A Little Help!

I received the following email from a catechist named Frances who finds herself facing a tough situation. Let’s help her out! Please offer your comments and suggestions!

Thank you for all your e-mails.

I need some help, I teach CCD I have a 12 year old boy who has an attitude and no matter what I say he says he doesn’t believe in God, when he asked so who made God, I said Himself, he responded how convenient, I just don’t know besides praying for him what else to do.  any suggestions are welcome.

thank you,

 

About Joe Paprocki

Joe Paprocki, DMin, is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press. He has more than 30 years of experience in ministry and has taught at many different levels. He is the author of numerous books, including the bestseller The Catechist’s Toolbox and Under the Influence of Jesus.

Comments

  1. Frances, there are times when you simply have to let go and let God. I believe this is one of them. No one can prove the existence of God, only our faith opens our eyes to see the truth. I think you should continue to teach and offer whatever knowledge and faith you have with this child and, most importantly, continue to pray for him. Some day, and you may never see it, the scales will be lifted from his eyes and all that you have said will make sense. Do not be discouraged.

  2. Sometimes it is best to ask God to shine His light through us. The young man may want to push everyone away but if you continue to reach out in Christian love to him, he will see God shining through you.
    The other students may be the support he needs to embrace a life of faith in God as they share their faith.
    Be positive and encouraging, include him in all participation (discussions, reading, crafts, games,etc.).
    In all things give praise!

  3. Frances,

    It is very difficult to approach topics like this with children and young adults because they have developed into the tangible stage of things. They want proof, and they want it now.

    I have a group of eighth graders that I teach that are, difficult to deal with to say the least. None of them are encouraged by the idea of attending faith formation classes, and most do it because they are forced to by their parents.

    This might be a situation where you do not give up on the child, but continue to plant the mustard seed of faith within him. Encourage him and give him the tools that he needs to develop his faith according to the catechism. Pray for him, pray with him.

    I have one student in particular that comes from a rough home life, she is disruptive, uncooperative and nasty. She will rip up homework assignments the minute they are handed to her. I never gave up on her and occasionally she will show a glimmer of hope when she does respond.

    Try not to get stuck in a battle with this child because it can detract from the faith building of the other children in the room. Try to use real life miracles in order to show him the real life workings of God all around us.

    I will say a prayer for you and your student tonight!

  4. I agree with Ana H. Trust God, Love the child and Pray continuosly.

  5. I have had children like this many times. After talking with the parents, to air my concerns and to find out their take on it, I let the child guide the conversation by LISTENING. Believing in God comes naturally to some, but not so for others and his life may be giving him some blows that make it difficult. Don’t argue with him, but if he gets belligerent or loud, speak with him privately. He shouldn’t be allowed to ruin class, so ask him to try to listen to other children about their experiences and to give God a chance. I have also had luck with having them read a passage from the workbook you use and teaching a concept to younger children. It seems that they forget in their “disbelief” for a little while.

  6. Mary writes:

    Here are my thoughts on this subject. I think it would be good to have the DRE, teacher, and parents sit down together and discuss this situation. The parents might be able to shed some light on their son’s behavior. It may be that he is getting this attitude from one of his parents while possibly the other one wants to pass on the faith so there could be conflict at home.

    Also, this is the age when kids are beginning to question. I think it would be good to tell this boy that questions are allowed. People do question their faith and it’s part of the journey to adulthood. However, we would ask him to be respectful in the way he presents his questions out of respect for the other students whose faith is strong or who are not yet at the questioning stage.
    Good luck.
    Mary

  7. Oh, to have a 12 year old question the existence of God is really not a challenge but a huge opportunity. Not knowing the child it is a little more difficult to offer suggestions. However, this just might be his way of questioning the existence as opposed to not believing. He’s 12, it is indeed attitude time. I know, I have a 13 year old who questions the existence despite how we live our lives. No worries, he’s a deep thinker and he is tackling topics I hadn’t grappled with until I was an adult. Are you able to talk to the parents? 6th graders are learning about the creation of the world in school and are taught about the “big bang theory” that’s when the deep thinkers start to challenge what they are being taught. He’s growing, keep praying, nurturing and leading by example, and as the other person who commented said, let go and let God. P.S. My son has 2 Bible versions downloaded on his ipod and pulls up the Sunday readings. God is Great!

