H o w t o R... a P e a c e f u... i n a Vi o l... A P E A C E C O...

How to Raise
a Peaceful Child
in a Violent World
A PEACE COMPANY ACTIVITY BOOK
Louise Diamond, Ph.D.
and
Elizabeth Slade
B R I S T O L , V E R M O N T, USA
S ECOND R EVISED E DITION, J ULY 2005
Copyright ©2005 by The Peace Company
All Rights Reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever
without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations in critical articles or reviews.
For information contact: The Peace Company, 54 Maple Street, Bristol, Vermont 05443.
ISBN 0-9767982-1-2
Cover Illustration: Bonnie Acker
Interior Design: Winslow Colwell
Author Photo: Felice Boucher (Louise Diamond), Martha Burke (Elizabeth Slade)
Printed on recycled paper with post-consumer content
Table of Contents
FRONTMATTER
Choosing Peace as a Way of Life for Your Children . . . . . . . . . . .1
The Four Principles of Peace . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2
In Our Family We … . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .4
How to Use This Activity Book . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .9
ACTIVITIES FOR THE PRINCIPLE OF COMMUNITY
11
Ohana Board . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .15
Community Service Project . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .17
Random Acts of Kindness . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .18
Rainbow of Religions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .19
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Plan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .20
Our Food’s Journey . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .22
Web of Life . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .23
Dream Team . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .25
Appreciating Differences . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .27
We are the World . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .28
ACTIVITIES FOR THE PRINCIPLE OF WITNESS
29
Creating a Peace Corner . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .33
Sitting Still . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .35
I Hear . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .36
Red Light Green Light . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .37
Finding Your Place of Peace . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .38
Peace Radio . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .40
Picturing Peace . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .41
Growing Seeds of Peace . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .42
Find Your Family Sanctuary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .43
Musical Wind Down . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .44
The Listening Game . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .45
ACTIVITIES FOR THE PRINCIPLE OF NONVIOLENCE
47
Love-Meter . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .51
Talking Stick . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .53
Conflict Resolution . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .54
Reverence for All Life . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .56
Violence Count . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .57
Nonviolence Heroes and Heroines . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .58
Highs and Lows . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .59
Bedtime ritual . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .60
Give Away! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .61
ACTIVITIES FOR THE PRINCIPLE OF COOPERATION
63
Family Journal . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .67
Family Meetings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .68
Who’s in Charge? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .70
Group Art . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .72
Building a Peace Structure . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .74
Three-Legged Dance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .76
Round-Robin Stories . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .77
Family Game Night . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .78
Group Problem-Solving . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .79
Family Ritual . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .81
ASK BESS AND BUBBY
APPENDIX
83
Resources . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .104
About the Authors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .106
About The Peace Company . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .108
Choosing Peace as a Way of Life
for Your Children
E
very parent wants the best possible life for his or her children. What are we
to do, therefore, when confronted with the fact that our children are
inhabiting – and inheriting – a world where violence is everywhere
around them? In their entertainment, their toys, their schoolroom and playground,
and even, for some, in their homes, our children are exposed to violence in many
forms: verbal, physical, emotional, and visual. What’s especially scary is that this
state of affairs is considered perfectly normal.
For example, by the time an average American child reaches the age of 18, s/he
will have watched approximately 200,000 acts of violence on television (not counting news coverage), and for 73% of those acts there are absolutely no consequences. A walk down the aisles of any toy store, or a review of the best-selling
video games, will show violent play is encouraged and expected for our boy children. Corporal punishment in school is still legal in 32 of our states.
Buckminster Fuller, the great thinker and architect, said, "You never change
things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model
that makes the old model obsolete." Parents who want to raise peaceful children
in our violent world can choose to create a different culture in their homes, a culture of peace.
When we use the word ‘culture’ we refer to the behaviors and attitudes that we all
agree are acceptable. Our culture is our collective and often implicit contract on
‘how things are here.’ We make these agreements about such issues as: how we
treat each other; what values we want to embody; how we speak to one another;
even how we understand the world. Usually, we are unconscious of those norms or
patterns that structure our lives. Or if we are conscious of them, we may feel helpless to change things.
In this Activity Book, we are suggesting another way – that parents become ‘culture-makers’ in their own families; that they actively and consciously say ‘no’ to the
prevailing culture of violence as the environment in which they choose to raise their
children, and proactively say ‘yes’ to creating a culture of peace instead.
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Deciding to create a culture of peace for your children takes effort. It requires
attentiveness, creativity, and courage. It may set you and your family apart from
your peers. It may require you to live as a pioneer, mapping your discoveries as you
move through uncharted territory. Above all, it sets you on what our Native
American friends would call ‘the peace path’ at a time when our nation and our
world are engaged, in a multitude of ways, on a ‘war path.’
We live in a time where the forces of violence are rampant. We make choices –
will we contribute to that, or will we do our small bit to make a better, a more peaceful world? While most of us do not have the power and influence in society to
change government policies or corporate strategies, we do have the ability to determine the climate and expectations within which our children can grow and become
all that they can be.
We believe that when enough of us make the decision to raise our children in a
culture of peace, we will affect the world around us. Our collective buying power,
our voice on local school matters, even our voting strength, can truly make change
possible in the larger culture of our society. That, however, is down the road. For
now, we invite you to join us in discovering how this Activity Book might be a doorway to what may well be the most important decision you will ever make as a parent – the assumptions, behaviors and values with which you will raise your children.
The Four Principles of Peace
The basic foundation of a culture of peace rests on four core principles:
Community (the power of our interconnectedness), Witness (the power of presence), Nonviolence (the power of love), and Cooperation (the power of sharing
power). Our task, as parents and teachers and those who care for the children in
our lives, is to provide our young people with opportunities to directly experience
these four principles as 'the way things are.' They should be so acculturated to these
ideals that they live them, breathe them, and demonstrate them with grace and
ease. In that way, they becomes builders of peace, able to create spheres of peace
around them wherever they go, and be agents of change in a world that still glorifies the path of war and violence.
Let us, then, understand these four principles, and incorporate them into our
lives, so that we might pass them to our children and our children's children. In
more detail, these are:
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1. Community – We are all in this together. There is only one family of life, all
inter-connected and interdependent. We belong to each other; we need
each other; all that we do affects one another. What hurts one, harms all.
We are each an essential part of that larger whole.
2. Witness – We live peace from the inside out. We each carry the seed of peace
within us. Finding inner peace allows us to radiate the presence and power
of peace to those around us, and to witness, or demonstrate, the full potential of that seed’s unfolding.
3. Nonviolence – We keep an open heart in all our relationships. Being connected to
all, we choose not to harm others but instead to keep love, respect, and
appreciation flowing. Through apology and forgiveness, compassion and
empathy, and a commitment to avoid violence in our thoughts, our words
and our actions, we nourish our relationships and honor our differences.
4. Cooperation – We work together to create a world that works for everyone. We use our
power together to find mutually beneficial solutions to our challenges, and to
forge partnerships, alliances, and networks to address our shared needs.
We believe that these principles are already deeply encoded within us. They comprise our spiritual DNA, our sacred birthright as human members of the family
of life.
How can this be, one might ask, when all around us we see the opposite? We see
our society operating in a culture of violence that is grounded:
• in the mind of separation, that allows for one individual or group to dominate
another, rather than in an understanding of our unity and interdependence;
• in the belief that we need ever-bigger and stronger weapons to protect ourselves and destroy our enemies, rather than in the knowing that peace comes
from within;
• in the glamorization of violence and the assumption that it is both necessary
and desirable as the way to address our differences and bend others to our
will, rather than in the choice to work together to solve our problems nonviolently;
• in the belief that some can and should prosper at the expense of others and
control another’s destiny, rather than in the awareness that we can create a
world that works for all.
We believe that the human family has been on the wrong road for some time, and
that it is time to take another evolutionary path. We can make that shift, from a cul-
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ture of violence to a culture of peace, when enough people feel the need, see the
possibility, and have the courage to act.
Our task, then, as parents who choose to raise our children to remember peace
as their birthright, is to make these principles so present, so visible, so obvious,
and so normative in our children’s lives that a culture of peace overrides the prevailing violence around them; that it becomes, in the words of Buckminster Fuller,
an ‘alternative reality.’ This Activity Book offers 40 specific ways you can accomplish this in your family, with your children.
In Our Family We…
Think of the Four Principles of Peace as the four pillars of your home. What are
they rooted in? What is the soil in which they are planted? We suggest there are
three essential parts to this foundation:
• Make the culture of peace explicit in your family;
• Help your children develop emotional intelligence;
• Practice good communication.
Let’s look at these one by one.
1. Make the culture of peace explicit in your family.
Children learn by what they see, by what they hear, and by repetitive action. The
assumptions and norms of the society around them outside the home are often
implicit – that is, they are not spoken or described, but are implied by the behavior
and environment around us. Therefore, parents who choose to raise peace-full children need to clearly spell out what is expected inside the home.
You will want to say, often and in as many different ways as possible, ‘In our family, we…’ That is, you will need to repeat what our agreements, our values, and our
ground rules are about how we speak to one another, treat each other, deal with our
differences, resolve our conflicts, and solve our problems. Some possible examples: ‘In our family we…:’
• Use gentle words;
• Use words instead of hitting, shouting, or hurting;
• Use put-ups instead of put-downs;
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Th e P e a c e C o m pa n y
• Talk about what’s bothering us;
• Work things out so everyone feels good;
• Go to the Peace Corner when we have a conflict to resolve;
You will notice that all these statements are positively worded; they describe what
we do do, not what we don’t do. This is because children learn to ignore the words
‘don’t, not, and no,’ and only hear the words that follow. So if we say ‘don’t hit,’ our
children tune out the ‘don’t’ and focus on the ‘hit.’
Saying these phrases, as often as you can, will embed in your children that this is
just how it is here. Of course, before you can say them, you will need to establish
what these norms are. A government or an organization has clear policies; so can a
family. At a Family Meeting or in conversations with your partner, you will need to
first establish what the policies are in your family – what the acceptable behaviors
are – and then state and re-state them, gently reminding everyone as often as necessary that ‘this is how we do things here.’
In addition to saying these phrases, you yourself, as a parent, will need to
demonstrate them by your actions. Children notice inconsistencies. If you say ‘In
our family we use our words instead of hitting,’ while swatting your kids because
they are hitting each other, you have sent a double message, and your children will
imitate what you do rather than what you say.
Finally, you will want to start your children at an early age with these reminders,
and keep at it, so that eventually the behavior becomes automatic with repetition
and the verbal cues become unnecessary. It’s like helping your children learn to
brush their teeth; the more you help them practice, the better they get at it until they
can do it without your help, and do it as a matter of course.
2. Help Your Children Develop Emotional Intelligence
Learning to deal with his or her feelings is one of your child’s most vital life lessons. This is essential not just for living from a place of peace, but also for mental
and physical health, and as the basis for ongoing happy and loving relationships
with friends and family.
Much of what we present in this Activity Book supposes, and builds on, your
children’s ability to notice their inner experience – what they are feeling, wanting,
and thinking – and express it in both words and appropriate actions. Your job as a
parent is to help your children develop these skills.
Whole books have been written on this subject; in this short space we can only
hope to highlight some of the things that might be helpful for you to know as you
approach this task:
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• When your children are very young, they don’t have words to associate with their
inner state. You will have to provide these words for them, until they can make
the connection themselves. Example: ‘I see you are feeling angry right now…’
• As your children get older, you can help by reflecting back to them what it
appears, from the outside, might be going on for them, as a way of inviting
them to say for themselves. Example: ‘It seems like you might be feeling really angry about this; is that true?’ The child might say ‘yes,’ or might correct
you – ‘No, I’m not angry, I’m frustrated!’
• You will need, from an early age, to signal that emotions are a natural part of
the human experience, and they are not right or wrong, good or bad. Thus
boys are not ‘bad’ for feeling sad and crying; girls are not ‘bad’ for feeling
angry and aggressive.
• Feelings are facts; that is, they are real for the person experiencing them.
Thus a message that ‘You shouldn’t be feeling that way’ will likely be heard
as disempowering and discouraging.
• Feelings, when expressed, will change and move; when held in or repressed,
will find inappropriate outlets, grow in significance, and even cause harm to
the body and spirit of the child.
• There are four basic feeling states (with a zillion variations on each): mad,
glad, sad, and afraid. You will want to help your children find appropriate
ways to express each of these. Children will get angry – how can they share
that in your family in ways that are not hurtful to others? Children will feel
afraid – how can they share that in your family in ways that empower rather
than shame them?
• Children need our guidance and respect. They do not start out with much
impulse control, nor a highly developed moral sense – these they learn as
they mature, and with your help. You will want to monitor your own expectations – do you honestly expect your two year-old to naturally want to share his
toys with a friend? Can she understand the concept of not taking the candy
off the shelf at the grocery store because it doesn’t belong to her? You will
also want to help your child express what s/he wants without that being a
demand, and realize that saying what we want doesn’t mean we automatically get it – it means we start the negotiation process.
The hardest part of helping your children develop emotional intelligence may
well be that no one helped you do it! If that is the case, and you yourself have trou6
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ble identifying your inner experience and finding appropriate expressions for
your feelings, you may want to get some help. It’s never too late! A book, a counselor, a coach, a support group – there are many ‘helpers’ out there. Find whatever works for you, and learn along with your child. You can even share with them
that this is something new for you that you will figure out together. Being honest
with your child is one of the greatest gifts you can give to them. It allows them to
also be honest, and to see learning as a life-long adventure.
3. Practice good communication skills.
Effective communication is essential for healthy human relationships. When we
can truly hear each other, we can feel empathy, appreciation, and compassion. We
can understand what’s behind a person’s actions, and can meet them where they
are. When we can truly share what we feel and want and think, we can engage in
honest conversation, find common ground, and mediate our differences. We call
these two halves of the communication process ‘active listening’ and ‘straight talk.’
As the adult in the family, your job is to both practice these skills with your children, and teach them to master the skills as well. Ultimately, you will be creating an
environment where your children feel safe to discuss anything, where any subject is
‘talk-able.’
Again, communication is a huge subject. What we can offer here are some simple tips:
• Active listening means giving the speaker, no matter how young s/he may be,
your full, undivided, and loving attention.
• What the speaker is saying makes sense to them; your task as the active listener is to understand how that is, not to figure out whether you agree or disagree or what you will say when it is your turn.
• Good listening means listening for the content, the feeling behind the content, and the meaning of the content. For instance, imagine my eight yearold daughter says, ‘Mommy, at school today Mrs. Winters yelled at John and
Mark because they were throwing balls of paper at each other and hit Emma
sitting next to me in the head and they had to go to the principal’s office and
after school they hit Emma for getting them in trouble and Emma was crying
real hard.’ The content is the ‘what’ of the message: John and Mark threw
paper balls, got sent to the principal’s office, then hit Emma, whom they
blamed for getting them in trouble.
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The feelings behind it are the ‘how’ of the message (how does it make her feel?),
and may take some exploration. What is going on for my daughter about this incident? Was she afraid when the paper balls were flying around the room? Was she
concerned for Emma? Was she mad at the boys? Is she afraid of those boys now?
The meaning of the content is the ‘so what’ of the message – why is she telling me
this? What does she want me to know? Why is it important to her? Is Emma’s getting hurt what matters? The boys being rough? Her feeling in danger – if Emma
could get hit, might she? With this kind of listening, you can give an appropriate
response, which in this case might be something like: ‘Sounds like John and Mark
were very rough in class today, throwing paper balls and then hitting Emma. What
did you think when they were sent to the principal’s office? How did you feel when
Emma was crying?’
• As in the example above, when you ask open-ended questions (questions that
go beyond a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response), you open up the conversation and invite
the speaker to explore their experience more deeply.
• Straight talk means sharing how you make sense to yourself; letting the other
person know the truth of your experience.
• Straight talk works best when it is specific, not generalized. Example: ‘I didn’t like it when John and Mark were throwing paper balls; I was scared;’
rather than ‘John and Mark are always bad; they do mean stuff.’
• Straight talk works best when it carries no blame or shame. Example: ‘I am
annoyed when you play with my toys;’ works better than, ‘You are such a bad
brother, always playing with my toys.’
Once again, the more you yourself are able to practice these tools of active listening and straight talk, the easier it will be for your children to follow your example and pick up these skills. You may need to coach them as well. This kind of good
communication allows children to feel safe in discussing their inner and their outer
lives with you, and that in turn is critical to creating a culture of peace in your family life together.
Now you are equipped with the Four Principles of Peace and the three skills in
which they are rooted. We realize we have covered very complex information in a
very short space; however, we trust in your natural ability to find whatever is most
helpful in this material for where you are in your journey as a parent of a peaceful
child at this time. For it is, indeed, a journey, one that we have found to be exciting,
full of learning and discovery, and ever-evolving.
