Does This Seem Fair to You? - New York,NY

Updated on November 03, 2014
S.B. asks from New York, NY
43 answers

My husband and I are Mormons, we have 4 children and our second oldest a girl has decided at 17 she does not want to be part of the church anymore.

It was a pretty big blow to us, but both my husband and I have agreed that it will be wrong to force her to believe in a church she does not believe in, she said she is skeptical to the whole idea of religion in general.

Because a lot of people who leave the church do so simply because they don't like the rules or have stopped following the rules, my husband set the rule that she needs to be fully active for one year, so goes to church, goes to the Youth clubs and seminary etc, prays with the family, she does not have to say she believes in the church or identify herself as a member, but she has to follow it just to make sure she is sure.

We got to the end of the year and our daughter said that she still does not believe in any religion and finds weekly church etc a drain on her time and energy and that she did not want to be part of it anymore.

So my husband and I have discussed and we are going to allow her to stop being part of the church if she likes, so she does not have to come anymore if she doesn't want to, but while she lives under our roof she still can't just use leaving the church as an excuse to go off the rails, so she still needs to do well in school, be good to her siblings and we don't want her sleeping around or taking drugs or drinking alcohol, those three things are banned in our house, as I imagine they are in most of your houses.

We also still make her come to church if one of her siblings is giving a talk, you know, to be supportive.

Does this seem like a fair system to you?

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So What Happened?

Thanks everyone so much for answering, I completely forgot to get back to you all.

Firstly I'm perfectly aware that morality is possible without religion, most of my husband's family are not members and they're all great people, I simply meant that we did not want her using her inactivity as an excuse to disobey what would be regular house rules.

It seems to have worked fairly well, our daughter is still a good kid, she just gets more sleep on Sundays, my husband joked one morning saying "if she gets to stay home, then why don't I" she still has come along sometimes, but not that often, she does still maintain good friends in our ward though.

Overall I'm content with the situation, it would be ideal if she returned to the church but at the moment everyone is happy enough.

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answers from Anchorage on

I personally would not have forced the year, I think religion is something that is very personal and private and every person has the right to make choices about their beliefs for themselves. That said, I think the system you have now is fair. Just don't think that not wanting kids to do drugs and act out in dangerous ways is in any way a religious thing, that is just normal common sense.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Austin on

Yep, it is pretty much the advice I would give you.

You have raised a young woman who can make decisions and choices.
It is good that you are going to support her decision. You never know, at some point she may realize that something is missing from her life and it is her religion. Or some sort of organized religion.

As long as she is still respectful and can be honest with you, you must be doing something right. Good job Mama.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

Seems fair. Please don't assume that just because she doesn't believe in religion, that she wants to use drugs and alcohol or become sexually active.

6 moms found this helpful

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answers from Boston on

I'm an atheist and I insist on not only the rules you have specified, but my daughter is also not allowed to use profanity in my presence, and although she is 18 and at at college right now, when she is home, I also expect her to be in by a reasonable time and if she will be late she needs to call me to let me know. Remember that religion does not hold exclusivity on morals. Just because she doesn't share your faith does not mean she is without morals or principle.

22 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

Yep - fair.
It might surprise you but non religious people can certainly manage to not sleep around, not take drugs, do their best at school and be nice to siblings.
There's more than one way to be a decent person.
What will you do if she decides she wants to belong to a different faith and would like you and siblings to come to some of her events?

17 moms found this helpful


answers from Reading on

Are you incapable of setting rules without the oversight of the church? Is that what you are saying? There is noting you've listed that seems any different than most houses. Why wouldn't that be fair??

16 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

The rules you have set for her are rules of proper behavior for most people/families, regardless of religion. Completely fair. Your roof, your rules.

Taking drugs and drinking (at her age) are illegal, so even without church they're a no go.

12 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

So, she followed your rules for the year and is still not a believer. You won't force her to pretend and you will require her to behave the way the rest of us secular people expect our kids to behave - no drinking, drugs or sex while they live under our roofs, do well in school and basically be a good person. Yeah, that's fine.

11 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I'd say that's fair. I'm not sure I like the "active for 1 year" could argue you've forced her to be active her entire life. She knows what it's about and what she's been participating in. But....
The rest, I think you've given her a good "out". And you have set your expectations for her behavior nicely.
I applaud you two for not forcing her to engage in something just because you feel strongly about it.
I grew up with devout Catholic parents who simply cannot cope with the fact that I have walked away from the church and challenge it's teachings. To this day, this still try to find ways to make me go, now using my children (that will be morally bankrupt without God, of course) as leverage.

