6. Morals and Values – Laughing at Bad
I was leading a community of Jesus followers in the North of England, when I noticed that there was a particular parent who every time their child did something bad, they laughed at the child and noted how funny their disobedience, wrong action, and sometime destructive action was.
Taking this particular parent on one side, I said please do not continue to do what you are doing to your child. This is putting wrong things into his head. He is beginning to think wrong. He thinks he do can do wrong things and not get into trouble. In fact everyone thinks it’s funny. However, as he grows up, the rest of society will not think it’s funny. The police will not think it is funny, and I will be sad, as I council you when he is in prison. I was laughed at for being silly. “He is just a child!” I was told.
I stayed in the North East of the UK long enough for my predictions to come true. I remember, late one evening, my wife and I sitting in our house, there was a knock on the door. There standing on the doorstep was the parent I had tried to talk sense about what thought patterns she was allowing in to her young Childs head. The parent was in tears. I invited her in and to sit down and tell me what was wrong. Through the tears it turned out that the child I had talked about, now a teenager had been arrested and was in prison and could I please help, the whole family was in disarray. I resisted the temptations to say “Well - I told you so”, and went to the house and talked though with the family how to best help the imprisoned young person.
It matters right from day one what you have put into your head. It matters what you, as you get older, allow into your thoughts. It matters, as you mature, what you allow to stay there. It will affect your life. What goes in to those thoughts will come out in life actions.
I would put a rider in here, in that I think, as children grow up, we must be careful to distinguish between disobedience and accident. My wife and I fostered for many years some 30 plus children. Children often break things. Often, my children would be puzzled when they had broken something. Often, when you asked, “Who broke this?” it turned out that it was Mr Nobody. However, when there were children who were brave enough to say! It was me”, I would then ask how it happened. Often it would be, “I think I was going a bit too fast past the table and I slipped and knocked the vase of the edge, and it broke”. “So, did you do that on purpose?” I would ask. “No!” was the usual answer. “It was an accident.” My reply would THEN be “OK! Well, try to be more careful next time. We liked that vase. However, as it was not done on purpose, that’s fine, end of story.”
Often children would ask me, “Why don’t you get mad?” I would explain, “If I had said to you, “Do not throw the ball in the house”, and you then did so, and broke something, that would make me mad. That is disobedience. Accidents on the other hand are just that – accidents. And whilst we don’t want accidents, the response from me should be different to that of disobedience, even though the outcomes are the same, i.e. something is broken.”
It took some time for that particular idea to sink in, but usually we got there. To finish today, maybe I should quote Dr Donald Howard on the subject of children. He said, “We need to remember that children do more right things than they do wrong things. However we complain more about the wrong than we give praise for the right action.” Maybe we should start to think about praising people, as well as Children for the good that is done. Let’s try it.
Edited by Kirsty de Paor