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Judging Children Rightly

Bringing a spiritual perspective to world events and daily life.

HAVE you ever scolded a child, only to discover soon afterward that the child had done nothing wrong? At heart children are naturally inclined to do good and serve the right. But their God-given innocence is hidden from view if we anticipate guilt. How important it is that we gain a proper understanding of our--or anyone's--children's actions before we jump to conclusions about whether they've done something wrong!

We act according to our expectations. If we're seeing children as prone to error, always getting into trouble, that's how we'll treat them. Instead of solving problems, this attitude only compounds them. But if we lift our perception of possibility above discord to the spiritual fact that God guides the actions of our offspring (as well as ourselves) and His guidance is always good, we will see more good happening in their lives.

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God is the one Father-Mother of us all. Parenting is so much easier when we see the disposition of children as originating in God, rather than being the product of a haphazard mix of social and environmental circumstance, hereditary lineage, and chance. God, Spirit, created man in His own image and likeness and has endowed man with His own good qualities. Children have full ability to express these God-given spiritual qualities. When we recognize that each of us is actually God-created, and therefore wholly spiritual, we see that wisdom, spiritual-mindedness, infallible memory, obedience, and so on, are inherent within the spiritual demeanor of all little ones. We can be actively looking for these positive qualities rather than for their opposites.

One morning, my wife and I had this need to judge our children's behavior rightly brought home to us in an interesting way. We were reading in the living room. Suddenly we heard our four-year-old daughter, who was playing with her younger brother in another room, yell out most offensively, ''Get out of my way! Get out of my way! Get out of my way!'' Not approving at all of her speaking to her brother that way, we hollered down the hallway to tell her to stop being so rude to her brother. After we had scolded her, my wife recalled that the day before she had been in a toy store with the children. They had seen a toy truck that electronically--and quite obnoxiously--said ''Get out of my way!'' over and over again. Our daughter had been playing with a truck of her own and had simply mimicked the voice of the truck she had heard in the store.

She hadn't been speaking to her brother at all. We immediately apologized to her for our mistake. We had certainly learned a valuable lesson about prematurely judging.

Matthew's Gospel records that in speaking of children, Christ Jesus said, ''Whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea'' (18:6). When we fail to appreciate the life-giving qualities of purity, trust, and innocence so naturally expressed by young children, aren't we experiencing about as much life as someone who was drowned in the sea? A large part of the joy of parenting comes from witnessing those pure, spiritual qualities that radiate so effortlessly from the childlike thought. We would all do well to value them more highly.

In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, the Discoverer of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, writes, ''Jesus loved little children because of their freedom from wrong and their receptiveness of right'' (p. 236). Seeing freedom from wrong in children begins with keeping our own thinking free of wrong--free of impatience, narrow-mindedness, anger, free of any propensity that would blind us to the perfect child of God's making.

As the children of God, we each can only expect to express good and be good. In spiritual fact, God governs all of us. Intransigence, willfulness, ignorance, are no part of God-created man. Now, none of this means that wrongdoing should be overlooked or that there are not times when appropriate discipline is needed. Yet as our understanding of God's harmonious control over man grows, we will more readily expect the best, and not the worst. And the relationship we have with our children will be all the more benefited.

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