Helping children stay free

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

"The most important thing to remember is that no one is guilty, neither the parents nor the school," Ann said. She is the dean of a lower school (kindergarten through third grade), and we were talking about finding help for children with behavioral problems.

Today, as always, helping children stay free from wrong or from unacceptable behavior is the goal of both school and home. Valuing each child and discovering his or her path to learning and readiness for particular knowledge are vitally important. This demands much of both parents and teachers, including the dedication to putting a child's development and welfare first.

I have found that my deepest prayers and most selfless desires are brought forth when my children are in trouble. I'm sure I'm not the only parent who feels this way. These are the times that we glimpse that each of us is more than what appears on the surface. We may discover more of our spiritual, higher nature.

When this same Ann, who happens to be my daughter, began kindergarten, she wasn't adjusting well to school. I wasn't aware of this. One day her kindergarten teacher asked me to come in. She said that Ann had a problem. Far from being hyperactive, which was a common complaint, she was almost inactive and hardly played at all.

The teacher asked if it would be all right with me if she took a strong position and insisted that Ann play with the other children. I gave my permission, but I had reservations. Frankly, this was the first time Ann's behavior had been criticized, and I was on the defensive.

It wasn't long before I realized that I was an overly protective mother on the one hand, and was engaging her in conversations that were too adult for her on the other. But I also gained some insight into her own relation to God. I must have known then, as I know now, that the God who is Love would always be there for her to turn to. I also knew that this God would help me correct my ways, as I humbly sought direction.

It wasn't too long after our first meeting that the kindergarten teacher called me. She told me that she had said to Ann sternly, "You have to go into the play house and play." Then I heard a laugh in the teacher's voice as she said that Ann said, just like an adult, "I'll be happy to." I still smile when remembering this, but I'm pleased to say that Ann soon became free from speaking and acting like a little adult. My attitude really changed. I became less involved in fearfully training her and became more appreciative of her as a child. A false sense of parental responsibility ebbed away.

The founder of this newspaper, Mary Baker Eddy, wrote a textbook, which includes a healthy, unsentimental sense of children. At one place she wrote, "Children should be allowed to remain children in knowledge, and should become men and women only through growth in the understanding of man's higher nature" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pg. 62). In another place she noted, "Jesus loved little children because of their freedom from wrong and their receptiveness of right" (pg. 236).

The Bible includes an instructive moment in Christ Jesus' life: "And they brought unto him also infants, that he would touch them: but when his disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God" (Luke 18:15, 16).

I found that this love was for me, too. Though I was humbled by having to face mistakes in my parenting, instead of being made to feel guilty, I was able to change. This incident is small, compared to other situations parents and children sometimes face. But when home and school cooperate, and no one is blamed, the solution is well on its way. Also, seeing the child's essential innocence, or freedom from wrong, will open doors for correction. Everyone, after all, is the child of God, and we all have a built-in "receptiveness of right."

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