Friday, August 14, 2009

thoughts on radical unschooling II

Photobucketin the very beautiful buddhist practice referred to as 'loving-kindness meditation', the practitioner begins by making contact with the open quality of her heart, and sending loving-kindness to herself, by uttering, in silence, the following sentences:

may i be happy
may i be safe
may i be healthy
may i be peaceful

after doing this for a while (say a few years...), she slowly expands her practice from herself to her loved ones (may you be happy, may you be safe, may you be healthy, may you be peaceful), and then on to people she feels neutral about, to people she dislikes and finally to the entire universe, in ever expanding circles of love and kindness. the underlying wisdom expressed in this practice is that it is only possible to truly feel love, generosity and kindness for another human being once you are able to feel such love and kindness for yourself.

small children often do things that might seem rude, unkind and selfish. they may want all the toys/attention/love/sweets/etc. for themselves, they may be unwilling to share, unwilling to apologize, unwilling to say thank you and please. this type of behaviour makes the parents of small children very uncomfortable (at least, it does this particular parent), and this discomfort has in turn often led me to intervene and somehow try to encourage (or bully, depending on level of said discomfort) my child into displaying more acceptable behaviour ('say 'thank you', sweetie!'; 'you've hurt him, say sorry!'; 'share it with your brother right now, you little twat, or i shall bite your head off!!!!'). now before you conclude that i am a monster, please consider the mitigating fact that this type of intervention is not simply born of my extreme discomfort, but also out of a real wish to help my child develop kindness, generosity, and, while she's at it, good manners.

but what if... says my new radical self, what if... human development actually follows the rhythm and pattern of the loving-kindness meditation (or, more likely, that the meditation practice itself mirrors the pattern of human growth). what if, for the first five or six years of their life, children are simply dilligently practicing sending loving-kindness (love, generosity, compassion, barbies, stickers, etc.) to themselves. what if these same children, if allowed to shower themselves with love and attention, to redirect towards themselves all the internal and external resources they need, and to do so without being constantly judged and corrected for their behaviour, what if they then are able, having reached the next level in their development, and replete as they are with love and acceptance, to genuinely feel and express kindness towards other people.

what if, with even the mildest of my interventions, i am achieving the exact opposite of what i aim to do. what if, by preventing them from behaving 'selfishly' today, i am actually preventing them from growing into their truly 'self-less' kind selves tomorrow.

what if, here too, the best way to help, is to simply get out of the way...
(well, not completely 'get out of the way', but concentrate on being kind and loving myself, and gently guiding them towards understanding of how their behaviour makes other people feel)

1 comment:

Marie said...

I love this idea. Thank you so much for thinking it! It's really helpful to me and my handful of a two and half year old, very demanding little girl. My four year old little boy is offering very helpful advice to her on how to speak effectively which is great and keeps me sane. My patience sometimes wears so thin though as I do my best to allow her as much freedom as I can. Rather than just thinking 'best not to get into a fight', 'anything for an easier life' or 'well she's just experimenting'. Radical ideas have helped but it's unrealistic that I can make a huge jump straight away. But if I can actually see this as a real investment in her and our relationship for the future maybe I'll do better.
I also think you are truly right. Most of the problems encounter later in life are because they don't love themselves enough and were never helped to do so enough as a child.