Am I indoctrinating my daughter?

I’m sure all families indoctrinate their children to a degree – even if it’s not religious.

My daughter recently had a birthday, and one of her friends gave her a Claire’s gift card. The only Claire’s near us is in the mall, so we went to the mall for the first time in years. We were there for about an hour before I got freaked out at the number of people there. I didn’t think people shopped at malls anymore, but I was definitely wrong. Old people, young people – everybody was there.

We stopped at the food court for lunch and there happens to be a Chic-fil-A in our mall. Of course, it was closed because it was Sunday, but my daughter points at it and says, “That’s the restaurant we hate.” I giggled because it was cute as hell, but maybe I shouldn’t have.

My work often has Chic-fil-A cater our meetings and trainings, and I always go home and bitch about it to my husband. I’m sure that’s where my daughter is getting this from. But I realized, I’ve never actually sat down and explained to my daughter why I don’t like Chic-fil-A. She’s just repeating what she hears.

Is that wrong? My daughter now hates a restaurant that she knows nothing about and has never eaten at. 

Maybe this is just a small example but is it really that different than religious families?

I really want to raise my daughter in a way that she learns to question everything and think for herself – even if she ends up believing something other than what my husband and I believe. I want her to feel independent and free to explore whatever she wants.

So what about your family – do you feel you have indoctrinated your children even if you aren’t religious? Is that good or bad? Do you catch yourself doing it?


  1. Jazzlet says

    Not my child and a long, long time ago in a country across the ocean, but: a friend’s child at around the same age suddenly came out with ” Mrs Thatcher is very, Very, VERY BAD“, when asked why the child replied “She steals children’s milk and closes schools”. Mrs Thatcher was our prime minister at the time, when she was Education Secretary she had indeed “stolen” children’s milk in that she had changed the policy of giving all primary (up to eleven years) children free milk every school day; she had also closed schools rather than keeping the existing schools open with reduced class sizes, which at the time could be over forty children at primary level, and my friends had discussed this, knowing them with some vigour. The child had picked up her parents views, it isn’t at all unusual, and does change as they grow!

  2. Bruce says

    It is impossible to raise a child without revealing something about yourself to them. So that mere fact cannot be all that indoctrination means. To be indoctrinating, you would need to do more, such as to force your daughter every week to recite your personal catechism that she is required to hate it. You are not punishing her for not repeating the hate slogans that would be the analogy of a statement of faith. You’re just a person with a point of view.

  3. maggie says

    What some people call educating is what other people call indoctrinating. So of course you are indoctrinating your child in the eyes of other people. At least you will be able to give her a reason when she is old enough to ask questions.

  4. sonofrojblake says

    Conjugate the verb:
    I am educating my children.
    You are passing on your prejudices to the next generation.
    He/she is indoctrinating their defenceless progeny with dangerous propaganda and myths.

  5. Callinectes says

    You should talk to her about it, probably focusing on the “we” part of her statement, since it’s really you with the reasons and you exhibiting the boycotting behaviour. While I agree there are no shortage of reasons to dislike that restaurant, the notion that she should hate something without knowing why and hate it anyway because everyone else does definitely sounds like something to nip in the bud.

  6. beholder says

    Are you instilling a doctrine into her worldview, inflexible to circumstance and impervious to re-evaluation in light of new events? If not, then no, it’s not indoctrination.

  7. says

    Is that wrong? My daughter now hates a restaurant that she knows nothing about and has never eaten at.

    That’s not “indoctrination” unless you’re punishing or discouraging her from questioning your stated feelings.

    “Indoctrination” is not the same as “teaching.” The former is when you teach something as a DOCTRINE, something that is considered incontrovertible and never open to questioning or debate. (The word has a different meaning in spybiz, but that’s not relevant here.) When one’s kids are little, one might teach them all manner of things as “doctrine” (as in, because Mom and Dad said so!); but as they grow more brain cells, one can start explaining those things rationally, so the kids can accept them as facts or reasonable rules. In the longer run, that doesn’t classify as “indoctrination.” Neither does fact-based education. And neither does any reasonable attempt to educate kids about the rules/laws they’ll be expected to obey; as long as we’re willing to reason with them when they start asking questions about them.

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