So thank you for being flexible and respecting her.
You've set some good groundwork with her, and it will only help your relationship with her as she grows into an adult.

10 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I love that you have asked her to compromise and not been a zealot about it. Kudos to you and your husband!!

I love that you gave her a chance, she took it and you are abiding by the rules you set prior to the year. How great that you are NOT pushing her to stay but asking her to come only to support family.

She should respect your rules. Have you set up consequences should she break those rules?

Everything seems fair to me! Great job, Mama!!

9 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Totally fair because the things you've given as rules are just part of being a family member in a household. She;s 17 and still a minor so your rules are pretty standard in most families. As far as having her attend church when a sibling is giving a talk? That's no different than having her attend a school concert when a sibling is in it.

You are your husband have done a wonderful job at letting your daughter choose her path. She may eventually come back to the church but if she doesn't then at least she knows that her parents love and support her no matter what.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Denver on

I think your rules are fair and normal. I'm not Mormon, but I certainly agree with everything you've set out (we do drink wine, but no underage drinking was ever permitted - I am speaking about my husband and myself and adult guests, and in moderation).

The only caution I would suggest to you is that you not keep bringing up the church when you discuss the rules with your daughter. I know your church is very important to you, but those rules are also the rules of many conservative, careful families of many faiths, and those of no particular faith at all, and families of all kinds of descriptions.

So when you remind your daughter about a curfew, just say something about the values of your family, not the church. "Remember, Dad and I love you and want you to be careful, and we want you to text us when you are leaving the party". Don't say "even though you've left the church, you can't stay out all night". Just remind her that you love her and that education, personal safety, accountability, respect, and trust are your family's foundations. The fact that you and your husband get your strength and faith from your church's teachings is your business, and you can instill those values in your children even if they should choose to remove themselves from the church for awhile. It's my opinion that if your daughter realizes that her parents are steadfast as a family and as a couple, and not only because they are church members, she'll be more open and willing to discuss things with you.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Grand Forks on

Sure. My husband does not believe in church or religion, and only attends with us for certain holidays or if the kids are performing, but his not believing in or attending church doesn't mean he is going to live an immoral or illegal lifestyle.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Seems fair to me. You've taken all the right steps and I admire what you have done!

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Austin on

So.... were your "house rules" just because of the church?

I think your rules sound fine..... those are basically good morality rules, whether or not a person believes in a deity, whatever that deity is.

Your house, your rules.

She still needs to set a good moral example for her siblings, whether or not she believes in the family religious structure.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Columbia on

I think it's perfectly fair. And I think you can still gently encourage her to have a relationship with God even if she's not religious.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Absolutely sounds fair. All families have values whether they are religious or not. Remind her that while you respect her decision in regards to her faith (or lack thereof) you still have expectations of her as a daughter and family member.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Atlanta on

She did your one year. She still hasn't changed her mind.

You are asking for her to be supportive to family members and be respectful of your rules. Sounds fair to me.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Yes. Seems fair.
She can follow house rules without being active in the church.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

Yes, it's fair. Good luck.


Yes, it's fair. Good luck.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from San Antonio on

Your house your rules.

My parents required anyone staying at their home to attend church on Sunday as a family. So when home from college or even after I married and my husband and I were visiting staying with my parents. We all got up on Sunday morning and attended church as a family.

My husband and I while still Protestant did not attend the exact same church as my parents, but we respected them and went with them...gladly.

So as long as she lives at home she follows the house rules, if they are the same as some of the church rules that is fine.

Sounds like you raised her well and hopefully if she feels like she can come to you with her doubts and you are respecting her about them. She will not suddenly go crazy to experience a wild life.

It sounds very fair to me. Actually I am surprised that you are taking this so well. I had quite a few Mormon friends growing up who would have never questioned their faith to their parents face. They waited until going off to college to question the church. They are all actually back in the church and in good standing now as adults.

But as stated previously not all non-believers go on to take drugs, drink, and sleep around...I questioned my own faith for a while and never did those things. Good luck!!