  8. God be with you, Frances!
    I agree with AnaH that we can only pray and do the best we can to love this child and hope that the love he experiences through you will release him from his doubts. I read somewhere that at a certain level people view God, our Heavenly Father, the way we view our earthly Father. Though I may be speculating it seems possible that this child’s feelings for his dad has something to do with it… or maybe hears this kind of reasoning and cynicism from an authority figure. Either way, stand firm and know He is working through you.
    Be blessed…

  9. There are some things we don’t know such as how long you have known this young man, whether or not he is struggling with other things in his life, what his vision of God really is etc. However, it might be interesting for you to look at James Fowler’s stages of faith (just google it). Sometimes when we see conflict and confusion it is because faith is growing into another phase. It is hard for a 12 year old boy to articulate everything in his heart so the behavior itself could be pointing to a number of things. You are with him so you might be the best judge of that.
    Rather than try to change his mind, I suggest loving him just as he is. Let him know he is profoundly accepted. Let yourself be a window. The love of Jesus which is greater than any love we are capable of can flow through you (the window) onto this boy. I think that might be all you can “do” right now and it may be just the thing.

  10. Hi Frances,
    Everyone has offered some pretty good suggestions. I would add one more,
    the next time this young fella questions the existence of God, tell him it’s
    alright because God believes in him and loves him just the way he is. That comment seems to get them thinking and it is so true. Also, it would be good
    to see if you can find anything out about his home life and parent’s faith traditions.

  11. Frances, my 17 yrd old and I discussed your problem. May we suggest that this kid’s attitude has little to do with his belief or disbelief. He’s learned that he gets attention from negative behavior. It’s so hard to love a kid that is difficult. I agree with Mary that it’s important to make it clear that he has the right to disagree but that he must be respectful and not disruptive nor can he dominate the conversations. Then, give him attention where you can. Give him chores and tasks, if possible. Perhaps this is a great opportunity to share some of the great conversion stories. Grace said that he doesn’t expect you to say “Oh, you’re right! We must all be crazy. There’s no God.” She feels he just wants someone to listen to him. She said to tell him that your job is simply to give him as much information about our faith and our church and to come together as a community to serve others. The rest is between him and God. Oh, and that he’s in your prayers, always!
    You are in ours. God love you!

  12. elisa anasco says:

    Frances, I have read your story as posted, my suggestion is, God is testing your patience, through your son. God will answer prayers in His own time. So just be patient. Okay, I will keep you in my prayers. Lisa anasco.

  13. Hi Frances,
    I am sorry to hear about your situation ! I have found a really great blog online that is a great resource for my own children and all the questions they ask me about the Catholic faith, God,morals, etc. It is a blog that presents questions that Catholic young adults have asked about …everything from a to z …and an adult apologist answers them and posts them so that young adults and teens can learn from their questions.

    Here is the link to that:
    http://noquestionleftbehind.blogspot.com/search/label/God

    I think if you check it out you will like it and get lots of good information to be able to use in teaching this young adult the faith.
    Good luck and God bless you!

  14. Sounds like there is more going on behind the scenes that you will never be privy to. Try using his arguments as the other side of the coin. Try being a ying to his yang. A man convinced against his will is not convinced. Use the time to help the others in the class see how his arguments cant stand up to the truth. Dont argue with him but with what he says.

  15. I don’t have any additional insight to add to this situation. All of the previous comments each contain some wonderful nugget of “Wisdom”. I did want to say that God is present in all times, places and circumstances. He is definitely present here as this community that Joe has built surrounds you in their love and support. You and your students are in my prayers.

