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A clothes line, class discussion and profound insight

In my work with young children, there’s generally a lot of noise and a lot of movement involved. You know, like a lot. It’s much like the earth’s population at the moment: noisy and hurried. As we start the countdown to Christmas 2020, I ask the question: what is the world teaching this young generation? And what are they learning?

A while ago I was teaching a music lesson with a group of 8-year-old boys, and a quick game of musical statues turned into more of a WWE festival. After letting it carry on for a bit, we had to call it to order, as there were tears. I asked the clothes-line offender why he thought it necessary to floor his buddy.

“I only meant to tap his chest,” he responded.

“Oh? It was a lot harder than a tap though, wasn’t it? Do you not realise your own strength?” I enquired.

The young boy looked curiously at his biceps and thoughtfully replied: “I guess not.”

“Do you think you should say sorry?”

“Yes,” he responded.

“Ok. Go on then.”

He walked over to the other young boy. “Sorry buddy. I didn’t mean to hurt you. I guess my muscles just have a mind of their own.”

The victim, holding his knees to his chest and rocking gently on the floor, squinted up through teary sobs at his conqueror with an expression that looked as much confused with the explanation as he was from being winded.

“That’s an interesting observation,” I said to the class, trying to move things along and delve into a life lesson from the event, which now had everyone’s attention. “Tell me boys, do you think our muscles control our brains or our brains control our muscles?”

“Our brains control our muscles!” was the unanimous, enthusiastic response from the class, after which one of the other boys contributed: “He should be disciplined!”

“Wow! That’s a big word,” I said. “What kind of discipline is needed?”

The responses ranged from “time out!” to “get a hiding!” to “write out lines!” and a few other unsavoury things.

“Does anyone know what the best kind of discipline is?” I asked.

There was quiet, as the boys suddenly looked very anxious. Then, to my utter amazement, the wounded soldier let go of his knees and stopped rocking, and raised his hand. I gestured for his answer.

“Self discipline,” he answered.

“And what does that mean?” I asked him.

“It means you control yourself.”

Out of the mouths of babes. Can you imagine such a world nowadays? I can. And all it takes is some internal discipline.

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