Sunday, 2 August 2015

The child who isn't listening hears more than you think

I have a little Sunday School group. The official church policy is from age 4, but I allow any children who can stay without crying, my only restriction is I don't change diapers. I generally keep them until they are old enough to read well, up to grade 4. In the past we only had about 12 children altogether so it was a good break-up point. Lately we have around 10 that fit in my group and only 1 or 2 older ones, not enough for a class, that have the option to join me or stay for the adult service.

My group is often chaotic. We discuss patience and tolerance and looking out for little ones a lot. We have special rules and one is that Sunday School does NOT have the same restrictions as regular school. I allow my overly-energetic ones to move around, just asking them to keep it quiet. Today I had 16 little ones. Three of my regular ones were a bit squirrely, but still within listening distance and one of the other children tried to get them in trouble by pointing them out. So I remembered the awful way I learned that being still and listening isn't the only way to hear.
My niece joined our house when she was about 3. Energetic, short attention span, emotional, demanding, loving, clever, generous, What I call a 150%child. Eventually we found out that cutting out artificially colored and flavored sweets smoothed some of the ups and downs but she was still naturally 'over the top'. I remember giving her instruction--I don't even remember what it was--and she was all over the place: playing with her dolls, rolling on the floor, singing to herself. I got SO angry!! I told her to settle down and listen, she says 'I am listening'. Backchat and lies! Punishment was on the way, but in my anger and frustration I shouted something that I would not normally say to a child under 5: 'PROVE IT! What did I say?!!!'
  And she repeated, word for word, exactly what I had just told her.
 AAAAAARRRGGGH. All this anger and frustration and no legitimate excuse to let it explode on this child!!!!! This experience stands out as an example every time I start losing patience. I think of all these bright, loving children who have annoying ways of behaving, whose parents, teachers, and friends try to 'shut down' on the energy and end up shutting down on the spirit.

So I wanted to tell that one who was complaining that she shouldn't worry, that the boys were still listening even though it didn't look like it. And I was so proud when one of my older children, a quiet one that never disrupted in his entire time in my class (4 years),  told her before I even started.  The best kind of feedback possible.