    Bernie

  16. Carol writes:

    At 12 years, most students have a vivid imagination. Here is a suggestion: inform your 12 year old boy that God never had a beginning, that He always was. Then ask the boy to close his eyes and try to imagine a being (God) who always was….and always was here…..and always was there., never starting – always being. Normally one’s mind begins to reel at the thought, but at the same time becomes exhilarated. Good luck and Peace.

  17. Cathy writes:

    My stepson struggled with what he believed and if he believed in God as he prepared for his confirmation, my response to him was to keep his mind and heart open because no matter what his doubts were, God would always believe in him. It may not have been the best response, but I think it helped him at the time.

  18. Sheila writes:

    I read a book called ” Ten Prayers God Always Says Yes To” by Anthony DeStephano. One chapter I think its the first, deals with the existence of God. I highly recommend this to both the Catechist and the student.

  19. Lidia writes:

    The first thing you need to ask an atheist is “do you really seek to discover the truth – even if it means finding out there is a God? If the answer is no, then realize that he is not willing to go where the evidence leads and no amount of argument from you will change his mind..
    Don’t talk about sin with an atheist. In their worldview, morality is generally dependent on the situation and neutral, so there is no reference point in their minds for a concept of breaking God’s universal laws.
    Don’t get dragged into arguments about what God did or didn’t do. Focus on the evidence that Christ existed, died on the cross, and came back from the dead.
    Bottom line with an atheist (or anyone else for that matter) – you cannot argue someone to faith in Christ, but you can (and should) live such a Christlike life that those around you sense something different, which opens the door for you to explain the ‘evidence’

  20. Lorna writes:

    I would speak to his parents and find out if they are surprised by this or not. It may be he has no faith and resents having to come to class, or he does believe, but his faith is hanging on by a thread. Have his parents taken him to mass and prayed with him since he was little? Did they talk about God and include Him in their everyday life? Kids who don’t go to Catholic schools can still have a strong faith – it’s down to the parents. If this is the case I would pray hard for this boy (i will pray for him too). If you have a prayer chain in your parish you could anonymously put him on it.
    In the classroom concentrate on how God IS really seen in our lives and how he makes a difference, how He is always there for us even when parents and friends aren’t, and get examples from other students. He may also be one of those characters who need to be persuaded logically – so maybe books that are persuasive in their reasoning of the existence of God (sorry I don’t have any suggestions for that age though). I find that two things that really can work is to foster a devotion to Our Blessed Mother – she’s hard to resist after a while, and taking your students to the Blessed Sacrament Chapel to talk to Jesus. Something has to penetrate eventually.

    Hope this helps.
    Lorna Richardson (catechist, Wa state)

  21. Ann writes:

    I had the same problem when I was teaching Religion in a Catholic school. Everyday “Tommy”, a seventh grader, would come in and say, “I still don’t believe in God.”After a time his classmate started apologizing for him, but I assured them that many of us go through periods of doubt and “Tommy” was just having his early. I used it as a teaching moment that maybe the discussion his comments provoked in class might touch some of his classmates when they went through their period of doubt. I believe “Tommy”wanted to believe but he was probably conflicted because his family didn’t practice their faith. I made a deal with him that I would address one of his comments during each class if he would be respectful to the other students and keep his comments to himself while I was teaching the day’s lesson. I’m grateful that strategy worked to keep our class on track. I wish I knew if he ever “found” his belief in God, but I’m satisfied that I treated his questions respectfully and the class still learned the assigned curriculum.

  22. Bev writes:

    Does the young man participate or just generally disrupt the class? If he is not disruptive, I would gently assure him that his questions are valid and that many of us wonder about the same thing. Suggest that he ask the Lord to help him – or if he objects that he doesn’t believe in God – suggest that he seek answers to how all of the beauty of creation, (including the amazing miracle of birth and life) could happen without God. Many, many people in this world take years to come to grips with their faith. As long as he is not bitter, his parents are aware of the situation, and the other classmates and their families are not hurt or offended, I believe he must explore this on his own – with your guidance. My experience with these issues has been that the child really wants attention and seeks to get it by shocking his teacher and fellow students. Just don’t allow yourself to fall into his trap and he will work it out. My prayers are with you.