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Raising a peaceful child in a violent world is a daunting proposition. You might
find yourself feeling, “Oh my, that's much too big, I'm just one person, what can I
do?” But the truth is, we know scientifically that large social changes happen when
we reach a certain critical mass. That critical mass needed for a transformation of culture is small in numbers, only 1% of a population. The population of the United States
is not quite 300 million people right now. That means less than three million people
can make a huge difference in our society if they are acting from the same principles.
Nor do we need to be physically together to achieve this; each in our own place - you
as one parent, as one teacher, in one act, with one child - can be part of reaching this
tipping point into a culture of peace. Let's see what we can do together when we put
our hearts and minds to it, one peaceful child in a violent world at a time.
How to Use This Activity Book
The first thing you will want to do is to browse through the next four sections of
this Activity Book, which are organized around the Four Principles of Peace. In each
section, you will find ten activities you can do with your family to make that particular principle come alive in your household. What you should know about these
activities is that:
• They are only a small fraction of what is possible. There are ten thousand,
maybe ten million ways to accomplish the same thing, which is to help your
children incorporate these principles in how they think, act, and see the
world.
• They are designed for children approximately ages four to twelve; however,
feel free to adapt them to be age-appropriate for your kids.
• You can do these activities with your nuclear family, or you might invite other
families or other children to join you.
• These activities are written for a family setting, but are adaptable to the classroom, to youth groups, or to any other environment involving children.
• You can feel free to change the activity in any way that best suits your particular circumstances.
• They are meant to be a starting point, not a stopping point. That is, let these
activities inspire you to find your own ways to promote the Four Principles of
Peace; get creative and develop your own set of activities!
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• They are not in any particular order.
• They are meant to be fun.
This Activity Book is designed as a resource for you to use over time. It is not a
curriculum, with a set of lessons to be followed, one after the other (although you
can use it like that if you wish…). Go to it when you are inspired to add another
piece of learning for your family on how to establish peace as a way of life. Let your
interest of the moment guide you as to which of the activities to explore. Let your
children choose the ones that interest them! Go back to the Activity Book periodically, as your children grow and your family matures in its pursuit of peace. You
might even repeat certain activities at intervals, to get different results as things
change.
Try to avoid implementing a lot of new changes in your household all at once. As
with crash diets, this tends to be a less effective way to promote lasting change. A
couple of good starting places would be: Creating a Peace Corner or establishing
Family Meetings. Both of these activities can be permanent aspects of your family’s
life and will provide a strong start to creating a peace culture.
We strongly encourage you to identify (or enroll) other families who are also
interested in creating a culture of peace for their children. It helps to have a support
group when you are trying something new, especially something that is outside the
mainstream of popular culture. You might even want to practice some of these
activities with that larger group.
After the four sections of activities associated with the Four Principles of Peace,
you will find a Resource List. This too is not exhaustive, by any means, but should
give you some places to start if you want more information about raising children
to be peacemakers in their lives.
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Activities for the Principle of
Community
11
The First Principle of Peace:
Community, the Power of Interconnectedness
When we say 'community,' the word itself tells us what we're talking about:
come-in-unity. A culture of violence is predicated on the basic (though usually
unconscious) assumption that we are separate from one another. A culture of peace
is based on the assumption that we are one. This understanding of the nature of
reality - that we are all interconnected and interdependent - is something we have
lost in the journey of 'progress' away from the traditional and tribal societies from
which we have all descended. This is a very great loss to humanity and to the Earth.
We need to remember, literally re-member, to put back into our bodies, our hearts,
and our minds this core knowledge of our oneness. There is only one family of life
on this planet, and each one of us is a unique and essential part of it. Being connected in this way, we need each other, or, as Mother Teresa says, 'We belong to
each other.'
When we work with the principle of Community, we are helping our children
learn that they are not separate from the rest of the human family, from the natural
world, indeed from the entire universe. When we realize that we are all related, then
we also understand that everything we do, think, and feel affects all the rest of that
web, just as what happens somewhere else in the world affects us as well.
Finally, we need to underscore that everyone has a place and is an important part
of that great circle of life. No one is better than, more worthy than, or more entitled
than another. Each one of us occupies our own special spot in our shared ecosystem. Therefore, it is important that our children learn to respect the uniqueness of
each person (including themselves!) as well as our shared humanity.
The basic core lesson for peace from the principle of Community is about connection. Peace arises when we are fully connected to all that we are, and all that is.
Then we are in harmony; we are in balance. So if we want to raise our children to be
peacebuilders, if we want them to value and promote a culture of peace, the very
first lesson we must share is that we are all connected.
First we connect with the individual self. We need to help our children, even at an
early age, understand that the different parts of them are also parts of a single
whole. Our bodies, mind, thoughts, feelings, and spirit are all connected. The
mind/body connection is especially important, because our bodies follow what our
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Th e P e a c e C o m pa n y
words and beliefs express. For instance, if we say negative things about ourselves,
that manifests in our life. If a child believes he is stupid because his parents or
teachers or peers say so, then he begins to act stupidly. We need to help our children understand the power of their voice and the power of their thought. We must
help them understand how they themselves are a single whole, with inter-related
parts, just like the rest of the world. We want them to realize that their connection
with self is the basis for their connection with others.
Next, we connect with the family. Children need to learn and remember how
they are part of a larger whole, starting with their own family. The understanding
of community begins through direct experience of our place within the family, for
it is here that we first learn the basic rules of community life (sharing, caring,
respect, cooperation, etc.) and the basic skills of group interaction (decision-making, responsibility, communication, problem-solving, conflict resolution, etc.).
In our society, many of us live in nuclear families where we don't have much
contact with our more distant relatives. It is important to reconnect with the
extended family any way we can, so that our children can feel their place in that
larger sphere. Then they learn that they are part of an ongoing cycle; that as they
had grandparents and great-grandparents, so they will become parents and
grandparents, aunts or uncles. They will see that they are connected to a timeless
lineage that reaches into the past and also into the future. In this way, they develop a sense of themselves as a vital link within the interconnected web of their own
family.
Next, we connect with society. One way to encourage our children to see themselves connected to the community around them is to begin to explore differences. It is easy, when we stay within our own family, to think everybody looks
like us, everybody thinks like us, when in fact there is a glorious richness of diversity on this planet. An important part of the principle of Community is understanding the saying, 'the one in the many and the many in the one.' Though we
are different, we are still one. Though there is only one family of life, we show up
with a vast wealth of differences. It is important for our children to fully experience this, not as a concept or an ideal, but directly in their lives: there are people
who appear profoundly different from us, and yet we honor the same life force
shared by all.
Our diversity appears in many ways: through race or ethnicity; through economic means; through age, state of health, or degree of education; through religion or worldview; through geography and culture, dress and rituals of everyday
life; and so many more. When our children connect with people who are different
H o w To R a i s e a P e a c e f u l C h i l d i n a Vi o l e n t Wo r l d
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from them, they not only expand their understanding of Community, but they also
learn to perceive themselves in a larger context.
We are fortunate to live in an age where technology can help us be better connected to those all over the world who are different from us. Educational television and the internet can bring us into the lives and worlds of peoples far away.
Meanwhile, right in our own communities, we can build relationships with a wide
variety of people if we choose. This is an important and enlightening gift for our
children.
Finally, we connect with nature. The natural world is our best teacher about the
principle of Community, because it shows us how interdependent systems operate. To understand this, look at a tree. The roots need the branches; the branches
need the leaves. If the leaves aren't doing their job of drawing in the sunshine
and, through photosynthesis, turning it into nutrition to feed the tree, then the
tree will die. If the roots aren't drawing the nutrients from the soil and the water,
the tree will die. If the birds don't pollinate the blossoms, then there will be no
fruit and no new trees. Even in our city streets we can find a tree to teach us these
valuable lessons about inter-relatedness; many parts but one whole. We can learn
the same lesson from any of our ecosystems - forests, meadows, gardens, oceans,
rivers, even a window box full of flowers. Our children - and our planet - will benefit greatly by learning at an early age that we are connected to the natural world
and inter-dependent with it, not dominant over it.
It is time to teach our children how it is that we come-in-unity, how it is that
really there is only one family of life on this earth, and that each one of us is a precious part of that web. When our children learn this first principle, they will be on
the path of building a culture of peace. The exercises that follow are a sampling of
activities you can do with your children or students to embed the principle of
Community in their awareness.
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Th e P e a c e C o m pa n y
ACTIVITY
Ohana Board*
PRINCIPLE
OF
P E A C E : Community
P U R P O S E : To help child understand s/he is part of generations passing, of
a larger extended family; to help child feel her/his own place in
the larger family picture.
O V E RV I E W : Child will learn about their extended family and its story, and
create a display of some kind to share this with others.
M AT E R I A L S :
✓ Pencil and paper
✓ Photographs and special objects
✓ Poster board, scrapbook or other display mode
A C T I V I T Y : Child (with or without parent’s help) will:
Interview parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc., to gather information
about:
Where do we come from? If we emigrated from another place, why did
we move?
Where did we come to, and why there?
What was life like when you were a child – how is it different from today?
What did you learn from your parents about what was important in life?
How did our people live – their customs, beliefs, special foods, jobs, etc.?
What is the story of our family?
Collect photographs and special objects from family life of the past.
Interview sisters, brothers, cousins of own generation to gather information about:
What has been passed down from your parents that is important to you?
What is your life like now – what do you do; what do you like; what do
you care about?
•
•
•
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•
•
•
•
* ‘Ohana’ means ‘family’ in Hawaiian. Thanks to Lei o’hu Ryder, teacher at Iao Middle School,
Wailuku, Hawaii, for this activity.
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• What are your hopes and dreams for the future?
• Collect photographs and special objects from family life of the present.
• Interview self to gather information about:
•
•
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— Where am I in this larger family picture?
— What has been passed down to me from earlier generations?
— What do I hope for my life?
Collect photographs and special objects from my life with my family.
Put together some kind of visual display (three-panel board, wall-chart with
pictures, scrapbook, etc.) or produce a play called All About My Family.
Share the display with friends, classmates, family members.
Th e P e a c e C o m pa n y
ACTIVITY
Community Service Project
PRINCIPLE
OF
P E A C E : Community
P U R P O S E : To encourage children to see themselves as vital members of
their larger community, responsible for the well-being of others.
O V E RV I E W : Family engages together in an activity of service in their
community.
M AT E R I A L S : May vary
ACTIVITY:
Have a family discussion of what is needed in your community.
Do research about what organizations may already be filling this need. Do
this through a variety of means: check the Yellow Pages; get information
and referrals from your faith congregation or other familiar community
organization; and go out into the community and visit places, ask questions, talk to people who provide and who benefit from the services offered.
Decide how your family can help.
Make a commitment to a one-time, regular, or seasonal offering of your
family’s time
•
•
•
•
IDEAS:
Volunteer at a soup kitchen or Meals on Wheels
Volunteer at a homeless shelter
Assist the elderly with household chores (raking leaves, shoveling snow,
planting bulbs, mowing lawns, etc.)
Visit a nursing home or long-term care facility
‘Adopt’ a patient at a nursing home who has few visitors
Volunteer at a hospital
Volunteer at the Humane Society or Animal Shelter
Clean up at a local park, beach, forest, playground, etc.
Help organize a special event: book drive, blood drive, toy collection for the
holidays, etc.
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•
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ACTIVITY
Random Acts of Kindness
PRINCIPLE
OF
P E A C E : Community
P U R P O S E : To generate connection and appreciation between community
members
O V E RV I E W : Family members perform unannounced kind deeds for others;
with each such deed, place a marble in a jar and watch the jar fill!
M AT E R I A L S :
✓ An empty jar (the Kindness Jar)
✓ A basket of marbles or beautiful stones or gem stones
ACTIVITY:
Explain that a Random Act of Kindness is a deed done without expectation
of praise or reward, and usually done anonymously or in secret.
Family members look for opportunities to do something loving, kind, or
special for another.
Each time a family member notices a Random Act of Kindness, they place a
marble into the Kindness Jar.
As a family, decide how to celebrate when your Kindness Jar is full.
•
•
•
•
IDEAS:
Make someone else’s bed when they’re not looking.
Wash or fold someone else’s laundry.
Leave a special food treat on someone’s pillow for bedtime snack.
Leave an unsigned love note in someone’s pocket (on their dresser, in their
lunch box, on their dinner plate, etc.)
Tie a cheerful balloon to someone’s toothbrush, or onto their chair at the
dinner table.
Make breakfast in bed for someone when it isn’t their birthday.
Do someone else’s chore before they get to it.
Give someone a neck massage.
Etc.
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•
•
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•
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Th e P e a c e C o m pa n y
ACTIVITY
Rainbow of Religions
PRINCIPLE
OF
P E A C E : Community
P U R P O S E : To have a direct experience of the wide range of religious beliefs
and practices in your community; to build respect and tolerance
for differences.
O V E RV I E W : The family visits different places of worship and learns about
how other faith traditions are practiced.
M AT E R I A L S : Nothing special
A C T I V I T Y : As a family:
Begin by listing all the faith traditions in your community. Use the phone
book or suggestions from friends to help you.
Share with each other what you may already know about any of these congregations. List the questions you have about them.
Choose at least four different places of worship to visit in the coming year.
Assign one (or more) to each season and put your intended visit on the
family calendar.
Contact the leader of the congregation you would like to visit, and let them
know of your intentions. Ask for help in meeting people who can explain
the worship service, the beliefs, and the customs, and who might take you
under their wing to answer your questions and introduce you to others.
After each visit, go out for a meal together and discuss your experience, asking such questions as: What was different from what you expected? How
did you feel? What was familiar? What seemed strange? How is this set of
beliefs similar to or different from your own? What new questions do you
now have? Who did you meet that you would like to continue a relationship
with? How might you do that?
•
•
•
•
•
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ACTIVITY
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Plan
PRINCIPLE
OF
P E A C E : Community
P U R P O S E : To show respect for the natural resources of this planet.
O V E RV I E W : Family creates and commits to a plan of how to reduce, reuse,
and recycle products in their home.
M AT E R I A L S :
✓ Paper and markers
A C T I V I T Y : Family will:
Sit together and talk about the words: reduce, reuse, recycle. What do they
mean to everyone, in reference to how we use natural resources like water,
air, fuel, soil, and the products we take from and put into our environment,
like paper, plastic, cardboard, glass, aluminum, etc.
Ask how your family could be better stewards of these resources by reducing
how much we use; by reusing rather than throwing away; and by recycling
products so they can be used again in another form. List everyone’s ideas.
Together choose one idea for each category to commit to as a family.
Have family members make reminder posters to help everyone get started,
and place them where people will see them.
IDEAS:
•
•
•
•
• Reduce
• Take timed showers
• Use cloth napkins instead of paper
• Use rags or dish towels instead of paper towels
• Use reusable drink boxes instead of buying juice boxes
• Turn off lights in empty rooms
• Reuse
• Wash out plastic containers and use them for leftovers
• Refill water bottles instead of buying new
• Shop at thrift stores, yard sales
• Give and receive hand-me-downs
• Reuse gift bags and wrapping paper
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Th e P e a c e C o m pa n y
• Recycle
• Participate in your town’s recycling program.
• Collect cans, bottles, and other returnables, and turn them in to stores,
•
•
landfills, or special centers set up to receive them. If you receive money
for your returnables, put it in a special fund to support an environmental
cause of your choice.
Compost your kitchen waste, and use the compost in your garden or give
it to someone who will.
Give unwanted books to the library; give unwanted toys to hospitals for
their waiting rooms; give unwanted clothes or household items to community service centers that collect such things to distribute to those in
need.
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ACTIVITY
Our Food’s Journey
PRINCIPLE
OF
P E A C E : Community
P U R P O S E : To show the interconnectedness of life.
O V E RV I E W : The family traces the path its food takes from the natural
world to the table.
M AT E R I A L S :
✓ Paper
✓ Colored pens or crayons
A C T I V I T Y : One member of the family chooses an item of food that the family
particularly enjoys. The family traces the food item back to its source by:
Going to the store where it was purchased, and identifying all the people in the
store who handled it or otherwise were involved in its display and purchase;
•
out how the food got to the store, and contacting, if possible, the
• Finding
carrier to discover all the people involved in its transportation;
the item to any factory or distribution center that may have been
• Tracing
involved in its preparation, and finding out all you can about what happened to the food at this point, and who was involved;
the food all the way to its original state in nature (if it is a single
• Tracing
item, like a piece of fruit or a fish) or to its original component parts (if it is
a processed item containing several ingredients);
going to the place where that food (or those ingredients) exists
• Ifinpossible,
its natural state and learning how it grows and how it is dependent on
the sun, the soil, water, air, and other plants or animals.
then completes the activity by drawing a ‘map’ of the route that food
• Family
takes from its source to the table, identifying the places it travels through
and the people who are important in moving it along the route to your
home. Discuss what you learned.
V A R I AT I O N S – You can do a similar activity by tracing how you get your drinking
water, where your household waste goes, or where your heating fuel comes from.
