I don't want to play with you." "Don't sit by me. I want to sit by Jeremy." Young children unintentionally hurt one another, because they are naturally self-centered. They see all their relationships and experiences from one perspective--their own.
Egocentric behavior is normal at this age, and our role is to help young children develop their ability to love. Jesus said, "This is my command: Love each other" (John 15:17, NIV). By teaching little ones how to be kind to one another, how to accept one another, and how to empathize with one another, we prepare them to obey Jesus and become His disciples.
Jesus came to change lives, and He commissioned us to change lives in His name--to make disciples. As we disciple young children, we can nurture a Jesus attitude toward living together in love.
Making Little Disciples Who Love One Another
How can we make disciples who begin as little children and love others in Jesus' name for the rest of their lives?
Romans 12 can guide our efforts.
Verses 9 through 21 list traits that put love into everyday living.
Honor each other (verse 10)
Look for genuine ways to affirm the children's progress. At least some of the time, include the whole class in the affirmation. "Shanequah, you have been working very hard on that picture. Come here, everybody, and look at Shanequah's good work."
Be joyful (verse12)
Model joy for your students. Smile as you greet every child. Learn what interests the children in your class and use those interests to teach God's ways.
One practical idea is to use the enjoyment of eating together as a teaching device. Plan a snack that connects with the Bible story. Pretend that pretzel sticks are barley, frosted flakes are manna, animal crackers are riding in the ark, and nuts are seeds planted by the sower.
Share with God's people (verse 13)
Create rituals that help children share with one another. "Roland is taking a turn. Monroe will be the next. Then, it is your turn. There goes Roland."
"Let's work as a group to put this puzzle together. Who has a corner piece?" It will help if the ritual can include a playful element. Giving an offering, for example, is a way to share with God's people. Children will enjoy sharing their money more if they can place it in a boat that floats in a little tub or press it into an offering basket made of play dough.
Be happy with the happy (verse 15)
Young children often tell teachers about happy events such as birthdays and vacations. Teachers can announce the events to other children too. Then many in the class can practice being happy with those who are happy.
Be sad with the sad (verse 15)
As you comfort tearful students, other children watch and begin to imitate your efforts. Include children in offering comfort. "Ryan is feeling sad because he bumped his knee. Would you like to unwrap the Band-Aid¬