  23. Bernadine writes:

    Frances, Can you tell the boy that no one made God? He always was. He has no beginning and no ending like a ring.
    Where does the boy think the world came from? How was it created? Who controls the change in the seasons?
    How can a tiny seed produce a plant with vegetables? There has to be a Supreme Being to make these things happen.

    Perhaps these questions will get him thinking.

    I will pray that the Holy Spirit will inspire him and help him to believe that there is a God.

    Bernadine

  24. Sharon writes:

    Dear Frances,
    First, let me say that you have a very difficult situation. I will pray for him and wisdom for you and will offer my Wednesday’s mass for you both. I have a few random thoughts to offer.

    …tell him he has a right to his beliefs
    …tell him that God’s love for him does not depend upon his believing…God loves him no matter how he feels
    …I would tell a student in my class that he does NOT have a right to disrupt the class ( I’m assuming he may be doing this?)
    …I would love and accept him and show and pray for patience
    …I would wonder and investigate if this was an attention getting device
    …I would try to get insight from the parents

    I hope you get some better answers than mine. Good luck.
    Sharon

  25. Geary writes:

    Two things. First. It sounds like the ‘attitude’ may be a symptom of a deeper problem, (trouble at home?), that should be investigated. Get your DRE and the parents involved.
    Second. I would have asked him questions. For example, ‘where did our planet come from, what does science tell us?’
    Follow that back to ‘the beginning’ (big bang theory?).
    ‘So, who made the energy to go “bang”‘? GOD DID!
    Who made God? No one! He always was. He made our world, and us too. He made us to share Himself with us.

  26. Carol writes:

    I teach 4th grade Prep during my first class after introductions and handing out text books, I share The Children’s Illustrated Bible (stories retold by Selina Hastings). We read The Creation while sharing the pictures. I then Hand out a piece of paper with the following words and meanings: Omniscient, Omnipotent, Omnipresent. I go over that with the class and ask them to keep them in their folders to read at anytime. I then offer my students the use of this Bible at anytime. Sometimes our Bible is just too much for some children, especially those who have ADHD and ADD. Good Luck, Carol. Let the child know that even though he has his doubts, God is always with him, loves him and forgives him.

  27. Anna Marie writes:

    I cannot give you any words of wisdom of how to deal with him, but my guess is that something has happened in his life that ha brought him to this level. You may want to find out if he has prayed for something and his prayers did not come out as he wished. Is there someone in the family that he admires that doesn’t believe in God. I would guess that there is a more underlying factor that has his saying this. Is he looking for attention in class? A one on one discussion maybe the next step. Have you spoken with the leader of CCd to get some family background?
    I’ll keep you and the young man in my prayers.
    Anna Marie

  28. Marie writes:

    Sorry for the “lengthy” answer, but I’ve been there – with kids I’m teaching and adults I’m not.
    For information on how to handle these questions with an open-minded adult, see the notations toward the end.

    However, we are talking about a 12 year old here. He is going through an identity crisis trying to figure out who he is and where he fits in this crazy world in a time where the world around him doesn’t make sense. He is obviously very insecure and therefore questions everything as a defense mechanism. He may just be antagonizing you (and his other teachers at school I’m sure) — well, because he can. Maybe he needs that power of attention and “tripping up” the teacher gives him that power. Any argumentative information with which you reply will only instill his desire to power back with more and more imaginative questions, especially if this is done in front of the class. So don’t give him that power.

    Do as Jesus did with the Pharisees when they always tried to trip Him up. Remain silent. Draw in the sand. Don’t give the power of attention to the wrong persons or to the wrong topics or to the wrong purposes.
    IF he persists or if you must say something to acknowledge him, reply to his ‘questions’ with, “That is a very inquisitive (or probing) question, -name-. I would be happy to discuss that with you after class.” And then continue on with topic at hand. More than likely, he won’t want to stay after class. But if he does, have some information handy – like the books mentioned below. If he still continues, he is now disrupting the class and you must let him know YOU are leading this discussion. Calmly and kindly say, ” -name-, I did hear your question and will discuss it after class, but we need to continue on with — topic —-.” Many times, they just need acknowledgement that they are heard, even if the questions aren’t answered.

