Talking About Tragic Events with Kids (Guest Post)

     Hardly a week goes by now that we don't hear about another school/campus shooting. My kids are concerned, sometimes even frightened, and it isn't always easy to answer their questions.
     After the Boston Marathon bombing, my friend, Chester Goad, wrote this post. The event is different and the time of year was different, but his advice readily applies. I hope it helps you walk through these events and emotions with your children. 
     Read about Chester at the end of this post.
(c) Carole Sparks
(c) Carole Sparks
A Terrible Thing Happened by Margaret M. Holmes

Today I am taking a break from dyslexia, learning differences, and disabilities to address the tragic events that occurred in Boston at one of America’s most celebrated events. While we stand united in our grief, adults and children alike are all grappling for understanding.

It is important in times like this to remember that individuals respond to grief and difficult circumstances in a variety of ways. Children often try to filter and process what they have seen and heard through questioning. Others remain silent and keep their questions to themselves until they are ready to open up. That is why dialogue is so important. In reality, most school age children will be talking about this national crisis in class tomorrow morning and many are probably already texting through their emotions with close friends. It is also common for discipline problems to rise as students act out as they process their emotions. An extra ounce of grace and understanding is always helpful.

The key to successful, meaningful discussions with children is to allow plenty of time to absorb and discuss the issues. While it is mid-April and many school systems may be reviewing for annual standardized assessments, it is probably wise to take some time away from typical review sessions and allow ample time for group discussions, free-writing activities, and guidance. Encourage students to ask questions and reassure them that their questions and concerns are valid. Of course as the adult or parent you can set any perimeters, but your students or your children need to feel secure and safe to ask whatever may be on their hearts and minds.

The best advice for working through these types of events with children is to 1) communicate, 2) don’t offer more information than is necessary, and 3) gauge your age-appropriate responses carefully. A great rule of thumb for providing an age-appropriate response is to answer each question as deliberately, thoughtfully, and concisely as possible. In other words, don’t read too much into the question. Often, the question is simply the question. If students have more questions, they will ask them. It’s not necessary, and can be counterproductive to provide complicated or emotional responses. In fact, answering questions in a dramatic or provocative way can sometimes only serve to add more fuel to the anxiety students are already feeling.

As the adult, you set the mood in your home or in your classroom. Speak calmly and share your feelings in an honest and sincere way. Students need to see your human side and your strength. They need encouragement and reassurance. Listen to your kids and they will help you guide the conversation where it needs to go. Just remember it’s best to leave it where it goes until more questions are asked. Don’t forget reading books is always therapeutic, and there are many children’s books available that touch on issues of grief and sadly also terrorism. Depending on your belief system, prayer and spiritual discussions are almost always welcome and appreciated during times of grief and trouble. Students are often seeking deeper answers to their ever-deepening questions.

Below I have provided a list of resources for talking through tragedies and difficult circumstances with students. Please join me in lifting Boston, the victims and their families, our nation, and especially our children, up in prayer.

RESOURCES FOR TALKING ABOUT TRAGIC EVENTS WITH KIDS

Talking about the Boston Marathon Explosions CBS

Talking to Kids about Scary Situations MSN

Tragedy and Children NPR (based on the Newtown Shootings)

Talking Violence with Children, National Association of School Psychologists

Boston Marathon, How to Talk to Your Kids about Tragedy, She Knows

Books to Help Kids Talk about Tragedy, GalleyCat (originally compiled for Newtown, CT)

Talking to Kids about Terrorism from American Academy of Pediatrics

Teachers Guide to Grief K-5, PBS

How to Talk to Kids about Tragedy in the Media Parenting Today

Learning from the Challenges of Our Times, New Jersey Schools

When Death Impacts Your School, The Dougy Center

Grief Suggestions for Teachers and Counselors,

Benefits of Play and Age-Specific Intervention, Prepare, Respond, Recover

Tips for Students in Unsettling Times, NASPOnline

The Best Resources For Helping Students Deal With Grief

21 Ways to Comfort Those Who are Suffering, (A great spiritual piece originally written for 9/11)

Resources: Talking and Teaching About The Shooting in Newtown, Connecticut Learning Network.

