sins of the children

babies

From the observation of over a 100 babies and children you couldn’t convince me in a million years that we don’t have sin nature – go work in the nursery at church for a couple of weeks and the case will be settled.

The idea that humans are innately sinful is peddled by many Christians in their truly disturbing view of life.  It gets worse.  They think that the behaviour they view in babies and children is evidence for this.  Wonky world views are the individual right of every person, but when they completely neglect the basics of developmental psychology, or even common sense (for those who can’t be bothered reading), they are treading on worrying ground.

When certain Christians make children out to be ‘bad’, they are encouraging misdirected, inappropriate and even abusive responses to natural behaviour. These responses that can affect the normal growth and development of children. Here I present a frightening selection of some of the ‘sinful’ charges laid against babies and children.

sin 1 – lack of empathy

Without being taught, children call each other names, make fun of people different from them, …., pull the dog’s tail even when he yelps in pain.

Any expectation for a child to have a full adult empathetic understanding of the world is frankly bizarre.  Children begin to learn to identify with the feelings of others, in a gradual way, from two to six years old.  They need role models and intelligent encouragement on this journey of discovery.  Basic parenting tips can be found on the Sesame Street site for any Christians tempted to punish their ‘sinful’ child’s embarrassing behaviour:  “A child’s empathetic behavior can be negatively affected when a parent expresses displeasure over bad behavior (like hitting a younger sibling) rather than praising him for good behavior (like sharing a favorite toy).”  Lack of full empathetic awareness combined with poorly executed parenting is often at the root of behaviour along these lines.

sin 2 – curiosity

[they] run in dangerous places when they’re told to stop … when they want to pull on electric cords and are told no

Toddlers and babies are prone to doing quite silly things, in spite of clear instructions from the important parent person. There is an excellent publication from 1833 called The Christian Mother by John (surely they mean Jane?) Abbott. This gives you a glimpse into the world of perceived disobedience almost 200 years ago … and it seems also today. How do these people think the human race advances? Is it really considered sinful to be curious about the world?

One of the most fundamentally important traits that explains why the human race has advanced, is our need to know things. What will happen if I do this? What is over there? How does that work? Why is that there? Obviously it’s important that children learn to listen and trust the instructions they’re given, for their own safety and the safety of others.  But they have to keep pushing boundaries so they don’t spend their whole lives in a padded cot.  Overprotected children who never take risks, who are forced to pay heed to their cautious parents shouting orders, who never get to make their own decisions, are more likely to be insecure, indecisive and fearful of the world. Children need to investigate, be impulsive, and push for independence.

sin 3 – expressing need

[nine-month-old babies] actually cry when they’re put down but want to be held, when they’re put to bed but want to stay up, when they’re given a bath but don’t want one.

I’m struggling to see how anyone could be so far removed from understanding babies to even start to utter that thought. For those of you who haven’t been there, babies cry due to discomfort – pain, hunger and tiredness being the main culprits. Unfortunately, due to communication gap (inconveniently, they are not born talking) it’s often difficult for the adult care-givers to guess what exactly the problem is at any given moment, and often even more difficult to find a solution. The crying is irritating, it’s annoying, it’s painful to listen to, and it takes us away from the things we would rather be doing. When we can’t solve the problem, it’s confusing /distressing/ maddening but just because we don’t know the physical reason, it does not for a second mean that the child doesn’t have a genuine need that is the caregiver’s responsibility to meet.

sin 4 – selfishness

They want what they want and aren’t happy when they’re told no, when they don’t get their way. Someone once said, babies come into the world thinking they’re the center of it and spend the rest of their lives finding out they’re not. Pretty true.

Yes, the final ‘sin’ is that babies are ‘selfish’. If babies weren’t ‘selfish’ and born craving love and attention, they would die. It’s that simple. They can do nothing for themselves.

And how can it be considered sinful for any human being to have preferences and expectations?

conclusion

If we were to ignore every ounce of common sense and behavioural science that exists in the world, and accepted these charges, let’s imagine what a ‘sin-free’ child would be like.  A child born pre-programmed to understand the feelings of others; a child that has no interest in exploring and learning from the world; a child that utters no sound when it is hungry, tired or in pain; a child who wants no attention and has no personal preferences.  An interesting proposition.  Robot, dead or psychopath?  You choose.

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