Can Young Children Learn Discernment?
This week I was driving to the store with my two oldest children. When I stopped for gas, and got back into the car, I realized I suddenly felt very grumpy. My mood had drastically changed. My daughter then asked me to tell her a story, so this is what I said:
“Winnie the Pooh came out of his house, and went into the store to get honey. When he went into the store, he was super happy, and when he came out, he was super grumpy. He wondered why he was so grumpy, so he decided to ask God. God showed Winnie the Pooh that there was a grumpy bug in the store that climbed onto him, followed him home, and was now in his home trying to make him grumpy.”
I told my children, that lots of people go through what Winnie the Pooh went through. A lot of people go places and let grumpy bugs climb on them and tell them what to do! Grumpy bugs are invisible, but if people listen to them they will make everyone around them grumpy. When you come in to that situation, the grumpy bug will try to climb on you and make your home grumpy too.
I had my kids ask God what to do, just like Winnie the Pooh asked God what to do. With help, they suggested we do the same thing we do with normal bugs we don’t want in our house - capture them, and throw them out!
Great idea! We counted to three, we caught the grumpy bugs, and we threw them out the window in Jesus’ name! My kids got so excited! We spent the rest of the car ride home catching grumpy bugs and throwing them out the window, and all along I was teaching my kids spiritual discernment. When you catch something grumpy, something angry, something frustrated that isn’t yours—throw it out the window!
I used that experience as an opportunity to teach my children about spiritual discernment. It is important to realize, however, that you can’t cast out a broken heart, and you can’t heal a demon. Sometimes your children will go places and get really hurt. They won’t need you to cast out a grumpy bug; they’ll need you to love them. When teaching spiritual discernment, it’s important that you have spiritual discernment.
People ask me all the time if I think children can learn discernment. My answer is a resounding, “YES!” The bigger question is, “Can we, as parents and leaders, teach spiritual discernment?” My children loved this analogy and it gave us language to use in the future if we ever feel a grumpy bug come on us. If we feel our environment change us when we leave, we know to ask God what’s going on.