There is a lovely poem by Dorothy Law Nolte entitled “Children Learn What They Live”. You have probably read it someplace before but it is one of my favorites although I struggle I live by its wisdom.
If a child lives with criticism,
he learns to condemn.
If a child lives with hostility,
he learns to fight.
If a child lives with fear,
he learns to be apprehensive.
If a child lives with pity,
he learns to feel sorry for himself.
If a child lives with ridicule,
he learns to be shy.
If a child lives with jealousy,
he learns what envy is.
If a child lives with shame,
he learns to feel guilty.
If a child lives with encouragement,
he learns to be confident.
If a child lives with tolerance,
he learns to be patient.
If a child lives with praise,
he learns to be appreciative.
If a child lives with acceptance,
he learns to love.
If a child lives with approval,
he learns to like himself.
If a child lives with recognition,
he learns that it is good to have a goal.
If a child lives with sharing,
he learns about generosity.
If a child lives with honesty and fairness,
he learns what truth and justice are.
If a child lives with security,
he learns to have faith in himself and in those about him.
If a child lives with friendliness,
he learns that the world is a nice place in which to live.
If you live with serenity,
your child will live with peace of mind.
With what is your child living?
Sometimes I wonder what our children today are really living with. One research paper I read some time ago demonstrated that children between the ages of 2-4 years old can be incredibly altruistic. They want to help and will help if they feel that help is sincerely needed. If they suspected that someone dropped a spoon by accident they would pick it up and return it. If they were tested and suspected that a toy or a spoon was dropped on purpose, they wouldn’t pick it up. I wonder at what age we really lose that desire to help others. At what point do we become selfish and demanding looking out only for ourselves? What are children today living with? I picked up my daughter from school yesterday and she was in tears. She had found a small eraser on the floor and was trying to get it back to the person to which it belonged. Since my children have learned the art of please and thank you and since they offer this courtesy more often than not, when my daughter was confronted with the other girl demanding the return of her property and the accusation that my daughter stole the item, she was quite upset. My daughter wanted a simple “please give me my eraser” and she would have given it back. Unfortunately this incident grew in volume and the other child’s older brother became involved and other children and now I am faced with a child who is extremely upset and had to be taken from the room by a teacher and “talked to”.
The cruelty of children is a story my daughter knows all too well. She was teased and bullied mercilessly at her old school to the point where she begged to be homeschooled. I want to believe this will be a onetime incident and I intend to keep my worries to myself, but part of me is waiting for the next incident and then the next. I have hope though. The school she attends now has a strict anti-bullying education program and policy. This won’t eliminate small incidents like this one, but it may prevent what my daughter went through at her previous school.