Raising Pagan Children: the Southern Way PART ONE

Author: Mja Principe
Date: Sunday, 06 December
The prospect of having and raising a child was one of the most daunting prospects I had to face in my life. Being a wild woman and free spirit and a single parent, I asked myself if I would be good enough a parent? Would I be able to parent my child, would I be able to get my son to school on time, be able to pay school fees, make sure he had all he needed as he grew up? Strange enough how to raise my son as far as spirituality was concerned, was never a thought I entertained. And yet, as he grew and the years went by, this little wild soul that had come into the world through me, was confronted by many questions and issues which I, with all the questions asked, and had failed to address when we commenced our path together.
In our home we lived, slept, ate and breathed the old ways (I ran a training circle) and I had prepared him for the possibility of prejudice from those not of our spiritual persuasion, without instilling fears or complexes of inferiority or superiority in him. He was the perfect little apprentice, comfortable in the Temenos/Circle, as he was in the playground with children his own age.
I gave him free reign, with what regard attending Pagan Ritual, Hindu Temple and Bajahns, as well as occasionally attending church services, with my Christian brother and family, and Friday Nights at the local Youth for Christ Centre for teens, just down the road from us, where he was able to socialise with kids from our neighbourhood and further afield.
Being a Atheo-Pagan, a Naturalist, a Pantheist, I raised my son on the Nine Noble Virtues of Asatru, and celebrated with him the Turning of the Wheel. A very eclectic sort of spiritual upbringing. I wanted only the best for him, to broaden his horizons and open up every possible option, including my own path. I hoped he would make an informed decision, a decision that he’d feel at home with and as we walked this very broad maze of spiritual possibilities, I knew he understood that ours was not the easiest of paths, nor the path of least resistance.
He knew that there would be those who would tease him for his belief system, those who would ostracize him but he also knew that it was his choice, where he would eventually stand.
It’s hard enough raising a child without having to worry about them being teased for their religion. Our children don’t come with manuals either. We can’t quickly consult page 169 to learn the best ways of protecting them and making them morally strong and emotionally impervious.

Pagan Parenting by Morgause Fonteléve
Pagan parents pose themselves questions on correct and successful parenting. Our families are insular units in a society that is not always Pagan friendly. How do we equip our children to deal with the difficulties that lie ahead ?
Remember Pagan children are not raised in a vacuum. They frequent schools and are exposed to other belief structures. They meet other children from different backgrounds and are subjected to the scrutiny of teachers, peers and the peers’ parents.
They are exposed to the media, patriarchal way of thinking, sexism, “me-ism”, a world of exploitation and even degradation. How do we best equip our children to deal with the tough times ahead of them?
How do we educate our young to protect themselves against the servile surrender to those powers? They must be encouraged to develop discernment, to recognise the danger signs. Madame Blavatsky wrote that a proper and sane system of education should produce the most liberal and vigorous minds, strictly trained in logic, accurate thought, and in not falling prey to blind faith. We need teachers who will kindle liberty in the hearts of our children; intellectual, moral, unprejudiced, unselfish and respectful principles, so that they can look after themselves intellectually, morally and spiritually, equipped to avoid the destructive tendencies and fads of our times and of being deceived, way-laid and to be further exploited.
They should be taught to recognize the truth, evolving into self-reliant, responsible adults, folk of integrity and honest citizens of our Republic. We need to encourage our children’s curiosity and imagination. We must teach them to satisfy their curiosity with learning and convey the joy of learning in everything we do with them and for them.
Parenting Skills
In times gone by parenting skills were learned from our extended families. Grandparents, uncles and aunts all lived close by, and an elder was always close at hand to give advice and guidance. Experience talks tons where kids are involved. We often hear parents remarking that raising the second child was far easier than the first one, and this awareness is arrived at through the gaining of experience and the making of mistakes whilst raising the first child. The most valuable parenting skill that we should remember is discipline and the best tip we can give here is to keep asking yourself “who is in charge?”
Parents must be very careful of the reversal of roles especially with children with strong wills. Children should not rule the homestead! As Parents we have to take on our responsibility as parents and embrace our duty in training our children to become ethical adults with principles and morals. We should also remember that the transferral of values and the will to become respectable adults is a role which is primarily a parenting role; teachers and schools assist us in this task, but it is ultimately our responsibility as Parents.
