Kids with religious parents are better behaved and adjusted than other children, according to a new study that is the first to look at the effects of religion on young child development.
John Bartkowski, a Mississippi State University sociologist and his colleagues asked the parents and teachers of more than 16,000 kids, most of them first-graders, to rate how much self-control they believed the kids had, how often they exhibited poor or unhappy behavior and how well they respected and worked with their peers.
The researchers compared these scores to how frequently the children's parents said they attended worship services, talked about religion with their child and argued abut religion in the home.
The kids whose parents regularly attended religious services-especially when both parents did so frequently- and talked with their kids about religion were rated by both parents and teachers as having better self-control, social skills and approaches to learning than kids with non-religious parents.
Why so good? Bartkowski thinks religion can be good for kids for three reasons. First, religious networks provide social support to parents, he said, and this can improve their parenting skills. Children who are brought into such networks and hear parental messages reinforced by other adults may also "take more to heart the messages that they get in the home," he said.
Secondly, the types of values and norms that circulate in religious congregations tend to be self-sacrificing and pro-family, Bartkowski told LiveScience. These "could be very, very important in shaping how parents relate to their kids, and then how children develop in response," he said.
Finally, religious organizations imbue parenting with sacred meaning and significance, he said. University of Virginia sociologist W. Bradford Wilcox, who was not involved in the study, agrees. At least for the most religious parents, "getting their kids into heaven is more important than getting their kids into Harvard," Wilcox said. But as for why religious organizations might provide more of a boost to family life than secular organizations designed to do the same thing, that's still somewhat of a mystery, said Annette Mahoney, a psychologist at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, also not involved in the research. Mahoney wondered: "Is there anything about religion and spirituality that sets it apart?"
In a detailed explanation of how religion and spirituality can set apart your household is given by Srila Prabhupada as follows Human society is actually meant for realization of perfection in Krsna consciousness. There is no restriction against living with a wife and children, but life should be so conducted that one may not go against the principles of religion, economic development, regulated sense enjoyment and, ultimately, liberation from material existence. The Vedic principles are designed in such a way that the conditioned souls who have come to this material existence may be guided in fulfilling their material desires and at the same time be liberated and go back to Godhead, back home.
From Srimad-Bhagavatam it is understood that emperor Svayambhuva Manu enjoyed his household life by following these principles. It is stated here that early in the morning there were musicians who used to sing with musical instruments about the glories of the Lord, and the emperor, with his family, personally used to hear about the pastimes of the Supreme Person.
This custom is still prevalent in India in some of the royal families and temples. Professional musicians sing with shehanais, and the sleeping members of the house gradually get up from th eir beds in a pleasing atmosphere. During bedtime also the singers sing songs in relationship with the pastimes of the Lord, with shehanai accompaniment, and the householders gradually fall asleep remembering the glories of the Lord.
In every house, in addition to the singing program, there is an arrangement for Bhagavatam lectures in the evening; family members sit down, hold Hare Krsna kirtana, hear narrations from Srimad-Bhagavatam and Bhagavadgita and enjoy music before going to bed. The atmosphere created by this sankirtana movement lives in their hearts, and while sleeping they also dream of the singing and glorification of the Lord. In such a way, perfection of Krsna consciousness can be attained. This practice is very old, as learned from this verse of Srimad-Bhagavatam; millions of years ago, Svayambhuva Manu used to avail himself of this opportunity to live householder life in the peace and prosperity of a Krsna consciousness atmosphere.
As far as temples are concerned, in each and every royal palace or rich man's house, inevitably there is a nice temple, and the members of the household rise early in the morning and go to the temple to see the mangala-arati, ceremony. The mangala-arati, ceremony is the first worship of the morning. In the arati ceremony a light is offered in circles before the Deities, as are a conch shell and flower s and a fan. The Lord is supposed to rise early in the morning and take some light refreshment and give audience to the devotees. The devotees then go back to the house or sing the glories of the Lord in the temple. The early morning ceremony still takes place in Indian temples and palaces. Temples are meant for the assembly of the general public. Temples within palaces are especially for the royal families, but in many of these palace temples the public is also allowed to visit. The temple of the King of Jaipur is situated within the palace, but the public is allowed to assemble; if one goes there, early morning, he will see that the temple is always crowded with at least five hundred devotees.
After the mangala -arati ceremony they sit down together and sing the glories of the Lord with musical instruments and thus enjoy life. Temple worship by the royal family is also mentioned in Bhagavad-gita, where it is stated that those who fail to achieve success in the bhakti-yoga principles within one life are given a chance to take birth in the next life in a family of rich men or in a royal family or family of learned brahmanas or devotees. If one gets the opportunity to take birth in th ese families, he can achieve the facilities of a Krsna conscious atmosphere without difficulty. A child born in that Krsna atmosphere is sure to develop Krsna consciousness. The perfection which he failed to attain in his last life is again offered in this life, and he can make himself perfect without fail.