Through Fear to Confidence
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
WE are gradually growing away from our old conception of teaching a course of lessons to a new idea of helping little children develop. The amount of knowledge they gain in the Beginners' Department is unimportant compared with their change in attitude and feeling when they leave us at six. The test of the Beginners' Department is whether it sends them out better fitted for life than when they entered.
In these articles we shall consider some of the changes we should like to see take place and methods to bring this about.
Fear of the unfamiliar is characteristic of the child entering the Beginners' Department. This shows itself in refusing to sit in the circle, in clinging to his mother, often in hiding his face from the sight of all the strangeness in the safety of her shoulder. It is this same instinct of fear that protects animals from dangers. "Beware of the unknown!" is the law of the forest.
The safeguard needed at four can be largely discarded at six, and it is our task to develop confidence. Nothing will do this more effectually than a sense of God's companionship and care, of a world filled with his creations and material blessings made possible by him. This is the first note struck on a child's entrance from the Cradle Roll. Like a golden thread it runs through the two years of his stay, till he leaves with this feeling clear, though unexpressed, —
"God's in his heaven,
This is largely accomplished through stories. He listens to stories of God's care for various people — the Baby Moses, Elijah, Ishmael, Daniel in the Lions' Den. He traces every one of his daily blessings back to God, through such stories as "The Heavenly Father's Care for His Children," and "Thanking God for Good Gifts." He finds a satisfying proof of God's omnipresence in the story of Jacob and sees his care penetrating the whole world in such stories as "The Sun a Helper," "The Rain a Helper," and "The Gift of Day and Night."
Listening to these stories, retelling them himself, playing them, illustrating them in his crude way, they mold him as much as do the events of his daily life. Daniel's trust becomes his trust, Jacob's discovery of God's presence, his own. Every search back for causes ends at the common beginning — God. Every creation, traced forward, proves a gift for him. A world for which God cares is a world in which the specter fear will vanish.
There are songs that assist in establishing this feeling of confident safety. The terrors of night seem unreal as a child sings :
"When I'm sleeping in the dark,
God's constant presence is made real by the words:
"How strong and sweet my Father's care,
The very music of such songs tends to soothe and give confidence.
Pictures do their part — not alone the story pictures that bring tales of God's care to mind, but pictures filled with the sense of God, such as the Angelus, a child praying at his mother's knee, he night sky with its stars.
Bible verses, sympathetically used, give expression to the growing confidence, — "God is my helper" "He careth for you" ; "God is love" "I am with thee" "The day is thine, the night also is thine."
There are verses which discover God's hand in outdoor happenings, —"He causeth his wind to blow" ; "He maketh his sun to rise" ; "He causeth to come down for you the rain."
Objects of nature prove beyond a doubt the Creator's interest in making the homes of sea-creatures safe, and of young birds comfortable, and show his love of beauty.
Nor does the teacher leave to this direct teaching the banishment of a little child's unreasoning fears. She makes his first venture into a new environment a happy experience, and through her tact conquers the fear that keeps him outside the circle. Her friendliness leads him to believe that other strangers may prove friends. Besides, he finds that the familiar is here. The things he knows and loves he meets with in pictures and stories. The things he does at home are done here, in play. The conversation is on his plane. The sense of confidence he gets grows, as he comes again and again. Who shall measure the effect of a first new environment that proves itself kindly when one feared it hostile!
Through fear to confidence --- it is the natural way. A chrysalis must break through its protecting covering when its time comes, or it will stay forever without wings. So must a child cast aside the fear of an ignorant and dependent babyhood in order to emerge into greater freedom.