The kids in our children’s ministry seemed unnaturally quiet last week so the director teasingly asked them what was wrong. She was met with a response of giggles and smiles from most of the kids, but a first-grader sitting near me, looked down, his big, brown eyes brimming with tears.
“How would you like to be in class all day with a teacher who never stopped yelling at us kids,” he mumbled. And I thought, No, I wouldn’t like that very much.
As adults we’re experts at putting on “all-is-right-with-my-world” facades. We know how to smile and say we’re ok even when we’re breaking apart inside.
After my husband passed away, scores of people asked me how I was doing and usually I answered, “fine,” and changed the subject rather than share my inner turmoil.
One day I met a couple I didn’t see very often and they asked the standard question.
“I’m fine.” I gave my standard answer.
The man looked at me. “No, you’re not. Let’s pray about it.” And right there he and his wife prayed with me. They broke through my outer shell to the heartache underneath. (And interestingly, all these years later, they’re the people I remember out of the hundreds who asked me how I was doing.)
We need to realize that kids know how to do the facade-thing too. When that little boy raced into the room and immediately started playing tag with his friends, I had no hint about the kind of day he had experienced until later when we asked. And even though his problem wasn’t as big as some kid problems we’ve encountered, it was big to him and enough to still affect him several hours later.
The. Thing. Is. Kids. Hurt.
We’re in a quest to have perfect rows of kids attentively listening to every word we say. We get impatient when they kick their chair, poke their friend, or (purposely) fall on the floor. We don’t have the patience to figure out the reason behind the kicking, poking, and attention-getting.
And truthfully, sometimes there really isn’t a reason except they haven’t been taught how to behave.
But other times there is.
*The little girl who constantly bangs her chair to get attention might not have had any attention from anyone all week.
*The well-adjusted boy who suddenly becomes clingy and doesn’t want to leave an adult’s side, is not being annoying, but reacting to the scary movies he was exposed to at his uncle’s house. (True case of a child in our preschool.)
*The girl who doesn’t want to participate isn’t simply being stubborn, but remembering the teasing she received when she did participate in the kickball game during recess.
No, we can’t let kids get away with acting inappropriately. They need to be taught good behavior, but we can take time …
… to ask them how their day went.
… to listen to what they’re saying.
… to pray with them (as that couple did with me).
The Apostle Peter wrote: Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. (1 Peter 3:8)
That’s exactly how we need to teach our kids — with sympathy, love, a tender heart, and humbleness.
We need to listen long enough to know that the little boy with the sad brown eyes has had a frustrating day and once we figure that out … we can help make the rest of his day a great one.
We can’t always shatter the facade, but we can make an effort.