    I had a 6th grade boy with similar questions and attitude. He had a negative comment for every topic we discussed and worked very hard to come up with some “amazing” off topic questions that he somehow would try to relate to the topic at hand. First time in class I just ignored him – gave him “the mom look”. Second time, I said “That’s an interesting perspective/question.” Third time, “l’ll answer after class.” Since I essentially “ignored” his disruptive behavior or at least cut it short, he stopped. But, I did make sure to call on him when I knew he would be able to answer things his way to make sure he did get a turn to get some attention. Whenever I asked for examples of things that happened at school, he was always called on first – to help give him some power there. Eventually, the power struggle disappeared.

    Another option to give him positive power — have him be a helper more in the class. Ask him to do the writing on the board for you. Ask him to light the candle at prayer time. Ask him if he would help you set up before class or clean up after class (second least likely to happen). Give him some other assigned responsibilities. Something that he can do – preferably, every week. Ask him this before/after class when other kids are not around in case he acts up. It is quite possible, no one has trusted him with anything, so he trusts no one either. There’s a first time for everything, so let him know you (and the Catholic faith) are willing to give him a chance.

    That’s all I have for the kid perspective.
    = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
    As for the topic of the question who created God. Answer is no one. He is the supreme power by which all other things are created. In Lee Strobel’s book, THE CASE FOR A CREATOR, the scientific evidence of the big bang theory creating the universe at a specific point in time actually becomes proof of a superior power by which the bang was created. In science, it is proven that something cannot come into being from nothing and that everything that comes into being has a cause. The Big Bang was a supernatural even that cannot be explained within the realm of physics as we know it. Science had taken us to the First Event, but it can’t take us further to the First Cause. The sudden emergence of matter, space, time, and energy pointed to the need for some kind of transcendence. The more science proves the complicatedness of life, the more they become convinced that there is no way Darwin’s theory can be correct and the more they are shown that something, some power had to be behind the existence of all life and it’s every design. The stuff Strobel brings out regarding cell functions, DNA design, and much more all add up to proof of some power greater than we can imagine that is behind it all – God.

    Lee Strobel is a former atheist converted to Christianity. He was a reporter at the Chicago Tribune and loved the investigating and research of his job. When his wife, who was also atheist at the time of their marriage, began going to church, he protested. He was going to prove her and her Christian friends wrong. Instead, he found nothing but proof to the contrary of his thoughts. Everything pointed to God and Jesus. He couldn’t deny it anymore, and he became Christian (although I don’t believe Catholic).
    Strobel has DVD “documentary” type films that I found on Netflix — The Case for Faith, The Case for Christ, and The Case for a Creator. After watching these I wanted to get my own copy and get more detail from his books. So I would suggest browsing through these books or his “documentary” films if you want more information for yourself or to stand ground on faith in general. When dealing with someone so pessimistic toward God in general, we must first start there. Then once they grasp the reality of God and Jesus, we can bring them to understand where Catholics fit into all of this as the original true faith.

    I know it’s a lot, but I hope it helps!

    Marie Fahrendorf

  29. Theresa writes:

    Hi, I tell my students that in the bible, the first words are”in the beginning, when God created”…….The key words are beginning and God. So there was nothing before God. Then he created the heavens, earth, etc. God just always was!
    Hope this is helpful. Thanks. Theresa

  30. Sondra writes:

    One of the first things I would want to do is have a private talk with the parents. I d be hard pressed to think that a 12 year old came up with this attitude all by himself. I would want to know if the parents are aware of the child s attitude and thinking. Has this child experienced some trauma that would generate this attitude? Did he loose someone very close to him and is angry at God and/or decided there is no God because what he prayed for was not answered. At 12 has he already been baptized and received first communion? If the answer is yes, what happened since that time to change his mind.
    This isn t something that can be answered/discussed in class but in private preferably with parents. I have a feeling that this youngster is hurt by something and has decided it s God s fault.
    Sondra Hoffman

