Cry, Baby!

~By Julie Chatfield, Children’s Ministry Director

As the Director of Children’s Ministries I have the responsibility of teaching Chapel and Music to the kiddos in our weekly preschool program.   While the Bible lessons are important, it’s the music portion of the class I love the most.  Parents often misunderstand the purpose of preschool music education, seemingly more resolute to develop a musical prodigy rather then revering the value of the emotional and physical intelligence an early childhood music education provides. 

One of my favorite musical concepts to teach in class is musical expression.  (i.e.- musical emotion.)  I share pictures of children displaying different feelings and the kids are encouraged to name and mimic it for me.  We listen to musical excerpts, determine how the music makes us feel, and show that emotion on our faces.  We also dance to different music utilizing our whole body along with colorful scarves in this expressive physical exercise.  Preschool children are very receptive to these lessons and identify and display emotions with precision.  Yet somewhere along the way of life I fear this comfort with emotions gets lost.  Recently in class after showing the kids the photographs, I enhanced the lesson by asking if adults felt happy.  The kids answered with a resounding yes.  Then I asked if adults felt angry.  Their reply also an emphatic “oh yes!”  Last, I asked if adults cried.  There was a moment of gaped mouths and incredulous stares while this very real question sunk in.  Certainly adults cry but it was clear the kiddos could not immediately fathom it.  

Mr Rogers, the iconic television personality known for his preschool television show Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, knew intrinsically that expressing emotions was an important human attribute.  Rogers says, “You know everyone has lots of ways of feeling, and all those ways of feeling are fine. It’s what we do (or don’t do) with our feelings that matter in this life.” He defended time and again we are taught the wrong message when it comes to expressing how we feel and that it is imperative for one to recognize, identify and perceive their feelings.   Many of the Rogers Neighborhood episodes and much of Roger’s music included elements that encouraged and taught emotional understanding.  But how are children learning emotional intelligence today? Laughter comes easy because it’s the best feeling in the world and most do not intercede during moments of happiness.  But when a friend hurts us, when we loose a game, or fall off our bike, feeling sad or angry isn’t always whats encouraged.  Adversely we are instructed to stifle what we feel.  Think also about the more difficult life circumstances such as when a friend moves away, divorce, or even death.  Tears and frustration are a natural response but not the first thing we want to deal with.  If emotional expression isn’t encouraged feelings build up and over time wreck havoc in unexpected ways.   Although emotions are not always at the top of our list, it is worth our time and effort to feel them.  When we learn to express how we feel, it helps us know who we are and to become the best person we can be.