Bloggers for Peace April Challenge: Publish a post on how to teach children peace. How do we raise children to be peaceful? What do children need to know about peace? How do we teach them what peace means?
Once again Kozo of Everyday Gurus has picked a challenging and provoking topic for this month’s Bloggers for Peace topic – How to teach peace to children. And once again I thought about the challenge all month and waited until the last day to write down my thoughts :). As a parent this topic really hits home with me. To be honest, thinking and writing about this topic makes me worry about whether I am doing enough to teach my kids about peace. I am thankful to Kozo for bringing this topic to my attention so that I can put more thought into how best to teach peace to my kids. I find it easiest, with this topic, to divide my thoughts into two categories – 1) What I (along with my wife) do now. 2) What I aspire to teach my children about peace.
What I do now:
Use Your Words – We have been teaching our kids to use their words since they were old enough to communicate. This is a common parenting technique and one that is often taught in child care centers, pre-schools, and elementary schools. One of the keys to teaching good communication and conflict resolution skills is to get kids to talk it out. This encourages them to communicate to each other and to adults whenever there is something on their mind. If you are mad about something someone did then talk to them about it – don’t hit them, bite them, etc. This also teaches children to talk about their feelings rather than holding them in. Nobody can change anything if they are not aware that something is bothering you.
Be accepting and respectful of others whether they are like you or whether they are different – I want my kids to grow up with open minds toward other cultures, religions, etc. We teach our kids that there are many different types of people in the world and that it is important to respect each other’s differences and similarities. I think the cliché of “putting yourself in someone else’s shoes” works well here. When we talk about some of the practices in another country we often discuss things that seem strange to us here in the United States but when you think about if from the perspective of someone who has grown up in that culture you realize it makes sense. They probably think many of the things that we do in the United States seem strange too.
What I aspire to teach:
Peace is possible – I think that this is an important statement for kids and adults. I think a
lot of people decide at some point that peace is too high of an aspiration and therefore give up on it as a possibility. I feel that it is important for kids to believe in possibilities and to reach for dreams. Yes, a peace filled world is hard to imagine when you look at all of the negative things that get media attention today but that does not mean that it is not possible. No matter what anyone’s aspirations are for anything, they will never realize them if they do not believe they are possible. For this reason, I hope to instill in our kids that it is OK to strive for an ideal like peace.
Present vs. past or future – Ultimately, I believe that the larger possibility of something like world peace is only possible if individuals have inner peace. To put it another way – outer peace (world peace) is only possible if you have inner peace at the individual level. In my opinion, one of the best ways for an individual to work on having inner peace is for them to find ways to be present – to be completely mindful and active in the present moment. Even if you can only do this for a few seconds at a time it can have an important impact on your life experience. While it is important to learn from the past and it is generally not a bad idea in today’s society to plan for the future you should not let the past or the future define your present. Regarding the past, you have to live and learn and so therefore learn from your past but do not let it define you. Regarding the future, you can make plans and have aspirations but don’t let your future plans consume your present moments. Be mindful of what you are doing now. Enjoy life. Experience what is now. The more mindful we are of our present, the more mindful we are of how our actions affect others and therefore the more likely we are to promote peace. If kids can learn the basis of this concept at an early age it is something they can carry with them throughout their lives.
Spread a little kindness in the world – We are all in this world together but it is easy to get caught up so much in our own lives that we forget to think about all the other people we share the planet with. I want to teach my kids to remember to take some time to show kindness toward others. Be kind to your family and friends but be kind to people you don’t really know too. Smile. Be polite. Hold the door open for others. Offer to help. Buy a stranger a meal (when you are older). Really some of the simplest things can go a long way. More importantly, perform these acts of kindness without any expectation that they will be returned in kind to you.
Be compassionate – Merriam Webster’s Online Dictionary defines compassion as “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it”. I want to teach my kids to understand that we all go through challenging times, to be mindful of this when they see signs of distress/worry/concern in others, and to look for ways to help when they can. I believe that being sympathetic and helpful to another when they are in distress can lead to healing (both inwardly and outwardly) and this healing leads to bridge building and bridge building leads to peace.
The more I think about teaching peace to children, the more I realize that there is nothing that applies to teaching peace to kids that does not also apply to teaching peace to adults. Every concept I have discussed above also applies to me. I am still working on all of them and probably always will be. And I have only scratched the surface. There are so many other things to talk about when it comes to learning about and teaching peace. It is very likely that I will post more about the topic of teaching peace in future posts.
What experiences have you had with the concept of teaching peace? Please share by leaving a comment. I look forward to learning from you.
With Peace and Gratitude,
Related Blogging for Peace Articles