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Th e P e a c e C o m pa n y
ACTIVITY
Web of Life
PRINCIPLE
OF
P E A C E : Community
P U R P O S E : To illustrate how we are all connected.
O V E RV I E W : Using cards and string, the family creates a "web" connecting
all life.
M AT E R I A L S :
✓ Index cards with the name of things in nature, one per card.
Make enough so each player has a card. Sample ideas — water,
mosquito, tree, bird, sun
✓ Cut pieces of yarn long enough to cross the circle created by
your group.
A C T I V I T Y : The family will:
Distribute one card and one piece of yarn to each member of the group.
One at a time, each reads his/her card out loud and lays the card face up in
front of them.
•
person starts by offering the other end of his/her yarn to someone in
• One
the circle who has a card which is in some way connected to theirs. Have
them articulate the connection. For example, the person with the tree card
gives the yarn to the person with the bird card, stating "Birds build their
nests in trees."
person who was handed the string now offers their yarn to another per• The
son in the circle. When they do this they state their connection to the new
party. To continue the previous example - tree is holding a piece of yarn
connected to bird, and bird holds the other end of that piece of yarn plus a
new piece. Bird gives the other end of the new piece to mosquito, stating
"Birds often eat mosquitoes."
in this way until everyone has had a chance to offer their yarn to
• Continue
another card. People may be holding more than two pieces of yarn, but
everyone must be holding at least one piece. Both ends of each piece must
be held. Take a moment to appreciate the web of connection.
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select one card to drop out of the team. "Mosquitoes are so annoying.
• Now
Let's get rid of them." Everyone who is holding any yarn connected to mosquito must now drop all their yarn. Anyone holding any yarn connected to
those people must now drop all their yarn. This continues on until no one
is holding any yarn.
FOR DISCUSSION:
• What does it mean that we are all related?
• What role do you play in the web of your family, and how does it affect
•
24
others?
What does this game tell you about teamwork?
Th e P e a c e C o m pa n y
ACTIVITY
Dream Team
PRINCIPLE
OF
P E A C E : Community
P U R P O S E : To build the habit of supporting one another.
O V E RV I E W : The family creates a special box that sits on the kitchen table
and holds affirmations for each person in the family.
M AT E R I A L S :
✓ small, plain box
✓ paints and brushes
✓ glitter, stars, stickers, and other decorations
✓ glue
✓ small slips of paper and pencils
ACTIVITY:
Introduce the undecorated box as the future home of your dreams. This little box will hold a slip of paper from each family member on which is written something they are hoping for.
•
paint the box together. Let it dry and then finish it off by gluing on
• Now
other decorations.
a quiet time, have each family member write down something they are
• Athoping
for, working towards, wishing or praying about. This can be anything: "I want to stop wetting the bed;" "I hope my fear of the dark will go
away;" "I wish my friends wouldn’t tease me about my glasses;" "I want to
learn to juggle;" "I pray for patience." Encourage real wishing and not pie
in the sky ideas. What is something you hope for that might really happen?
• Have each person read their slip before they fold it and put it in the box.
a family, discuss and decide how you can support each others’ dreams. If
• Asnothing
else, simply knowing what the person is hoping for will allow you
to encourage them along the way.
a cheerleader for each other, celebrating their successes on their way to
• Beaccomplishing
their dream, or sharing their sadness over setbacks.
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25
the box in a special place. Periodically read through the dreams again
• Keep
(maybe at the monthly "Family Meeting") and replace any that have come
true or are no longer relevant with new ones.
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Th e P e a c e C o m pa n y
ACTIVITY
Appreciating Differences
PRINCIPLE
OF
P E A C E : Community
P U R P O S E : Children learn respect for our human diversity.
O V E RV I E W : Family engages in a treasure hunt to explore the great range of
diversity in its social environment.
M AT E R I A L S : None
ACTIVITY:
At a Family Meeting or other suitable setting, parent introduces the notion
of ‘differences.’
•
considers all the kinds of differences there are already in the family
• Family
unit: such things as: male/female; young/older/elder; level of education;
right-handed/left-handed; etc. Ask critical questions, like: Is one better
than the other? Is one more important than the other? Does one have more
privileges and responsibilities than the other? If so, why? What unique or
special gift does each bring to the family?
expand the treasure hunt beyond the immediate family unit. Consider
• Then
school, place of worship, social group, parent’s work community, etc.
Again, identify the different categories affecting peoples’ lives, such as:
physical ability, race or ethnicity; class/social or economic status; family
configuration (i.e.: same sex parents, single parents, foster/adoptive parents); religion; nationality; profession; political affiliation; etc. Again, ask
questions to elicit understanding of these differences and how we experience them: How do you feel when you see someone who is……? Is one
group ‘normal’ and another ‘not normal?’ How is their life different from
yours? What do you want to know about their experience?
choose one area of diversity to explore further. Reach out to some• Finally,
one or some group with a clearly different life experience from your own.
Befriend them; educate yourself about their lives; go to a street fair or cultural celebration; go to places they live or institutions that serve them to try
to come as close as you can to the experience of people who are different
from yourselves. Talk together about what you are discovering.
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ACTIVITY
We are the World
PRINCIPLE
OF
P E A C E : Community
P U R P O S E : To feel a personal connection with people in other countries.
O V E RV I E W : Family finds out about other places and peoples in the world
through research and personal connection.
M AT E R I A L S : Varies
A C T I V I T Y : Depending on the age of the children and the resources for technology and travel, family will:
Identify a part of the world to explore. This can be sparked by interest in
something on the news, on a television discovery or travel show, by a school
project, family or ethnic background, a previous travel experience, or even
just spinning the globe or opening a World Atlas at random.
•
library, internet, refugee resettlement groups, exchange programs, and
• Use
personal networks as resources to discover all you can about this place and
its people. If people from your chosen country live in your community, go
meet them; invite them to your home.
if possible, a human connection in this other country, and corre• Identify,
spond with this person/family over several months. Find out what you have
in common and how you are different. Share about foods, rituals and celebrations, beliefs, clothing styles, music, etc. Exchange photographs, gifts,
recipes, stories, etc.
is possible, go visit your new friend. Come home and tell others of
• Ifyourtravel
experience.
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Th e P e a c e C o m pa n y
Activities for the Principle of
Witness
29
The Second Principle of Peace:
Witness, the Power of Presence
The second principle of peace we want to share with our children is what we
call 'witness.' This means to live peace from the inside out, as in the familiar
song, 'Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.' Our task is to help
our children discover inner peace, and have the ability to go to that place at will,
so they can move from there, live from there, and go there for renewal when they
feel stress or distress.
In that place of inner peace, we find serenity, harmony, balance, and love. We
also are able to radiate those qualities, sending out the vibration or 'note' of peace
so that everyone who comes in contact with that note will 'feel the vibes' and resonate with it. This is what we mean by 'witnessing' peace - we become the peace
we seek.
To help our children understand how to be a living witness of peace, we must
first understand it ourselves. Let us look again at a tree. How did that tree come
into being? Every plant has a seed that contains, in a miniscule physical form, the
pattern of the mature plant. It contains the whole potential, not just of the fullgrown tree but of the entire growing process, the complete journey and fulfillment, the potential and viability of that plant - it's all contained in that one little
seed that holds the complete life force template of the plant. Each of us is also a
seed - a seed of all we can be. We each carry the seed of our own fulfillment, of
our own glorious flowering, of our full potential. What that is will look different
from person to person. The oak tree is different from the pine tree. Their seeds
look different, and the growth patterns are different as well, yet they both are
nourished by the same life force.
We can understand inner peace as the place where we connect with that potential, where we touch the seed of our sacred selves (for all life is sacred, according
to all our major religions) beyond our personality or our ego. We call this the natural self. When we are in touch with our natural self, we are in touch with infinite
love, harmony, beauty, joy, and peace - those qualities that transcend individual or
cultural experience.
To help our children be peace, we must learn to see beyond the appearance of
their behavior in the moment into that seed of their wholeness. When we address
ourselves to their natural self, we are nourishing that seed and helping it grow.
We speak to it, we call it out, and we honor it, and we teach our children to do the
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Th e P e a c e C o m pa n y
same with others, starting with the family and their peers. When our children
learn this, they have learned what every parent and every teacher hopes a child will
learn, and that is respect. This respect is not based on fear of punishment, or on
the imperative to 'be good,' but instead is based on a true appreciation of the
innate potential of each person.
This is the principle of witness. We want to witness that seed of peace in one
another, sending a clear message that peace is possible in every moment and in
every situation, because its pattern and possibility resides in each of us. How can
we help our children learn this? The first thing to note is that children are more
attuned to energy than adults tend to be. As adults in our culture, we spend a lot
of time and many dollars going to yoga classes, going on diets, or buying tapes
on meditation and self-improvement, because we've forgotten how to manage our
energy. We go to courses on stress management because we live at such a pace
that we have become disconnected from our own natural selves. We forget even to
breathe.
For our children, then, let's start earlier. Let's help them stay in touch with the
power of their breath, the power of stillness, the power of quiet. Let us cultivate
their natural ability to relax completely in a moment, and re-energize and revitalize themselves from the inside out. The ability to find that place of still mind is
essential.
Let us help our children from a very early age tune into that place of stillness
and quiet, even if just for a moment. To take our children to the bank of a river
and to say, “Listen. Let's just listen for a moment. What do you hear in the water?
Or to sit under a tree and hear the wind in the branches. “Ahh, let's listen. Let's
just be the wind for a moment.” If you say to a child before they are socialized out
if it, “Let's be the wind,” they know exactly how to do that. “Let's be a blade of
grass,” they know how to do that. It's the adults who have to relearn how we are
inseparable from the natural world. So let's take the time with our children to
help them remember this before the unnatural world takes over and crowds out
the soul's knowing.
How else can we help our children witness that peace inside, that inner pattern
that wants to grow into the fullness of itself ? Many teachers and parents have
found that having a particular place in your classroom or your home that is called
a peace table or a peace corner can be very effective. It invites children to realize
that peace, finding that place of peace inside, is a choice that they can make. They
can go there whenever they feel out of peace, out of balance, in stress, or distressed. They can go back home to find themselves. Then they can experience the
sensation of peace, the energy of peace, or, as we like to say, the frequency of
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31
peace. All of these states of being, they are states of energy, and energy operates
in waves, and waves are frequency.
It is kind of like a radio, where you can turn to different channels, and each
channel is a different frequency. So it is with our human states of being. We can
turn to the love channel, or the hate channel, or the fear channel, or the peace
channel. And so here we are helping our children tune into the peace channel and
then feeling that peace, broadcasting that peace; broadcasting from that place,
from that frequency. You can use music to help children get there, to that peace
frequency. You can use art, drawing, movement; any of the creative arts can help
people get to that place of inner peace. When our children know that this place
exists inside them that they can visit at will, and they can live from that place, even
for just a moment at a time, then they have taken a giant step in being the peace
that we all seek to create around us. Now they are witnessing that second principle of peace from the inside out. The following exercises can help our children
learn this important skill.
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Th e P e a c e C o m pa n y
ACTIVITY
Creating a Peace Corner
PRINCIPLE
OF
P E A C E : Witness
P U R P O S E : The purpose of the Peace Corner is to create a sacred place in
your house that honors each person’s need to cultivate inner
peace. The Peace Corner makes space for – and expresses value
for – quiet, reflective time. It also provides a place where conflicts can be peacefully resolved.
O V E RV I E W : Together as a family you will set up a Peace Corner in your
home, which will function as a sanctuary for inner and family
peace.
M AT E R I A L S :
✓ Low table
✓ Pillow
✓ Nature and other peace-full images and items
✓ Simple activities that encourage reflection
✓ Family talking stick or talking stone
✓ Family Journal
A C T I V I T Y : Together, the family will:
Find a quiet area in your house where you can devote space to your Peace
Corner.
Furnish it with a low table (a coffee table is perfect) on a comfortable rug.
Place a comfy pillow in front of the Peace Table to provide a cozy spot for
your family members.
Add items and images from nature. Collect treasures from outside, such as
special rocks, feathers, shells, pinecones, etc. Be sure to have a basket or
tray to contain your collection.
Also add other reflective activities, such as a mini-Zen Garden, snow globe,
chime, or a Magnetic Poetry board. Rotate different activities over time, seasonally or as they become age appropriate.
Place your family’s talking stick on the table. This is a simple stick, decorated with string, beads, feathers, or other special items, which can be used to
•
•
•
•
•
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•
•
allow each person in a discussion or conflict to speak without being interrupted (see Talking Stick activity, page 46)
Find a blank book and create a Family Journal. This is a place where family
members are invited to draw or write. There can be poems, or cartoons, or
messages to each other. (See Family Journal Activity, page 57)
Consider other items as well, such as:
Laminated picture of the earth – you can hang this on the wall in front of
the Peace Table as an indirect reminder of the sacred quality of our planet.
Beautiful cloth or place mat – use this to provide a defined area. Place all
other items on or around this mat.
Peace rock: This gives family members something to hold on to. It can
feel cool and smooth and soothing and act as a simple reminder of what
you are there for.
Laminated card outlining conflict resolution process: This is a step by
step approach to solving conflicts which erupt in your family. (see
Conflict Resolution Card activity, page 47)
Discuss the ground rules of the Peace Corner
This is a place to spend quiet time alone.
When someone is in the Peace corner they are not to be disturbed.
It is not a place that anyone will be sent; rather it will be a place of sanctuary where people are free to be undisturbed to have their feelings,
think, reflect, or simply just be.
Items in the Peace Corner are handled carefully and treated with respect.
Family members go to the Peace Corner when they need to work out a
conflict. There are tools there, which can help them resolve their differences in a loving and nonviolent way.
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
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Th e P e a c e C o m pa n y
ACTIVITY
Sitting Still
PRINCIPLE
OF
P E A C E : Witness
P U R P O S E : To come to a place of stillness, inner peace
O V E RV I E W : Practice being quiet by sitting around an object and watching
it for increasing amounts of time
M AT E R I A L S :
✓ Something to look at: fish in fishbowl, small water fountain, sand timer
✓ Chime or bell of some kind
ACTIVITY:
Explain that this activity will be to try to bring our bodies to stillness. This
is very hard and may take a while to achieve.
•
everyone sit on a comfortable rug on the floor. Attempt to sit cross• Have
legged to increase the feeling of being centered.
the fish bowl (or whatever you are watching) in the center of your cir• Place
cle.
simply and attempt thirty seconds of stillness. Explain that you will
• Start
ring the bell as the cue that the stillness part is to begin. When the bell
rings again, it signals the end.
• Ask everyone to take a deep breath and exhale slowly.
• Ring the bell. Breathe. Watch the fish. Ring the bell after thirty seconds.
• Talk about the experience.
• Gradually increase the amount of time each time you play this game.
DISCUSSION:
• What did you notice?
• How did you feel? How do you feel now?
• Was it hard? What made it hard? What would make it easier?
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ACTIVITY
I Hear
PRINCIPLE
OF
P E A C E : Witness
P U R P O S E : To become aware of different levels of listening.
O V E RV I E W : Family sits together quietly to practice listening to the sounds
that surround us all the time.
M AT E R I A L S :
✓ Brainstorming pad and thick marker
ACTIVITY:
Sit together either inside or outside, and listen quietly to the sounds around
you (wind in the trees, cars, refrigerator motors, your heart beating, etc.).
•
• Together, list all the things you heard.
you’ve written down everything you heard, draw a line below the
• When
sounds listed.
sit (or lie down) quietly and concentrate on listening even more
• Now
deeply. Create total silence so you can hear noises beyond your own group.
After a minute or so, read over the first list and then add any new sounds
that you each heard. List these below the line.
DISCUSSION:
• What do you notice about listening?
• Was there a difference between the first round and the second round of
•
36
listening?
What is important about listening?
Th e P e a c e C o m pa n y
ACTIVITY
Red Light Green Light
PRINCIPLE
OF
P E A C E : Witness
P U R P O S E : Play this as an experience of active state, relaxed state.
O V E RV I E W : Old-fashioned Red Light, Green Light with a twist
M AT E R I A L S :
✓ A nice big area outside
ACTIVITY:
One person is the caller. They call the words "Red Light" and "Green Light"
•
the caller says "Red Light" you fall to the ground and find a relaxed
• When
position. You hold this position until "Green Light", then you get up and
move around.
in "Red Light" mode you must become so relaxed that the caller can• When
not see you move a muscle (explore the difference between being still by
tensing up and being still by being totally relaxed).
as the caller notices someone moving during the relaxed phase,
• Astheysoon
switch places and that person then becomes the caller.
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ACTIVITY
Finding Your Place of Peace
Principle of Peace: Witness
P U R P O S E : To help children have a direct experience of inner peace, and
know they can find that place at will.
O V E RV I E W : Children are led through guided imagery to discover their own
place of inner peace.
M AT E R I A L S :
✓ Paper
✓ Crayons or colored markers
ACTIVITY:
Adult and children sit together and practice "Sitting Still." (see page 31)
•
explains we’re going on a magic carpet ride in our imagination.