Unspeakable Tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School Edutopia

Helping Children Cope with Traumatic Events Share My Lesson.

How to talk to kids about violence is by Valerie Strauss at The Washington Post.

Dr. Steven Marans: Talking to children about violence

Talk to Your Kids About the Recent Violence  ABC News.

Kids, the Media and Tragedy: 5 Lessons I Learned From Columbine

chester goad smiling wearing glassesChester Goad is founder of The Edventurist blog, an adult living with ADD, a university administrator, writer, speaker, and disability advocate, who is committed to making life better and more fun for people with attention deficit and dyslexia. He is a licensed teacher, former school principal, and former youth pastor. Connect with Chester at www.chestergoad.com.

 

 

Update 7.12.16: With even more tragic news now, ChristianParenting.org recently added How to Talk to Kids When Bad Things Happen. Check it out for age-specific advice.

Content and Context (part 5) – Major Prophets

It’s really all about God, isn’t it? When I started this content and context listing, I wanted to write the summary sentence for each book so that the focus was on God. That hasn’t been hard. Here in the Major Prophets, with their intense and personal connections to Him, it has been even easier. If you want to see what I’m talking about, go back and look at those summary sentences (the second bullet point under each book title) in previous posts; you can clearly see God’s active presence in each time period and situation. This is why history is actually His Story. Beautiful!

If you are new to this blog, find the original post that started the series *here*.

MAJOR PROPHETS

Isaiah

  • About: judgment, promises
  • God uses Isaiah to voice His promises for the restoration of His people.
  • Big stories: Isaiah before God, promise of Immanuel, prophecies about Jesus
  • Author: Isaiah
  • Time: fall of Israel (Amos, Hosea, Micah)
  • “It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” Isaiah 49:6

Jeremiah

  • About: Judah’s approaching exile (Did you know this is the longest book in the Bible?)
  • Through Jeremiah, God forewarns and demonstrates how Judah will be judged.
  • Big stories: Jeremiah’s calling, visiting a pottery studio, a king burns Jeremiah’s scroll of prophecies, fall of Jerusalem
  • Author: Jeremiah
  • Time: before fall of Judah (King Josiah, Daniel, Habakkuk)
  • “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.’” Jeremiah 29:11-12

Lamentations

  • About: mourning, loss (It’s a collection of laments, after all.)
  • God’s people mourn their punishment but remember that God is faithful.
  • Big stories: the people feel deserted
  • Author: maybe Jeremiah
  • Time: immediately after the fall of Jerusalem
  • “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:21-23

Ezekiel

Ezekiel spoke as God had commanded. There was a sudden rattling as the bones came together, bone by bone, to form skeletons. – Slide 5

The valley of dry bones (c) freebibleimages.org

  • About: God’s sovereignty and omnipresence
  • With Ezekiel as His spokesman, God removes the tangible centerpieces of Israel’s religious life.
  • Big stories: Ezekiel’s call, the valley of dry bones and restoration of the temple
  • Author: Ezekiel
  • Time: fall of Jerusalem and Babylonian exile
  • “Therefore say to the Israelites, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: It is not for your sake, people of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name…Then the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Sovereign Lord, when I am proved holy through you before their eyes.’” Ezekiel 36:22-23

Daniel

‘I see four. And they are loose and walking around. The fourth man looks like the Son of God.’ – Slide 40
In the fiery furnace (c) freebibleimages.org
  • About: Daniel and his friends, long-range prophecy
  • God uses a few faithful men to make His glory known in a foreign nation.
  • Big stories: fiery furnace, lions’ den, interpreting kings’ dreams
  • Author: Daniel
  • Time: late in Babylonian exile
  • “The king said to Daniel, ‘Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, for you were able to reveal this mystery.” Daniel 2:47

Content and Context (part 4) – Historical Books cont. & Wisdom Literature

Have you ever tried to summarize the Psalms in one sentence? That’s a doozy! I made an attempt below as we continue our content and context chart for the Books of the Bible. (Find the first post, with explanation, *here*.)

I would still like to hear about some well-done resources for helping our children learn the Bible.  Take a minute to comment if you know of something helpful.

HISTORICAL BOOKS (cont.)

