Ds's friend told him "People who don't believe in God are mean." - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 15 Old 03-05-2011, 12:23 AM - Thread Starter
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My kids go to a private school that is not officially Christian, but does teach "Christian values". I am glad that they teach positive values to the kids and I haven't felt that the school has focused on religion. But, the school does attract more Christian families because of this. Dh and I are athiests, but we tell our children that (1) They can believe what they feel is right and (2) They need to be respectful of other people's beliefs.


Today my son said that one of his best friends told him "People who don't believe in God are mean." I told him that it was not true. We talked about it and how we would look at people's actions, not their beliefs, to decide if they are being "mean". We talked about it for a bit, but I know ds still has some doubts. He is 7 and is starting to be heavily influenced by his peers, so I am concerned that he thinks there is truth to what his friend told him. (This friend has told him a lot of things that are in no way true, but my son will defend all of the statements because his friend said them).


My question is, do I do anything else? Talk to the friend's parents about it?  Find biographies of athiests who are "nice"? I'm not sure what to do. Ds does not always share his thoughts so it will be hard for me to tell if he continues to believe this and/or hears similar statements in the future. I don't want him to feel different or that there is something wrong with him because our family is not Christian. We may be leaving the school next year for different reasons, but if we do stay I am sure these things will continue to come up. Any advice?

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#2 of 15 Old 03-05-2011, 01:08 AM
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I think talking to him about it was definitely a good start.


It might help if you and him come up with a list of people who are nice to him and to others, and maybe see what different religions are in there. It might help illustrate what you were talking about before.


Other then that, the best thing you can do it make sure you expose him to people who don't believe in God who are very nice people. Sometimes the it's the only way to really remove all doubts about groups of people. Exposure is a wonderful thing. I'm not sure that looking up famous people who are not believers in God would really help much, these people tend to be less real than the people we meet every day. The reason being, of course, that we rarely, if ever, come face to face with them in real life and only ever see them as faces and names on the internet, in books, or in the news.

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#3 of 15 Old 03-05-2011, 04:14 AM
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I don't think I'd talk to the child or his parents (since he and they are entitled to their opinion, even if it's a bit strange).  I would talk with your son about the importance of standing up for himself and/or ignoring these types of comments.  Your DS will find these irrational types of people wherever he goes, even in public school, so it's better to prepare him anyways.  I like the PP's idea about making a list of people who are nice to him and pointing out their religion or lack thereof.

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#4 of 15 Old 03-05-2011, 09:53 AM
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BTDT and I'd tread carefully. I know, it's a bit twisted. If the child had said "black people are mean" and you were an african american family, no one would question your talking to the parents or the child and the majority of outsides would agree that it was a totally ignorant comment. However, Atheists are not so protected or tolerated yet. I'm an atheist born and raised and now have an atheist family. We've payed some high prices for being open around the wrong people. Enough that we are very cautious when it comes to our children and who around THEM knows.


I do feel it's a good thing to talk to your own child about it. You can look up famous atheists. Personally, we have many, many atheist and agnostic friends and family so we can talk about them too. You can tell him how atheists have the lowests divorce rate and represent less than 1 percent of the prison population... how mean can the majority of atheists be with those statistics? Certainly, there will be some "mean" atheists just like their are mean christians, jews, muslims, pagans, ect. However, you would never suggest that ALL of a religion are mean and it was wrong of this boy to say that.


As for the child in questions, if the child were to say that to YOU, I'd respond with a matter-of-fact "really? Are we mean? We're atheists?"  I'd not go to the child after-the-fact and I'd not talk to the parents unless you really know them well and are willing to pay the price if they turn out not to be who you thought they were. If the issue escalates and your son starts getting bullied about it, go to the teachers and principal right away.

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#5 of 15 Old 03-05-2011, 10:06 AM
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I would focus on working with your child to encourage him to be OK with his own beliefs,and OK with not going along with what others think....due to peer pressure. Kids learn at home and recite those beliefs,so I doubt the child's parents will be very helpful.Some people actually do believe that about others that are not of their religion!