  31. Pauline writes:

    That is so sad. I have a boy that age whose mother is atheist and he is confused as can be. He wants to believe. What I did was use the history of Tony Blair, former Prime Minister of Britain. When he was very young (around 12) he was in private school and his father had a stroke. The head master spoke to Tony about his father and said that they should go pray. Tony said no because his father did not believe in God. The HM responded that God believes in him. My kids took that to heart and when my student spoke to the one about his mom the student replied “But God believes in her.” This seems to have resonated with the group and I feel certain that my student is comforted by that reply. Maybe your student can benefit from someone like Tory Blair. Some of the greatest minds believe in God including Einstein. My class will pray for your boy. Pauline Read

  32. Stan writes:

    Hi ! You are probably dealing with a very bright individual and he is demanding and requesting a Rational Explanation for Faith which is not possible….God always is….no Beginning and no End… can not be comprehend by a Human mind—–there are many Occurrences that have existed in human History that we accept on Faith ….Ancient Battles that we accept that it happened on the word of on Some Historian and from Science how electricity exits etc …we Have faith in Human Family that your Great Great Grandparents Existed …. ETC. We also must have Faith in religious Happenings like Moses experience etc..
    you will never be able to rationally convenience him of a Being who is Invisible and exists from eternity….but don’t try to get into debate with him Unless you are familiar with Saint Thomas and his reasoning…look at the Heavens at night and wonder how they came into Existence etc..
    Pray for Faith for him
    Regards,
    Stan G 5th Grasde Cathetist teaching 15th year

  33. Sr. Dolores Ann writes:

    Received your article on from the catechist who was concerned about the little boy who didn’t believe it God. Perhaps this would help her: I read this in ” This is our Faith)” page 19: ” Most people conclude that God exists, even though no one can see God. They are like the little boy who flew a kite so high that it soared into some low-flying clouds. A passersby asked the boy how he knew the kite was still in the sky. The boy told the inquisitor to put his hand on the string and feel the pull of the unseen kite. God’s existence and presence are like this. We may not see God face-to-face, but we can feel God’s tug on our hearts. This tug reveals that we are religious being by nature; we seek God and we allow God to seek us. Keep up your good work. I will pray that you will handle this well.
    Sister Dolores ann

  34. Judy writes:

    Frances, Almost all of us are faced with the challenge of a child like this from time to time. Positive reinforcement works very well with children like this until you can find out more about his home situation and talk to his parents on what might be going on in his head. You could also try talking to him first about why he feels the way he does about God. That is really the only way you can begin to help him and teach him about his faith. Time will tell if your efforts are successful.

    I have a 5th grade student that is hard to handle and does not want to be in Religious Education class or church. He has been in the program one year. He was baptized and received his First Communion last year so he is all caught up to his peers with the sacraments . He only now has to catch up with his peers spiritually. I am still hoping that this will happen and still working with him and it has been almost 2 years now. These things take time and a lot of communication with the family and the child.

    Judy

  35. Karen writes:

    Hi Joe, there is a wonderful set of books by Dawn Publications (www.dawnpub.com) that explain the origin of the universe in a scientific and spiritual way written in the form a letter from The Universe to The Reader/Human. The artwork is stunning. There are LOTS of additional resources in the back of the books for further study. They include:

    Born with a Bang by Jennifer Morgan and Illustrated by Dana Lynne Anderson

    From Lava to Life et al

    Animals who Morph et al

    They are $9.95 each. I bought them from Spirited Hand (www.spirited-hand.com).

    I think it is important to acknowledge to the student that we need “Faith and Reason” in order to fully appreciate the mysterious wonder and power of our all-loving God.

    For myself, I remember clearly my “moment of proof of God” during my senior year in H.S. in Anatomy and Physiology class…the electrical/chemical reaction between each nerve synapse in the nervous system/brain is so perfect, minute and faster than instanteous that there is no way it could have “just happened”…it’s such a miracle of perfection…a greater power than mere biologic forces had to be behind it all.

