You see that when you give them the opportunity to show you. (for the record, you should read “Loving our Kids on Purpose” by Danny Silk… more on that later). This blog post isn’t a cute list of stories that show you that kids are smart. Nope, these are thoughts on some of the most important things in life.
I’ve been working consistently with kids all through high school. It’s been an adventure of babysitting and assistant teaching and staffing camps. These days I am in “Keiki Corner” during the week (a group of ten 2-3 year olds)and teaching Sunday School about once a month. And today I had one of those moments where I thought… what would I have done without all this? When I first jumped into serving at my church two years ago, I subconsciously thought I was helping out, I was giving my experience, and they needed me. In a sense, all of that was true. But the entertaining irony of being older is that I see how inexperienced I really was, and still am. Age doesn’t matter. I never really expected that the lessons I subconsciously learned while I was “just helping out” were vital to my life ahead.
I learned that kids are smart. I learned that kids are funny. I learned kids are craving discipleship yet will rarely admit it. I learned that the little knowledge I have means the world to kids– who have very real problems. I learned that I am smart. I learned that I am funny. I learned that in getting off my lazy bum and preparing a lesson… was in fact preparing me for life. Not my “life” in regards to my future occupation (I am going to be a schoolteacher). Teaching prepares me for life… because the student-teacher relationship is still a relationship. And relationships are valuable whether you are eighteen or eight (or even eight months!). We really can have heart-to-heart connection with people of a different age. We are all still human beings. Don’t you agree? And yet sometimes it’s easy to think that because some kids only reach our hip, they can’t fully touch our hearts and definitely not our minds. When in fact, they can overwhelm both… and the world is a better place because of it.
So this past month, my mom has been involved with running a parenting seminar based around Danny Silk’s Loving our Kids on Purpose series. I have been sort of a fly-on-the-wall but very involved in discussions with my parents, just because his wisdom is applicable to anyone. To summarize? He first shows that most parents’ goals are to create obedient, compliant children by exerting control with punishment. But he then makes the point that where the Spirit of the Lord there is freedom and there is no fear in love. Because of the New Covenant Jesus brought, we no longer fear the punishment of death. The kingdom of heaven now reigns in our hearts. So rather than obeying out of fear, we obey out of love! Instead of controlling, Biblical parenting should disciple kids to make wise decisions while protecting a heart-to-heart connection. There is so much more to say. But the video I watched today made the specific point that there are two sides to a relationship. Simple, yes? The killer is when one person thinks they have all the control. This is because it destroys honor and respect on both sides.
So, all this reminded me of the sort of relational feudal system I’ve seen as I’ve grown up. I’ve always loved children younger than me. (I say younger than me, because I loved kids when I was still a kid.) But that was something unique. That was something that was like, Oh, Kayla, you’re so cute you must have a calling to do children’s ministry one day. Which is true. But saying that relationships with kids are reserved for people who are called to teach, is a big misconception in a kingdom of love.
I feel like a lot of people freak out at the thought of having children (or just hanging out with them) because all they’ve seen is that controlling hierarchy in relationships. There is a myth that somehow similar age brings superior connection. We rank the value of our relationships on the uniformity of age. That shouldn’t be so. And I think we know that– we know we can be friends with different ages– but just let intimidation and comfortability build walls in between each generation. But didn’t the Psalmist write, “One generation will commend your works to another”? Didn’t Jesus tell us “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them”? Didn’t YOUR LIFE CHANGE when a grown-up cared enough to talk to you as an equal?!
Kids are just people, too.
They just need someone to talk to. Can we be smart enough to listen? Don’t be intimidated. When children feel valued they open up. How do they feel valued? When you talk to them about something other than how big they are getting and oh how cute they are. Trust me, they’ve heard that one before. They are people, not living toys. Different ages do not have different relational needs, just different ways of approaching them. Every generation wants to be loved and respected. A two year old wants to be listened to as much as a teenager. The difference, of course, is whether or not you are on your knees when you talk to them or not. Ask questions. Don’t freak out. Talking to kids isn’t reserved for moms and teachers. If you think that, you are throwing away some awesome friendships and opportunities to disciple.
Recently one of my three-year-old friends saw me, and told me “I missed you!”. That’s more than what I have genuinely said to friends my age. Later we had a conversation about what we talk to God about (we thank Jesus for our mommies) and also read the Bible. Of course, when we’re on the playground, I chase him and his friends around pretending to be a “Hungry Lion”. But the human relational concept is the same. Making someone else happy. If me running around like crazy makes them wildly happy, why not do it? The real trick, then, is to find what gives different generations their joy. Treating them with equality that society has tried to break down.
Jesus told his disciples to let the little children come to him, and not to hinder them. Now, because of the Holy Spirit, Jesus lives inside of us. So what happens when we hinder a child from coming to us? We are stifling the life of Christ. Yes, even if that kid has muddy hands or a sniffly nose.
But the thing is, they still have a heart.
And though they forgive easily, I don’t want to be caught ever breaking it.