• Adult
Helps children get quiet, comfortable, and relaxed. Suggests children close
their eyes and listen as the adult guides them on this journey, letting pictures, sounds, or ideas come easily and naturally in the mind’s eye.
then reads the following guided imagery session (or something simi• Adult
lar) Note: When you see ….., that means pause a bit for the child to be in
the experience you just described:
Begin by just paying attention to your breath. Now you breathe in, now you
breathe out…. Feel the flow, the circle, of the in-breath turning into the outbreath, then the out-breath turning into the in-breath… Just follow your
breathing for a while…. Now we’re going on a magic carpet ride. Imagine a
beautiful magic carpet appears at your feet. You sit on it, and when you
breathe out, the breath lifts the carpet and carries it high in the clouds for a soft
and wonderful ride….
The carpet lands you at a very special place of peace and beauty. This is your
very own place, where you are totally safe, and where you can feel complete
peace. It might be a real place you have been before, or it might be a place in
your imagination. Look around you – what do you see?… What does it look
like? Is there anyone else there? Are there any sounds? Any smells? Colors?…
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Th e P e a c e C o m pa n y
Feel how peaceful you are in this place. See how beautiful it is. Notice how safe
you feel, how good everything is here….This is your very own special place of
peace, and you can come here anytime you want, because now you know the
way….
Before we come back on the magic carpet, look around you one more time, and
tell this place ‘thank you’ for being here for you. As you say ‘thank you,’ you
will notice something very special in this place that you would like to bring
back with you…. Pick it up, and hold it against your heart. This is your special ‘gift of peace’…Now notice the magic carpet waiting at your feet. Climb
on, and allow the breath to carry the carpet back to you, in this room, where
you are sitting… Slowly, when you are ready, gently open your eyes and look
around… Feel your body on the ground, in the room. Notice how you feel;
notice the other people in the room. Take a deep breath and wake up even more.
everyone is back from their journey, invite each person to quietly take
• When
some paper and drawing materials and draw a picture of their own special
place of peace, or any part of their journey. It could be a picture of what they
brought back, or of the place itself, or of the whole journey or some part of
it. There is no judgment of drawing skills. Each person draws whatever is
important to them about this experience.
everyone has finished drawing, show your drawings to each other
• When
and talk about them. Hang them in a special place so you can always
remember and find that place again.
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ACTIVITY
Peace Radio
PRINCIPLE
OF
P E A C E : Witness
P U R P O S E : To experience a direct connection to the energy of peace.
O V E RV I E W : Everyone practices broadcasting from the peace channel.
M AT E R I A L S : None
ACTIVITY:
Turn on a radio and talk about what happens when you change channels.
Have an age-appropriate discussion about broadcast frequencies.
•
• To play the ‘peace radio’ game, everyone:
• First, close your eyes and go back to your place of peace. (See "Finding
Your Place of Peace" activity, page 34). Feel what it feels like there; feel it
in every cell of your body.
Now open your eyes and look around the room, and ‘send’ that feeling to
everyone present, without outer words or movement, just by ‘turning up
the volume’ of how you feel. You might say words to yourself if you wish,
like: ‘peace to you,’ or ‘I send you peace.’
Imagine you have a volume dial in front of you that goes from 1-5. Start at
the lowest setting, volume 1, and gradually turn up the volume (the
strength) of the peace you are broadcasting until you reach 5. Stop and
ask, what did other people notice when you were broadcasting? Make
sure everyone has a chance to do this.
When everyone has had a turn, everyone broadcasts from their peace radio
at the same time. Decide ahead of time where in the world you would like to
send this ‘message;’ who you hope could tune in to this ‘show’ on the airwaves and receive this peace broadcast. Imagine, as you are all sending
peace messages together, that they are going to that place. See your message received, and helping those who received it find peace in their lives.
•
•
•
Point to Consider: This is a good activity to do when children are concerned about
special acts of violence, terror attacks, wars, or other such events in the news. It
helps them feel they have something positive to contribute.
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Th e P e a c e C o m pa n y
ACTIVITY
Picturing Peace
PRINCIPLE
OF
P E A C E : Witness
P U R P O S E : To help children connect with the ideal and vision of peace.
O V E RV I E W : Family members draw pictures of their dreams and hopes for
peace.
M AT E R I A L S :
✓ Paper
✓ Crayons, markers, colored pencils
A C T I V I T Y : At a Family Meeting or other suitable setting, family members:
by talking about peace – what is it? What would it look like – in our
• Start
home, in our schools, in our community – if there were peace? What are
our dreams, our hopes for peace on earth?
family member draws a picture of peace arising from this conversa• Each
tion, and gives it a title.
one takes a turn sharing their picture with the whole family, talking
• Each
about what they drew and why.
a Peace Gallery by hanging the pictures on a wall, making sure that
• Make
each is labeled with the title of the picture and the artist’s name.
friends or relatives come to visit, they are proudly shown the family’s
• When
Peace Gallery.
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ACTIVITY
Growing Seeds of Peace
PRINCIPLE
OF
P E A C E : Witness
P U R P O S E : To encourage children to relate to the inner perfection of themselves and others.
O V E RV I E W : Family members nurture the seeds of peace and love in one
another.
M AT E R I A L S :
✓ Bulletin board
✓ Post-it notes
ACTIVITY:
Family sits together to discuss the idea that we already contain the seeds of
our best selves – the seeds of love, of peace, of kindness, of fairness, of
beauty, of truth, etc. – and that our job as a family is to nourish those seeds
in one another and help them grow.
•
agrees to water the seeds of peace and love by recognizing them in
• Family
each person and in each situation.
one family member notices another behaving in a peaceful or
• Whenever
loving way, they write what they saw down on a post-it note and put it on
the bulletin board. Examples: Susan grew her seed of peace when she apologized to Jason for calling him a bad name; Max grew his seed of love when
he gave Mommy a hug when she stubbed her toe.
the family reviews the notes and celebrates how each one is
• Periodically,
growing their seeds of peace and love.
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Th e P e a c e C o m pa n y
ACTIVITY
Find Your Family Sanctuary
PRINCIPLE
OF
P E A C E : Witness
P U R P O S E : To increase your feeling of connection with nature.
O V E RV I E W : As a family, find a place in the natural world that nourishes
you, and go there together seasonally.
M AT E R I A L S :
✓ Family Journal
✓ Pencil
✓ Colored pencils
ACTIVITY:
Go exploring together in the natural world. If you live near woods, a park,
or an open space where you can walk, explore the area. If not, drive to a
place you can explore. Find an area or a particular spot that you identify as
your family’s nature sanctuary.
•
are exploring, notice the beauty and the mystery. Take time to stop
• Asandyoubreathe
and feel the awe and wonder.
about the concept of ‘sanctuary.’ Maybe there is an Audubon Sanctuary
• Talk
near you.
everyone to help in discovering a sanctuary for your family. This will
• Invite
be a place you can come each season to be together in peace.
you have found your special spot, spend some time there. Sit together
• Once
and talk about what you notice. Try sitting in silence or playing a round of
"I Hear" (see page 32)
particular attention to the season and how that affects your sanctuary.
• Pay
Write these observations in your "Family Journal" (see page 57). In this way
your family will be prepared to notice changes the next time you come.
• Allow time for people to make sketches in the Journal.
dates on the calendar for the next three seasons to ensure that you will
• Put
return to your sanctuary and watch nature change.
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ACTIVITY
Musical Wind Down
P R I N C I P L E O F P E A C E : Witness
P U R P O S E : To induce calm and set the stage for sleep.
O V E RV I E W : Allow music to help the family wind down at night.
M AT E R I A L S :
✓ Music suggestions — Enya, Paul Winter, Andreas Vollenweider,
Al Petteway – anything that is soft, dreamy, and calming
A C T I V I T Y : Family creates a new aspect of your bedtime ritual
Find some relaxing music that sets a tone for calm
•
• Play this music while everyone is brushing teeth and getting into pajamas
• Sway gently with the music; do your activities in its rhythm
• Allow it to help you find the rhythm of your own breath
your child is in bed, turn the music off by slowly turning down the
• Once
volume. This will provide time to part with the music, rather than the
abrupt ending of pressing "stop"
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Th e P e a c e C o m pa n y
ACTIVITY
The Listening Game
PRINCIPLE
OF
P E A C E : Witness
P U R P O S E : To develop the skill of active listening.
O V E RV I E W : Family plays ‘the listening game’ to embed the value that each
one’s voice is important to the whole.
M AT E R I A L S : None
A C T I V I T Y : At a Family Meeting or other suitable setting, family plays ‘the
listening game:’
• Family sits in a circle and counts off, A, B, C, D, etc.
person has 3 minutes to tell a story about something that happened to
• Each
them today or something that is important to them. Person A begins by
speaking to person B. B must summarize, paraphrase, or otherwise tell
back the important parts of the story to A’s satisfaction before moving to
tell their own story. They must report: the content (what happened), the
emotions (how the person felt), and the meaning (how this story or these
events are important to the teller). When person A is satisfied that s/he has
been fully ‘heard,’ person B then turns to person C and tells his/her story.
Continue around the circle until everyone has had a chance to tell their
story and to practice listening.
about how it feels to have the complete attention of another person
• Talk
when you are talking about something important to you, and how it feels to
have your voice truly, deeply ‘heard.’
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Activities for the Principle of
Nonviolence
47
The Third Principle of Peace:
Nonviolence, the Power of Love
The third principle of peace that we hope to share with our children is that of
nonviolence. The word 'nonviolence' is a very interesting term because it defines
itself by what it is not. When you look deeply behind the word, behind the concept and the practice of nonviolence, to the root of it, you find the principle of
love. Nonviolence is really about love. It is about keeping the heart open, and
being generous, compassionate, caring and empathic. If we understand the first
principle of community, that we're all in this together, that there is only one of us,
a single web of life, then we understand that when we hurt anyone in that web, we
are hurting ourselves. This leads to a natural commitment to harmlessness, to do
no harm. We choose to not hurt others, to avoid our own suffering, because if
others are suffering, we will too.
First, let us consider the effects of violence. Our children are surrounded by violence. It is time to wake-up and look around us at what our children are seeing
and taking in and hearing every single day. The popular culture that our children
are growing up in is full of violence. Watch the shows that they watch, play the
video games they play, and listen carefully to the words of the music that your
teens and preteens are listening to. We need to educate ourselves, and then educate our children. That means to sit with our children and watch together, or play
together, and talk about what we hear, what we see. It is all about how we make
sense of our environment.
Find out how your children are making sense of what they see and hear. What
messages do they get when they see the bully on the playground? What do they
incorporate? What do they integrate into their worldview? As a parent, as a
teacher, you get to be part of this conditioning process and have some input. You
get to help interpret the messages they receive from their environment, and to create circumstances where they learn the peace messages you hope they will internalize.
One way to do that is to educate our children on the violence that's invisible
around them. This is not the hitting, the kicking, the blowing up, and the maiming that they see everyday in their entertainment. This is the silent violence of
poverty, racism, sexism, human rights abuses, and genocide. These types of violence are not silent to the people who are the victims of them, but to people who
are not directly involved, they're invisible. They need to become visible because, as
48
Th e P e a c e C o m pa n y
we know from our first principle of community, we're all in this together, so if
someone, somewhere, is experiencing the violence of poverty, of racism, of sexism, of homophobia, of genocide, that effects us as righteous human beings. If
the dignity and the well-being and the physical integrity of other people are
abused; we are abused as dignified human beings ourselves.
Our children need to learn about these things. Not from a scare tactic, not from
a place of 'ain't it awful', but from a place of 'this is how some people treat each
other. What can we do about it?' Invite your children into action around injustice,
around human rights abuses, around oppression... Even at a very early age, children understand these things. Children understand about fairness. You know that
when you cut a piece of pie, a child will say, 'You got a bigger piece than me, that's
not fair!' Children understand about fairness and they can be shown how these
principles of respect, dignity, love and nonviolence play out in our human relationships around the world and in our own communities and in our own families.
They can be called. through witness, which is really presence, the presence of
peace, to make a difference.
Now, let's look at the other stream of nonviolence, which is open-heartedness.
How can we foster in our children the power of love? The first thing is to tell our
children how much we love them, many times a day, expressing our love in various forms. It is important to show gratitude that the child is who she or he is, not
only what she or he does. 'Thank you for being in my life,' 'Thank you for being in
my classroom,' 'Thank you for being who you are.' Not just, 'Thank you for bringing me the dishes.' We can also help our children express their love and appreciation and gratitude for others as well.
We can have norms and rituals in our families, and in our classrooms, for how
to come back to love when we hurt each other, because we do hurt each other. The
closer we are to each other, the more we hurt each other. It isn't far distant people
who hurt each other; it's families, members of families. We need then to know
how to make that correction. Some people call this conflict resolution, and that's
a good name for it, but another name for it is cultivating open-heartedness.
The heart is a pump that expands and contracts. So it is with love. We open our
heart and then we close our heart, and then we open our heart and then we close
our heart. It would be wonderful if we all could walk around throughout our lifetime with our heart wide open most of the time, and closed just enough to spring
open again with renewed vigor. Many of the people who are able to do that we
look upon as heroes and saints and heroines and we try to be like them, like
Mother Teresa for instance or Nelson Mandela. And yet, many of us are not quite
there yet. Our task with ourselves and with our children is not so much that we
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49
are that full loving presence all the time, but that when we're not, we know how to
get back to it and we gently bring ourselves back. This we accomplish through
saying 'I'm sorry,' when we have hurt another, and by accepting the apologies that
come to us. We forgive and we heal our wounds. We rebuild trust where it has
been broken. And we make amends where we have broken faith and damaged
love.
Finally, we can help our children take this sense of love, appreciation, generosity, and harmlessness to a larger scale. We can do this by introducing them to the
people in history and in our present time, who have exemplified these qualities.
Read to them about those who have led mass movements of non-violence, like
Gandhi, like Martin Luther King Jr. Share about those who are living witnesses to
the power of love, like Mother Teresa. Include those who are living witnesses to
the power of forgiveness like Nelson Mandela. It is essential that we help our children have heroes and heroines who are about the power of peace, love, forgiveness and joy, rather than the generals and the soldiers who get famous because
they've won battles.
When we have done this, we will have gone a very long way to developing and
infusing our children's hearts and minds with the power of nonviolence and how
to be in the world in a place of joyous open-heartedness. The exercises that follow
can help our children embed nonviolence and open-heartedness into the core of
their being.
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Th e P e a c e C o m pa n y
ACTIVITY
Love-Meter
PRINCIPLE
OF
P E A C E : Nonviolence
P U R P O S E : This is a good activity to teach children that our hearts expand
and contract, and how we make choices to open or close our hearts to one
another.
O V E RV I E W : Family members take turns loving each other ‘as big as…;’
then loving friends, and ultimately, strangers and even ‘enemies.’
M AT E R I A L S :
✓ Large piece or roll of paper
✓ Magic Markers or crayons
A C T I V I T Y : Family plays the ‘Love-Meter’ Game by:
First, make a very large thermometer-type image, and divide it into five or
six sections. Label each section, starting from the bottom, with statements
that show an ascending degree of love. For instance, the lowest section
might be "I love you as big as a peanut." The next section might say, "I love
you as big as this house!" The ultimate section might say, "I love you as big
as all the galaxies and stars and planets in the whole wide universe!"
•
person gets to play the game by choosing one other person in the
• Each
family, and stating each Love Message up the scale, until they reach the top.
They should be encouraged to put their whole heart into it, and say each
statement like they really, really mean it.
each person has had a chance to both practice the Love-Meter and be
• When
told by someone in the family how much they are loved, pick people who
are not as close to family members, and see how far up the meter you can
go. For instance, how far up can your children honestly go about their
teacher at school? How far can you go about your boss at work? When you
have gone as far up the meter as you can honestly go, push yourself one
level up, to see how it feels.
everyone has done that, identify people or other beings you don’t
• When
think you can love at all – people who have hurt you (bullies at school,
friends who have betrayed you, etc.) or animals/insects you might be afraid
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51
of. Start them below the lowest level on the meter with a true statement
(example: I don’t like you at all!’ or,’ I’m really afraid of you!’) and see how
far up the meter you can get, that is, how much you can open your heart to
them when you try.
DISCUSSION:
• How did you feel doing this activity?
• What did you notice about how you felt at the lowest end of the meter (or
below the lowest end) and at the highest end? What did you notice about
your heart opening or closing?
• What were some things that got in the way of opening your heart further?
Fear? Pain? Anger? Distrust? What else?
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Th e P e a c e C o m pa n y
ACTIVITY
Talking Stick
PRINCIPLE
OF
P E A C E : Nonviolence
P U R P O S E : To honor the voice of each person.
O V E RV I E W : Make a Talking Stick for conflict resolution work within the
family
M AT E R I A L S :
✓ Stick
✓ Yarn, ribbon, embroidery floss, etc.
