Forced Family Prayer Pros vs. Cons


Yeah, sounds like a bad thing to do to a kid, but presumably OP is all grown up now and doesn’t have to do that anymore.


Not for an 8-year old.


Many Catholic parents do make some type of prayer a requirement/ expectation for their children’s daily life.

As a child I was expected to say grace before dinner with the family. I was expected to say the travel prayer in the car with my mother. I was expected to say night prayers on my knees next to the bed, with my parent hearing my prayers, before I went to sleep (this took 5 minutes, I was allowed to lean on the bed, and it was not painful). I was expected to join in the occasional family rosary (which we said sitting around the kitchen table or sitting in the living room, and not on our knees).

These were not unreasonable expectations, the prayer postures were not painful, the prayers were expected but did not feel forced, and the practice got me in a good habit of praying which I kept up through my teens.

I think the whole issue on this thread is mostly the prayer posture of kneeling on the floor, and perhaps the amount of prayer time spent - 40 minutes is beyond the attention span of the average kid under 10, especially when coupled with an uncomfortable prayer position. 15 minutes said in a more comfortable position would have been fine.


Please speak to a mental health professional about these emotions and issues.

ps Dont join the Shaolin monks!


I think the kneeling was extreme and but the routine to pray was not.

It’s interesting that your mom returned to the church right before this started, so the desire for you to pray and love for Jesus was probably no present in your young soul yet. It’s not your fault to feel this way.

I think going from zero to sixty as they say is not a good way to teach piety and about prayer, it should be gradual and should start much younger then 8.

I hope that you come to realize that your mom did not know how to teach you.


I think I mentioned this before, but…the ability for a parent to teach prayer and faith in a loving way is itself dependent on the child having a healthy, loving relationship with the parent.

From OP’s description, I have very serious doubts that the relationship was healthy in other ways. Prayer is not a habit that can be properly incorporated merely by scaring a child into doing it. And mean parents tend to teach about mean Gods.


I’m so sorry. We parents do not always get it right. Sometimes we parents fear soooo much for the salvation of our children that we do nutty, over-the-top things, and sometimes they end up harming that child emotionally/spiritually.

Prayer should never be a punishment. Physical discomfort/pain is a specific form of mortification and it sounds as if your parents were moving into the more extreme forms which is only to be done under spiritual direction.

They messed up. I would suggest you find a good priest to talk to who can help you, with the Holy Spirit’s comfort, to heal those wounds.

I will pray for you.


You are likely correct, and a number of us have posted above that it appears there was a lot more going on here than just “mom made us pray”.

A routine to pray, just by itself, without physical mortification and without some other type of non-religious abuse going on, is no worse than a routine that the kid will brush his teeth twice a day and be in bed by a certain time.


What about when your child refuses to pray at all. I pray frequently and ask my 11 and 13 year old to join me in prayer and they always say no? Should I force them? If so, they will run to my wife and she will excuse them. We do not pray as a family because my wife believes prayer should only be in the heart, not together, out loud as a family.


what ever happened ro the rule we cant offer any medical or spiritual advice. Over 70 replies already.

The op has a very complicated issue and history we cant unravel.

we cannot comment on the relationship between the op and parents either

some of the replies are likely to cause more damage.

see a professional is the only appropriate answer as per the rules


Yes of course, that’s what I said.

I am thinking that the op was not properly introduced to prayer at a young age. If this was the first lessons in praying and practice of reverence, it would seem like a punishment no matter what the relationship between them was previously.

I have seen 8 year olds be able to kneel for hours playing video games, but they are not bored, so this too adds another dimension.


I wonder about the mother’s own relationship with faith as well.

Not everyone’s faith practices are necessarily healthy. We’ve seen on this forum posters who indulge in excessive prayer or other religious practices out of some form of fear. In parents that can also manifest in a fear that the normal limitations of children are a sign of some deep spiritual malady that must be suppressed. There are adults that practice their faith out of fear of punishment by God.