    Also, I think it is important that we be okay with kids asking seemingly hard or difficult questions about their doubts. Be secure in your own faith and the power of the Holy Spirit to guide the response and to help the child help himself in his faith journey. I worry more about the kids who don’t question anything. That said, I do think the child can be expected to be respectful and courteous in his questioning. It is important for we adults to model this courtesy as we discuss these mighty questions with our students.

    Hope these are helpful resources. Best Regards, Karen

  36. Pat writes:

    I presume somebody has tried this but here goes.

    I would talk to him about the things in nature around him – the seasons always follow the same pattern and although we have dry summers and cold or snowy winters it still falls into the same pattern. Night follows day and in winter the nights are always longer than the days and the summer the reverse. These things do not happen by chance. There is a power behind all this and we call that power GOD.
    Anything humans do does not follow the same pattern year after year after year. It may for a while but for thousands of year? Who invented gravity? God. We don’t find gravity in all the planets. You can find lots more examples. If you just give the power responsible for this the name of God maybe he will understand it. It is worth a try if it hasn’t been tried.

    Pat,
    Vancouver, B.C. Canada

  37. Martha writes:

    Hello my fellow Catechist,

    I have a difficult one too, I find out his parents do not go to Church on Sundays, therefore he doesn’t either, I feel sure it has to stem from home. My big question is why are they sending them to Catechism lessons if they have so many negative questions about God?
    I decided that it is our job not to give up, we have an opportunity in our hands to evangelize, so I continuously take the time to answer as best as I can on each of his questions because otherwise it is poisoning the rest of the class. I will continue to do so until he gets tired, I must be firm and hopefully have a smile on my face.

    Very best to you!

  38. Sr. Pat writes:

    Hello, After teaching high school religion for twenty plus years, this is the advice I would give. The social/psychological task of any adolescent is to seek and find autonomy. This can find expression in the rejection of values, faith and tradition held sacred by adults in the lives of the adolescent. I generally welcome the adolescent to the world of asking significant questions. This is the way to truth and greater insight. I tell them that in all discussions we need to practice respect. And if we don’t see eye to eye on something, to simply say “ATD” which signifies that we will “agree to disagree.” This way the students are free to question beliefs and values until they can accept them as their own. It sounds like this young person has a bit of anger. There is no way to deal with the anger unless we allow the students to disagree. I would continue to pray for the student as you are doing. I found students were disarmed when their need to question was honoured and respected. It is normal and healthy to work out autonomy for adolescents and we adults need to support them as they look for truth and belief in God. Thanks for asking for help. Maybe the angry statement is your student’s way to do the same thing. Sister Pat

  39. Martha writes:

    Dear Frances,
    I also teach 4th and 5th grade, and it funny but I was asked that very question today by a 9 year old girl! She is somewhat wise beyond her years, and always has a sarcastic remark probably because her 10 year old brother is in the same class. But he wasn t there today, and so I realized she was just very curious about how God came to be. She asked me who was his mother, if Jesus mother was Mary. I replied the first thing that came to my mind that God has no beginning and no end .He was begotten, not made . She didn t understand I could see, but it gave her something to think about; and she let it go at that. (Thankfully).

    Sometimes kids ask the deepest questions in a very flip way, and it doesn t have anything to do we how well we are teaching. They are just being themselves. They have so much to cope with in their schools, and maybe in their family too. I think that an accepting attitude on our part goes a lot farther towards conveying God s love for them, than having a good answer at times. You are probably impacting him more than you think, and he feels safe enough to tell you! As long as he isn t disrupting the class, I think just showing him that you appreciate his questioning will help him immensely. He will come to know you as someone who respects him, and his attitude will hopefully even out. Just try not to perceive him as challenging you, which is what he wants. Just try to accept him. Some people have to see faith exampled for a long, long time, before they can do it themselves.

    Hope that helps

    Sincerely,
    Martha in Washington State.

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