If you read my previous blog, you’ll know I was a small group leader for Vacation Bible School and it was a much different experience than I thought. There was general chaos in the room. There was heavy stimulation. The music team was half music team, half dance team. We learned all the motions to all the songs and it was just really fun. It was very oriented toward fun and craziness and acceptance, where kids could simply be kids. It was awesome.
But, I noticed some things about these kids during this week. First, they all liked to talk about themselves. Second, they all wanted to be noticed and valued. Third, they responded to rewards. When I think about them wanting to talk about themselves, almost all their stories involved positive words that were given to them. A coach that said “good job,” a teacher that affirmed them, a dad who loved them, a mom who cared for them. Words were huge to them and they remembered those words. It’s almost like they were stuck on them. Some of those words were negative. You could feel it. Some of the kids were held back by negative words and others were inspired by the words spoken over them. When they talked about themselves they talked about words.
They wanted to be noticed and valued. They wanted to tell their story. They wanted me to understand who they are and what they like and what they do. They told their stories in funny ways and they told them in ways that were sometimes difficult to understand, because they were full of unrelated facts. But each story was individual. Their story was all about them and their family and their environment. And it made me want to write a different story for some of them. It made me want to change or write a new chapter. It made me just want to be part of a group that would help them get over some of the negative parts of their story.
But all of them wanted to be rewarded. And it wasn’t rewarding them with candy, it was rewarding them with affirmation. It was telling them they did a good job. The seven-year-olds were mostly independent, but they were like little kids during the story time and wanted to sit on my lap. I had three of them on my lap at one point. One particular kid who has a tough situation at home responded so well to being affirmed. When I told him that he did a good job or “that was insightful” or “I just want you to know that was good,” he just lit up. He wouldn’t let go of my hand. Because the value of reward for those seven-year-olds was not candy, it was words of affirmation. Our kids desperately need to know that we appreciate and affirm what they’re doing. It was a wild and very good week with my seven-year-olds.