Catholic Activity: Elementary Parent Pedagogy: 'Copy Jesus' for Love
Since we learn by example, once the children are learning about Jesus, it is a very good practice to have them imitate Jesus.
The Way, the Truth, the Life
To teach our children to lead Christian lives requires some knowledge of the rules of teaching. But to keep learning and remembering rules is a hard, dull business which we should like to escape. Christ showed us how to get along in a simple way when He said, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life." We have only to follow Him.
Imitation is, — once again let us recall, — the easiest way of learning. If we imitate Christ, no one can ask more. The way He acted is the way to act; the truth He taught is the truth to believe; and the life He led is the supernatural life we are trying to attain.
To our children, then, we can easily say, "Act as our Lord would act." Many mothers succeed very well by continually saying to children (up to about ten years), "How do you think Jesus would act? Don't you think He would be kind and generous to His playmates?" Or, "Don't you think little Jesus when He was six or seven or eight ran quickly when His Mother called?" If the children have been trained to love the Lord Jesus, they will respond to the idea of imitating Him.
"Copy Jesus" might be a good motto for the house to adopt for one month. Have the children make a resolution to act for one month as our Lord would act. If they keep records of their improvement, suggest that they check off each night how often they have "Copied Jesus." They may use columns with the following headings:
Obedient like Jesus Generous like Jesus Practiced self-denial like Jesus Gave in to sister and brother
There are some of us who have only vague ideas as to the way in which Jesus Christ would act in daily routine. How can we find out His ways? In March, we gave the titles of two lives of Christ for children. Parents themselves would profit by a careful reading of a Life of Christ written for adults. (We suggest the one by Father Isidore O'Brien.) But besides having the children read books about our Saviour, parents themselves and older children should read the New Testament. There we get the most vivid pictures of our Lord; and we begin to see what sort of Person it is that we must copy as our Model.
Motive for Goodness — Love
We are going to find out how to get a strong motive for trying to become more and more like Jesus. The most powerful motive in the world is love. Mothers strain themselves and sacrifice and struggle for their children, working until they are ready to drop from exhaustion. Few people employed at high salaries labor so hard or so long as many mothers. The motive that makes the mother work so faithfully and bear so much is love, a much more powerful motive than money.
Love then is what we must teach the children. When they are small, they love us naturally because we give them all they have. We ought as often as we can to explain that God gives everything, including mothers and fathers. God then is the Person to love most of all. Ask the children to write out a list of all the things they have to be grateful to God for, things like father, mother, dinner, school, toys, sunshine, flowers, etc. This exercise brings home to children how good God is.
How Practice Love?
How shall we teach children to love God not only for His goodness, but for Himself? We said in January and February that we learn to do by doing; we acquire habits by repetition of the same acts. We must then have the children perform many acts of love of our Lord. Have them also write out a list of things to do as helps to learn to love Jesus, things like the following:
- Treat Jesus as a friend. Talk to Him. Think of Him.
- Say many times a day, "Dear Lord Jesus, I love You."
- When you are frightened, say, "Jesus is right here with me."
- Be kind to someone for Jesus' sake.
- Eat the food you don't like, for Jesus' sake.
- Give up something for Jesus' sake.
- Set the table for Jesus' sake.
Try to have the children form the habit of living as if they remembered that God is really here. When they realize that they cannot live at all except for Him, they will begin to be aware of His presence and to love Him.
Activity Source: Religion in the Home: Monthly Aids for the Parents of Elementary School Children by Katherine Delmonica Byles, Paulist Press, 1938