I remember when ds told me his friend at school said kids who use online schools are losers with no friends.Annoying because I want the kids to use an online school one day. Another time it was the pro-santa kids against the no santa kids. There was a lot of pressure put on the no santa kids to *pretend* for the sake of the others,and you were *bad* if you said you did not believe in santa,lol.


Religion thank goodness has not been a major issue yet.We don't follow any and there are a variety of religions at the kids Montessori school.My dd was asked once about religion and God,but she simply said,"My beliefs on that subject are not something I want to talk about at school." 


My kids agree to disagree on certain things with others,but often the other person just can't let it go.They have this feeling that they MUST get my child to believe what they do. You just have to keep talking with your kids,and reassuring them that everyone has different opinions on subjects and that is OK.

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#6 of 15 Old 03-05-2011, 11:32 AM
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IMO, I think this is a great place to explain intolerance to your child and to teach that Christianity (or any particular religion) doesn't necessarily mean "good values".  You've done a great job already talking to him, but I would leave the discussion open.  You may find that you don't need to say much more, or that it takes a little/lot more explaining.  We've had many discussions about tolerance, compassion, humanitarianism, understanding, compromise... and that it is different for different people.  Even though dd's (private) school is diverse, there are still situations that come up.  Some small-minded people teach their children their small-minded values and it's not exclusive to any subset of the population.  Learning to traverse these dicey waters is a long process.  Good luck, and good job!!

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#7 of 15 Old 03-05-2011, 03:50 PM
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My dd had a few incidents like this when she was in after school care and in addition to talking to her about what intolerance was I talked to the after school teacher about it.  She had a talk with the kids about respecting each others beliefs.  Her teacher was really good at talking things through with the kids in a way that put an end to problems while also helping the kids feel like they decided to take action to include everyone in a respectful way. 


At home we got books about different religions and talked about the many different beliefs.  I think getting biographies about "nice" atheists is a good idea.

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#8 of 15 Old 03-05-2011, 05:34 PM
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I'd tackle this from a couple of angles -- first I'd tackle the friendship angle. Sit down with him and make a list of what characteristics a good friend has. How many characteristics does this best friend have? Is he really a good friend? Since he's only 7, I wouldn't dwell too much on believing everything his friend says. Part of that is developmental. Ds went through a period like that. We'd talk about what the evidence/reality was, and then move on. By 8 1/2 or so ds was able to make better judgments about not believing everything this friend said.


Second, I'd make sure you actively teach him what you do believe. Telling your child that he's free to believe what he wants isn't very helpful at 7, because he doesn't know what's out there. If what he's getting is nothing from you at home and garbled Christian indoctrination at school, he may tend toward the 7-year-old interpretation of Christianity. If he is getting discussion about what you believe from home, then I think eventually he'll feel more comfortable in his being an atheist. I'd also teach him about a range of religions, including what Christianity is.


I'd also continue the talks on what makes a good person. Point out that there are people who are/were atheist who are good/did great things and people who are atheist who did terrible things. There are people who are/were Christian who did great things, and people who are/were Christian who did terrible things. Then bring it back down to his level -- there are people who believe in God who are nice, people who believe in God who aren't nice. People who don't believe in God who are nice, people who don't believe in God who are nice.



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#9 of 15 Old 03-05-2011, 06:12 PM
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If my kid said that to another child, I'd want to know so I could figure out where the attitude came from.


I wouldn't assume it came from home. I'd assume that it *doesn't*.


Not that I'd make a big deal, just a "by the way Kid said something odd to ds the other day. He said, "..."."

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#10 of 15 Old 03-06-2011, 10:41 AM
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Originally Posted by sapphire_chan View Post

If my kid said that to another child, I'd want to know so I could figure out where the attitude came from.


