The older I get, the more convinced I am that much of my personality (shyness, introversion, lack of confidence) took roots in my earliest years and were formed largely by the treatment I received from my peers and my reactions to them. I think that’s why I’m so intent upon trying to help children understand how important they are – valued and loved as a child of God. I think it’s important for them to see how they help shape the world and the lives around them; that they are called by God and equipped with gifts to make a contribution in the world right now.
We hear the old mantra “kids can be so cruel” all the time as if it excuses them and us. I don’t think they intend to be cruel. I believe they’re trying to be liked by mimicking what they see in others (Erickson might say they are comparing themselves to their peers). In order to help children begin to grasp the concept of empathy, I’ve used the picture books God’s Dream and The Sneetches.
With God’s Dream, by asking the children to look at the story represented in the pictures and the expressions and body posture of the children, I’m trying to use Piaget’s stage for concrete operations. Specifically I’m attempting to guide them towards concepts inrelation to their own concrete experiences as depicted in the book’s illustrations. Thisshould help them to understand that other people have the same feelings of “industry or inferiority” (to use Erickson’ s poles) as they do. The purpose of my story is to show them Jesus’ example as the ultimate role model for loving neighbor as self.
Click below to open a pdf file of the first session of this two-session lesson plan for a broadly graded (preschool – grade 5) group of children. These two sessions were prepared by Kelly Hames, MACE, Entering Cohort Fall 2008.