“This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another.’” Zechariah 7:9 (NIV)
How many times have we heard that we should praise children and make them feel special? “Make learning fun!” we’re told. “ Don’t let the children feel badly; make sure each child feels successful and important.” Are we now reaping the results of this philosophy in our culture? Are we not seeing a generation of people that believes they are special and whatever they do is acceptable? Some have called this the “me” generation.
The Bible teaches that we should be humble and esteem others better than self. It would seem that this is in direct opposition to the philosophy being instilled in our children. It would also seem that there is very little mercy and compassion for others in the adults this line of thought has produced. There is a sense of “I’m special and you need to let me have my way”!
What can we do in raising today’s children to avoid this attitude in the future? I suggest that children must learn to earn. They need to develop compassionate feelings for others. They need right and wrong clearly defined.
Children should be rewarded only when they have earned the reward. Social promotion has taught children that they get rewarded whether or not they meet set requirements. Not everyone gets a prize in real life! Constant, undeserved praise leads a child to believe that everything he/she does is acceptable. In God’s eyes, there is much that is not acceptable!
The feelings experienced in losing helps develop compassion for another person who loses. It is often through personal unpleasant feelings that a child develops compassion for others with those same feelings. Children need help in understanding that God has a plan for each life and He will provide needed abilities for the fulfillment of that plan. When children are allowed to deal with consequences of bad choices, they soon learn that actions have consequences. It is helpful if those working with children focus attention on the needs of others and their feelings. Our WMU missions organizations do just that. They help children see through the eyes of those who have greater needs than self.
Praise is a way of defining right and wrong. When a child is praised for inferior actions or work, that child naturally thinks what was done is acceptable. Why would they want to do better if what they did has already received praise and acceptance? We cannot be too careful with praise! Actually, when we tell a child that something is great when it really isn’t, aren’t we actually lying to them? Children deserve the truth. There are ways to clarify right and wrong in praise by perhaps praising only a portion of what was done. There is usually some good we can truthfully praise.
Of course, the very best way to clarify right and wrong is through memorization of appropriate Scripture.
Teaching children to have compassion and mercy for others will prevent this generation from becoming the next “me” generation.