Ezra

  • About: rebuilding the temple
  • God uses pagan kings and exiles to maintain His name and His place.
  • Big stories: exiles return to Jerusalem, temple is rebuilt, Ezra goes to Jerusalem and leads the people
  • Author: probably Ezra (a priest and teacher)
  • Time: about 50 years after Judah went into exile
  • “Let the temple be rebuilt as a place to present sacrifices. … Also, the gold and silver articles of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar took from the temple in Jerusalem and brought to Babylon, are to be returned to their places in the temple in Jerusalem.” Ezra 6:3-5

Nehemiah

From that point on half the men did the work while the other half stood guard with swords, spears, bows and amour. Those who were building also carried weapons. – Slide 11

half worked while half stood guard                      (c) freebibleimages.org
  • About: rebuilding the wall
  • God helps returning Israelites rebuild the wall around Jerusalem despite fierce opposition and their own sinfulness.
  • Big stories: Nehemiah asks permission to go to Jerusalem, opposition and discouragement delay the rebuilding of the wall
  • Author: possibly Ezra
  • Time: contemporary with Ezra but slightly later
  • “When all our enemies heard about this [rebuilding], all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God.” Nehemiah 6:16

Esther

  • About: rebuilding the people’s faith (notice the theme in these three books?)
  • God delivers His people through the courage of one faithful woman.
  • Big stories: Esther pleases the king, Esther pleads for the lives of her people
  • Author: unknown
  • Time: same as Ezra
  • “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14

WISDOM LITERATURE

Job

They sat down with him for seven days and nights, and no one said a word, because they saw how great his suffering was. – Slide 28
Job with his friends (c) freebibleimages.org
  • About: justice, suffering, Job’s faith
  • God permits Job to suffer and be tested for His glory.
  • Big stories: Job loses everything, God declares Himself to Job and his friends
  • Author: unknown
  • Time: probably contemporary with Abraham
  • Job “said: ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.’ In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.” Job 1:21-22

Psalms

  • About: songs of prayer and praise
  • God enjoys the praise of His people; He comforts and guides us.
  • Big stories: God’s presence, the priority of His Word, praising all His attributes
  • Author: King David and others
  • Time: Moses through Solomon or later (Genesis-1 Kings)
  • “How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” Psalm 119:9-11

Proverbs

  • About: sayings of warning and advice
  • God expects younger people to heed the guidance of their elders.
  • Big stories: avoiding folly, parenting well, the noble wife
  • Author: King Solomon and others
  • Time: same as 1 Kings/2 Chronicles
  • “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Proverbs 1:7

Ecclesiastes

  • About: finding wisdom and meaning in life
  • Life is meaningless without God as one’s ultimate source of understanding.
  • Big stories: a time for everything, pointlessness of life
  • Author: possibly King Solomon
  • Time: possibly same as 1 Kings/2 Chronicles, Proverbs
  • “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.” Ecclesiastes 12:13

Song of Songs (formerly Song of Solomon)

  • About: physical love between a man and woman (Yeah…I’m not putting a picture on this one!)
  • God delights in the amorous attraction of a faithful couple.
  • Big stories: interaction between lovers
  • Author: possibly King Solomon
  • Time: possibly same as 1 Kings/2 Chronicles, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes
  • “Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away. If one were to give all the wealth of one’s house for love, it would be utterly scorned.” Song of Songs 8:7

Content and Context (part 3) – Historical Books cont.

This week, we have the entire history of Israel’s monarchy—from the first grumblings for a king such as all the other nations have (1 Sam 8:5) to the exile, with some repetition thrown in for good measure. These were originally single books (not 1st and 2nd), which explains the naming.  There are so many great stories and examples (both positive and negative) here!

Take one book a week or one a day and help your children learn not just the order of the books in the Bible but something of their content and historical context.

HISTORICAL BOOKS (cont.)

