The Japanese Goi Peace Foundation launched the 2016 International Essay Contest on the theme “Education to Build a Better Future for All”. You can also apply for this opportunity (until June 15th!), more information on their website.
When we talk about education our immediate first thought is a classroom, blackboard and chalk, and children listening to a teacher. But unlike this immediate reaction, we also know that years before a child goes into the education system, the most important aspect of its development is parenting. Parents have an incredible influence on their children, in terms of behaviour and learning skills, and they need to understand what importance their actions have on their children.
If there is one thing we can establish as a fact, then it is that children do not choose their parents. Think about it, while a couple has a period of dating, getting to know each other, establishing if they get along; children do not get this choice at all. They are stuck for better or for worse with their parents, and they do not get to leave. Indeed no individual is as unfree as a child. While an adult is restricted in his behaviour by social norms and laws enacted by the state, a child is subjected to its parents and their rules. Children deserve respectful treatment just by the mere fact that they are unwillingly associated to people and subjugated to their arbitrary rules. If you get punched by someone in the streets you can call the police and get a lawyer, when you are hungry you can buy yourself food and cook it; a child can do none of these things, it is completely relying on its parents, left stranded without their support. No matter if the child feels comfortable or not makes no difference to its dependence on its tutors.
As adults, if we have a disagreement we negotiate, trying to figure out an alternative way and explaining our viewpoints. Ironically we do not apply this logic if we treat children: they get yelled at, left stranded, hit and spanked, and not only is the law on the side of the parents, it’s also socially accepted. But what are we really teaching children if we initiate force against them? Aren’t we teaching them to be as violent as we are?
Indeed studies have found that children exposed to harsh corporal punishment have lower IQ’s and are more likely to be aggressive themselves. Instead of teaching children to negotiate, to avoid risks and explain consequences of actions so that they understand them rationally, we do nothing but making them afraid of physical retribution.
“I got spanked as well and I turned out fine.”
This statement does not account for the effect of violent behaviour and it also lacks comprehension for the importance of social change. We would regard many violent practices of our ancestors as wrong and harmful, yet we continue to hit our own children because our parents did so as well?
In the circle of war and destruction and the conclusion in our heads that violent force is something we can resort to, only education can break its devastating effects. We have learned lessons out of many wars, but we have yet to understand that initiation of force is always wrong and morally indefensible. The only trust in changing this can be put in the next generations, the ones we will raise. Peaceful parenting is the simple concept of confronting children with ideas and discussions rather than to yell, hit or spank. Children learn fast and often seem to grasp simple conclusions that we as adult fail to comprehend. Let’s teach them that humanity is about cooperation and compassion, not violence and fear. Only then can we achieve peace for good.
So let’s make the next generation a peaceful one, starting with ourselves.
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