✓ Beads or charms
✓ Small shells with holes, feathers, or similar objects
ACTIVITY:
Take a walk outside
•
a few sticks that are about as thick as a marker and bring them
• Collect
home.
• Lay out the sticks collected and choose one (or more than one) to decorate.
each person in the family take turns wrapping the yarn or embroidery
• Have
floss around the stick, varying colors and textures.
• String the beads, charms, shells and feathers on as you go.
• While this is being done, read the paragraph below about the Talking Stick.
•
The Talking Stick is from the Native American tradition. It is used to allow
each person a chance to speak without being interrupted. Whoever is holding
the Talking Stick is the only one speaking. When they are done they pass the
Talking Stick to the next person. Now they are only listening, no longer speaking. Because each person’s speech is considered a gift to the whole circle, people
are not using their listening time to plan what they are going to say, but
rather to listen carefully and receive the gift being shared by the speaker. The
Talking Stick can be used to share stories, to resolve conflicts, or to give ideas.
Consider it a sacred tool to allow everyone’s voice to be heard and respected.
Practice using the Talking Stick by taking turns to share about this activity.
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ACTIVITY
Conflict Resolution
PRINCIPLE
OF
P E A C E : Nonviolence
P U R P O S E : To aid in the peaceful resolution of family conflicts
O V E RV I E W : Conflict Resolution steps are written up and practiced by
family members
M AT E R I A L S :
✓ pencil and paper
ACTIVITY:
At a Family Meeting (see page 58) discuss and agree on steps for resolving
conflicts that occur within the family.
•
• Consider the following steps as a guideline:
• Breathe— Everyone takes a breath to slow down and get calmer.
• Commit— Everyone agrees to work this out without violence, with a
win/win approach, and in a way that restores the relationship
Share— Each person in the conflict takes a turn to speak about what has
happened (using the Talking Stick is helpful), and what they want. The
other person listens without interrupting. Continue passing the Talking
Stick back and forth until everything has been said.
Reflect— Each person reflects back the main points of what they heard
the other person say.
Find solutions— All parties brainstorm ideas for solving the problem, for
helping people get what they need, and for healing the hurts.
Make apologies and amends— Each person takes responsibility for what
they did to hurt the other or to feed the conflict. Each person apologizes
for their part, and says what they will do to make amends.
Make agreements— Determine which actions will work best, and each
party says what they are agreeing to do.
(Please note: this format can be followed by family members on their own
with each other, or with a third party [mediator] helping out.)
•
•
•
•
•
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Th e P e a c e C o m pa n y
down the conflict resolution steps your family has chosen, and place
• Write
in the Peace Corner (see page 29) for people to reference as needed.
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ACTIVITY
Reverence for All Life
PRINCIPLE
OF
P E A C E : Nonviolence
P U R P O S E : To teach children to love and respect all beings
O V E RV I E W : Family practices rituals to honor all creatures.
M AT E R I A L S : None
A C T I V I T Y : At a Family Meeting or other suitable setting:
first discusses the idea that every being that lives is a part of one cre• Family
ation, equally sacred and equally valued. Use whatever words fit for your
belief system: sacred, holy, divine, perfect, in the image of God, beautiful,
worthy, etc.
family decides on a ritual gesture to show respect for that spark of life
• Then
force in each being: a bow of reverence, a salute, a hand over the heart,
whatever you choose. Select also a phrase that goes with the gesture: ‘I
honor the life in you;’ ‘I see your beauty;’ ‘You are part of God;’ etc.
you can go outside, find as many different types of beings as you can
• If(rocks,
trees, birds, fish, worms, dogs, insects, stars, etc.) If you can’t go
outside, bring pictures or even just say the names of as many as you can
think of. For each being, family members take turns practicing their gesture and words of reverence.
DISCUSSION:
• Talk about how this feels. Was it harder to show respect for a stone than
•
56
for a person? For a worm than for a dog? For a fly than for a horse? If so,
why?
Talk about what this means for how you treat insects? Animals that are or
aren’t pets? Plants and weeds in your garden?
Th e P e a c e C o m pa n y
ACTIVITY
Violence Count
PRINCIPLE
OF
P E A C E : Nonviolence
P U R P O S E : To increase awareness of violence in the media.
O V E RV I E W : You will make note of all forms of violence displayed in a
favorite television show.
M AT E R I A L S :
✓ Paper and pencil
ACTIVITY:
Have a discussion about what constitutes violence. Expand the definition
from physical violence to include words and deeds. The thesaurus includes
these synonyms~ aggression, fighting, hostility, cruelty. Talk about how
this might come through language or acts which are not obviously violent
(for example starving a pet).
•
• Choose a show to watch together
one person be the Count Keeper. Using the pencil and paper, they will
• Have
record all the acts of violence observed by any family member. Decide ahead
of time if you want them separated into categories.
does not have to agree during the show on whether a particular
• Everyone
act is violent or not; if even one person believes something to be violent
then it makes the count. After the show you can discuss your different
opinions.
the show is over, review the list. Talk about why you felt that some• After
thing was violent. If it was words, was it the words themselves, the tone
of voice, the underlying meaning, etc.?
DISCUSSION:
• How did those acts of violence make you feel?
• What could the characters have said or done differently that would offer
•
a more positive message?
How do the values of this show match your family values?
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ACTIVITY
Nonviolence Heroes and Heroines
PRINCIPLE
OF
P E A C E : Nonviolence
P U R P O S E : To expose children to nonviolence role models and inspirational figures.
O V E RV I E W : Family together explores the stories of special people who
have overcome hatred and fear and used nonviolent methods
for social change.
M AT E R I A L S :
✓ Books
✓ Internet
ACTIVITY:
Select one or more role models for nonviolent action. You might choose
from: Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Mother
Teresa, Peace Pilgrim, or others.
•
books in the library or in bookstores, or information about them
• Find
through the internet that tell the stories of these people in age-appropriate
ways.
• Read, share these stories with your children, and talk about them.
your children to make reports on these people for school
• Encourage
projects.
• Put posters of them or their wise words around your home.
• Celebrate their birthdays, or anniversaries of special events in their lives.
a difficult situation comes up in your child’s life or in the family, or
• When
on the news, asks, "What would _________ do in this situation?"
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Th e P e a c e C o m pa n y
ACTIVITY
Highs and Lows
PRINCIPLE
OF
P E A C E : Nonviolence
P U R P O S E : To provide people with a safe opportunity to reflect on and get
help with the hard parts of their day, especially those situations
that may have contained violence or the potential for taking us
out of our place of peace.
O V E RV I E W : We recount the day’s events, identifying what went well and
what didn’t, and look for approaches to overcome difficulties.
M AT E R I A L S : none
ACTIVITY:
At the dinner table, go around and share the day’s "highs" and "lows"
•
• Have each person say what was great and what was hard about their day.
some time to really understand the "lows". What was hard about that
• Take
moment? What could have been different that would have changed the outcome? How can that family member take charge of this situation if it happens another time?
• Celebrate the "highs"
track of each other’s progress if there is a "low" that might be ongo• Keep
ing, such as trouble with a bully or an unfair teacher. Check in the next day
or later in the week to see if any of the ideas were helpful. Continue to
strategize about how to peacefully resolve any ongoing issues.
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ACTIVITY
Bedtime ritual
PRINCIPLE
OF
P E A C E : Nonviolence
P U R P O S E : To move into sleep from a place of gratitude and calm
O V E RV I E W : Create a routine to support finishing the day in peace.
M AT E R I A L S : none
ACTIVITY:
Formalize your bedtime routine by generating an order of events (i.e.: bath,
music, books, bed, etc.)
•
• Create a ritual you will follow every night once your child is in bed.
• This may include a song that everyone can sing together to close the day
• If you pray, it may include prayers. If not, include wishes (‘I wish
•
•
•
•
60
Grandma would feel better;’ ‘I wish there would be an end to
pollution…’)
Does anyone need to ask for forgiveness from themselves or others
to end the day in peace?
Have everyone share something for which they are grateful
Close with a lullaby sung by parents
Experiment with these parts until you find a ritual that works for your
family; adapt as children grows older.
Th e P e a c e C o m pa n y
ACTIVITY
Give Away!
PRINCIPLE
OF
P E A C E : Nonviolence
P U R P O S E : To inspire acts of generosity.
O V E RV I E W : Share what you have with those in need.
M AT E R I A L S : Possible things to give away
✓ Books —to the local library, prison, homeless or battered women’s
shelter
✓ Bedding— to homeless or battered women’s shelter
✓ Toys— to childcare centers, office waiting rooms, hospitals,
homeless or battered women’s shelter
✓ Clothing — to Social Service agencies, school nurse’s office,
homeless or battered women’s shelter
ACTIVITY:
Read the story of how Jesse’s Place (a homeless shelter in Philadelphia)
came to be, from the book Raising Compassionate Courageous Children
in a Violent World, by Dr. Janice Cohen (Longstreet Press, Atlanta Georgia,
1996). Or any other story of how one person’s vision and generosity created
lasting change. Talk about it together.
•
• Discuss some of the needs in your community.
the privilege and good fortune you have in your family that allows
• Discuss
you not to have to worry about food, shelter, clothing, toys, etc.
things that your family has plenty of that are needed by others in
• Identify
your community.
a place to share your bounty with, pack your give-away objects, and
• Select
go together to make the gift.
DISCUSSION:
• How did it feel to give something away?
• What more could your family do to help?
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Activities for the Principle of
Cooperation
63
The Fourth Principles of Peace:
Cooperation, the Power of Sharing Power
The fourth principle of peace that we want to share with our children is that of
cooperation. This is something that parents works on with their children beginning at a very young age. We start out by talking about sharing. But cooperation is
much more than sharing. In many ways it is the combination of the other three
principles. When we truly have deep within us that core understanding of community, and the power and presence of peace from within, and we are living from
the open heart, then we move into the action of building a world together that
works for all of us.
This is the action component. This is where we say, “When we put our hearts
and our minds together, from the place of peace, see what we can create.” It is
about partnership, sharing, and finding common ground. It is about finding solutions that are win-win solutions rather than win-lose solutions. It is about finding
ways that everyone gets their basic needs met. It is about creative problem solving.
It is about looking at our problems as shared challenges and opportunities.
This principle is about the use of power. It is about the sharing of power, and
about understanding power, not as coercion, or power over another. Those ways
of dealing with power belong to the culture of violence. They arise from the mind
of separation. That's the world we're leaving behind. In the world that we're creating, power is really power 'with,' or power 'to,' instead of power 'over.' True
power is the ability to change, the ability to make things happen; it is the power to
create. We are creating our reality, our world, all the time, mostly unconsciously,
but it's time now to teach our children to become conscious of how we're creating
and what we're creating. It is time to be purposeful and strategic about the world
we want to live in.
So how can we help our children do this? The first step is to remember that our
thoughts, our words, and our actions all have consequences. Those consequences
can be pleasant or unpleasant. When we know this, we take responsibility for our
words and for our actions. We take responsibility for creating the kind of classroom we want, or the kind of home that we want, or the kind of relationship with
our friends and our peers that we want. We help our children know what they
want. We help them know the values they want to live by in their lives, and then
help them create a world that sustains those values. It is important to acknowl-
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Th e P e a c e C o m pa n y
edge that those values may be different from the world around them. This is
where their courage comes in. It takes courage to be a peacebuilder. The first step
is co-creating our reality, by putting our hearts and minds together.
The principle of cooperation is about creating. We need to activate the creative
element of our child's life. Again, here's where children already have an advantage
over the adults we've been socialized into. How many of us, when invited to draw
a house, will draw a centered square or rectangle with a roof and chimney, with
flowers and trees in the front yard. We've been socialized to limit our creative abilities. Children have not yet been limited in that way, and so they are infinitely creative. We want to help children foster, and nurture, and sustain that creative ability because that's what allows us to come to the difficulties of the world with a new
eye. It helps us to come to the difficulties in our lives with a power for finding
solutions. Let's remember, this is all about power. It is about a power, or potential
that allows us to transform; to turn aggression into friendship, to turn the corner
on hatred and fear and intolerance.
One simple way of activating and sustaining creativity is to practice brainstorming with our children. 'Let's think of all the ways that we might deal with our
trash today,' for example. We invite kids to just say anything that comes to their
mind, not be limited by what's possible, or what's feasible, or what's affordable.
'Let's think of all the ways that we might spend a Saturday together and have fun.'
Now we get into the area of decision-making, because power and cooperation
are about how we make decisions together. It is important in our classrooms and
in our homes to have very clear procedures for who makes what decisions. It is
empowering to children to allow them to make decisions that affect their own
lives. A child for whom every aspect of his or her life has been decided by an adult,
up until the time they are 18 or 21, is sorely unprepared for life. We need to bring
our children to a place where they can make their own decisions and live with the
consequences from an early age. At the same time, of course, we have to protect
them from making decisions when they don't have the full capacity to understand
the consequences. For example we wouldn't let a child decide to put their hand on
a burning stove.
We need to develop some rituals, some processes, some norms in our classrooms and in our homes about decision making, so that children can participate
in making the age-appropriate choices that impact their lives. Margaret Wheatley
says, 'People own what they create.' The more involved our young ones are in
determining the shape of the world around them, the more they feel included and
inclusive in that world.
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65
The activities that follow are ways we can help our children learn to feel their
own power, shape their own lives, and affect the lives of those around them.
When our children are able to direct those choices towards the other three principles of peace - community, witness, and nonviolence - then they have the full circle of what they need to be solid, strong, courageous peacebuilders, builders of a
culture of peace, builders of a new tomorrow.
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Th e P e a c e C o m pa n y
ACTIVITY
Family Journal
PRINCIPLE
OF
P E A C E : Cooperation
P U R P O S E : To increase family communication.
O V E RV I E W : A family journal is used as a place where the family can hold
important information, share items of interest, or send messages to one another.
M AT E R I A L S :
✓ An empty journal book ~ preferably unlined
✓ Colored pencils
ACTIVITY:
Using a new blank book, begin a Family Journal.
•
family members to write messages, draw pictures, write poems, cre• Invite
ate cartoons, etc., in the new Family Journal.
• Use it to write down agenda items for Family Meetings (see page 58)
it in a certain spot where it is available to everyone. If you have a Peace
• Keep
Corner (see page 29), that is a great place for it to live.
it periodically together, to honor the individual and collective family
• Review
voices.
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67
ACTIVITY
Family Meetings
PRINCIPLE
OF
P E A C E : Cooperation
P U R P O S E : To provide time for the family to discuss and agree upon a wide
variety of topics.
O V E RV I E W : Describes how to structure a family meeting.
M AT E R I A L S :
✓ Family Journal or paper on fridge for agenda items
✓ Pencil
✓ Clock or timer
ACTIVITY:
Pick a regular time for the meetings to occur (e.g., first Sunday of the
month at 6 PM). Monthly is good; more often if you like.
•
clear which kinds of decisions parents will make for the family, and
• Bewhich
kinds of decisions are suitable for the whole family to make together.
(Consider age, impact, life experience, etc.) Communicate these distinctions clearly.
up with a clear way the meeting begins and ends. Set a certain
• Come
amount of time (based on the ages of your children) the meeting will last
and don’t go over. If you are in the middle of something hot when the discussion time is due to end, create some temporary closure to give people
more time to think about the issue and schedule another meeting which
can occur sooner than the regularly scheduled monthly meetings.
each meeting the same way, perhaps with the same song, poem, or
• Begin
quotation.
the Family Journal (see page 57) to collect items for the meeting agen• Use
da. The person who is facilitating the meeting leads the opening and then
turns to the Family Journal for the items to be discussed.
times for how long the discussion part will be, and then address items
• Set
one by one. The person who wrote the issue opens with an explanation for
why the item is being raised and the discussion follows from there.
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Th e P e a c e C o m pa n y
• Be sure that the topic is thoroughly discussed before a solution is sought.
• Brainstorm solutions
• Select a solution that everyone can agree to put into place.
• End the meeting the same way each time. Try a song or a toast or a cheer.
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69
ACTIVITY
Who’s in Charge?
PRINCIPLE
OF
P E A C E : Cooperation
P U R P O S E : To give children experience of sharing power and leadership.
O V E RV I E W : Each family member gets a time to be ‘in charge’ – of a Family
Meeting, a special event, a household activity, a game, etc.
M AT E R I A L S : Whatever is appropriate for the activity you choose.
ACTIVITY:
First, set some family guidelines for what being ‘in charge’ means – and
doesn’t mean. (For instance, it doesn’t mean you can be bossy; it doesn’t
mean you can make someone do something that isn’t good for them or
that’s hurtful; it does mean you can assign roles to get a job done; it does
mean you can set the time boundaries for when the activity will begin and
end, etc.) It’s important to make the point that leadership is not about
‘power over,’ but about ‘power with’ – that is, helping people share their
skills and gifts and energies to create something good together.