1 Samuel

  • About: Samuel, Saul, and David

    008-david-jonathan
    David & Jonathan (c) FreeBibleImages.org
  • God uses a priest to establish the Israelite monarchy, which becomes the lineage of Jesus.
  • Big stories: Hannah, Saul v/s David, David & Jonathan
  • Author: unknown
  • Time: after Judges
  • “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7b

2 Samuel

  • About: reign of King David
  • God establishes David’s kingship through many challenges.
  • Big stories: David becomes king, Bathsheba, Tamar, Absalom’s conspiracy
  • Author: unknown (same as 1 Samuel)
  • Time: immediately after 1 Samuel
  • “The God of Israel spoke, the Rock of Israel said to me: ‘When one rules over people in righteousness, when he rules in the fear of God, he is like the light of morning at sunrise on a cloudless morning, like the brightness after rain that brings grass from the earth.’” 2 Samuel 23:3-4

1 Kings

(c) FreeBibleImages.org
Solomon’s Temple (c) FreeBibleImages.org
  • About: King Solomon, divided kingdom, Elijah
  • God blesses Solomon, but later kings squander those blessings despite prophetic warnings.
  • Big stories: Solomon asks for wisdom, building the temple, Elijah & prophets of Ba’al
  • Author: unknown
  • Time: immediately after 2 Samuel (starts at the end of David’s reign)
  • “God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore.” 1 Kings 4:29

2 Kings

Elijah taken in a chariot of fire  (c) FreeBibleImages.org
Elijah taken in a chariot of fire
(c) FreeBibleImages.org
  • About: Elisha, exile
  • Prophets warn of judgment by exile but most kings refuse to heed God.
  • Big stories: Elijah’s chariot of fire, King Josiah renews the covenant
  • Author: unknown (same as 1 Kings)
  • Time: immediately after 1 Kings through Judah’s capture
  • “The Lord warned Israel and Judah through all his prophets and seers: ‘Turn from your evil ways….’ But they would not listen and were as stiff-necked as their ancestors, who did not trust in the Lord their God.” 2 Kings 17:13-14

1 Chronicles

  • About: blood lines, King David
  • God chooses David, who rises to power as a military ruler and prepares for building the temple.
  • Big stories: 1/3 of the book is genealogy; David’s military prowess, heart for God, and collection of temple materials
  • Author: possibly Ezra
  • Time: from Adam through the death of King David
  • “What more can David say to you for honoring your servant? For you know your servant, Lord. For the sake of your servant and according to your will, you have done this great thing and made known all these great promises.” 1 Chronicles 17:18-19

2 Chronicles

  • About: King Solomon, other kings of Judah
  • Solomon’s wisdom and power were soon forgotten as the kingdom fractured, leaving Judah with a series of kings—some good, some evil.
  • Big stories: building the temple, Solomon’s wisdom, schism and exile
  • Author: possibly Ezra
  • Time: King Solomon through going into exile
  • “The Lord, the God of their ancestors, sent word to them through his messengers again and again, because he had pity on his people and on his dwelling place. But they mocked God’s messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets until the wrath of the Lord was aroused against his people and there was no remedy.” 2 Chronicles 36:15-16

Content and Context Clues for the Books of the Bible (part 2)

Here’s the next installment for teaching our children the content and context of the books of the Bible! Click here for the context of this series.  Come back next week for all the Old Testament 1sts and 2nds!

HISTORICAL BOOKS

Joshua

  • About: battles, conquest
  • God leads His people to take over the land He promised to them.
  • Big stories: battle of Jericho, conquest of Canaan, division of the land
  • Author: Joshua or someone close to him
  • Time: immediately after Deuteronomy through Joshua’s death
  • “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

Judges

  • About: leaders of Israel
  • Repeatedly, God’s people turn away from Him; God sends judgment; the people ask for help; God sends a deliverer (a.k.a. judge).
  • Big stories: Deborah, Gideon, Samson
  • Author: unknown, possibly Samuel
  • Time: after Joshua and before King Saul
  • “Whenever the Lord raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; … But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their ancestors…. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways.” Judges 2:18-19

Ruth

  • About: love and devotion, redemption
  • Ruth, a widowed Moabite, becomes a part of Jesus’ lineage.
  • Big stories: Ruth follows Naomi, Ruth meets and marries Boaz
  • Author: unknown
  • Time: same as Judges
  • “But Ruth replied, ‘Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.’” Ruth 1:16

Books of the Bible – Pentateuch

The Pentateuch (First 5 books, the Hebrew Torah)

