Forced Family Prayer Pros vs. Cons


Beginning when I was 8 years old (when my mother returned to the Catholic church she’d been raised in) my siblings and I were forced to kneel and pray every day, usually the rosary, sometimes other prayers as well, and sometimes we’d recite the rosary twice. It was not optional. Prayers would take forty minutes to an hour, and we were not allowed to lean against furniture to relieve the pain in our knees and backs. Complaints were met with harsh words (“It doesn’t hurt that bad!”). In those eight years before I finally ran away from home at 16, I experienced 2,000 (conservative estimate) painful, excruciatingly boring hours on my knees, daydreaming that I was somewhere else, in the last few year or two often planning my escape.

Please correct me if I’m mistaken, but isn’t prayer a voluntary activity? What’s the point if you have to be forced? Someone please explain how this wasn’t child abuse.


I wouldn’t call it being “forced” to pray if a parent makes prayer a requirement for their childrens’ daily life. Children (I’m referring to it in the sense as being before the age of 13), in general, usually don’t have a desire to the spiritual life, and do not have a clear idea on who Jesus is. It is the parents’ responsibility to introduce this to them. Even if prayer seems dull and boring at first (I’m pretty sure most children would rather play with their toy cars as it seems more fun than ‘boring prayer’), the parents are gradually revealing to their children the Catholic life. If these children grow up and say, at the age of 17, they’re still not interested in prayer, then the parents shouldn’t force them to pray if they don’t want to. They can invite their children to say a rosary or two, but if the latter refuse, then don’t push it further but respect their decision as pushing it or forcing them to could deteriorate the relationship between them.


So the fact that parents do worse things to their children than what I experienced means…what exactly? That I should be grateful it wasn’t worse? Do you know what a logical fallacy is? Yes, my mother explained why she chose to say the rosary, many times. She never explained why I should be forced to say it against my will.


Are you worse-off now because you spent time to pray or at least time to sit in silence for an hour or so every weekend?

I think this strong dislike of forced Rosary-saying is simply emblematic of larger childhood problems and resentments… you said you ran away, correct? I’d assume it’s not just because of the Rosaries…


I’m sincerely disgusted that you would call boredom as child abuse. Grow up.


A parent teaching a child how to pray using correct prayer posture is not abuse.

Could your mother have taken a different approach? Sure.


Call it what you want, I was never given a choice. The alternative was physical punishment, and that makes it force.

It wasn’t dull and boring “at first”. It was always dull and boring, and you didn’t address my primary question. How was the pain inflicted on me not child abuse? If you don’t think making a child kneel for an hour (no leaning allowed!) is abuse, then where do you draw the line?


Did you read the part about pain. In my knees and back? For an hour every day?


Every weekend? Please re-read my post. It was every day. I did not “sit in silence”, I knelt in pain, sometimes bad enough to bring tears.


Yes. By your own admission you described the pain as being so intense you got “bored” and started “daydreaming.”

Now maybe that’s just poor phrasing on your part, but based on your description doesn’t sound like abuse. Stern childhood? Sure. Child abuse? No.


OP, you are not off the mark.
Forced prayer the way you describe it is counter productive at best (I’m being kind).

I saw something like this up close and personal. The father of a family went through a series of traumas in too short a time. He became super-religious. He started forced family prayers like the ones you describe. He was trying to force God’s hand to make the situation turn around. Not only didn’t it work, but the children still at home when this happened hate God and want nothing to do with Him.

OP, the Catholic Church did not require your mom to do this. Please don’t blame religion. I’ll bet dollars to donuts she was going through something or frightened by something and was trying to curry God’s favor. You may or may know what that something is. But because it began so abruptly, I’ll bet my theory is right.

:pray:t2::pray:t2::pray:t2: For you and your family.


My children are “forced” to pray everyday, as they are “forced” to eat vegetables or “forced” to go to bed at a reasonable hour.

I think the required kneeling is a little much, but my children do have to sit and pray the responses, and not mess around. It’s about 15 minutes or so. My older two children are expected to assist at Mass just like the adults - posture and responses. None of this is in any way abusive, and I like to think that would be obvious as you look at our family life in its entirety.

I think the rest of your family life would answer the question. Unfortunately, some parents use prayer as a means to abuse, just like other good things. But by itself, prayer is not abusive.


Please re-read my post. I would have been bored if we’d been allowed to sit. Instead, I was bored AND in suffered physical pain in my back and knees, every day, for eight years.

How bad does the pain have to be before you would consider it abuse? Did I have to pass out from it?


This sticks out to me. Did your parents also kneel? Did you build endurance and strength over time? Did you ever address this with them (or they with you) at another time?


I don’t see how any good will come from having children who don’t understand prayer do it. At best they’ll pray out of obedience to parents without knowing what prayer means, at worst the child will grow to resent prayer and the Church in general. Better to inform children of what prayer is and different methods (rosary, chaplet, etc.) in my opinion.


Dad didn’t even attend church, but he served as Mom’s enforcer. Yes, Mom kneeled.

No, there was no physical upside that I’m aware of. No, I’ve never told my mother that I believe it was abusive. I thought of it as my daily punishment.

I’m surprised by some of the defensive comments here. Would any of you consider it abuse if a parent made their child kneel on the floor for an hour every day, for no particular reason? Does the reason really matter?


Again, I cite

and I ask again,


No, there were no visible results or long-lasting physical consequences, just psychological ones. And yes, I didn’t run away just because of the forced prayer, but it was a significant factor.


Please, elaborate?


Yes and no. We owe prayer to God, and family prayer is something that SHOULD be done in Catholic families.

Forced is really not the right word. We practice the faith as a family. Just as we eat vegetables because they are good for us as children, take baths when we probably don’t want to, we also practice our faith even when as a child that doesn’t seem “fun” or interesting.

We can have no idea why your parents would have you kneel uncomfortably and act as they did towards you. Inflicting physical pain on children is never acceptable. but you already know that.

You must learn to distinguish legitimate prayer from whatever it was your mother was doing, which it seems to me was probably not ALL she was doing. If your mother was abusive, you will have to find it in you to forgive or not. But what she did is not an example of living the Catholic faith. Perhaps there was something wrong with her mentally.

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