Medical advice is forbidden.

The entire site is devoted to spiritual advice!


I was raised in an atheist household, so the problem of forced prayer never arose. However, I was so rebellious and contrary as a child and young man that I can say with certainty that I would have had a major issue with family prayer. I would have seen it as a violation of my sovereign autonomy, and would likely have self-righteously refused to participate. How foolish I was when I was young! :frowning_face:


Well, the only other thing I can add to what has already been said is just a simple fact I have run into as an adult Catholic.

I have asked permission from two different Priests to engage in lite to moderate mortification that some of the Saints and many monks have engaged in. I have been turned down both times. If even lite physical mortification is off limits to an adult, I don’t see how a priest would allow this for a kid. Just a thought.


No. Your parents making you do something you found boring is not abuse. The idea is to develop a habit of putting aside time to pray before going to bed.

Nobody can force you to pray, but you should sit quietly and respectfully during that time. It’s similar to dinner time. Just because you claim you aren’t hungry doesn’t give you the pass to go play Mario Bros. Your parents can’t physically force you to eat, but you still have to sit up at the table and participate in meal time. Similarly, the teacher can’t force you to read during silent reading time, but she can require you to remain in your seat quietly and hold the book right-side-up. Also, a mom can’t force a kid to pee, but she can require him to take the time to sit on the toilet for a minute and hopefully try to empty his bladder before a long car trip.

It was probably not right of your parents to make you kneel for the entire time if you were saying that it was painful. Kneeling is a good position for prayer, but it isn’t the only position. If it causes discomfort to the point that it distracts from the prayer, it’s best to choose another position. However, if your parents were dealing with kids who were being demonstratively disrespectful during prayer time, I could see insisting on a specific, appropriate posture. They probably should have put more thought into what posture is appropriate if you were complaining of pain in the knees, but it is often hard, when a child is being defiant, to guess what really is a serious complaint and what is just a fabricated excuse to not comply with the rules. Sometimes, when my daughter gets bored in Mass, she tries to be demonstrative about it by laying down in the pew. If she does, she is told that she has to sit up with her hands in her lap. This position should not be causing her any discomfort though. Your parents should have considered that the kneeling position was causing you discomfort and allowed you to sit up instead. Unless the Eucharist was exposed in your livingroom, there was no reason to require kneeling.


There is not a rule that says not to give spiritual advice. Giving spiritual advice is basically the whole point of the forum.

There is a rule against medical advice, but I think many posters are excessive in their insistence that practically EVERYTHING can be construed as medical in nature. For example, I was once admonished by a nutty poster for asking a question about the best way to sterilize the parts of a breast milk pump. That poster insisted this was medical advice and should only be given by a doctor. She then suggested that I contact the government and apply for WIC.

Not everything that is remotely connected to biology, fitness, diet, or mental or spiritual wellness is “medical advice”. This forum already has moderators and there are far too many bossy-pants posters who feel entitled to judge which questions or answers other posters have the right to ask or give. If you feel that you are unqualified to give appropriate advice in a matter, then don’t, but it isn’t your place to tell other people what to discuss. This problem is augmented by the fact that a single nutjob can get a thread shut down at least temporarily by flagging every time someone posts something they don’t agree with. I think there should be a punishment started for excessive, inappropriate flagging of posts that don’t actually violate any rules.


spiritual advice better left to the Parish Priest, person responsible for spiritual health.

I count at least 3 or 4 issues in the op’s initial questions that are quite complicated.

Any opinions ,advice , condoning, condemnation, reasons for or against,

could be extremely damaging to this person’s situation , or to the interactions with the parents or church.

we dont know what this person is contemplating or capable of.

worst case scenario, a very disturbed individual jumps on the forum , finds justification for an action being contemplated, people wind up dead.

and quite frankly , none of us are qualified to give any advice here . Its a dangerous activity to pursue.


Sounds like child abuse to me!


Then define child abuse for me.

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