5 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

I think you did the right thing. Give her time, she may come back to the church. Common at this age, to question church and religion.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Williamsport on

Yes! Good job! The decent behavior should be expected in your house and enforced, religion or no religion. If she starts going off the rails, it's not because she's not Mormon, it's because she's acting out for whatever reason. I did not have any interest in church anymore at that age (raised Lutheran), so my parents FINALLY STOPPED FORCING ME TO BE A CHURCH PERSON. Huge sigh of relief, I HATED all the youth groups and church stuff. It all depressed me and drove a huge wedge in our relationship because my parents were so into it all. Our relationship improved when I finally did not have to do that stuff anymore. I did not go off the rails as a teen or a young independent woman living independently in large cities when I left home. To this day I still believe in God. I still have a sense of spiritual accountability. Many atheists are also fine, moral citizens.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Springfield on

Absolutely fair. I think I might have insisted on her attending through high school and/or until she moves out, but it's easy to say that now while my kids are still young.

It might be a good idea to talk to her about her feelings and beliefs. Really listen to her. Try not to get defensive. Just listen. She might have some valid reasons based on legitimate things she has seen. She may also have misunderstood some things. Either way, it could really be helpful to your relationship.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Denver on

I would have appreciated this as a teenager myself. My parents forced us to go to church and surprise surprise only one of us still attend. I have nothing against people involving their children in religion but don't understand what they think forced participation will accomplish.

I think it is fair. None of the rules seem related to religion to me anyway. I don't know any parents personally who allow any of those things for their teens anyway. The whole year of going to church and all the activities seemed like a lot but at least she is now sure and I'm glad that you are being supportive. I think encourage, verses make her go to support her siblings, she will probably go anyway and real support comes from a choice. That way, her siblings will feel that she is being supportive not just going because she is compelled to.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Asheville on

I think you are being fair and reasonable. I'm 39 and my mother is still trying her best to force church down my throat! I applaud you for being open-minded.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

I think you sound like very reasonable parents. She is lucky to have you as her mom. Jan

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I'm sure there are probably as many reasons to stay in a church (or leave one) as there are people. So it's hard to say whether your arrangement is "fair" without knowing more about your daughter's state of mind. Many kids, especially girls, are pretty mature, thoughtful, and serious by the time they reach 16-17. I guess what I'd want to ask a child of my own would be what they DO believe. If you can keep an open mind and "expect" to respect your daughter's understanding, you might be happier with the answer than you think.

When I was 16, I questioned everything I'd been taught about religion. My mother insisted that I continue attending all junior groups, choir practice, Sunday school and morning and evening church services (covering 4 days or evenings every week). She thought I'd just temporarily gone nuts, and wanted to make sure I was still part of the church when I regained my senses.

For me, it was just more of the same obligation, and I just went through the motions, not at all happily. In my experience, my last year-and-a-half at home probably did more to finally severe my connections with my mother's church than to strengthen them.

But I did not ruin my future. I was NOT tempted by sex, alcohol and drugs. I maintained my good grades. I hung out with responsible, bookish kids. I cared about the Golden Rule, community action, ethics. All of these things were important parts of my personal growth, and had little or nothing to do with religion. They were simply part of being a good person and leading a good, responsible life, which is entirely possible (and even likely) for non-religious people, too.

The fact that your daughter seems to be accepting your ongoing rules suggests to me that you've done a fine job of raising her. I doubt that you'll see her going off the rails.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Miami on

Yes, I think it's fair. It's more strict than many a household, but I think that since she is close to being out on her own, that you can ask this of her.

Make sure that you aren't preachy to her, though, mom. LIVE the life in front of her rather than harping to her.

When she is going off to college, make sure to show her love and excitement like you would if your other kids were going off to mission or school.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

My parents did tge opposite of your family. They were raised catholic, went to catholic school, dad was an alter boy, catholic camp, etc. My parents decided after they would allow their children to choose their own religion. We weren't baptized, but were allowed to go to church with family and friends. I actively sought out friends to go to church with and experienced different religions/settings/expectations. I was bummed that I wasn't raised in a relogious family because I didn't have a good understanding of religious beliefs. It would have been easier to decide after being raised and shown beliefs and the reason behind them.
So, yes, I think you are being very fair.
I do attend a non-denominational church now and will let my kids choose to be baptized when they are in youth groups( teens) when they are old enough to make the decision themselves. But if they choose not to, fine also.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

It seems fair, yes. I'm glad you're not forcing her to attend, even though I realize this is a disappointment to you.