Genesis

  • about: beginnings—of the universe, of faith
  • God makes the world and chooses a people group.
  • Big stories: Creation, Noah, Abraham/Isaac/Jacob (a.k.a. Patriarchs), Joseph
  • written by: Moses
  • time: prehistoric, early civilizations
  • “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” Genesis 1:31a

Exodus

  • about: Moses, covenant
  • God delivers His people from Egypt and makes a covenant with them.
  • Big stories: the Exodus, Ten Commandments, golden calf
  • written by: Moses
  • time: 400 years after the end of Genesis
  • “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.” Exodus 20:2-3

Leviticus

  • about: sacrifices, celebrations
  • God sets up a system of sacrifices and celebrations for His people.
  • Big stories: Levites as priests, lots of instructions on how to live
  • written by: Moses
  • time: same as Numbers
  • “I am the Lord, who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy.” Leviticus 11:45

Numbers

  • about: census, wilderness
  • God’s people refuse to enter Canaan, so God forces them to wander for 40 years.
  • Big stories: 12 spies (Joshua & Caleb), water from a rock, Balaam’s donkey
  • written by: Moses
  • time: immediately after Exodus (Ex 40:17, Num 1:1)
  • “The Lord is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished.” Numbers 14:18a

Deuteronomy

  • about: history, laws
  • Moses reviews the whole story and reminds the people of God’s covenant and laws, then leadership transfers to Joshua.
  • Big stories: Moses’ final speech, Joshua’s succession
  • written by: Moses
  • time: just before entering the Promised Land, after Numbers and before Joshua
  • “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” Deuteronomy 6:4-5

ABCs and the Books of the Bible

ESV and NIV study Bibles (c) Carole Sparks
ESV and NIV study Bibles                                                                        (c) Carole Sparks

A B C D E F G…

My children attended primary school overseas. Things were different. I remember pointing at the letter ‘b’ and asking my son, “What’s this letter?”

He proudly replied, “That’s buh.”

“No,” I corrected, “That’s bee.”

There was a slight argument, but he was five years old, so I won…at least in the moment.

He also didn’t learn the letters in alphabetical order. He learned them in order of difficulty to write: straight-lined letters first, curvy letters last. His handwritten ‘O’ is still sad.

I was frustrated, but I chalked it up to cultural differences. But now, as much as it pains me to admit it, his teachers were on to something. Never in my adult life has anyone asked me to identify a letter by its name. Every day—even as I type this right now—I use the sounds the letters represent to read and write. As for order, the only benefit to knowing alphabetical order, besides singing the ABC song, involves looking things up in a dictionary. I’m a whiz at that, let me tell you! My son? Not so much, but he’s improving. Dictionaries are going the way of the abacus, unfortunately: obsolete, although some of us refuse to admit it. For that reason, I’m not too worried about this skill either.

My son reads incredibly well, so I really can’t be critical of his primary school teachers. He simply learned the content of the letters without memorizing their titles first.

Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers…

In teaching our children about the Bible, one of the most straightforward tasks involves teaching them the list of books contained within the Bible. I’ve even heard songs to help with this—no small task given some of the difficult names in both the Old and New Testaments. (“Chronicles” rhymes with what? Bionicles? They aren’t in the Bible.) While there’s nothing wrong with it, I wonder if this in-order skill serves even less purpose than letters in alphabetical order. It might help our children become excellent Bible Drill participants (Do they even have that anymore?), but how does it help them become stronger Christ-followers?

Our children need to learn the content of the books in the Bible along with the titles of the books. This is easy with books like Esther, but what about Joel? Esther is about a woman named Esther, but she didn’t write it. Joel is written by a guy named Joel, but it’s not actually about him. Confusing! And then there are books like Ecclesiastes, Zephaniah, and Leviticus. Their titles give us no clue as to their content.

I wouldn’t make this critique without also suggesting a solution. So for the next several weeks, come back for a series of posts listing the books of the Bible with some content and context clues. (Look for the first one later today.) Like the times tables, there’s no other way to learn these except to memorize them, but also like the times tables, these facts will be useful forever! Use them in weekly devotions, homeschooling, or however you want. Use as much or as little of the information as you find helpful. At our house, we put each title on an index card with extra information on the back and hung them on the wall by the breakfast table, one per day. Then we quizzed the kids in different ways.

