Thursday, 7 May 2015

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A Powerful Moment to Teach Empathy


J started attending After School Care recently (real school in Denmark only starts in August). Two day ago, while dropping J off at the school, a mom took the opportunity to talk to me at the wardrobe corner. She said that J and another boy had been teasing his son's name the day before. His son (for privacy, I will call him J-too), was very sad and almost did not want to come to school that day. This mom told me in a very nice manner, but I could see that her eyes were almost red, while she spoke. She must have felt hurt.

I thanked her for bringing this to my attention, and told her that I was totally with her that this wasn't acceptable. I told her that I would have a good talk with my son. She told me not to make it big, as they are just kids. They said things without realizing that they hurt someone.

On the way back from work, I prayed in my heart, asking God for wisdom how I could teach our son.

During bed time routine, I took out a book. It is a story about a new girl, Sally, joining the kindergarten for the first time. One of the girls, Marie, said that she did not like the new girl, and urged her friend, Missy, not to play with her.


I asked J, if he could see any similarity in this story and his experience in school today. He conveniently said he couldn't.

So I told him that Marie, was like the boy who teased J-too.
Missy = J, the follower
Sally = J-too

He understood, but was defensive, saying that it was because he didn't know how to pronounce the boy's name, and it wasn't his intention to tease the boy. He was just following the other boy. I explained to him that he should not be a blind follower, but he should have the courage to stand up for others. This is what the Bible taught us to do. When we are in the position to stand up for the oppressed, we should do so. But I could sense that he still did not feel so much for the boy, J-too, that he teased. Praying in my heart... I searched for ways to reach J's heart.

Just then, an idea came into my mind - the scout groups' visits!

I put my arms around J and related our experience from visiting the different scout groups last week...

J liked one of the scout groups, but not the other. Lying in bed, I asked J, "Why do you preferred XXX scout group over YYY scout group?"

At the XXX scout group:

- None of the kids came to say hello to J.
- They just continued playing the catching game.
- When there was a chance to join in, they did not invite J.
- The leaders just gave instructions in front of the board with the sewing materials during the sewing activity.
- The leaders did not come over and teach each and every kid. J was left on his own to figure out.

Half-way through the visit, J said to me that he wanted to go home.

At the YYY scout group:

- While gathering to sing a song, they said hello to us and asked for our name, before they started singing.
- We sat down and they introduced everyone's name.
- We played name game so that they could remember J's name and we can remember their name.
- They were teaching the kids how to tie knots and one of the boys, Bertram, just took his own initiative to come over to J, and guided J personally how to tie a knot (see picture below). This boy showed himself to be very caring.
- They were making a small fire to make food. The leader gave each and every kid a chance to light a match and to learn how to make a fire, guiding them along each step of the way. J wanted to try, but was new to the group. They sensed it and invited him up to try and guided J along.
- They taught the kids how to cut banana, and thereafter gave opportunity for each and every kid to try to cut banana and slot chocolate in them.
- At the end of the evening, a leader came over and said that they were so glad that we joined them.

J was really happy at this group, and said he couldn't wait to join them again.

I explained that the reason he was so happy, and couldn't wait to join them again, because YYY scout group made him feel very welcome as a first-time visitor/newcomer. The other scout group more or less just left him on his own. He didn't feel so welcome, nor was there a sense of close and nice bond among the kids.

Bertram coming over to make friend with J, and helping him to learn how to tie a knot :-)

I told him that the scout Bertram set himself to be a very good example, how to be a kind boy. Bertram put himself into J's shoes, and came over to make friend with J, helping him to feel at home.

J reflected...

Then I told J, "When you go to school tomorrow, will you ask God to help you to be kind and sensitive to the needs of others, and try to be a 'Bertram.'" I encouraged him to try to look around to see if there is any kid who seems shy, who seems alone and needing a friend, and he could go over and be his friend.

He said yes, he would try.

We ended by praying and asking God to help J to be like a "Bertram" and to learn to practise kindness in his school. (The Danish name "Bertram" is now synonymous with "kindness" in our vocabulary :-))

I thanked God for these experiences gained from visiting the different scouts groups. They served as very powerful teachable moments to illustrate this lesson that we read from the book and to help J to understand.

This also reminded me to thank God for the "not-so-good" experiences in life. Having experienced that ourselves, they are there to help us develop empathy for others.

This is the book I read to J. It contains many good stories that teaches kids about life. I highly recommend it:



Updates 8 May 2015: J did a "Bertram" today :-) 

When I picked up J today, I saw him playing with J-too. They were playing very well and kind to each other. J-too was very happy. I knew in my heart that J has done a "Bertram" today :-) Thank God for working on J's heart, for moulding his character and for answering our prayer last night :-)

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