As an aside, I was raised Catholic, and decided around that age that I didn't believe in a supreme being, nor did I understand the point of organized religion. Now, 20+ years later, my mind has not changed about that, but I am glad to have had the religious instruction that I did when I was young. Even if your daughter doesn't ever return to your church as an adult, I'm glad you still love and support her. She will one day realize (if she doesn't already) how great her parents are. :)

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Indianapolis on

It seems very fair. She is coming into her own and maybe in a few years she will come back to the church. It's good that you and your husband are not forcing her to go.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Las Vegas on

I think it sounds fair that she go and support her siblings... church or not..
It's like Christmas or other holidays... you needn't share in another person's belief system, but you can still show support... I do agree that not going doesn't mean she should go out and get her nails done.... unless of course everything else is completed like homework and chores...

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Bloomington on

Yep, seems fair. She's won't be practicing your religion but being respectful.

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answers from Dallas on

Seems reasonable to me.

I was raised where you are at the church whenever the door is open and it was pushed down my throat for years.

Once I was out of the house and independent, I made my own choices which meant I ended being forced on the church.

It did not make me any less Christian, for once I was able to make my choices for my religion.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Atlanta on

I don't understand why you're asking this question.

Being a spiritual seeking person and a person attached to a religion is not necessarily the same thing. I would be interested in her interior life more than her opinions about your religion. There will always be rules to follow in life. But they should be based on "rightness" and should be something no one has to tell you as it should arise from within as you grow.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Boston on

I think you are wonderful parents. The route you set out for her is one that was used in one Catholic parish I was part of. Youth were encouraged to fully participate through their teens and sacramental preparation. whether they were enthusiastic or "not so much". But if they, after participation, study and prayer, couldn't honestly say that they fully believed, they were not expected to be confirmed at that time. Their study and subsequent decision had to be respected, and believe me, not all parents had an easy time with that, bless them. And yes, some got confirmed later and some did not. But they all knew that they had been loved so fully that they received a good religious education on which to base their decision, and that they were also so loved that as young adults, their own readiness to decide their participation was honored. Congratulations on showing your child that love.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I am Mormon too! We would do the same thing. Kudos to you and your husband for listening to her and letting her make the choice regarding her spiritual worship.

Yes, it seems very fair to me.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Sounds fair to me. What could possibly be unfair about it?

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Yes, you are fair.

I am with Retta's parents, somewhat. If you live under my roof and are still in undergrad, yuo go to church with me.

If working, you can sleep in. You are a contributing adult.



answers from Oklahoma City on

I see this a lot. You've done your part and she has that base knowledge. It's hard to come to terms with her not fitting in the mold along with the other teens, knowing she's not following en masse to BYU or off to a mission somewhere.

It seems to me that you've given her time to make sure. I might have made it until she was 18 but you said a year and that's okay.

I think that you will have more explaining to do at church and activities than anything else. You'll have those who will think you've failed miserably and they will act like your other kids don't matter because they'll fall away too. Then there will be those who understand what it's like and be a good support to you.

Does she have close friends in YW? Does she do things with them outside of the building? Date any of the YM? Does she go to the Stake activities and have fun? Is she close or has she bonded with anyone at church?

Her interactions with the people she is with do influence her feelings, if she's not friends with any of them that can be really hard on her.

But overall I think she sounds like a smart mature young woman and that says a lot about how you're followed the teachings of the church and done a really good job with your kids. If she ends up following another style of religion I'd ask her to not talk about it with the little sibs/kids though. A couple of my friends left the church. One became Wiccan and the other lives with her boyfriend and they have 6 kids together with the first coming before she was 19.

They talk about stuff all the time to their member nieces and nephews and it's hard for them to understand and follow. They are not mean to each other or anything but talking about other lifestyles can be so different it's confusing and can be scary to little ones.

That's a big IF but it could happen.

I own't say hopefully she'll return to church because I myself am inactive and don't worry about all of it. I suggest you find the peace from Him that will help you through this time.

I remember one of the YW coming to me when I was a stake leader and asking me questions about divorce. I was married before and then met my current husband after I joined the church and was singles leader. Come to find out her parents were talking about divorce and she didn't know anyone, even her friends at school, who'd been divorced. She was so scared and devastated. The point is that she needed someone and came to me because I'd been through it. Hopefully you'll be able to find someone that's had a youth leave the church and it will help you too.



answers from New York on

Yes I think its totally fair. Faith is a gift and not everyone has it. One day she'll come back to faith. She is probably being influenced from the outside world wanting to do things that other kids are doing like sleeping around etc so I would definitely enforce the rules in my house. That's sad that she finds it a waste of her time what more do kids do today then waste their time on facebook and ipods doing absolutely nothing at least at church she is part of a community and giving God his due time. Good luck!



answers from Kansas City on

Yes, it is very fair. You are the parents, so your rules prevail. Until she moves out.

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