Nature is our teacher and it is natural for a child to measure itself against authority. From the moment they are born children are evolving towards independence, and this testing and measuring themselves up against us is normal, natural and healthy. How we deal with it is sometimes the issue. As parents we have to define and set the parameters/boundaries and institute consequences for the transgression of these. I know that sounds extremely rigid, but we have to assert authority when these boundaries are challenged. This too is a natural law.
My mother always used to assure me that I was being disciplined because I mattered so much to her; so much that she wanted to ensure that I was self-disciplined enough to behave acceptably . In other words, discipline must be met with love and in accordance to the age of the child. It is imperative that the child understands the process of being admonished, punished where necessary, redirected, given time-out, getting grounded, losing of privileges, etc. All of these have to be fully grasped as they are part of the process of growing into a responsible.
Discipline does not only entail chastisement, but praise when praise is due. And as parents we must also learn to lead by example. Children will do what you do, not what you tell them to do.
Children absorb everything they see and hear and they come to their own conclusions very quickly. Children hate weakness and inconsistency in parents. Be sure to follow your own rules. We have to learn to walk the walk and talk the talk, if they are going to look up to us and respect us enough to be compliant and obedient to our requests and instructions. It is our duty to teach them respect, compassion, kindness, understanding, confidence, consideration for others, tolerance, acceptance, etc. Some of us just have to cast our minds back to our childhood years to realise that one is sometimes exposed to bad examples right in one’s own home: cruelty, substance abuse, lack of consideration, violence, sarcasm, derision and so on. We must remember that values and ethics [especially work ethics and the acceptance of chores] are not learned in one day. It is a parent’s job to remind and remind again. No matter how annoying this is, it is our job.
We must remember to be loving, consistent and always approachable. We brought our children into the world and we are responsible for their correct development. Be consistent and don’t allow bad behaviour to go unreprimanded or unpunished. Children want to know that you are watching and that you care enough to rap them on the knuckles.
Sir Francis Bacon (1561- 1626) wrote: “Parents who wish to train up their children in the way they should go, must go in the way in which they would have their children go.” This means “We have to lead the way! “
We must never lie to our children or lie in front of them. They will take this as a form of sanctioning lies. Let us remember that respect for parents and authority figures are crucial for the healthy development of self-discipline in our children. We can help our children to respect authority by making our word and our actions just worthy of respect. Let us give clear instructions, listen to them and get together for sessions of talking and planning.
All of these tips will assist us to encourage them towards self-discipline and to create a climate in the home that is conducive to good, healthy family ties. However, it is a cold fact that the majority of us still need to learn how to effectively impart discipline to our beloved offspring.
When giving instructions to our young ones, we should be very specific and put clear time-frames to the execution of these instructions. When we perceive an attitude of non-compliance in our children, we should first look them straight in the eye and give them a reminder of what is what and who is who. We can then walk away and grant them the opportunity to comply.
These tactics usually do the job, but just in case, commence searching for an appropriate consequence for the non-compliance. The consequence must be related to the misbehaviour and must always be logical as well as varied.
Children get accustomed to forms of punishment and then they are no longer effective. If the warning system does not work, ask your child to retire to his room and give yourself the opportunity to calm down. Discipline must never be met in anger. Once you are calm you can speak to him and explain the why, the consequences and the duration of the punishment. Always be sure to enforce the consequences. Do not give up half-way, out of pity … your child will take your commiseration as a sign of weakness and take it for granted that he was right and that you were wrong and unfair to start off with. Children normally get argumentative and whine when discipline is being enforced. Remember to ignore this. This is the one time you will not listen to your child, unless it is to assist him in the planning of the execution of his punishment. We must learn to forgive our children for their misdemeanours. In this way they will learn the power and the liberation of forgiveness.
Never discipline through shouting, swearing, name-calling, insulting, violence/hitting or sarcasm. As parents we must be in control of our emotions, no matter how “mad” our kids drive us. Don’t make the mistake of bringing up “old things”. Leave old mistakes that have already been dealt with in the past. To rehash things is wrong and unfair. Furthermore, we must never shame our children, or pass caustic, belittling remarks in front of his peers or visitors. 5 Punctuate the moment with a warning look and then tackle him or her later, in private. Effective consequences are guaranteed to break the nasty pattern of non-compliance. We must have sufficient emotional maturity to show respect to our children and to assure them that we are there to assist them in “getting things right”.