•
find an age-appropriate situation for each family member during
• Next,
which they can experience being in charge of an activity that involves the
whole family. (For instance, a 3 year-old might be in charge of what we talk
about at dinner one evening; an 8-year old might be in charge of running
the Family Meeting; a 10 year-old might be in charge of everyone working
together to prepare a birthday dinner for Grandma; a 14 year-old might be
in charge of everyone working together to clear the yard of leaves on a Fall
weekend; etc.)
• Have an ‘in charge’ calendar, so everyone knows when it’s each person’s turn.
each person has had their time to be ‘in charge,’ talk about how it
• After
went, how they felt; let each family member give some positive feedback or
appreciation about that person’s leadership.
V A R I AT I O N :
• You might want to make a very big deal about this, and do it often, as an
ongoing family exploration of good leadership. You could give certificates, you could keep a page in your Family Journal for identifying espe-
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Th e P e a c e C o m pa n y
cially helpful leadership traits, you could set ever-increasing leadership
challenges as children grow older, etc.
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ACTIVITY
Group Art
PRINCIPLE
OF
P E A C E : Cooperation
P U R P O S E : To have a direct experience of working together to create something beautiful.
O V E RV I E W : The family creates a work of art together.
M AT E R I A L S :
✓ Big roll of paper or big poster board
✓ Paints
✓ Crayons
✓ Markers
✓ Pastels
✓ Colored pencils
✓ Scissors and glue
✓ Collage materials
✓ Any and every art material you have
ACTIVITY:
Create an open work space where you can create your work of art. Lay down
newspapers to protect from mess
•
• Set out your paper or poster board.
• Surround it with all your art supplies, creating stations.
• Have each person choose a station to start.
• Review any ground rules about the use of certain art materials.
the idea that this empty space will be filled with a work of art
• Introduce
you will all create together. There are no boundaries. Anyone is allowed to
paint, glue, draw, anywhere, anytime. They must however use only the
materials at their station. People must be prepared that something they
create might be changed by the additions of another person.
how long you will spend on the project and divide the time by the
• Decide
number of stations. This will give you the number of minutes each family
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Th e P e a c e C o m pa n y
member gets at each station (i.e.: 30 minutes, 5 stations = 6 minutes
per station).
• Elect a time keeper or use a timer.
• Put on some wordless music and let the ART begin!
the time is up rotate clockwise, so everyone is at a new station. Begin
• When
again.
this process until everyone has been at every station. It would be
• Continue
fun to photograph the project at each change of station to keep track of
how your masterpiece grows and changes.
DISCUSSION:
• Did people have a favorite station?
• Was there a moment when someone changed what you did that was hard
•
•
•
for you?
Was there a moment when someone added something to what you did
that you think made it even more beautiful or interesting?
As a whole, did the mood of your art work change over time?
When you do this again, what will you do differently?
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ACTIVITY
Building a Peace Structure
PRINCIPLE
OF
P E A C E : Cooperation
P U R P O S E : To experience building a peace structure together.
O V E RV I E W : The family works together to create a physical structure that
stands for their vision of peace.
M AT E R I A L S : Virtually anything that can be used as construction and/or
decoration material, such as:
✓ Blocks
✓ Popsicle sticks
✓ Tinker Toys
✓ Ribbon, yarn
✓ Balloons
✓ Construction paper, crayons, markers,
✓ Glue or paste, scissors, paper clips, twine, etc.
ACTIVITY:
Family sits together around a cleared table or an open space on the floor,
and decides what kind of structure to build that will represent ‘peace’ for
them. It could be a palace, a tower, a ship, a garden – whatever.
•
the various materials, the family works together to create their peace
• Using
structure.
• The finished product should:
• Be at least as tall as a grown-up’s knee
• Have at least five different colors in it.
• Have at least one moving part.
• Seem beautiful to everyone.
• Have a sign beside it with its name (for example: The Ship of Peace).
end of the building process, the family discusses the experience, pay• Atingtheparticular
attention to:
• Did each person contribute?
• Did anyone feel left out?
• How did decisions get made?
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Th e P e a c e C o m pa n y
• Does each person feel good about the final product?
• Does each person feel good about how it all happened?
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ACTIVITY
Three-Legged Dance
PRINCIPLE
OF
P E A C E : Cooperation
P U R P O S E : To give family members a body-centered experience of working
together.
O V E RV I E W : Family members spend an hour together in three-legged
teams.
M AT E R I A L S :
✓ Cloth strips
ACTIVITY:
Family members pair up into teams of two.
•
side by side, each team ties their inner legs together with the cloth
• Standing
strips. It works well to make one tie above the knee and another below the
knee. The ties should be firm enough to hold the legs together but not so
tight as to affect circulation or be uncomfortable.
team then spends their one hour together, doing chores, playing,
• Each
going grocery shopping (okay, you’ll attract some attention, but why not
introduce others to the idea of cooperation too?), whatever you like.
Point of Interest: This is a good activity to do in different combinations, so that
children have a chance to be paired with other children and also with adults, and
to see adults working together as well. Also, encourage children to be safety-conscious with this activity.
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Th e P e a c e C o m pa n y
ACTIVITY
Round-Robin Stories
PRINCIPLE
OF
P E A C E : Cooperation
P U R P O S E : To give children a fun experience of co-creativity.
O V E RV I E W : Family members take turns building a single storyline.
M AT E R I A L S : None
ACTIVITY:
One family member starts a story. ‘Once upon a time...’ They take the narrative to a certain point, then stop in the middle of a sentence or at a
moment of suspense.
•
• The next family member picks up the storyline at that point and adds to it.
this process until every family member has contributed at least
• Continue
once, and the story comes to a natural end.
V A R I AT I O N S :
• You can tell fictional stories or use this to tell the story of a real experi•
•
•
ence the family has had together (e.g., our trip to the zoo; when Suzie
broke her arm; etc.)
You can use a simple timer (sand glass, oven timer, etc.) to determine
when each person’s turn is up.
You can start by having each family member contribute one word – it can
be any word at all. The story then has to include all of those words as key
parts of the storyline.
You can get everybody laughing by taking the story when it is completed
and turning it into a song to the tune of "Freres Jacques" (or some other
tune that everyone knows).
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ACTIVITY
Family Game Night
PRINCIPLE
OF
P E A C E : Cooperation
P U R P O S E : To bring the family together to have FUN!
O V E RV I E W : On a set night the family plays games together.
M AT E R I A L S :
✓ Any board games
✓ A book of cooperative games
✓ A deck of cards
ACTIVITY:
Select one night out of the week to be devoted to Family Game Night.
Choose a night where the homework responsibilities are low and people do
not have other commitments. It can be an hour or less.
•
who will choose the game, so each family member has a week when
• Rotate
they select the game the family will play.
• Don’t forget games like: Charades, Dictionary, Duck Duck Goose, etc.
• Play!
• Enjoy your time as a family.
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ACTIVITY
Group Problem-Solving
PRINCIPLE
OF
P E A C E : Cooperation
P U R P O S E : To cultivate the skills needed for successful problem-solving.
O V E RV I E W : Opportunities to figure things out peacefully through role
plays
M AT E R I A L S :
✓ Scenarios given below copied onto slips of paper
✓ Slips of paper and pencils for writing new scenarios
✓ A box with a lid
ACTIVITY:
Copy the following scenarios onto slips of paper and put them into the
Help Box.
•
that the Help Box has some problems in it that need to be solved by
• Explain
the family. Pairs will pull a slip from the box and read it privately. Then they
will act out the problem. They can do it like a mini-play with words and
even props if they like.
another family member guesses the problem, the family sets to work
• Once
brainstorming peaceful solutions. The original pair then privately confers
and chooses one of the solutions to act out.
• When they are done, everyone guesses which solution they were acting out.
• Then a new pair can choose another slip from the box.
• This is a great game to add to Family Game Night (see page 68)
extension is to have the Help Box and slips in the Peace Corner for
• Another
people to write new scenarios based on real life conflicts.
SCENARIOS
FOR THE
HELP BOX:
You can make up your own scenarios, or use these:
Julie and Tanya are just getting home from school. They had both
planned to play jump rope right away. As they both reach for the jump
•
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•
•
•
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rope they realize the other wants it too. They begin to argue and pull at
the jump rope. What could they do instead?
Juan and his sister Jennifer are riding bikes in the park. They each think
the other knows the way. Soon they realize they are lost. They begin to
blame each other. What could they do instead?
Kenny and Trevor are building a fort together. Trevor adds branch after
branch while Kenny is still working on getting the foundation solid.
Kenny stands up and the whole thing collapses. They are both angry and
begin to push each other. What could they do instead?
Mary came home from work late and the kitchen was dark and empty.
John was playing Lego’s with the children. When Mary asks if they have
already eaten, John is surprised and says "No, we were waiting for you!"
Mary storms out angrily and begins to slam pots around in the kitchen
making dinner. John follows her and they begin to argue. What could
they do instead?
Th e P e a c e C o m pa n y
ACTIVITY
Family Ritual
PRINCIPLE
OF
P E A C E : Cooperation
P U R P O S E : To give child experience of working creatively together
on something that is meaningful to the whole family.
O V E RV I E W : Family creates and enacts a special ritual together.
M AT E R I A L S : Whatever is necessary for the ritual you choose.
ACTIVITY:
At a Family Meeting or other suitable setting, family decides together on
something of significance they want to celebrate or commemorate as a
family. It might be something joyous (a graduation, a birthday, an anniversary, a wedding, a holiday, etc.) or something solemn (the death of a loved
one, a religious initiation, etc.). It might be related to nature (tree-planting,
harvesting a vegetable garden, the Solstice or Equinox) or it might relate to
human activity.
•
first considers what the event means to them, and what elements of
• Family
a ritual they would like to include (perhaps refer to other rituals that you
know, like what you do for peoples’ birthdays, or how you celebrate your
most important religious holiday).
each person is assigned one part of the ritual to prepare. (Or, people
• Then
could work together in groups of two.)
you hold the ritual, find some way to record it for posterity – write
• When
something in your Family Journal, make a video, take pictures, etc.
Point of Interest: Consider certain elements common to many rituals: food, candles, song, stylized movement (like a progression down the aisle), prayer, gifts,
special or sacred objects, etc. Encourage family members to make, craft, or otherwise create as many of these elements as possible, for increased interest and
engagement.
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ASK BESS & BUBBY
How to Raise a Peaceful Child
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Introducing Bess and Bubby…
Bess and Bubby (Bubby is a Yiddish word for grandmother) have between them the
experience of being mother and grandmother; elementary and high school teacher;
professional peacebuilder, peace educator, and peace coach; humorist, and writer.
They are deeply committed to helping parents and teachers create peace cultures at
home and at school, so that our precious children can grow and thrive with peace
at the center of an embedded set of values and behaviors in their lives.
In the following pages Bess and Bubby address 12 key questions representative of
the kinds of concerns they have heard over and over again from parents seeking to
raise peaceful children in the midst of the violent world around them. Ask Bess
and Bubby your own question by going to our website, www.thepeacecompany.com,
and clicking on Children’s Peace Corner, or by emailing us at:
bess&[email protected]
Bess and Bubby cannot promise to answer every question they receive, but they will
take as many as they can right there on the website. Check periodically for updated
Bess and Bubby responses. Meanwhile, read on, and do let us know how these suggestions are helpful with your children!
Dear Bess and Bubby…
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—1 —
Dear Bess and Bubby,
When I leave the room, my two children, ages 6
and 8, often start arguing and fighting. What should I
do?
Worried in Washington
Dear Worried,
Basically, you can play one of four roles when your children fight. You can be
the Mediator, acting as a third and impartial party to help them work out whatever
the issue is between them; you can be the Arbitrator, deciding for them the outcome of the dispute; you can be the Coach, reminding them of any earlier agreements the family might have made about how to resolve conflicts, supporting
them in surfacing their feelings, asking questions that help them understand
what they want and need in the moment, or encouraging specific behavioral
options; or you can be the Fire Breathing Dragon, jumping in and getting all worked
up and yelling and shouting yourself. (We don’t particularly recommend the latter
option, though there are moments when you might be tempted...)
You will need to determine which role is most appropriate for your situation.
Perhaps your kids are fussy because they are tired or over-stimulated, and need
some time playing apart – a good moment for the Coach to emerge to encourage
this option. Perhaps they are having a real dispute, and do need help finding a
workable solution – call in the Mediator! If they seem to be fighting to get your
attention (and you aren’t worried about anyone getting hurt), you might call out
cheerfully from the next room, ‘I’m sure you can work it out!’ If you need to be the
Arbitrator (especially in cases where physical injury is imminent or already a factor, or where your children are unable, for whatever reason, to work it out themselves), you can step in calmly, direct the players to their various corners
(metaphorically speaking), and lay out the solution of your choice.
The long-term answer to your question is, of course, to have some agreements
and expectations established while your children are very young about how you
will speak to one another, what behaviors are and aren’t acceptable ‘in our family,’
and what methods you will use to negotiate disagreements. This gives your children a reliable reference point, and a set of boundaries that create the safe space
everyone needs to be able to struggle and tussle with each other and come out the
other end with more wisdom and more love. Remember, they will take their cues
from you, watching the methods you use to help them work it out.
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Here is a related question, though the circumstances are a bit different and call for slightly different response.
—2 —
Dear Bess and Bubby,
We have a toddler and a baby in the house. My oldest
is jealous of the baby, and often pushes her away from
me, or hits her (or kicks, bites, etc.). How can I
help him deal with the changes in our lives and learn
to control himself, and also protect the baby from
harm?
Upset in Utah
Dear Upset,
Sibling rivalry is as old as the human family. This is something your children
will have to deal with throughout their childhood (and for some, even beyond), so
now is a good time to start. The long-term learning for your son is to manage his
emotions in non-harmful ways, and the challenge for your daughter is not to see
herself as a helpless victim. For both, it is that there is plenty of love to go around.
You don’t mention how old your son is, or how verbal. So here are a variety of
responses you might try. No single response is the perfect one in every circumstance; you might find a combination of two or more work best in any given situation. You will have to use your judgment, but we do recommend as much consistency as possible. The bottom line is to remember that your job is to encourage
your son to learn, not to punish him. This requires that you remain calm and firm
in your own responses.
1. Your first duty, of course, is to protect your daughter from undue harm. You
need to assess the degree of danger she may be in. We cannot shield our
children from the normal hurts of life, but we can protect them from outright danger. If your son is swinging or hurling a sharp object in her direction, you need to remove the object and remove him or the baby from each
other. If, on the other hand, he is pushing her aside and you are there to
assure she doesn’t fall to the ground, that’s another story.
2. Even a toddler can begin to learn to use words instead of hitting. Your job is
to help him connect his inner experience (feelings) with his outer behavior
(actions). You want to validate the emotions – he’s entitled to them – while
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guiding him to more appropriate ways of expressing them externally. You
will need to help him out with this until he is old enough to make the connection between emotions, words, and actions on his own.
Thus, you might want to reflect back to him his likely emotional state: “It
seems you’re feeling like Mommy’s with baby more than you right now.” Or,
“I bet you’re wanting Mommy’s full attention right now.” Or, “It’s hard to
share Mommy with baby sometimes, isn’t it?” Then you will want to make
the link with the behavior. “Pushing the baby is not the best way to get the
attention you’re wanting from me right now.” Finally, you might suggest
alternatives: “Let’s think of other ways you might let me know what you
want.” Depending on his verbal skill level, you might suggest he use his
words to tell you when he’s feeling left out, or you might have a special nonverbal signal he can use to signal his distress.
This approach will not necessarily stop his behavior at first, and you may
feel a bit silly speaking this way without getting any response from him, but
trust that you are laying a foundation for him to develop this emotional intelligence as he matures. The day he first acknowledges that yes, you have identified exactly how he is feeling, will be a day to celebrate indeed! (And by the
way, sometimes just having our feelings acknowledged allows us to stop the
attention-getting behavior.)
3. Your son is letting you know by his behavior that he feels left out or unloved.
Your task, whatever else you may do, is to reassure him of your full and
unconditional love and support. Even as you set boundaries, you can frame
them in love: “I understand you want my full attention. Right now I also have
to be with the baby. I love you so much; when the baby goes down for her
nap in a little while how about if you and I spend some special time together,
just us two?”
4. Start laying down core principles, even if they don’t seem to make sense to
your child at this age. “In our family we don’t hurt each other. Can you share
what you’re feeling in some other way?” Your ultimate goal here is to establish a peace culture in your home. Your children will integrate this culture the
more they see it, hear about it, and practice it. It may take some time for your
son to understand this, but trust us, your repeating the family values (“In our
family we….”) will have a cumulative effect, and one day you will be delighted and surprised to hear him repeating this to his younger siblings or visiting friends!
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5. Also, a toddler is old enough to begin to learn about apology and amends.
