Guest Author - Terrie Lynn Bittner
Many children, when told to sing loudly, interpret that to mean they should scream. Singing loudly, but beautifully, is confusing to them. For a child, noise isn’t about reverence, it’s about letting out excess energy.
As leaders, we can teach the children that Primary songs, with the exception of the “wiggle” songs, are sacred hymns, no less sacred than the hymns we sing in Sacrament Meeting. With this in mind, we can then teach them to sing reverently. I like to tell children that hymns go straight up to Heaven and we would never yell at Heavenly Father. Would we use silly voices or make-believe words? No. How would we sing to Him? We’d sing in our most beautiful voices. We want Him to hear us, but we want him to hear us singing beautifully. Those of you who know music can then go on to teach children how to sing loudly without shouting. The rest of us will just do the best we can.
Knowing that Primary songs are sacred hymns means that we need to use appropriate teaching methods. Children are less likely to sing reverently if they are in the midst of a silly or overstimulating activity. Our teaching methods must match the spiritual power of the song. The more spiritual the song, the more reverently we sing it and the more spiritual our methods must be. So, Book of Mormon Stories can be taught in a more fun way than can I’m Trying to Be Like Jesus. However, no chosen method should drive the spirit from the room or cause the children to forget that it’s the Sabbath all day, even in Primary.
Let children practice singing loudly and softly without ever losing the beauty in the music. Be sure to praise them when their voices are worthy of heaven. Praising them for beautiful voices is more effective than praising them for singing loudly, since it helps them learn respectful spiritual behavior.
One way to help children sing reverently is to be certain they understand what the songs mean. Most Primary songs are testimonies put to music. Showing children how the song is a testimony will help them understand how to sing respectfully. Talk about what message the song presents and share your own testimony of the message. Ask the children to imagine they are singing this song as a testimony of their faith.
When children are singing songs they truly understand, and are singing with their beautiful God-given voices, you’ll be amazed at the powerful spirit that enters into your Primary and stays the rest of the day.
The Healing Power of Music