Once all the books of the Bible have been listed and posted, I’ll move everything to a separate page on this blog so you can access it easily.

Hope it helps.

Why it’s more important to teach our kids the content in the #booksoftheBible rather than just the names of the books. Via @Carole_Sparks #IntentionalParenting (click to tweet)

Walk Thru the Bible has some great resources similar to this, but with pictures! What other resources have you seen? Tell us about them in the comments section below.

The Unlecture

Reading Mark 9:33-37.

At the store with the kids

Jesus and the disciples are walking, as usual. (It feels a bit like that first Hobbit movie: walking with beautiful scenery, bit of action, walking with talking, more walking, freaky monsters to overcome, walking again, etc.) This time, their destination is Capernaum, Peter and Andrew’s hometown. On the way, the disciples get into a hushed but heated discussion—one that they don’t necessarily want Jesus to hear.

“Just wait ‘til we get home!”

Nevertheless, the moment they walk through the door of that house in Capernaum, before they even sit down, Jesus turns his piercing eyes toward them and asks the question they least want to answer: “What were you arguing about on the road?”

Silence. The disciples look at each other, shrug their shoulders, look at Jesus, and adopt their most innocent “Who me?” faces. (Yeah, you and I both know what that’s like.) No one answers. Not even Peter, if you can believe it. You see, they knew Jesus well enough by now that they could guess what topics would displease him, and this one—about seniority and position—would certainly be on the disapproved list. (In the disciples defense, all that “last shall be first” stuff hadn’t been said yet.) It’s obvious that Jesus knows the answer to His question and that He just wants them to confess. Still, they hesitate.

Time for the lecture

Here’s where it really gets interesting, and where we can extract a fantastic parenting application.

Rather than wagging his index finger in front of their noses and commencing Lecture #47 on Servant Leadership, Jesus looks for a comfy chair. Having taken a moment to breathe, He calmly makes a simple statement of truth (v. 35):

Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.

Obviously, it’s easy to remember. Most of us learned it back when we were kids. Jesus, being so very wise, stops there. I don’t know about you, but I always feel the need to elaborate or at least repeat myself a couple of times to be sure I was heard . . . like maybe I have to say it once for each ear of each child in attendance. Sometimes I even repeat, “Do you understand?”

But Jesus just looks around for a tangible example. Let’s see, there’s a door . . . no, some dusty sandals . . . no, the sunlight through the window . . . nice but no. Oh, here we go: a few children (maybe Peter’s kids) are leaning on the wall over there, watching wide-eyed, trying to remain unnoticed. Jesus calls one of them over. Taking his (or her) hand, he pulls the child into the circle. That must have been a little frightening because then Jesus wraps His arms around the child in a comforting hug. Thus this anonymous child becomes the unforgettable object lesson. Without saying “no” or “you’re wrong,” Jesus challenges their thinking—even their worldview. (It would be interesting to dig into what He said and what it meant, but that’s not the point here. Maybe some other time . . .)

A Better Way

I think you get my point, but let me say it plainly just in case. The Proverbs (15:1) say, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” If we can control our own tempers . . . if we can seek our children’s good rather than our own justification . . . if we sincerely want them to learn and change at the heart level, we will follow Jesus’ example. Here’s the step-by-step:

  1. Pose the issue, preferably with a question.

I’ve heard it said that we all answer with our hearts first, and that answer is always honest, regardless of what we say.

  1. Proffer a simple, memorable statement of truth.

Bible verses work well here, but don’t use the Bible as an instrument of punishment. (I’ve written more about that *here*.)

  1. Present an object lesson to reinforce your point.

Just look around, asking the Holy Spirit to guide you in the moment. I know of no other advance preparation that will work here.

  1. Pause.

After you make your point, let it rest there. Let them change the subject if they want to. That’s what happened to Jesus. In the next verse (Mark 9:38), John tries to divert Jesus’ attention.

  1. Place the ‘object’ in a prominent position.

While Jesus allows the change of topic, it’s clear that these ideas of children and of servant leadership are still on His mind at least through the end of the next chapter. Place your ‘object’ from the object lesson somewhere visible, where your children will pass it several times a day. They’ll get the message.