I wouldn't assume it came from home. I'd assume that it *doesn't*.


Not that I'd make a big deal, just a "by the way Kid said something odd to ds the other day. He said, "..."."

Great point.  Sometimes kids makes assumptions/leaps of "logic" that their parents would find abhorent.




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#11 of 15 Old 03-06-2011, 11:56 AM
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I would talk to my child & then forget about it.


When I was in Grade 6 we had 2 kids in our grade(entire grade was 44 kids) who were of a particular religion where they didn't go to dances & such.  The girl told us that if you listed to rock music you'd go to hell.  The boy(not related) never said anything of that sort to us.  We were in Grade 6 so we just laughed & moved on.  We were still friends & such with her, we just didn't share the same beliefs/propaganda.


The next year we moved onto highschool where her Dad was a teacher.  Boy he sure didn't practice what he preached.  By Grade 10 this girl was listening to rock music herself & attending our parties, she had a boyfriend in Grade 11 or 12.  However she still stuck with her religious beliefs too.  


Chances are this kid overheard something & it got garbled up in his brain.  I wouldn't worry about it too much. I also wouldn't worry about your son believing everything the kids say.  Right now he may, but soon he'll start to notice it doesn't all add up & start to question whether his friends do know everything.lol

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#12 of 15 Old 03-07-2011, 09:20 PM
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well, i would mention it to the parents personally.  i would die if my child said something like that and i certainly would want to know about it. don't assume the parents teach something like that. my 8 year old nephew who attends a private christian school told his classmate if he said bloody mary in the mirror with the lights out she would appear.  my sister certainly doesn't teach that. if the mom had not discussed this with my sister, she could have never set the record straight with my nephew. the little boy who said this comment to your son could have interpreted something wrong, heard it from another child.... seriously...who knows.  i would imagine the parents would want to address it, and therefore i would kindly talk to them and let them know how it affected your son.  hth.

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#13 of 15 Old 03-16-2011, 04:56 PM
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My girls have never attended a private school, but we live in a religious area with a lot of devout and born again Christians.  When dd12 was in kindergarten or 1st, I was approached by a child in her grade who said to me, "Mrs. ____, did you know that [dd] is going to hell b/c she doesn't have Jesus in her heart?"  The school, too, had a character education program that seems to have a lot of people with significant ties to religious organizations at the head.  I was told that tolerance was not part of their character education.  Apparently some parents didn't want their children to be taught to tolerate things that they believed were wrong.


If you were staying at the school, I might approach the teacher or the main office to inquire about tolerance as part of their character education, but if you're leaving anyway, I may just stick with what you are doing to reinforce in your ds' mind that his friend is not correct on this one.

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#14 of 15 Old 03-16-2011, 06:26 PM
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Hmm, that'd be another reason to tell the other parent. What if their kid did pick up on that kind of talk from the school environment and the parent didn't actually know the school was supportive of intolerance. And if you're going to be changing schools, you'll be protected if the parents aren't good.

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#15 of 15 Old 03-16-2011, 08:23 PM
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Originally Posted by TiredX2 View Post

Great point.  Sometimes kids makes assumptions/leaps of "logic" that their parents would find abhorent.



Yes, I completely agree.  I think it would be appropriate for you to mention it to the child's parents in a casual way.  Making it clear that you're not angry to mad, just that you wanted to share something you observed.  If you don't come off as judgmental (which is sounds like you aren't anyway) then I think the parents will receive it well.  Like TiredX2 pointed out, it's surprising what kids say sometimes.  And if that child's parents are surprised he said it, maybe they would welcome the chance to talk to their child since he clearly has some confusion in his own mind about Christianity and being good or mean.


I also echo what others have said and think that in terns of your own child, the best thing is just to talk to him about your family's beliefs.  And I liked the idea of talking about how a lot of very nice people are different religions, since that might make the idea more concrete for you son.


Good luck!

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