Small People, Think Big

One of the things that I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about, since we’ve had children, is how they would conceive of the big questions of life and morality, and how we could best help them explore these ideas.

In part this is because of my work pre-children – but also, largely, because when I compare their childhood to my own, or my husband’s, one point of contrast is that we are raising our children in a non-religious household. Not that either my husband or I were raised in particularly religious households, and not that my husband and I can even agree on the meaning or application of atheist vs agnostic – but regardless, to put it plainly, we are not taking them to worship any gods anywhere, nor are we giving them a religious framework from which they can form their opinions on life, the universe. 

I suppose you might wonder if this leaves a gap in their lives – a gap that would otherwise be filled with ideas around how a god would want you think about the world and to live your life. But, the good news is that being free from religion does free you up to think quite deeply about reasons to live decently; to think about the world in which we live; the meaning and purpose of life; the ways in which we can judge a situation, ethically; whether certain actions are right or wrong. You know, lighthearted stuff.

I started looking for children’s books on philosophy, or morality, but have so far found a lot of them to have a religious bent, or a particular agenda, or – in the most part – are aimed at children from, say, 8 and upwards. But my children are younger, and I know that they (and their peers) are capable of having these conversations and thinking about these ideas already. 

A lot of our energies as parents are based around managing their behaviours – can they leave a party without melting down? (not guaranteed) Can they say please and thank you consistently? (doubtful…) These are pretty fundamental things to focus on, in the early years. But alongside behaviour, I want to make sure we are helping them develop some critical thinking skills, too. In fact, this might be one of the most crucial skills for all of our children, navigating the world through the decades ahead.

So! The Small People, Think Big series is born. I’m going to explore a question of ethics, values, rights, or politics in turn – pull out some of the key ideas, and consider how best to start and develop the conversation with the under-8 year old. Do you have anything you’d like to throw in to the mix? Would love input, here in the comments or via my contact page. Otherwise…hold tight! And check back soon for the first big idea. 

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