Listen, take note of what they want and how they want to get it right. Acknowledge their justifications, good intentions but do not allow these to veer you off your consequential actions, unless it is the case where a compromise would benefit the child and the situation more than rigid discipline. We must not forget to praise our children immediately, when they have done something right. Praise reinforces our children’s correct behaviour and builds their self-esteem. We must be sure that the praise is sincere and honest. Don’t overdo it, for they will perceive it as a tactic and turn it to your disadvantage. Meeting effective discipline with constancy can be a hard job. We must continue to remind ourselves that the purpose of discipline is to empower our children with self-control and self-discipline.
Communicating In the Home
Parents and teenage children are hardly ever in sync. Our musical tastes, opinions, fashion sense, etc. differ drastically. It is important to allow our children to make their own choices. We can communicate to them what we dislike about their tastes, their dress sense, their propensity for disorder, but we must accord them freedom of choice. This will instil in their hearts the spirit of mutual acceptance and tolerance towards differences. The family is the training ground for life. We must let our children know that in our society order is better than chaos, that face to face communication is far more valuable and real than instant messaging, whatsapp, FB, etc., but also allow them the pleasure of their “on line” friendships and relationships. Do not make the mistake of running these down.
Teenagers tend to be self-absorbed and selfish. Remind them how to share, how to be kind and compassionate, but allow them the right to choose where they wish to apply these qualities. Let’s not forget to take their hormonal surges into consideration. They will be moody, atheistic little anarchists. Teenage progression to adulthood is often stressful and poignantly sweet. We must be clever enough to overcome the urge to tell them all about our longlost adolescence and how good we were at doing this or that. It irritates them; unless he asks you to volunteer some anecdote that can help him/her to understand better some or other requirement of society, refrain from telling him about how things were done in the “good ol’days”. We must also not come across as always being too “cock sure”. Children want to know that we are human (not weak, but human!), that we too struggled and did not always succeed. They find weakness, spineless incongruency coupled with our teenage capabilities to be daunting and it insults their adolescent sensibilities. It causes them to withdraw, become timid and incapable of connecting. 6 Whatever we do, we must never offer to rescue them. All they want of us is to be their available and present support system. They want our sympathy, not our “I told you so’s …”
Punishment and Spanking
The latest research shows that children who get spanked are prone to suffer from low self-esteem, depression, and to resort to aggression and violence to resolve their problems. Corporal punishment actually teaches and perpetuates violence. Some experts even go as far as saying that children who receive regular hidings accept the lower paid jobs when they eventually enter the job market. No wonder most of us instinctively dislike spanking our little ones. Calm down when you are angry. We all are under a lot of stress. Don’t be impulsive and lash out verbally or physically when your child displeases you.
Detaching and counting to ten normally helps. Next, talk to your child in a normal tone. Be firm rather than violent. Then you can take your pick from the following list on how to meet punishment: time out, hiding, doing chores, takes away privileges, sending them to bed early, etc. If we may extend another tip here, rather opt for taking away privileges than to the adding to the child’s already stressful burden of homework, chores, sports, etc. The objective here is to teach them, not to make them suffer in order to repent. Small children have the habit of asking “why?” Never make the mistake of explaining yourself to a small child who repeatedly challenges you. Tell it that that’s the way it is, “because you said so”. It is non-negotiable! Assert yourself with firmness and the child will learn to respect your wishes.
Lastly, spanking leads to tell-tale reactions which could embarrass you in public and instil in the child’s heart feelings of fear. We want our children to listen to us because they trust and respect us. We want them to obey because they do not to wish to disappoint us and not because they fear us and our reactions.
Gender Roles
Mums must be the reflection/manifestation of the Goddess’ motherhood. They must be approachable, loving, caring, understanding. Dads must be protective, fatherly providers. This does not mean that the Mum cannot take on a leading or protective role and that the Dad cannot give expression to his nurturing nature. Fathers play an essential role in the psycho-emotional evolution of our children and set the measuring unit for our children’s future families. Who does the cooking, the dishes, and the laundry are generally non-issues in a Pagan household.
Both parents must be able to demonstrate their affection for their children. Hugs and kisses are the order of the day! You can’t tell your kids enough times that you love them. This helps them to develop a positive self-image as well as reassures them of the security that the family unit provides. It is not an unnecessary or useless institution as some intimate. Children [no matter at what age] must always feel that they can look to their parents for wise advice, moral and emotional support. And these roles are not gender specific.
