Challenging the Mindset of a Child in Poverty

How can children in poverty think above their circumstances when their parents are likely teaching them that this is just how life is?

How do children in poverty seek a future when they have been taught to survive just for today?

How do children in poverty even begin to believe they have a future when poverty is telling them that they are not worth anything?

serious looking girl

This got me thinking about the things I thought about when I was a child.

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

I was asked this often. And I assume you probably were, too.

I remember changing my answer every month, sometimes more. In my mind there were no barriers, no setbacks, and no reason why I couldn’t be a cowgirl and also own a French bakery.

Looking back on it, I realize I also had a very healthy outlook on my life. I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up because someone told me that I would live past tomorrow, I would go to college, and I would have the freedom to pursue what I’m passionate about.

As you can imagine, the outlook for a child in poverty is quite different.

When the Compassion Bloggers and I visited Life Streams Student Ministries Center, the center’s director shared with us a proverb that is prevalent in the Philippines:

“If your blanket is too small, you must find a way to fit into your blanket so you can survive.”

Almost immediately she went on,

“We challenge that proverb. We tell the children, ‘If your blanket is too small, why not change the blanket?’”

There it is. In an atmosphere of love and nurture, the poverty mindset is challenged a little. The child’s outlook is influenced toward hope, maybe for the first time. Maybe, after hearing this, a child pauses and thinks,

“It doesn’t have to always be like this.”

photo of child for my plan for tomorrow folder

And Life Streams doesn’t stop there.

They have a plan for the children. A plan they call “My Plan for Tomorrow.”

The children have folders that are used to challenge them to start thinking about their future. In each folder is a sheet that the child fills out weekly.

The child is responsible for charting his or her time each week, and the center workers and volunteers check the chart to see how the child’s mindset is being challenged and influenced.

And here’s the chart’s legend:

  • Red = time spent in school and studying
  • Blue = time spent with family
  • Green = time spent communing with God (e.g., praying, journaling, Bible study)
  • Yellow = time spent by themselves (e.g., listening to music, coloring, reading)
  • Pink = time spent working toward their dream (e.g., If the child wants to be a chef, what is he doing to pursue becoming a chef? Is he practicing? Researching? Is he able to talk to someone who is a chef?)
progress report

And while the children learn to be good stewards of their time, they also learn that they can be doing something today that will help achieve their dream for the future.

Yes, they are given the freedom to start dreaming. They are told that they have hope for a future — one that doesn’t have to be controlled by poverty.

This is how we, with your help, break the cycle of poverty and challenge the mindset of a child so he or she can look forward to a brighter future.

Maybe you can take some time today to write your sponsored child and ask what he or she wants to be as a grown-up. Maybe you can start challenging your child’s mindset, too.

6 Comments |Add a comment

  1. Bataze Michael June 2, 2011

    Mostly Ithank the best good job done by Compassion for having deveroping our Younger generestion in Uganda.It is our job to encorage them to focus success there future.

  2. Debbie Beghetto June 1, 2011

    This is veryinteresting as I wanted to know what my child ‘s plan for tomorrow will be coming this Fall once he turns 12. I have asked him through letter of his dream what he want to be and defintly the answer is different because his mind thinks differently. Hopefully they lay out out the plan for him to see what his best interest in.

  3. kris June 1, 2011

    Wow. We have only recently sponsored our first compassion child, and the more I learn about it, the more I love it. Thank you for helping us see things from the perspective of these children. We are praying for you. Bless you.

  4. kris June 1, 2011

    Wow. What an awesome thing. We are new to sponsoring a child but the more I learn about Compassion, the more I love it. I appreciate you helping me wrap my mind around what it means to live like these children live. Bless you for spreading this message. We are praying for you.

  5. Jill Foley – Compassion Family June 1, 2011

    How cool is this? I love learning new things about Compassion and what the ministry looks like in action.

  6. Michelle ~ Blogging from the Boonies June 1, 2011

    I loved this look at the My Plan for Tomorrow folder! Some of our Compassion kids are teens, so we are sure to encourage them to work hard in their studies and practice a trade that will enable them to be successful adults. I think it is wonderful that Compassion works so hard to develop these children from preschool age into their adult lives!

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