What Would Your Child Say?
PARENTS: In the January 15, 2010, issue, pages 16-20, we mentioned having practice sessions with your children. This article provides ideas to help you to prepare your young child to meet challenges at school. You may want to have these sessions during your Family Worship evening.
CHILDREN who are Jehovah’s Witnesses encounter many challenges. Schoolmates often ask why they will not share in certain activities, such as the flag salute, birthday celebrations, and holiday projects. If your son or daughter faces such questions, how will your child respond?
Some Christian children have simply said: “I can’t do that. It’s against my religion.” Those children should be commended for taking a firm stand. Their response may stop further inquiry. Yet, the Bible admonishes us to be “ready to make a defense before everyone that demands of [us] a reason” for our beliefs. (1 Pet. 3:15) Doing so means more than just saying, “I can’t do that.” Even if others do not agree with us, some might appreciate knowing that we have reasons behind our decisions.
Many Witness youths have related Bible accounts to their schoolmates using such publications as Learn From the Great Teacher. These accounts may help to explain why Witness children do or do not do certain things. Some students listen attentively to the Bible stories, and numerous Bible studies have been started in this way. Other students may find it difficult to listen to an entire Bible story. Without a full explanation, some Bible accounts may be too difficult for schoolchildren to understand. When her friend invited her to a birthday party, 11-year-old Minhee told her friend: “The Bible doesn’t tell us to celebrate birthdays. A Bible character, John the Baptizer, was executed on a birthday.” Minhee recalls, however, that her friend did not seem to understand her answer.
At times, it helps to show another student a picture or an account in one of our books. What if the school authorities say they would prefer that children not share religious publications with other students? Can our children witness effectively even without any publications? How can you help your children to make a defense?
Have Practice Sessions
Having practice sessions at home is helpful, with parents playing the part of schoolmates. As children try to defend their faith, parents will want to commend their efforts and show them how they can improve their reasoning and why that is desirable. For example, suggest using words that students of a similar age can understand. Joshua, a nine-year-old boy, says that his schoolmates did not understand words like “conscience” and “loyalty.” So he has had to use easier words to reason with them.—1 Cor. 14:9.
Some schoolchildren who ask a question may lose interest if a lengthy answer is given. By engaging them in conversation and reasoning with them, Witness youths may keep the interest alive. Haneul, a ten-year-old girl, says, “My schoolmates like a conversation, not an explanation.” To have a conversation, ask questions, and then listen carefully to the personal views expressed.
The conversations set out below show how Christian children might reason with their schoolmates. There is no need to memorize these conversations—no two children are alike, and different circumstances call for different responses. Therefore, a young Witness should get the idea in mind, put it in his or her own words, and then express it in a manner appropriate to the situation and the schoolmates. If you have school-age children, try acting out these conversations with them.
At your next Family Worship evening, try practicing with your children the conversations presented here. See how effective this can be. Bear in mind that the goal is not to memorize responses or words. In fact, you might reenact a situation a couple of times, giving a different reply and seeing how your children adapt. As they try to explain the basis for their beliefs, help them to develop reasonableness and tact. Over time, you will teach your children how to defend what they believe before classmates, neighbors, and teachers alike.
[Box/Pictures on page 4, 5]
Mary: Hi, John. I would like to invite you to my birthday party.
John: Thank you for thinking about me, Mary. May I ask you why you are going to have a birthday party?
Mary: To celebrate my birthday. Don’t you celebrate yours?
John: No, I don’t.
Mary: Why not? My family was happy when I was born.
John: My family is like yours. They were happy when I was born too. But I don’t think that is reason for me to have a celebration every year. At their birthday parties, many think they are the most important people. But isn’t God more important? And shouldn’t we thank him because he gave us life?
Mary: Do you mean that I should not have my birthday party?
John: Mary, that’s up to you. But why not think about this? While a lot of people like receiving birthday gifts, the Bible says that there is more happiness in giving than in receiving. Rather than focusing on ourselves on our birthday, wouldn’t it be good to thank God, to think of others, and to do good to them?
Mary: I never thought about that. So you don’t get any gifts from your parents?
John: Sure I do. But my parents don’t wait until my birthday. They give me gifts as often as they like. By the way, Mary, would you like to know how birthday celebrations began?
Mary: Can you tell me?
John: Well, tomorrow I’ll tell you an interesting story about a birthday a long time ago.
Gail: Claire, why don’t you salute the flag?
Claire: Thanks for asking, Gail. Maybe first I could ask you why you salute it?
Gail: I do it because I love my country.
Claire: I know you love your mom, Gail. But you don’t salute your mom, do you?
Gail: Right. Well, you know, I salute the flag because I respect it. Don’t you respect the flag?
Claire: I do. But we don’t salute everyone and everything we respect, do we?
Gail: True, I respect our teacher, but I don’t salute her. Well, I guess I don’t know why I salute the flag.
Claire: Gail, a lot of people think the flag stands for their country. Saluting the flag means they’ll do anything for their country. But I don’t feel quite that way. I can’t give my life to my country because God gave me life. I’ve decided to give my life to him. So although I respect the flag, I don’t salute it.
Gail: I see.
Claire: Anyway, Gail, I’m happy you mentioned this. And if you want to know why I do or don’t do certain things, just ask me. By the way, the Bible says that a long time ago, a king of Babylon ordered people to bow down before an image. Some wouldn’t bow—even at the risk of their lives.
Gail: Really? What happened to them?
Claire: I’ll tell you about them during lunch.
Mike: Tim, who do you think should be our class president?
Tim: I’m not on the side of any of the candidates.
Mike: Why not?
Tim: I already have the best leader. As a Christian, I have promised to follow Jesus. So I can’t choose another leader. By the way, do you know why I think he is a perfect Leader?
Mike: No, and I don’t especially care.
Tim: Well, if you ever want to know, I’d be happy to tell you.
“Hi John. I would like to invite you to my birthday party”
[Picture on page 3]
“Why don’t you salute the flag?”