During this week’s lesson, I asked my fourth-grade class if they had a choice to love God. Many confused faces stared back at me. Can a person decide for themselves to not love or follow God? Yes was their response. God created us because he loved us, but he didn’t force us to love him in return. He gave us a choice to love him back.
“Why would he do that?” I asked. “If you were God would you create people out of love but give them the choice not to listen to you or love you?”
They shook their heads.
“God gave us free will,” I explained, “because God loves us. Free will is a way for us to make our own choices in life, such as whether or not we want to love and follow God.”
I’m always careful when I speak to children about people who do not love God; some of them might have family members who do not believe, and this might be a sensitive issue for them. I like to use St. Augustine as an example of someone who didn’t love God or make good choices in his early life. My students always seemed shocked to discover that someone who lived a wild life and rejected God could repent and become a saint. It is a crazy story that his life went from one extreme to the other, but his story illustrates the importance of choices, especially the choice to love God.
The textbook called for the children to perform skits about making choices; I welcomed this opportunity for them to get out of their seats and move around (which they always love). I stressed that their skits should be about making a good choice, but I didn’t make it a requirement. I divided them into groups of three, and each group took a minute or less to perform their skit. A few groups performed a skit about a bad choice, and a few performed a skit about both bad and good choices. I laughed as each group got their chance in the spotlight. Skits allow their personalities to shine, and they were quite funny too.
Young children know all about making bad choices and learning from the consequences—ask any room full of young kids and they will tell you about their bad choices. As they grow and learn, they will be faced with many situations in which they will have to discern good from bad and choose the good. I want to help my students understand that God gave us free will to make decisions in our lives, and that to be holy, the first and last choice is to love God.
How do you teach children to make good choices?