In Sierra Leone, West Africa, there is a saying: “The monkey doesn’t just tell her child, ‘Hold tight!’ She says, ‘Look down.’”
This brings to mind the picture of a young monkey high in the trees, clinging to his mother’s back. The idea behind the saying is that if Mama merely says to hold tight, her youngster might do so for a while, but since he does not know the reason behind her injunction, he may soon forget and loosen his grip.
However, if the youngster looks down, he will see what a long way he is from the ground and will be impressed more forcefully that his life is involved. Why, he could be seriously injured or even killed! Having understood the danger more fully, he has strong motivation to hold tight. Now any added admonition or command will be more respected.
What a fine principle for teaching others, especially children. The moral of the story is that rather than just issuing commands, it is important to impart understanding.
Of course, on occasion there may not be enough time to do that first. For example, if your child, without carefully looking, starts to cross a street busy with moving traffic, you might command him to stop and come back immediately. Giving the command here first is crucial. But then an explanation of the danger the child was in can impart the understanding.
The benefit of this approach—not just commanding but also imparting understanding—is found in the Bible proverb: “An understanding son is observing the law.”—Proverbs 28:7.
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