There was a time when I didn't want to have children because the world was such a mess. My mother assured me that it was important for somebody to have the good ones who would be the leaders to change things and bring about world peace. She somehow thought that should be me, and I took her very seriously in that mission.
Although I was deemed unable to have children, I have been blessed with a foursome of magnificent human beings that it has been my honor to guide a bit so far through life. It has always been at the forefront of my mind that I would raise them differently and that they would be instruments of peace and love if I could teach them how. Of course, I had no idea how I was going to do that, being a fiery personality myself.
The first thing was how to discipline them. So many people do not know the definition of discipline and confuse it with punishment. Discipline is teaching, NOT hurting. When they were little and would fight, instead of separating them, I made them sit on a little bench "until I think you are friends or you are old enough to elope and have an approved suitor" I would say, even though I didn't think they knew what elope was. By keeping them together while I went about my business, they learned to negotiate. Sometimes they would negotiate for a half hour before beginning to play so they wouldn't find themselves on the fighting bench! They were never sent to their rooms unless they were really bad, but then I took electricity away instead so they would lose the TV, pc, etc and be left with books and boardgames, which was good for them.
When I took the four of them grocery shopping as preschoolers, I would tell them where we were going, what behavior was expected, that they could not ask for things because we could not afford it and that I expected them to help me and each hold onto a corner of the shopping cart. They were so good the cashiers would talk about me behind my back in a good way. But each time we left the store, I would kneel down right there in the parking lot and thank each one of them for being so good and helping me.
When they went to school, I noticed some things that just made me uncomfortable. Kids are mean. They pick on each other. Kids were constantly being told how special they were and what a great job they were doing, so much so, that when they achieved mastery of a goal, it seemed no better than when they failed. I didn't see how that was building self -esteem when actually reaching a goal and feeling that mastery would have gone a long way to building that self esteem.
Also, the kids were sorted by age, and expected to fit into a group of age determined peers. Well it became apparent rather quickly with most of my kids that they were very advanced. With four of them so close, they were used to verbal banter at a rapid rate.
Eventually we felt the need to take them out and homeschool them. This is when the real learning began, both for them and for me. We were going to be spending the bulk of our waking hours together in our small home and we needed to do this without fratricide or infanticide on the menu.
The first rules I had taught my children were that I would not abide a bigot or a liar in my home. I explained that most crimes begin and end with lies and lies are the destruction of relationships. There is nothing they cannot say to me so there is no reason to lie to me.
As for biggotry or prejudice, that is pure stupidity and I did not give birth to any stupid children. It makes no sense to dismiss an entire group of people you do not know because they lood different, sound different, worship different or choose a different sexual orientation. I explained how that could be cutting off their nose to spite their face because you never know what pretty little package your soul mate will be wrapped in and how sad it would be to miss your soul mate because you were stupid enough to dismiss an entire group of folks without knowing them.
Then, as they got a bit bigger, I taught them the meaning of compassion: "to suffer with". I explained that they should always try to imagine they are the person they may wish to think less of and imagine how it would feel to be looked at that way or to suffer that way.
I told them that they were no better than anybody else, but that nobody was better than they were. I explained that each person is unique and, as such, the only person in the world you can compete with fairly is yourself.
I did explain that it is healthy to compete with yourself, always trying to outperform your past performance in order to improve yourself.
They all joined a fife and drum corps which required them to compete. The oldest two competed as individuals and as a duet. For several years they had the top duet in the USA and my second oldest had the top individual. When the second one won, the oldest was so happy for her and there was never a hint of jealousy, just pride.
They began college at 15 and 16, but because of changing her major, my oldest will graduate a semester after her sister graduates Suma cum Laude in May. Again, no jealousy, just joy. Three of my kids work together and my son will become Manager there, boss over his older sister. His sisters are all just happy for his accomplishments.
Sometimes I wish my kids would fight because they are too loud having too many laughs and all talking at once when they are all together. I would not change them for the world, but I think the world could learn from them.
I saw a documentary shot in Israel and Palestine. Very young children, about 3 years old and their mothers were interviewed. The children were asked about the people of the opposing nation and the invectives they were able to spew for the cameras were mind boggling. The mothers were proud that they had taught their children to call the people of the other country names and to think terrible things of them. I thought about how the mothers were actually harming their own children by teaching them such garbage. It would be just as easy to teach them the alphabet or how to draw or press flowers.
It makes me sad, especially to think that the next generation is already primed for war.
War is NEVER a solution, War is hell.
If we must teach our children to hate, let us teach them to hate war.