This years visit of the Dalai Lama
to Portland brought about renewed discussion, especially with young
people, of peace and how to achieve it. The Dalai Lamas commitment
to non-violence and compassion is an ideal that more and more Americans
are inspired by.
| Susan Dermond
How can we help our children practice these qualities and begin
to experience: compassion and understanding - rather than blame;
forgiveness rather than retaliation; active calm - rather than
anger or passive victim-consciousness?
Of course, the first and best way to teach anything is to model
it yourself. When someone cuts in front of you in traffic or honks
at you if you hesitate, do you mutter an epithet or react with fear?
Or do you cheerfully say, Go ahead, I hope you make it safely!
Can you perhaps comment with compassion to your child, Imagine
being so tense and unhappy.
Understanding that 1) that the impatience and anger of others is
coming from their own lack of inner peace, and 2) that theirs is
a vortex of blaming, negative energy that you can enter or not,
by your own choice, is a huge step toward living in peace and non-violence.
It may be asking too much of most children that they see this when
the negativity is coming from another child toward them personally.
Yet if they live in a home where the parent has modeled this understanding
when tested through neighbors, co-workers, and even their own family
members, they eventually gain the maturity to see this truth in
their own lives.
When I was a classroom teacher I had many opportunities to observe
the difference it makes when a family supports this point of view
of conflict. I have had students who had a disagreement outside
the classroom where the parents took their own childs side
with no attempt to understand or forgive the other childs
In one incident, two students had a misunderstanding that spilled
over into the parents world. One parent, perhaps feeling inadequate
and defensive, became angry. This family dealt with the situation
with anger, blame, and feelings of insult and indignation.
Of course their daughter stopped playing with or speaking to the
The other family, while supporting their daughter, discussed how
their intentions could had been so misinterpreted and how to make
the other family feel better. In the end, they realized the best
thing to do was forgive and say nothing while keeping the family
in their prayers.
The daughter of the first family often had emotional blocks at
school, where she could not overcome disappointment or her own mistakes.
The other girl was almost always happy and able to pick herself
up after a mistake and try again. A couple of weeks later, I observed
the daughter of the family who forgave, happily cheering the other
girl on in a contest. She was well-adjusted and not living in the
thought of their former disagreement at all. Whereas, the girl of
the parents determined to be right lived in countless
contractions of the heart where she could not let others in.
Discussions about teaching children not to resort to violence often
focus on teaching conflict resolution. Teaching conflict
resolution is an excellent thing and helpful to students who find
themselves embroiled in conflict. But I would like to see more attention
given to changing the consciousness of children so that so many
conflicts dont even arise.
Giving children an environment of love and acceptance for all (acceptance
does not mean tolerating destructive behavior), modeling kindness
and a peaceful heart (sarcasm and much media are enemies of these
qualities), and practicing compassion for the reality that negative
and angry people must endure, will prevent many conflicts from arising
in the first place.
Susan Dermond is the Director of the Living Wisdom School in
Beaverton and a minister of Ananda Sangha. For more information
about Living Wisdom schools, call 503-671-9112. If you try any of
the suggestions in her columns and want to communicate with her
about it, you can e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.