or commit an appeal to authority and accomplishment fallacies that I don’t take too seriously.

What makes you think that parents have no influence on their children?  Have you studied child behaviour and development?

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Mriana
“Sometimes in order to see the light, you have to risk the dark.” ~ Iris Hineman (Lois Smith) The Minority Report

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Posted: 09 June 2011 07:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Occam. - 09 June 2011 04:24 PM

Welcome Gary.  As I’ve said here a number of times, my mother used to sit me on her lap and read a wide variety of fairytales starting when I was probably a bit less than three (possibly because she liked them herself and I gave her an excuse).  She followed the words with her finger so I learned to read very early.  Since the stories from different cultures disagreed with each other, when I asked she told me they weren’t real, but still a lot of fun to read. My father bought me comic books when I was five or six, and I loved them, too.  When my aunt, a devout and controlling Catholic, criticized my father for letting me read trash and not giving me religious instruction, he said, “I don’t care what he reads, just so long as he does read.”

She then bought me a child’s bible which I loved because it had a whole new set of fairytales that were fun to read, but which I had no reason to believe. 

As you’ve seen, one of the posters here thinks the elders have a great influence on the child’s beliefs, while another feels one’s beliefs are much more strongly controlled by genetics.  I suppose that’s so, because there are very few Christians in Pakistan, India, and Israel.  And there’s only a small percent of Moslems in Ireland and Italy.  See, the genetics in those countries must determine the beliefs the children are born with.  LOL

Occam
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Yes, and it was your parents who influenced you to read at an early age.  IF they had ignored you, it wouldn’t matter what genes you had, your ability to read and all would not have developed like it did.  I got my older son reading when he was 3 and he’s still reading at 22 and has surpassed me with science and other subjects.  Now, my younger son turned out to have classic dyslexia, which I didn’t know when he was young, so we’ve had frustrations with reading for a long time, but he’s reading now that he’s 20, just not as much as I would like him to read.  So parents have a LOT of influence, if they just pay attention to their children starting at an early age and its not just religious or philosophical views they have influence, but a whole lot more.  Genetics helps, but they are not the end all and be all of everything.

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Posted: 09 June 2011 09:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Hi Gary,

I have a 12 year old girl who is really romantic and thinks she’s a dragon. I am intensely pragmatic, and it has often been hard to bite my tongue as she still believes in Santa Claus, and the Easter Bunny ( she has a brain injury, and so she’s a bit young emotionally).

I don’t promote these ideas, but they are out there and she picks them up. I have decided that this is a part of her natural development. I think young kids believe often in magic because they don’t have answers, and as they age and get answers, the magic falls away. So I don’t poo- poo her beliefs. Rather,I counter them with science books and discussions of rational thought, and I trust these will eventually take the place of the fluff. And it works, because she also loves science, and dinosaurs, and believes in evolution.

I also accept that while I really want her to be an atheist, I can’t force her to be. And if I encourage her to use those silly beliefs to exercise her imagination, well, that’s actually good, right?

Good luck,

C

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Posted: 12 June 2011 02:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Wow! Didn’t realise the response I would get to my first post would be so helpful and spark so much debate. Thank you to everyone for welcoming me and offering advice. I think I have found the place I am looking for when it comes to interesting and insightful opinion.

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Posted: 27 June 2011 11:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Gary UK - 12 June 2011 02:36 PM

Wow! Didn’t realise the response I would get to my first post would be so helpful and spark so much debate. Thank you to everyone for welcoming me and offering advice. I think I have found the place I am looking for when it comes to interesting and insightful opinion.

Welcome Gary,

You asked how to retain the magic in childhood.  Perhaps teaching her the magic and majesty of the universe and human interaction at an early age, might be a good substitute. I was brought up in an atheist family, but my dad had a great library of fables and my mom used to read to me as soon as I was able to understand when I was young. When he felt I was able to recognize a hare, fox, cat, mouse, etc.  I vividly remember the stories of “the emperor’s new clothes” and “the fox and the raven”
There are many magical stories out there, which are non religious, yet they are morality stories, with great educational value.

Then later my dad would take me out on the porch at night and explain the wonders of the universe. This instilled in me an everlasting awe and curiousity in the universe and science in general. When I was six I breathlessly anounced to my class that everything including humans are made from atoms. The rest of the kids laughed, but my teacher later told my parents that I had potential, which made them very proud and happy.

As a consequence I never had to struggle with the contradictions and obvious falsehoods in scripture.

May you and your daughter have a magical journey into the wonders of universe and humanity.

[ Edited: 28 June 2011 01:48 AM by Write4U ]
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Posted: 28 June 2011 10:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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It’s a simple matter of fact that myth, fable and fantasy are real things, with real uses.  There’s no reason at all to pretend their subject matter is other than literary (i.e. fictional) or that this in any way devalues their actual reality, utility and beauty.

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