I am a Kindergarten teacher. I have been teaching for four years, although this is only my second year teaching Kindergarten. The class this year is by far the most challenging class I've ever had. As you can imagine, when Kindergarten starts, there are a lot of tears shed--by parents and by kids. A lot of the kids in my class never went to preschool and do not attend any sort of church, so for a lot of them, this is the first time they really have to sit and pay attention. It's the first time they're expected to really learn self-control and self-discipline. At the beginning of the year, there also tend to be quite a few tantrums. And, let's be honest, sometimes those continue throughout the year. In an effort to teach the kids to seek for positive attention rather than negative attention, we notice and praise and reward like crazy the kids who follow directions and listen and work hard. Conversely, we ignore the negative behavior--unless, of course, the other kids are in danger because of the decisions of the misbehaving child (i.e., said child is hitting, biting, throwing chairs, etc.). The other kids in the class actually do quite well at ignoring this behavior most of the time, too. And, after a few months, the children who throw tantrums realize that they are not getting the reaction they desire, and instead begin to crave the positive attention the other kids are getting. The ignoring thing also works well for us, because we are able to emotionally remove ourselves from the situation, which is so important for two reasons: It helps us not say something to the child that we would later regret, and we don't take the things they are doing and saying personally.
Well, one day, one of my children was throwing a tantrum over something kind of silly as the class was getting ready to go outside to recess. I told this child that he was welcome to go outside once he stopped crying and yelling and screaming and rolling around on the ground while pounding his hands and feet on the floor. I also told him that I don't listen to kids who yell at me, so if he has an issue to talk about, he would have to speak to me nicely. And then I ignored him. And ignored him. And kept ignoring him. He started yelling, "What??? Now you're just going to ignore me???" My answer was given loud and clear--I just kept ignoring him. I think the ignoring him was making him more mad than he'd been to begin with. I did say to him that I would be happy to talk to him if he'd speak to me nicely, and then I ignored him before. After about 10 minutes of him yelling and screaming at me, he finally went back to his seat, sat down quietly, and raised his hand. I immediately called on him and thanked him for raising his hand rather than yelling. He said, "May I please go outside to recess?" I told him that as soon as the stuff he had thrown around the room was cleaned up, he was welcome to go outside for the last 5 minutes of recess. Since that time, his tantrums have lessened, and many times all I have to say is, "Does this ever work? Do I ever listen to you when you yell at me? Do I ever change my mind just because you scream?" And he'll usually calm down.
My point in writing about this is that the other day as I was reflecting on this experience, I all of a sudden became overwhelmingly grateful that God doesn't ignore me like I ignore my students. And to be honest, sometimes I wouldn't blame Him if He did. There have been times in my life where I have literally screamed at God. I've yelled about how life isn't fair and He doesn't understand me or know what's best for me. And yet, He's never yelled back. Granted, I've never yelled back at one of my kids, either, but that's simply because I ignore them instead. But because God is perfect, He has the ability to listen to us yell and scream and throw tantrums, without yelling at us back, and certainly without ignoring us. I know that He will always listen. I know He will always seek to help us, even when our behavior would merit Him ignoring us for a while. And for that, I am so so so so grateful.
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