We call it the ‘Ouch/Oops!’ cycle. When we are hurt, we say ‘ouch!’ That is
the signal for the one who caused the hurt to say ‘Oops, I’m sorry!’ Your baby
can’t say ‘ouch!’ on her own behalf yet, but you can say it for her, and
encourage your son to complete the transaction with the apology. In this
way, you don’t have to force or shame your child into an unfelt apology (‘Say
you’re sorry, right now!’); the word ‘ouch’ becomes an automatic cue to stop
and consider how one’s behavior is affecting others. We don’t actually expect
your son to understand all this just yet, but again, if you start the process
now he will soon learn it. Until he has it on his own, your job is to remind
and encourage him – when we hurt someone, we apologize. The amends is
the follow-up action to make things whole again. If he tears her bottle out of
her hands, an “I’m sorry” is important but not enough; he also needs to give
the bottle back to her.
6. We may feel tempted to pick our child up and carry him out of the room
when he hurts his younger sibling. If done in anger, this can actually reward
his intention of getting your attention (remember, children learn not to distinguish between positive and negative attention). If done in a positive way,
such as taking yourself out of the room, it might be very useful. Remember,
your reaction should not include a punishment or a banishment. Rather, it is
an opportunity for your child to change his emotional state and feel better. “I
see you’re having trouble being with me and the baby without hurting her. I
love you so much, and want to be with both of you right now. Can you stay
with us and be happy, or do I need to go to the other room for a while until
you feel better?” When he feels better, he can rejoin the rest of the family and
you can talk about what happened or figure out how to deal with the situation if it happens again. By you yourself taking the Time Out, especially if
you are having strong reactions to his behavior that you would be sorry about
acting on, you provide everyone with a pause, or a moment for things to
shift. You can take the baby into another room, and let your son know you
will come out again as soon as you are calm and ready. This is excellent modeling for how to deal with big feelings without hurting anyone else.
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—3—
Dear Bess and Bubby,
My eight year old went to full day camp this summer
for the first time. He came home with some new language and some new behavior. Now he puts his sister
down and calls her ‘stupid,’ rolls his eyes at me,
mutters under his breath, and directly defies me.
Should I just accept this as part of the “Boy
Culture”? Help!
Clueless in Claremont
Dear Clueless,
What a wonderful moment your son is in! He is exploring the world around
him, trying out new behaviors, seeing what kind of response he gets, and beginning the long process of figuring out where he fits in with his peers. And you,
dear parent, get to go along for the ride! It’s kind of like when your child first
learns to ride a tricycle, and then rides it around the corner and out of your sight
for the first time. You’re in totally new territory now – together.
Start by checking in with your own feelings. Are you hooked into some familiar
response (anger, helplessness, fear, disappointment) when he behaves in these
new ways? The more you can release your feelings and judgments about what he’s
doing, the more you will be able to be present to him as a guide and coach on his
journey of exploration. Remember, this is not about you; it’s about him and how
he is learning to be himself.
Rather than address the behavior head-on, initiate a general conversation about
family values at a time when he is not engaged in his new behaviors. Remind him
that all families have different ways of doing things, and that in our house, this is
how we choose to speak and relate to each other, and why. Acknowledge his experience – “I see you’re trying out some new behaviors that you probably saw other kids
do at camp. What did you notice there about how kids treated each other and the
counselors? How was it different from how we are in this family? How did you feel?”
Let your son know you appreciate that he’s learning and seeing new things, and
that we all try on new behaviors from time to time – that’s how we learn. At the
same time, gently remind him that “in our family we choose to use gentle words
and treat each other kindly. If you need help remembering that, I’ll be happy to
help you.” The whole family might engage in a discussion about how to remind
each other when someone has forgotten our norms.
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You will never be able to protect your son totally from the influence of what you
have so aptly called ‘Boy Culture,’ but you can establish and maintain a different
culture in your own home, so that at least your children have something to refer to
as they grow up and make their own decisions about who and how they are in the
world. Happy travels, and do let us know what happens!
—4 —
Dear Bess and Bubby,
I am a single Dad with two young children. One goes
to daycare and the other started school this year. I
find in the morning I’m under a lot of time pressure,
and that I am the worst parent on the planet. I am so
stressed out that I find myself yelling and snapping
and saying things I don’t mean and instantly wish I
could take back. This is not the kind of parent I want
to be, and definitely not the peaceful environment I
want in my home. Can you help?
Irritable in Indiana
Dear Irritable,
This is a great opportunity to show your children that even Dad is learning and
growing in his ability to speak respectfully and kindly to others. At a Family
Meeting or other suitable setting, let your children know you are committed to
changing your behavior in the morning. Freely admit that you find yourself angry
and irritable from the time pressure, and apologize for how you are taking it out
on others through yelling and inappropriate language. Ask for their help. Turn it
from your problem (though you take responsibility for your behavior) to something the family can solve together. You will give your children a great gift by turning the tables and inviting them to help you be more peaceful!
Since you have identified the issue as time pressure, and not as a basic underlying predisposition to snarkiness, we suggest you enroll the family in working
together to expand the time at either end (thereby reducing the pressure) for getting everyone out the door in the morning. Talk about what can be accomplished
in the evening before bed; or consider getting up earlier in the morning. Your children are old enough to help – they can select and lay out their clothes, set the
breakfast table, or be involved in making their own lunches – all the night before.
Look too for ways the older child can help the younger one, perhaps with getting
washed or dressed.
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What a terrific chance to practice the old saying, ‘Let peace begin with me!’
—5 —
Dear Bess and Bubby,
I am at the end of my rope, so I hope you can help
me. My three year old is having temper tantrums.
Nothing I do seems to help – I ignore her, I hold and
cuddle her, I tell her she won’t get to watch television, I tell her she’s too old for this, all without
success. She yells, throws herself on the ground,
kicks and screams. I am about ready to go out of my
mind. Any suggestions?
Tired out in Texas
Dear Tired Out,
Before you address how to deal with your daughter’s tantrums, let’s look at the
possible causes. Is there a pattern? Do they seem to happen at the same time every
day? After eating certain foods? Are certain events (bedtime, Mommy leaving for
work, etc.) triggering them? If you can find such a pattern, you might be able to
head off the tantrums by changing the external conditions.
Keep in mind that tantrums are essentially about power. It is the classic, tried
and true method for those below voting age to get a little power. As you review
possible causes, reflect on how you can empower or share the power with your
daughter. Try giving choices. For instance, if she has a tantrum around getting
dressed, consider having her choose what she wears, and whether she gets
dressed now or in 10 minutes. Sometimes something as small as including your
child in the decision-making process can go a long way to preventing tantrums.
There are basically two approaches to responding to tantrums. One is when the
behavior is a power play, and your daughter is using her behavior to command
your attention or otherwise get what she wants. In this approach, you would walk
away and gently say, “I’ll be happy to talk with you when you’re ready. I’ll be right
here in the next room.” Then say no more until she stops screaming. Or give her
the same message without leaving the room, but in any case do not engage – by
reacting, judging, threatening, blaming, attempting to ‘fix’ her, or in any other
way. Let her know that you are there for her, but not as a participant in a power
struggle.
At other times it’s important to help your child feel safe when she’s out of control. This could lead to cuddling, perhaps whispering some gentle love words in
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her ear. Then you might attempt to redirect her energy into words. “It’s hard to
understand what you want when you’re screaming. I can hear you better when you
say more quietly what you need right now. Can you calm down so you can tell me
what’s going on?” Then stay with her – without restraining her – until she does
get quieter.
At a time when she is calm, you might want to raise the issue of the tantrums as
a mystery you’d like her help in solving. The basic idea is to help her find words
for her inner experience, and then figure out the most effective ways to communicate that experience to you. You will have to be attentive to that fine line between
talking about what she wants and getting what she wants. Toddlers are self-oriented. They want what they want when they want it! This is the perfect age,
though, to begin to teach basic negotiation skills, so that your daughter learns
that getting what she wants is a process of interaction, discussion, and relationship.
By the way, both approaches to tantrums can be effective, so you might want to
experiment with what feels right for you, what seems right in the moment, and
what works best with your daughter. Good luck!
—6 —
Dear Bess and Bubby,
My six year-old, Jack, has made friends with the
roughest, biggest trouble-maker in the first-grade.
His name is Ryan and he is out of control. I don’t
know why Jack is drawn to such a friend but I do not
want to encourage this friendship. The hard part is
that Jack asks me again and again if we can invite
Ryan over for a play-date. I don’t want to do it, but
Jack gets so disappointed when I say “no”. He asks me
why, and I make up excuses. What should I do instead?
Mystified in Minneapolis
Dear Mystified,
Your children will interact with all kinds of people in their lives, and they need
to learn to make their own independent choices. Also, the more you say ‘no’ the
more Jack will insist. We suggest you invite Ryan over, and treat him like you
would any of Jack’s other friends. He may need a more explicit review of your
expectations initially until he grows accustomed to how things work at your
house. But we know that children respond to how adults view them. If you tell
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yourself that Ryan is a bad apple, he is more likely to be one. But if you leave yourself room to be surprised, and you give Ryan the support he needs, you might find
that he is relieved and pleased to be in a household where there are clear boundaries and norms of kindness and caring.
This way, if your worst fears are realized, and Jack becomes more aggressive
through his relationship with Ryan, you will at least have some shared data that
you can refer to in your discussions with Jack. The over-arching goal, remember,
is to be assisting Jack in making choices about his values, and about the people he
wants to be around. This is a skill Jack will need all his life; he will never learn if
he doesn’t experiment. Six years old is not too early to start!
—7 —
Dear Bess and Bubby,
My daughter Rose, who is 11, is having a very difficult time with her friends. She used to be best
friends with Tasha and Marie, but now they exclude
her, call her names, and make fun of her in front of
the other kids. Rose is heart-broken, and often comes
home from school in tears. How can I help her?
Tearful in Takoma
Dear Tearful,
Oh how well we remember this one! Having lived both sides of this dynamic in
our youth (not that long ago…) – the excluded and the excluder – we can certainly
empathize with Rose, and with you for having to stand by helplessly and watch
her suffer.
Your job is to help Rose maintain her sense of self-esteem throughout this
process. It is hard to feel love-able, wanted, and worthy when your best friends
turn on you. You can help her understand that this is not about her; that there is
nothing about who she is or what she has or hasn’t done to merit such treatment.
(Unless of course she has betrayed a secret, talked down one of her friends
behind her back, or committed some other friendship-breaking act, in which case
she might want to apologize...)
A big piece of this all-too-common dynamic is power. Boys test their power
with peers through aggression and daring; girls do it more subtly. If you can help
Rose find her inner place of power now, it will serve her well all her life. What
would make her feel more powerful in this situation - to tell Marie and Tasha her
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feelings? To invite one or the over and attempt to make an independent relationship with each? To find another friend or otherwise widen her social circle? To put
her attention elsewhere and develop a new hobby?
Above all, this is a critical time in Rose’s life to make sure she can talk with you
about what is happening, what she is feeling, and what will help. You need to listen, be present, be helpful, but not take on the pain or encourage any victim mentality. Sometimes simple, non-reactive listening is what a girl needs to figure the
situation out. Then, together, you can craft a plan that feels right to Rose. Helping
your daughter become proactive in a time of hurt is one of the greatest gifts you
can give her.
Here are two questions that deal with similar issues, so we have bundled them together.
—8 —
Dear Bess and Bubby,
I am trying very hard to have a nonviolent home, but
my son is very interested in war toys and violent
action figures – basically anything that has the
potential for gruesome, gory, bloody or destructive
action. Please don’t tell me not to buy these things,
because he has his own money, saved up from allowance
and birthday gifts. I’ve run out of ideas. Please help
me!
Disgusted in Delaware
—9 —
Dear Bess and Bubby,
I have a boy who is almost 13, and he is an avid
computer game player. Almost all the games he and his
friends are interested in (or that are sold for that
matter) are centered around violent, aggressive behavior, e.g., enemies, empire-building, dueling, space
wars, etc. He spends hours every day literally blowing
people up! If I want to raise a peaceful child, what
do I do—-keep him away from his friends, deny him the
opportunity of playing video games??? Help!
At a Loss in Atlanta.
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Dear Disgusted and At a Loss,
It is true that the society in which our boy children are growing up is one that
glorifies war and promotes a testosterone-fueled love affair with violence. The bad
news is – after a certain age, you cannot completely protect your sons from exposure to this culture. It is everywhere around them, from toys to television shows;
from movies to music; from real war games on the news to video war games in
the home. The good news is – you can mitigate the effects of this culture by establishing and maintaining a different set of norms and values in your own home.
You can also help your sons think critically about what they see, hear, and do.
We start with the premise that you have already laid a foundation for ‘how we
do things in our family.’ You have already, we hope, created some expectations
about how we speak to and treat each other, using our words instead of our bodies to express anger, how we solve conflicts, and our choice not to hurt each other
through words or actions. Next, you have ideally started at an early age to help
your children develop what is often called emotional intelligence, meaning the
capacity to identify and talk about what they are feeling. And, you have created a
climate in the home where anything is ‘talk-able.’ [If you haven’t established this
culture in your home, it is never too late to do so.]
That said, here are five things to consider:
1. As we said in our earlier answer about ‘Boy Culture,’ it exists; deal with it. It
is not helpful to you or your son to pretend the culture of violence in our
society doesn’t exist, or to imagine that you can shield your child from it
totally. You may lament its existence, but you may not excoriate your son for
participating in it. Not all boys are drawn into it, and some seem to be
caught in it at certain times in their lives, only to walk away from it later. If,
or in this case, when your son is engaged in the excitement of violence as
play or entertainment, you can accept that that is where he is, without condoning or condemning. That’s just where he is. You have to start from where
you are. As a friend of ours says, “You can’t get there from not here.”
2. Part of what’s so attractive about these toys and games is that they excite,
stimulate, give a sense of power, and produce an adrenalin rush. Also, they
provide an outlet for your son to do something with his energy that brings
him immediate, visible and, in some strange way, pleasurable effects. One
approach you can take is to provide an alternative outlet that produces similar results. Many parents have found that the martial arts satisfy this need.
Although they too are about fighting (except for Aikido, the martial art of
harmony, which we strongly recommend), they are also about discipline,
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respect, and managing your energy responsibly. Sports might be another
such outlet, or some kind of physically-active hobby.
3. These war toys over-emphasize the masculine energy that is a natural part of
your son’s biological make-up. Testosterone is real! Part of your job is to
make sure the feminine energy inherent in your son is also activated. A true
culture of peace is grounded in a dynamic balance of the masculine/feminine
principles. Our current culture of violence is clearly tipped way too far to one
side. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is none other than to do
in your own home what, collectively, we in the movement for a culture of
peace are attempting to do in society as a whole, and that is to re-establish
that sacred interplay and balance of yin/yang, masculine/feminine.
So what can you do to energize the feminine qualities in your son’s persona?
How can you encourage other activities that help him develop compassion,
empathy, inclusiveness, relationship, receptivity, nurturing, and intuition?
Don’t collude with the dominant society that calls this ‘sissifying;’ remember,
your work as a parent committed to raising a peaceful child is about creating
new patterns for a new society. Be proud, be brave, be determined!
4. It’s okay for you to have your values and your beliefs, and to set boundaries,
as a parent, that you feel are in the best interest of your whole family. You can
be clear with your son that you personally don’t like games of violence, and
give your reasons (because they glorify hurting rather than helping, they
teach aggression and force as solutions to problems instead of working
things out, etc.) Therefore, you can set personal boundaries around this.
For instance, you might choose not to spend your money buying violent
games and toys. If your son has his own money, or get these things as gifts,
or through trades with his friends, fine, that’s his choice. You choose not to
have them played in your personal space, or the family’s shared space. If
your son wants to play these games in his space – his bedroom, or a part of
the house you all agree to as suitable for this activity – fine. All of this is done
matter-of-factly, without the slightest hint of guilt-tripping on your part.
That’s just how it is – you have certain values that are important to you, and
you are helping your family steep in these values because that is your job as
a parent. Your children are entitled to have different views. As a family, you
negotiate your differences based on certain ‘givens.’ If you can set these
limits with genuine respect (without anger or disgust or devaluing what
the games mean to your son), you are modeling the peaceful acceptance of
differences.
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5. Lastly, we invite you to turn your concerns about your sons’ involvement with
games of violence into excitement about the teachable moments this situation presents! Yes, you can find wonderful and creative ways to use these
games and toys as an opportunity to explore critical issues of human life the nature of good and evil, the difference between make-believe and real
life, the distinction between personal and impersonal, and your son’s direct
experience of his feelings and his energy. The secret, again, is not to react
but to engage.
Ask questions: “Oh, you seem to really enjoy that game. What do you find
exciting about it?” “How come the good guy always wins? What’s the difference
between the good guy and the bad guy anyway? If the bad guy is hurting people
and needs to be stopped, how come the good guy is using violence to stop him?”
“How do you feel when you blow up (shoot, stab, kill, destroy, etc.) the enemy?”
“How do you feel when someone hurts you? Have you ever seen a real person hurt
like that?” “Would you like to be a soldier when you grow up, and use real
weapons? Why/why not?” Etc.
