Parents who try to force their beliefs on their children are messing them up in a very dangerous way. They are damaging their relationships with them, often beyond repair.
I've seen far too many examples of this in my 47 years on this planet. Being raised by a pastor father and being forced to attend church three times a week well into my young-adult life, I know far too well how this affects your parental relationship, even decades later.
Not that I would have even thought about trying to ask not to attend services. We had a very authoritarian upbringing. We weren't even allowed to listen to most popular music. It wouldn't occur to us to even try to get out of going to church.
There seem to be two major areas in which I've observed that parents really damage their children and try to mold them into exact replicas of the parent. This is regarding religion and sexual orientation.
When you are dealing with one of these as an adolescent it can be bad enough. If your beliefs about both things differ completely than one or both of your parents, it can be devastating and dangerous to one's mental health.
For the longest time, I've had the hardest time trying to figure out why parents try to make clones of their children. Far too many parents don't appreciate the differences their children have from themselves. Many seem to only want their children to feel the same way about religion, politics, and sexual orientation as they do.
Here's a spoiler alert: Most kids DON'T want to be exactly like their parents. Many actually want to be quite different than their folks. Kids today seem to be far more accepting, kind, and open-minded than many of their parents. They don't want to be coerced or forced to think a certain way, especially if their beliefs are opposite of their parent's beliefs.
Parents should think back to the time when they were younger. When they were first teenagers and started having differing beliefs from their parents. Very few people enjoy being told what to think and how to do things. This is where being too controlling of your child can lead to a very bad outcome and ruin a relationship.
Most parents want the best for their children. I'd venture to guess that most aren't out to actively ruin their relationship with their child. I feel that many parents think they are doing the right thing by trying to influence their child's belief systems and help turn them into solid citizens.
Let's talk about religion first, since it affects more families and kids than likely sexual orientation. While church attendance is down overall since the time I was raised in the 70s and 80s, I feel that many families still struggle with this debate.
I have zero doubt that my parents felt they were being too pushy or overbearing about requiring us to attend church with them three times a week. Again, we didn't complain. You didn't do that in our household. But it's awfully bold and cocky to assume your child is going to have the exact same beliefs about organized religion as you do.
I know that my parents worry and stress about me ending up in Hell. I certainly realize that they feel my wonderful, caring, empathetic, intelligent daughter will be doomed to Hell for being a lesbian. Never mind that she's all those wonderful things I mentioned.
No, because she has no interest in attending church because she realizes she'll likely be judged, condemned, and told she's going to Hell. She's never attended even one church service and so far has shown no interest. People like my parents will tell you that they love the sinner, but hate their sin.
How is that supposed to make an unbeliever feel? Or a member of the LGBTQ community? Those are just words these hypocrites are spouting. If you can't be supportive or accepting of someone's right to choose a different religion or no religion at all, that's judging them severely.
If you don't want to hear about one aspect of a gay family member's lifestyle as it relates to their dating and relationship choices, you are judging them and being bigoted in a huge way. That family member you are wronging in all of this is never going to respect you or likely stay close to you knowing of your judgment and bigotry toward them.
How bold and cocky does one have to be to automatically assume their child is going to believe the exact same way about religion as they do? And to not respect your child's right to autonomy over their own choices regarding religion? That's so ignorant and wrong. That will create a rift between you both that will likely never be repaired.
The second area that I see parents fail badly at is not accepting a teenager or young adult when they come out as either gay, bisexual, or transgender. I have no idea why people are so uptight about other people's relationship choices. What a dumb thing to get angry about, over who somebody loves.
Studies show that having the love, support, and acceptance of their parents and siblings reduces the abysmally high suicide rate within the LGBTQ community by around 50%. Having parental and familial support literally saves lives every year.
Just because you don't have experience in same-sex relationships doesn't make it wrong. You may not understand your child's sexual orientation but that doesn't mean you should discourage them from being who they are. Why do people feel it's their right to change their children and force their will upon them?
As sure as you were that you liked members of the opposite sex as early as grade school, your LGBTQ child is that sure as well. Despite the strides we have made regarding acceptance in the past 5 to 10 years, there are still far too many parents rejecting their children when they come out to them.
Your immediate family should one hundred percent be your safe place. They should have your back in all things in life, as long as you aren't hurting yourself or someone else. To reject a child for being gay, bi, or trans is incredibly ignorant, judgmental, and so damaging to your relationship with them. It may even cost them their life.
Think logically for a moment as to why you are forcing your beliefs on your child, as it relates to religion or sexual identity and orientation. If you are worried about them going to Hell for either, don't. Maybe you want to protect your child from eternal damnation, but spoiler alert: It's not real, anyway.
Hell is what we put ourselves through here on Earth. Being estranged from your children because you don't support their choices. That's hell. Having to bury your gay or trans child after they commit suicide. That's hell. Having a relationship that's so damaged by your pride and forcefulness with your child's choices, that you don't speak anymore or rarely do. That's hell.
Don't be so narcissistic that you assume you know what is best for your child regarding their choice or non-choice of religion. Or sexual orientation. It never occurred to me to try to talk my daughter out of being gay when she came out at age 13. Why would I? I'm not her.
I may not know her exact feelings, but being she's been truthful with us her entire life, so I tend to believe her if she tells us she's gay. Why would I assume she's lying? Or that it's a phase? I still am attracted to women some 40 years after starting to like girls. I'm confident I'll have that in common with my wonderful gay daughter when she's my age.
We want what's best for our children. We don't want them to suffer or go through terrible things. I'm not suggesting that we just allow any and all behaviors and habits to go unchecked and not discussed. But there are things that should not be forced upon our children.
We are here to guide our children, not dominate and rule their lives. Part of growing up is making new choices, trying different things, and learning life lessons as we're able to experience new choices. Figuring out who we are and what we're all about is a right that all human beings should have. You shouldn't feel that you've let your family down for not believing the same things or being exactly the same as they are.
If you are struggling with forcing your beliefs on your children, take a few minutes and think about why it is you're doing that. Then decide if being "right" or causing such stress and trauma to your child is worth ruining your relationship with them once they become young adults. I propose that it is NOT worth doing that to the ones you're supposed to love and accept unconditionally.