When Children Scare Us

During my Involve workshops, discussion often centers on what to do about a child (usually a boy) whose behavior unpredictably becomes destructive and violent. Sometimes an unpredictably violent child can scare us, plus we need to make church safe for the other children. I know that scared feeling.  It makes us feel as if we are walking on egg shells around the child because we are not sure what will set him or her off.  Once again it is helpful to remember that there is only this child.  The child is not his or her behavior.  What is the child trying to tell us?  When we release fear, we let in love.  When we release fear, we see the child not the behavior.  When a child is seen for who they are, there is no need for violence to say, “here I am, notice me.”

I am reminded of one of my first jobs out of college.  I was to work one on one with a young woman at an institution for people with mental retardation.  No care taker had ever lasted very long with this young woman because she was prone to violence.  She had picked up her last care taker and thrown her against the fence.  As you can imagine I was very apprehensive about this job.  But, I was young, idealistic, naïve and desperate for a job.   When I met her all I could see was a large young woman who could not talk. When she could not communicate what she wanted, she would get frustrated. I surmised that this was when she would turn violent.  I paid attention to her. I tried to understand what she wanted. I washed her hair and played games with her.  I took her swimming.  Never once in the year I worked at this institution did I see her violent.  So what was different about me and the other ex-care takers?  My guess is that I saw the young woman as a person, not her label or her past behavior.  I did not expect violent behavior and I did not get violent behavior.  I did not think it through at the time, but I now know that often it is our expectations of behavior based on the label or preconceived ideas which end up causing the very behavior we fear.

Categories Tips for Inclusion for Churches | Tags: | Posted on October 27, 2010

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