One of my earliest memories of embarrassment came on a Sunday morning in my 4-year-old Sunday School class. I felt like there was something in my nose, so I did what every normal 4- year-old does – I reached into my nose and attempted to get out what was bothering me. (Let’s not pretend your 4-year-old self — and maybe adult self — didn’t pick your nose, okay?)
My Sunday School teacher looked up and simply said out loud to me (and all the kids at the table), “Kelly, we do not pick our nose. Please stop.”
Cue the kids laughing.
I needed to be told not to pick my nose, but why did she have to say it so loudly and to everyone at the table???
You can bet I never picked my nose again in Sunday School class. Not because it was the right or polite thing to do, but because I didn’t want to feel shame or embarrassment again.
Sometimes we think preschool kids have a short memory. It seems that way when we ask them ten times a day to pick up their toys, don’t pull the cat’s tail, please don’t draw on the wall, etc.
The truth is during the preschool years a child’s brain is growing at the fastest rate it ever will at any point in their life. Some of their very core foundations of what they think and believe are forming during these years.
A preschooler’s impression of God and church are establishing during their first five years of life. Because preschoolers are concrete thinkers, when they think of who God is they associate it with the people that talk about Him – maybe it’s their parents or maybe it’s their small group leaders. What an incredible position those who serve preschoolers are in to influence these little minds!
So what does that mean for us as preschool leaders? It means we have to create environments where preschoolers feel safe.
Preschoolers need to be able to look at their small group leaders and their small group as a place where they can grow their confidence.
The confidence to be who God made them.
The confidence to answer their small group leader’s questions without feeling silly.
The confidence their small group leader will show up consistently.
The confidence they can participate in a game or activity.
The result of a preschooler feeling safe at church and with their small group means they can have the confidence to believe they are safe with God. That’s a core foundational belief that’s developing in preschool!
Shame and embarrassment can stick to a child, but so can grace and safety. Create environments in your small group where my nose pickin’ 4-year-old self would have felt comfortable.