Yesterday I mentioned I wasn’t happy with how I responded to a child who was bothering my daughter during storytime. Here is what I did: I quickly walked over to them, pulled his hand off my daughter, and said, “She asked you to stop poking her. Stop poking.” He got the message.
Afterwards, I finally figured out who his mother was, and judging by the way she avoided making eye contact, I suspect she noticed my actions. I wished I could have gotten her attention and told her I wasn’t angry with her or her son. I hope she wasn’t angry with me, especially because I don’t want to be a bad testimony when these moms know Lee, and they know he is a Christian who claims to want to rear his own children by following the Bible.
On the way home, I started thinking about my motives, and I started wondering what other approaches I could have taken. It was this line of thinking that stopped me. I could have asked Bethel to come sit with me if she wanted to, since I was within the line of sight of the storybook, although I was at the back and the book would have been harder to see. My first reaction to this idea was indignation. Certainly she has the right to listen to the story without being bothered, and she shouldn’t have to be forced to the back of the room because somebody was being obnoxious. Do you see what started bothering me about these thoughts? I was focussed primarily on her rights, her comfort, her right to sit close.
As I thought on my actions, I realized that I’ve acted this way more than once. I am quick to step in when I see another child being unkind. If a child tries to cut in line in front of my child, I’ll prevent him from doing so. If my child has a playground toy taken away, I make sure he gets it back. I’ve actually always thought of my quick intervention as a virtue, a point of pride. What I am starting to understand is that I have been teaching them how to respond in these situations. I had better make sure my response is biblical.
Several passages of Scripture came to mind.
- First, I remember that Paul appealed to his rights as a Roman citizen (Acts 16:37, 25:11). I think there is an appropriate and biblical time to exercise one’s rights.
- Second, I do believe that parents have to responsibility to protect their children, particularly in danger. I think it is helpful to make a distinction between a relatively minor inconvenience and more serious offenses.
- Finally, In Matthew 5:38 and following, we find Jesus’ words about our attitude towards personal offenses. I do not completely understand the depth of what Jesus is teaching here; however, at the very least, I can, for the sake of peace and testimony, withstand inconvenient violations of my personal rights. I can think of a few such situations we might face as adults: getting cut off while driving; having a parking place “stolen” by another driver; a guest overstaying his welcome, or coming at an inconvenient time; someone with 25 items in front of us at the grocery store when the sign clearly states: Fifteen items or fewer; children who wake up at 6:30am, taking away my right to a good night’s sleep.
I am also considering the implications of these passages when I help my children understand how to respond in these situations, and how I will respond as well. In the library storytime situation, I wonder whether the better response would have been to have Bethel come sit on my lap for the end of the story, and later explain why.