5 Gentle Ways to Teach Peace to a Child
Let there be peace on earth by giving our children simple gifts that cost nothing.
“In a gentle way, you can shake the world,” said Mahatma Gandhi. I’ve taken those words to heart this year.
The world is in so much pain and the cry for change has never been more impelling. I believe Gandhi wanted more than to just have his quotes printed in countless books or read in a fortune cookie. When he said, “be the change you want to see in the world,” I am certain he didn’t intend for his words of wisdom to be condensed into a three word hashtag. I believe he wanted all of us, as a collective, to wake up and take action.
In order to fully embrace those words, we have to begin with ourselves. Simply telling our children how to act isn’t going to sink in deep enough. They need to sense the peace around them. So why not teach our children to learn peace through calm gestures by watching us “be” the following:
- Be grateful. There are so many ways to practice gratitude each day. Write thank you notes. Give back to the community. Say thank you to everyone. Thanking people fosters an atmosphere of gratitude that will extend throughout other people’s days, as well. Show your children that you are thankful for what you have. Be mindful of your words because if you complain too much about what you don’t have, you will never have enough. Turn your thinking around and you will end up having more.
- Be attentive. Spending time with children helps them develop a stronger bond. It is through relationships and meaningful experiences that children learn skills they will need throughout their entire life. Talk about the colors they chose for their painting or describe the smell of the cake you are baking. When they have your full attention in the present moment, you are demonstrating what it means to be mindful and a better listener.
- Be patient. By allowing yourself to have more rush-free time with them, patience will naturally follow and that is how children feel safe to practice things over and over again. When your toddler wants to try pouring his own milk for breakfast, let him. Doing it for him because you want to avoid cleaning up a mess or being late for work is counterproductive in the long run. Opportunities to learn how to do things for themselves will build self-help skills and eventually make those mornings a whole lot smoother.
- Be thoughtful. Pay it forward. If you are standing in line at a store and you see the person in front of you is short on change, offer the extra few cents to cover it (if you have it). Of course you have to be paying attention to even notice what is going on in front of you (not looking at your phone). Haven’t we all been in a situation like this before? Now just picture the same scenario with your child standing next to you. A real-life lesson on compassion goes a long way. Relating and empathizing feels good to all involved. So instead of turning a cheek, dig into your pocket next time.
- Be kind. Positive words of encouragement promote confidence and trust. Knowing that someone is there to lift you up and not put you down is the foundation for trust and forms an unbreakable bond. This also supports children when they are trying new things or experiences. Sometimes a simple smile from afar is all that is needed instead of looking down (or on your phone) when your child is working on a project or at soccer practice.
Just think about it. If everyone makes conscious efforts to be present with these sweet gestures, those on the receiving end are likely to cause the same emotion in others. Love and peace would spread across the world one step at a time and then maybe the future may be a little brighter.
I may sound starry-eyed, but I know that these ‘gentle ways to shake the world’ have had a profound effect on my family. If I’m going to be the change I’d like to see in the world, I will certainly aim to make it longstanding. Empowering our children to be the peacemakers of the future is the best way I know how.
Originally published at heartmindlearning.com on December 4, 2016.