It is not uncommon for children and teens to behave differently in school and at home. For some, school represents the escape from parental naggings, restrictions and discipline. For others, home is the haven, away from unkind words, comparative underperformance and school rules. My sons, especially the younger, belongs to the latter group.
What makes children dislike school? In a word, it is fear. Fear of punishment, fear of failure and of not meeting expectations, fear of unkind judgements, of the verbal or non-verbal sort, whether true or inaccurate. Many fears plague these children. As parents, we (my wife and I) struggle to eliminate these fears from their little lives, so that they may live and learn freely.
The result of these fears is the difference in behaviour in school and at home. Masks are put on where there is fear. Some hide behind masks of bravado. Others wish to become class monitors and prefects to hide behind the veil of authority. Many withdraw into a shell of shyness.
What can parents do to remove these fears? Firstly, by showing to these fearful children unconditional love; by letting them know regularly and constantly that they are loved regardless of their academic or extra-curricular performances. Children need to know that they are loved for who they are, not for what they can achieve. Where unconditional love fails, fear takes over and the masks are put on. So the second thing we can do is to help them develop a relationship with God so that they know what unconditional and perfect love is.
1 John 4:18 was the verse that I selected as our wedding homily. “Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced His perfect love.” (NLT) How can one have that perfect love? The two verses sandwiching this verse tells us how – 17 “And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face Him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world.” 19 “We love each other because He loved us first.”
As a church, are we like school children? Do we hide behind veils, of congeniality and stoicism? Do we withdraw into our shell of shyness, or put up an armour of platitude? No doubt, some among us have no masks and we praise God for the free-spirited relationship that they have with anyone they encounter. Yet for many who do wear masks and veils, no matter how thin, we need to ask ourselves what fears we have? We need to continue working out our salvation so that His love is made perfect in us.
Only then can we expel all fear. Only then can we totally take off our masks and veils and come out of our shells. Only then can we become a truly authentic community. We know that this perfectly authentic community will likely only exist in God’s Kingdom in heaven. Therefore we pray, “Thy Kingdom come…”
By Dr Ong Kiat Hoe, Elder (YCKC Bulletin 17&18 October 2015)