Raising a Spiritual Child in an Age of Overindulgence

Spiritual children are less likely to use drugs, be depressed or have risky sex.

Posted Apr 01, 2019

Parents want their children to be happy and successful. They want them to thrive. In addition, many parents want to encourage their children’s spirituality.

Why is this? Research shows that children who have positive active relationships to spirituality are 40 percent less likely to use and abuse substances, 60 percent less likely to be depressed as teenagers, and 80 percent less likely to have dangerous or unprotected sex compared with other teenagers.

Samuel Silitonga/Pexels, CC0 Liscense
Source: Samuel Silitonga/Pexels, CC0 License

What Is Spirituality?

"Spirituality is a broad concept with room for many perspectives. In general, it includes a sense of connection to something bigger than ourselves, and it typically involves a search for meaning in life.” Dr. Lisa Miller, in her book titled The Spiritual Child: The New Science on Parenting for Health and Lifelong Thriving defines spirituality this way: “Spirituality is an inner sense of relationship to a higher power that is loving and guiding. The word we give to this higher power might be God, nature, spirit, the universe, the creator, or other words that represent a divine presence. But the important point is that spirituality encompasses our relationship and dialogue with this higher presence.”

Children often look to parents to take the lead. This may be true with spirituality too. According to a Pew Research Center study in 2014, the majority of adults (59 percent) ages 18 and above experience feelings of spiritual peace and well-being at least once a week while 46 percent of adults experience a sense of wonder about the universe weekly; plus, 35 percent of adults read scripture and 36 percent attend religious services weekly while 55 percent pray daily.

Characteristics of a Spiritual Child

Can parents raise a spiritual child? Dr. Lisa Miller believes parents can do just that. In a Time essay, she says: “The natural spirituality of children and young people can be encouraged and fostered by such steps as meditation, prayer, or long walks in nature where a sense of transcendence can be engaged. Parents can demonstrate approval for (and model) such traits as caring for others, empathy, or optimism.”

The spiritual child has a number of unique qualities that parents can foster and encourage. 

What Does a Spiritual Child Look Like?

The spiritual child:

  • Has a natural inborn connection to a higher power;  a natural capacity for spirituality, an inner sense of a relationship to a higher power that is loving and guiding;
  • Has a sense of peacefulness;
  • Is a curious child;
  • Has a sense of Industry;

Overindulgence and Materialism, Roadblocks to Spirituality

Parents can influence their children’s spiritual development however they should be aware of two of the biggest roadblocks in their way: childhood overindulgence and excessive materialism. Three of our research studies verify this.

In the first study, we found that individuals who were overindulged as children were more likely to grow up wanting the most money and owning the most expensive possessions. They were not interested in meaningful relationships, a meaningful life, or making society better unless they got something out of it.

In the second study, we found that children who were overindulged grew up to be adults who lacked self-control, who were, materialistic, unappreciative, ungrateful, and less happy than those that were not overindulged.

In the third study, we found that adults who were overindulged as children feel entitled to more of everything they deserve. They were not interested in spiritual growth. They have difficulties finding meaning in times of hardship, and they are less apt to develop a personal relationship with a power greater than themselves.

The point: Childhood overindulgence and materialism become major roadblocks to spirituality.

Can Parents Raise a Spiritual Child in an Age of Overindulgence?

Yes, I believe that parents can, but the task will be challenging. Parents will have to be vigilant because overindulgence is the new normal and materialism in our culture is one of the major culprits feeding the urge to overindulge. Parents can raise a spiritual child.

This is the first of three blog postings on the topic of spirituality. My next posting will explore “The Link Between Spirituality and Overindulgence” followed by “Ways to Raise a Spiritual Child in an Age of Overindulgence.”

Do all things with Love, Grace, and Gratitude

© 2019 David J. Bredehoft


Barton, Y.A. & Miller, L. J. (2015). Spirituality and positive psychology go hand in hand: An investigation of multiple empirically derived profiles and related protective benefitsJournal of Religion and Health54(3), 829-843. doi.org/10.1007/s10943-015-0045-2

Miller, L. (2013). Spiritual awakening and depression in adolescents: A unified pathway or “two sides of the same coin”. Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic: Vol. 77, Special Issue: The Spirituality of Hope and Healing, pp. 332-348. doi.org/10.1521/bumc.2013.77.4.332