November 16, 2010

Shepherding A Child's Heart

At mum's group 2 Fridays ago, 3/4yo S and J 'fought' over a star-shaped card for their craft. Both of them insisted that they wanted the only one star-shaped card. I told them that one of them has to give in and let the other person have it but both of them still insisted that they want it. At one point, I thought to keep it and not give it to any of them. However I figured that they need to learn that sometimes you have to sacrifice and give in to your friend.

I guess I could have done better... I decided to get both of them to play "scissors, paper, stone" and the winner will get to guess which of my hand contains the star-shaped card (the other hand has a maple leaf-shaped card). J won the game and she chose my right hand which contains the star-shaped card. At the moment S realised that she lost and could not have the card, silent tears streamed down her cheeks. I felt so sorry for her but prayed in my heart that she will understand. I wanted to give her a hug and speak with her but she did not want to. Maybe she was upset with me... I found it difficult to be sensitive to S's feelings and at the same time, trying to tell J nicely (and firmly) not to rub it in. J made a few sentences,  like "I told you I wanted the star..", etc. I know S must have felt really bad. All of a sudden, B fished out another star (I am not sure from where and how)! As soon as S saw this star, she collected herself from her sad feelings to a smile on her face. At that moment, I felt like God has suddenly gave me/us some hope - that I need not feel bad about it and both J and S could be happy to have a star each for their craft.

I had a quick word with S's mum after as to what she would do in my situation. She shared that she would not give the item to both and would tell S and her younger sister (almost 2yo) M, to work it out amongst themselves, as to who will give in. If they cannot work it out, non of them will have the item. I thought this is a good way of handling it, especially since J and S are of a similar age (hence maturity) to be able to work out amongst themselves. The first thought I had to resolve the conflict was that none of them would have the star since both of them do not want to give in. But I decided to do what I did. I admit and realise that I must be more prepared for such situations when I mind the children at mum's group. Most of the them, we play with them but I felt (personally especially since I have been minding these kids for almost 2 years) that I have to be a good Christian witness to them too and to be firm and strict whenever I have to. Being the main carer (with 1-2 other volunteer carers) for 7 to 8 children from age 1.5 to 4yo, I have to instill some order so that I can get them organised. I cannot give my attention to all of them at the same time.

I do realise I have to put in more thinking in the way I care for the kids (2 of which are my nieces). I recall the recommended book by my mummy friends in SG, "Shepherding a child's heart" and decided to get a copy for myself. Even though I am not a parent, I am in a position to care for some children for 2 hours every fortnight while their mummies study the Bible.

From the book, I was reminded that the situation between J and S was a problem of the heart:
Now you have 2 offenders. Both children are displaying a hardness of heart toward the other. Both are being selfish. Both children are saying "I don't care about you or your happiness. I am only concerned about myself. I want this toy. My happiness depends on possessing it. I will have it and be happy regardless of what that means to you."
In terms of issues of the heart, you have 2 sinning children. 2 children are preferring themselves before the other. 2 children are breaking God's law. Sure, the circumstances are different. 1 is taking the toy that the other has. The other is keeping the same - "I want my happiness, even at your expense."
You see, then, how heart attitudes of the heart. This is always true. All behaviour is linked to attitudes of the heart. Therefore, discipline must address attitudes of the heart.

By reading this book, I pray that it will help me to be purposeful in the things I say to children and how I choose to respond to situations when I am with them, so that they will be learning more about God and choosing to obey and love Him.

0 other thoughts:

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