Isolation and Persecution
I believe we should raise our children on our Spiritual Path, taking part in ritual and coven life. If at any point your child express negative feelings re the coven, the circle casting, the way he is perceived by others at school, that he is being teased or ostracized because of his family’s belief, do not panic. It happens to all of us. Sooner or later! Children perceive their uniqueness very early on in life. Sometimes they question these differences and ask themselves if the difference is worth the while. Perhaps this difference is perceived by them as being imposed, unfair and this may give rise to feelings of rebellion, worthlessness and the inability to cope with what they perceive as their failure to be popular, to be “normal” and acceptable, and that this is dictated by extraneous circumstances not of his making.
If you perceive these symptoms in your child, avoid labelling him a Pagan or a Witch in front of his peers as it is important for a child to feel accepted and valued by those in his age group. Give him the opportunity to explore “normalcy”, different spiritual avenues and interests but maintain your spirituality and ritual practices constant at home.
He may engage different experiences outside, but at home he will be immersed in the familiarity of Paganism. What is important is that he does not resent you for the pressures and anxiety of non-acceptance by his peers and take a negative stance towards the family spiritual Path.
Some of us have children who feel isolated and who struggle with being accepted by their peers and the parents of their peers. They also experience anxiety going to school or in social situations. Quite often it is sufficient for the teenager to know that his family has a tradition it follows, a certain form of spirituality that is beautiful and meaningful, that he is part of this close-knit group, or extended, understanding and supportive spiritual family, that love him and to which he belongs, whether he publicly participate or not in coven activity.
If our children feel the spiritual connection the problem-period will be brief. If it is more protracted, it is advisable that we chat with the child, on odd occasions, re spirituality and religious matters, indirectly involving him in what is happening within the tradition, etc. In this manner our children will still learn the values that will guide their behaviour and ethics even as adults.
Useful Tips to Successful Parenting
If we are always too busy for our children or irritable because a hard day’s work has tensed us up, they will begin to feel neglected, despite all the valid reasons and justifications which you might cook up for them. You are the parent. Make sacrifices; make time. We must spend that time with our children, doing family things together, travelling together, reading to them, making music together, cooking, hiking, discussing and playing games together. Let there be an atmosphere of caring and respect in our homes. Spouses must mutually respect one another in order to receive love, admiration and respect from the young ones. 8
Let us make a concerted effort to always be available and to listen to our children objections and problems. Let us talk to them, listen to what they have to say. Let us get to know our children. Let us get up close and personal with them. Let us remember to teach our children basic life skills, always encouraging them to do their best, praising them for their efforts. Whether we want to or not we are role models for our kids, so let us ensure that we are positive ones, instilling in them the love for righteousness, ethics, principles and morality through our example of discipline, being humble and honest in our pursuit of spiritual perfection. It is so important to consume meals together.
Due to the frenetic pace of modern-day life, a lot of us have forgotten the importance of family meals and have resorted to eating our meals separately, in front of the television set. At the table one gets the true sense of togetherness and family. Listen carefully, communicate, and build “togetherness”. At mealtimes parents have the golden opportunity to listen to what is important or pressing in the lives of their young ones and give them sound advice on how to deal with their issues. We must provide our children with the opportunity to feel like an important part of the family, of his peer group, his soccer team, the girl scouts, and so forth. We must actively enhance our children’s feelings of self-worth. Let us tell them how important they are to the whole. Make them feel special. But do it honestly.
Children can spot lies and embellishments a mile away. We should encourage our children to express themselves in their own way. Set firm but reasonable standards, by which he can freely gauge their own progress. By demonstrating respect for their opinion, thoughts and emotions, we in turn earn their respect. Our children should also be given responsibilities within the family and we should provide as many opportunities as possible for them to put their newfound skills to the test and thereby learn, analyze, weigh up situations and deal with failure, without resorting to overreacting or emotional outbursts.

The Family Wicca Book – Ashleen O’Gaea [1994] Redirecting Children’s Behaviour – Kathryn Kvols [1995] C:\Documents and Settings\Private\My Documents\Child Discipline Series - Gain Compliance with Effective Consequences.htm C:\Documents and Settings\Private\My Documents\The Big List of Consequences.htm C:\Documents and Settings\Private\My Documents\How to Praise Your Child.htm C:\Documents and Settings\Private\My Documents\How to Listen to Your Child.htm C:\Documents and Settings\Private\My Documents\How to Build Your Child's Self-Esteem.htm C:\Documents and Settings\Private\My Documents\Parenting Plan.htm C:\Documents and Settings\Private\My Documents\Parenting An Angry Child.htm C:\Documents and Settings\Private\My Documents\How to Hold a Family Meeting