Help your son make a personal connection to the reality of war and violence,
and its effects. Perhaps take him on a family field trip to a Civil War battlefield,
a World War I or II cemetery, a Vietnam War Memorial, the former site of a slave
market, a Veterans’ Hospital, the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC, or
Ground Zero in New York City. Or, if appropriate, tell stories about violence that
was perpetrated against your family or your ancestors, and the effect that has had
on your life. As a counterweight, explore the teachings of your particular faith tradition, or of moral leaders you hold in high esteem, that demonstrate nonviolence
as a spiritual and/or a practical method of social change.
In short, without making it a morality lesson (“You’re playing those vile games
so I have to teach you what violence is really like!”), use your son’s interest in
these activities as a doorway to explore with him some of the most vital issues
facing the human family today.
Finally, not to scare you but to alert you, we want you to know that studies
show there is, in many but not all cases, a correlation between watching violence
or playing violent games with aggressive behavior. Be on the look-out for this
with your son, and if you see it, bring it to his attention, again without blame or
shame, so he can begin to monitor his own experience.
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—1
0—
Dear Bess and Bubby,
Our children were deeply upset by the events of
September 11, and they have not yet gotten over their
fear. They are now 10 and 12, and ask every morning at
breakfast if there have been any more terrorist
attacks overnight. They are very safety-conscious –
almost too much so. If they are home alone for any
period of time (a necessity due to our work schedules), they call frequently – ‘just to check in.’ They
have heard about the Columbine school massacre, and
are asking lots of questions I cannot answer. How can
I help them come to terms with the awful reality of
terrorism and mass violence in our world?
Concerned in Connecticut
Dear Concerned,
Your children are expressing openly what many adults are feeling as well: “How
can we ever feel safe in a world where some individuals are eager to slaughter as
many people as they can? How could such terrible things happen? How can we
live like this, with no control over when or where it might happen next?” Getting
their fears and questions out in the open can be the first step, even if you don’t
have any good answers for them.
The life lesson here is being able to feel the fear but not let it control or cripple
your life. It is scary that planes can fly into buildings when you least expect it, or
that someone can pull an automatic rifle out from their coat or press a button on
their belt and obliterate a whole room full of people. Learning to live in a world
we cannot control is a hard lesson for all of us. It is also an opportunity, to find
power in our powerlessness, a sense of possibility in our helplessness, and a
determination to work for a world where this kind of horror cannot happen again.
Your job is to provide an environment for your children that feels as safe as possible physically, while walking that fine line between being careful and being
paranoid; being courageous and being foolhardy. Thus at the practical level you
may want to ask your children what might help them to feel safer. It sounds like
they are already taking care of themselves by checking in by phone when they are
home alone. What else might ease their anxiety right now? Perhaps you and your
partner need to consider a new routine where the children are home alone less
often. This is a vulnerable time developmentally anyway. Extra time with loving
adults is critical.
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Emotionally, you need to provide a safe environment for everyone to talk about
their concerns and how these fears are affecting their lives. Give your children
plenty of love and reassurance, without making unrealistic promises that you cannot keep or going the other way and energizing their worries. One approach is to
ground your discussions with them in data that might be helpful. For instance,
the numerical odds of your children being victims of a terrorist attack are very
slim. Why did the boys in Columbine do what they did? Why is there a strong
anti-American feeling in some parts of the world these days? Talk about current
events in a matter-of-fact way – this is happening, let’s try to make sense of it as
best we can. Also, begin to probe deeper into what it is that has them still feeling
scared. Is there something going on that you don’t know about? Opening the
lines of communication around emotions often provides room for what seemed
previously unspeakable.
Finally, pose the challenge to your children: “We cannot stop these terrorists on
our own, but what can we do, with ourselves, in our family, in our school, in our
neighborhood, to make a difference?” The more you encourage your children to
feel that ability in themselves to do something pro-actively, the more they will feel
able to take back their power and live a rich and full life in spite of what is happening around them.
—1
1—
Dear Bess and Bubby,
I have a daughter in Middle School who is literally
terrified to go to school each day. She reports that
there is a group of girls in her class who are very
‘tough.’ They fight with each other physically, and
taunt the other girls. My daughter is young for her
age, slightly built, and shy. She is scared these
girls will hurt her, and I am concerned her fear may
draw their attention. So far nothing has actually happened to her, but I am not happy about the climate in
the school, and I don’t want her to have to live with
this fear every day. It’s not fair to her and the
other kids who want to learn to have to be exposed to
these girls who just want to make trouble. I have
already talked to the principal, and he is aware of
the problem, but so far nothing has changed. What can
I do?
Feeling Helpless in Hartford
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Dear Feeling Helpless,
Remember those ads years ago where a muscle man proudly proclaims “I was a
90 pound weakling!?” We’re not recommending your daughter start weight lifting
(although if she wants to…), but we are suggesting you can help her bulk up on
courage and self-assurance. You are right to believe that fear attracts violence. The
more powerful she feels, the less of a potential victim she will become.
Her sense of personal power at this age can come from four directions: herself,
her peers, her parents and her school. Let’s consider each of these.
In terms of personal power, your daughter needs to gain confidence in herself
and her abilities, just like all teens – just like the girls who are “tough”. Ask what
would help her to feel more confident? If she is concerned about being physically
weak, maybe you two could do some kind of workout together, or she could get
involved in something active that interests her. Is it that she doesn’t feel good
about her looks, her clothes, her hair? Middle school is the time when all these
aspects of self are reviewed. What changes does she want to make to feel good
about herself ? And to take it beyond the physical, what are her gifts and talents?
Now is a good time to remind her of those things which come naturally for her.
Often with a busy school schedule, children cut out things that have been part of
their lives all through elementary school, such as dance, or instrument lessons, or
scouts. These connections are invaluable for your daughter as she faces this rite of
passage.
At the level of peers, you might want to help your daughter develop a group of
friends she trusts to hang out with. She will feel more confident, perhaps safer in
a group, but beyond that, she will not feel so vulnerable if she is safely ensconced
with her own crowd, busy having fun.
At the parental level, your job is to network. If your daughter is facing this situation, likely other girls her age are also. Talk with other parents, see what they are
doing; join forces and work together with the school for creative solutions. When
the principal sees that he has parental support, he will be more amenable to taking action.
Be careful, in your work with the school, that the approach be compassionate
and constructive, not punitive. Remember, the so-called ‘tough’ girls are hurting
too, and doing the best they can to figure out who they are at this age, just like
everyone else. While of course there need to be boundaries set around unacceptable behavior, the school will also want to find ways to include and involve these
girls in positive ways. What are they interested in? What do they have in common
with your daughter and her friends? What might they do together that would
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engage them all and break down the stereotyped barriers that are fast developing?
In short, if you focus on danger and fear, you energize it. Focus instead on
empowerment, encouragement, and engagement, and you will be doing everyone
the favor of a lifetime, literally.
—1
2—
Dear Bess and Bubby,
My children go to an elementary school that has a
nice racial and ethnic mix. There are children there
from many different countries, and probably more people of color than white children. We are a mixed-race
family, and are pleased to live in a neighborhood
where our kids can relate to many different kinds of
people, including others who look like them. However,
all this diversity has not led to harmony. In fact,
there are several cliques that seem to be formed along
racial lines, and these groups stick together and
don’t much interact with the others. The other day, my
oldest, in the 5th grade, told us that he almost got
into a fight on the playground because a group of
white kids was making racially-demeaning comments
about a group of mostly African-American 4th grade
girls that included his younger sister. We want our
children to grow up proud of who they are, without
having to fight about it. How do we deal with this?
Fed up in Phoenix
Dear Fed Up,
Alas, the wounds of our national history with slavery are still festering in our
society. The journey toward racial harmony is a long one, with peaks and valleys,
and is not over yet. Your children are finding out that it falls on their young shoulders to carry forward the work of many who have gone before, those known to us,
like Martin Luther King, Jr., and those unknown to us – the countless individuals
whose names we will never know, who have found ways to counter racism with
dignity and pride.
The answer we can give here is similar to the one we gave to the preceding
question, namely that you need to deal with this situation on several levels.
Starting with your son, you should congratulate him on being responsive to
racial harassment without resorting to violence. It was great that he called those
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boys correct without a fight! You will also want to speak with your daughter and
give her a chance to say how it was for her. Both children together can give a good
picture of what was happening and how they were feeling, and then you can move
to a problem-solving discussion on how to handle such situations should they
arise in the future. You might even role play various scenarios, to help all your
children find things to say and do in the face of such behavior, nonviolently and
with dignity, that makes it clear the behavior is inappropriate and unacceptable.
Dealing with racism is not your children’s responsibility alone. It is a communal imperative, and so you need to engage the school and the parents. Being a
highly diverse school community, no doubt the administration has already given
some thought to this and has some policies, and – hopefully – some structures in
place. First, inform yourself as to what already exists, and then inform the principal about what is actually happening in the children’s lives. Was this incident a
one-of-a-kind, unusual event, or is it part of a widespread pattern? Talk with other
parents to hear about their children’s experiences with racial and ethnic differences. The individual boys involved need to be held accountable, of course, but
the whole system also needs to use this incident to evolve and improve its handling of racial tensions.
We suggest you work together, through the PTA or in other parent-school
forums, to insure that the children of this community are not just physically in a
diverse environment but are mining that opportunity to learn and grow in respect
and appreciation of our differences, and to transcend the historical patterns of
intolerance and prejudice. Someday, perhaps, none of this will be necessary, but
for now, the journey continues…
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Appendix
103
RESOURCES
Here are some books you might want to consider:
Big World, Small Screen: The Role of Television in American Society. Huston, Donnerstein,
Fairchild, Katz, Murray, Rubinstein, Wilcox and Zuckerman, University of
Nebraska Press, Lincoln, NE, 1992.
Creative Conflict Resolution: More than 200 Activities for Keeping Peace in the Classroom.
William J. Kreidler, Goodyear, 1984.
Creative Parenting. William Sears, Everest House, New York, 1982.
Discipline Without Tears — A Reassuring and Practical Guide to Teaching Your Child Positive
Behavior. Rudolf Dreikurs, Dutton, New York, 1972.
The Early Window: Effects of Children’s Television on Children and Youth. R.M.Leibert &
Sprefkin, Pergamon, New York, 1988.
Everyday Opportunities for Extraordinary Parenting. Bobbi Conner, Sourcebooks Inc.,
Naperville, Illinois, 2000.
Free the Children: Conflict Education for Strong, Peaceful Minds. Susan Gingras Fitzell,
New Society, 1997.
The Joy of Family Ritual. Barbara Biziou, St. Martin Press, New York, 2000.
Natural Childhood. John Thomson, Simon& Schuster Inc, New York, 1994.
Playful Parenting: Turning the Dilemma of Discipline into Fun and Games. Denise
Chapman Weston, MSW and Mark S. Weston, MSW, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, New
York, 1993.
Raising Compassionate Courageous Children in a Violent World. Dr. Janice Cohen,
Longstreet Press, Atlanta Georgia,1996.
Raising Self-Reliant Children in a Self Indulgent World, Seven Building Blocks for Building
Capable Young People. H. Stephen Glenn and Jane Nelson Ed.D, Prima Press, CA, 1989.
Saving Children — Protecting our Children from the National Assault on Innocence. Michael
Medved and Diane Medved, Harper Collins, New York, 1998.
The Secret of Parenting, How to be in Charge of Today’s Kids-From Toddlers to PreteensWithout Threats or Punishments. Anthony E. Wolf, Ph.D, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux,
New York, 2000.
The Seven Spiritual Laws for Parents. Deepak Chopra, Harmony Books, New York,
1997.
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Waging Peace in Our Schools. Linda Lantieri, Janet Patti, and Marian Wright Edelman,
Beacon Press, 1998.
Here are some organizations you might want to check out:
CHILDREN’S CREATIVE RESPONSE TO CONFLICT (CCRC)
Helps educators, parents, and those who work with young people learn creative
skills of nonviolent conflict resolution through cooperation, communication,
affirmation, problem solving, mediation, and bias awareness.
Nyack, New York
Telephone: 914-353-1796
Email: [email protected]
Web site: www.palent-rockland.org/conflict
THE LION AND LAMB PROJECT
Seeks to stop the marketing of violence to children by helping parents, industry, and government officials recognize that violence is not child’s play, and by
galvanizing concerned adults to take action. Works to reduce the marketing of
violent toys, games, and entertainment to children.
Bethesda, Maryland
Telephone: 301 -654-3091
Email: [email protected]
Web site: www.lionlamb.org
WORLD PEACE SOCIETY PEACE PALS
A Program Dedicated to Nurturing Inner Peace and Global Awareness
in Children Around the World
Peace Pals is a program designed to encourage young people ages 5-15 to
become peacemakers dedicated to living in the spirit of the words May Peace
Prevail on Earth.
The Peace Pals Program fosters understanding and respect for the diversity and
oneness of the human family and the natural world through the arts, education, communication and friendship. By nurturing inner peace and global
awareness in the leaders of tomorrow, Peace Pals will help create a future where
peace and harmony become a way of life.
Web site: www.worldpeace.org/peacepals.html
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ABOUT THE AUTHORS
LOUISE DIAMOND, PH.D., is the CEO of The Peace Company,
a Vermont-based company whose mission is to foster a culture of peace by making peace popular, practical, and profitable. She was the co-founder of The Institute of MultiTrack Diplomacy, where she worked around the world for
over a decade to train and support peacebuilders in places
of ethnic and regional conflict. Louise has a Ph.D. in Peace
Studies, and has written three previous books on peace. She
is an internationally known public speaker and con-ference
presenter on issues of peace and peacebuilding. She writes:
“My passion for this project grows out of my 15 years as a professional peacebuilder in places of deep-rooted conflict around the
world. In Bosnia, Liberia, the Middle East, Cyprus, Sri Lanka, and elsewhere, I have witnessed first hand the unspeakable consequences of a
culture of violence left to spiral out of control from generation to generation. I do not want that for my grandchildren, or for any child, anywhere.
I have also seen the undaunted spirit of peace emerge from the
ashes of these wars. I have been privileged to know people from all
walks of life, and all ages, who have chosen to bring love where there
is hatred, courage where there is fear, and healing where there is
woundedness. I have seen these bridge-builders reach out to those
traditionally seen as ‘enemy’ – first by reaching inside to tap their own
potential for peace – often at great personal cost in a setting where the
culture says ‘the other’ is and always will be ‘the enemy.’ It is this
potential that I want to nourish in our children.
For these reasons, I am dedicated to helping establish a culture of
peace, starting right here in my own society – which is, after all, the
pre-eminent exporter of culture around the world. As I look around for
those individuals or groups best suited to leverage this process of
transformative social change, I see the incredible collective power of
parents, and so I choose to open the conversation there. Peace truly
does begin at home.
My own parenting days are long past. My daughter Molly is herself
a mom, of Sebastian (three years old) and Hanna (one year old). I am
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also proud to be considered ‘honorary Bubby (grandma)’ to
Elizabeth’s three children. As a grandmother, then, this project is a
personal journey for me as well. I want to make a difference in the
world my grandchildren will inherit. I want my grandchildren – and
yours – to know peace as ‘the way things are.’”
ELIZABETH SLADE has been a Montessori educator for 15 years.
She is currently working in an urban setting in a public
Montessori school, where she supports teachers and administrators as the school moves from a traditional teaching
approach to a Montessori methodology. She has three children: Isaac, who is eight years old; Jasper, who is nearly four;
and Jennifer Bella, who is seven months. Elizabeth lives with
her partner and their children in Western Massachusetts,
where they all work and pray for Peace. She writes:
“I have some very personal reasons for participating in this project.
I am the mother of two sons and one daughter in a culture which says
boys are aggressive by nature and girls are victims of that aggression.
I say ‘not so.’ I believe that within every person is the seed of a peacekeeper. I want my children to know and express that part of their
nature that openly loves, respects, and nurtures others. I want each of
them to be a force for peace, not war.
As I watch my children growing up, I see that changing the culture
is possible, and that my change is the key to their understanding of the
world. I have found that my thoughts, words, and deeds do have an
impact, and that love and limits are, together, a way to nourish that
peacekeeper within.
After many years as a classroom teacher, working with parents and
children, I have witnessed the incredible ability of this population to
create and promote positive change. Parents are passionate and courageous people, and I think that they can truly be the organizing force to
take back our culture from the media and the marketing world and
make it something that will bring benefit for future generations.
Peaceful Parenting is possible, and it will undoubtedly produce a more
peaceful next generation. If enough parents choose to change the culture in their own home, it will inevitably change the culture around us.”
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ABOUT THE PEACE COMPANY
The Peace Company is a Vermont-based business dedicated to fostering a culture of
peace in our society. We offer a wide variety of peace products, training programs,
and opportunities for making a difference to people who want more peace in their
lives and in the world – and are ready to do something about it.
.
Check out our web site, at:
www.thepeacecompany.com
or contact us at [email protected]
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