The Spiritual Role Of Family

spiritual role of family

It’s uncomfortable to consider. Some of us would rather not consider it at all.

To our children, we are their first experience of the divine, the all powerful, the all-knowing, with a human face. We fix ZuZu’s petals. We are our children’s miracle makers.

Our ability to create can be a double-edged sword by wielding the power to destroy or obstruct our children’s development.

Our children come to us as spiritual embryos, beings working to build themselves. From birth, children have an inner life. Human development is a lengthy and internal process—an enigma that produces unpredictable results.

The problem with human development is the fact that the child has a spiritual life, even when he or she cannot express it. Because of the arduousness of this development, growth occurs over a long period of time. A child usually learns to walk by eighteen months of age. The effort the child uses to learn to walk is small compared to the internal work of the spirit.

A spirit is born, hidden in a small body, a spirit who little by little learns to exert his or her will in the world. The largest obstacle and the greatest help in the child’s new world is the adult who has enormous power.

Like the physical body, the spiritual embryo must be protected in an environment filled with the richness of love and regard for the psychic development of the child.

As the adults, we have three principles that we should follow to protect the spirit of the child:

1. Respect all reasonable forms of activity in which the child engages and try to understand those activities.
2. We must support as much as possible the child’s desires for activity. This doesn’t mean that we wait on the child hand and foot, but we encourage activity in order to draw out the child’s singular and independent spirit.
3. We must be careful in our relationships with children because they are quite sensitive, more than we know, to external influences.

I’m reminded of the movie, E.T., where three children discover an extra-terrestrial. The children help E.T. meet his needs and protect him from the adults who would capture, examine, and over-analyze him to death.

Let us observe children’s activities and realize that these activities are the manifestations of the spirit within.

Our children’s activities are clues to their inner workings of spirit. Our children need our help to create an environment in which their spiritual embryos can grow stronger and healthier day by day.

As we observe our children, let us realize that tears, screams, misbehavior, shyness, disobedience, lying, egoism, and destructiveness are defense mechanisms of the child against us and are used as an attempt to gain our help to remove an obstruction to growth.

Children come to us very much as extra-terrestrials. We need to remember that children are new souls to this planet. Let us strive to be sensitive to our children’s needs, both physical and spiritual.

9 Responses to “The Spiritual Role Of Family”

  1. Suseela Kumaravel

    As we observe our children, let us realize that tears, screams, misbehavior, shyness, disobedience, lying, egoism, and destructiveness are defense mechanisms of the child against us and are used as an attempt to gain our help to remove an obstruction to growth.”

    I am currently thinking about some children who are reluctant to engage in activities that are prepared and want to be doing their own activities which often end up either in noisiness inside or destructiveness outside. For e.g. breaking the agreement that sand should not be removed from the sand pit. Some of these children have learning needs. I would like your input into this Maren Schmidt. Many Thanks

    • Suseela,

      One of the important ideas about meeting children’s needs is offer free choice of activity within limits of responsibility and safety.

      The other is listening to our children by asking questions to understand their behavior.

      In your example of removing sand from the sandpit, which I will say is a school/classroom rule that has not be adhered to by the child:

      Does the child understand why the rule is important?
      Did the child have any input into the rule?
      Is there any other activity that is similar that the child can choose to engage in, perhaps gardening, clay work, making landforms, etc?

      Use the five why technique to try to understand the behavior and help the child make appropriate choices.

      Read about the five why technique here:

      I also teach that technique in my Problem Solving workshop:

  2. Beautiful article. Like you implied in the article Maren Schmidt, children are innately good and we should help bring out the best in them. Today my 3 year old son said a bad word to a lady sitting in the doctor’s clinic. I got very embarrassed. What do you suggest I could do in such a situation? Many thanks.

    • Amira,

      We must remember that our children don’t understand what the “bad” language means. They’ve heard certain words said with strong emotion and resort to those emotional words when the moment seems to reflect what they’ve experienced.

      Here’s a Kids Talk article, Kids Say The Darnedest Things:

      But in those moments that our children blurt out the unexpected, we can be prepared with a two step plan of action:

      First, apologize to the person affected.

      “I’m so sorry that my son said that to you. In our family we don’t consider that type of language appropriate. As a three-year-old he hasn’t learned that yet. My apologies.”

      Your son will also see and hear you apologize and get the message that “the word” isn’t to be used.

      Your son might respond with something like, “But Daddy and you say ‘the word'”.

      Repeat the apology from above to your child.

      Step Two: Tell your child that when you get home, in private, you’ll talk about ways to express frustration, or how to ask assistance, whatever the need may be.

      Hopefully this will help you be forearmed.

      Because there will always be embarrassing moments!

  3. What a powerful piece. Thank you for this. As the first-time mother of a toddler, I need to be reminded of this regularly. Until reading this article of yours, the only other publication I’ve found with helpful insight about caring for our children’s spirit has been Mate and Neufeld’s book, Hold On to Your Kids. I love that your piece brings the Montessori perspective to this important topic.


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