Peace is not about everything being calm and perfect. Peace is a state of being. Peace occurs when our innate need to trust and be trusted transpires. Peace comes from being in the moment, and a deep sense of contentment, not from those things that we can control but by choosing to obey and accept decisions from trusted adults or peers through developing a flexible, thinking approach to others.
Peace comes from being able to contribute the best that we have to those around us that includes and supports everyone. As we seek to nurture values, goodwill and compassion for others, and feeling good about that, we allow space for everyone to contribute their best. The most important role we have is our duty towards children. We must ensure their rights are respected, their welfare is protected, and their lives free from fear and want.
Peace feels like being settled about decisions, and comfortable about your actions, such as trusting another person. We often ask children to undertake our decisions/instructions whether they have peace about it or not. A child who is able to do the right thing and feel settled about it shows they trust that person, especially when they don’t want to do it! Children who are not comfortable can be helped to find peace through ‘creating a culture of peace’. This is where they find peace in their state of being.
Inner peace comes from relationship with others and is based on trust. Developing trust happens through relationship with others. It is only when we have a right, mutually respectful and trusting relationship with others that we can feel a deep sense of peace within.
We are ready to trust from birth. Infants intently watch adults faces intimately, they even notice subtle facial changes. Studies have shown that children search and have an innate fascination with the human face, and they can tell when that face is emotionally connecting with them or cold and showing indifference. Very soon after birth parents have been known to slip into the ‘motherease’ speak with their baby – it’s a call and response type of conversation where adults uses a high pitched voice, a sort of sing-song sound to engage their baby, and they respond with cooing and cute little gurgling.
Without these interactions, the child becomes hypersensitive to negative
reactions and begins to show avoidance such as no eye contact, over
sensitive and over reactive. (Dr Dan Hughes)
These early interactions are vital for the progression of typical child development, attachment and building relationships. People are made to be and live in community with others. However, the adults’ role is to shape and role model how to be with others, to be free to do our best and allow for others to their best also. This balance of give and take must be learned, usually through trial and error! This is why trust, and the obedience that follows are so important. Children are naturally egocentric, and want what they want, often without consideration for what others may be experiencing around them. Through firm and gentle guidance, together with realistic age-appropriate expectations we can teach children how to create a sense of peace, that state of being, how to ‘switch on the peace light’ when internal wants are out of check or when amongst external influences that assault the senses which affect
Take for example, the characteristics of a school or kindergarten classroom, where it can be noisy and stimulating. Now add in 25 similar aged other children, who are all learning to have and give each other peace. To give children the anchor, or guidance they need comes from the adults around them, and can only be achieved when they trust what the adult ask them do. Of course, children should be offered choices, and these choices are helped when children are guided to know what natural consequences will occur. Obedience is letting someone be in charge of you. It is important that children learn to obey as it may one day save their life. Obedience is essential for peace, not because we want children to blindly do what they are told to do, but because we are teaching children to choose to obey for themselves as through experience they have learned it is good for their wellbeing. Their trusted adults around them only ask them to do what is right, safe and good. They have learned to build trust in adults and this is based on healthy respectful relationships. They do not have to obey if someone tells them to break the law, hurt someone, or hurt themselves. What an enormous and privileged responsibility adults have in the lives of children!
A word about Autism and sensory defensiveness in children….
Some children are more affected than usual by the external everyday environment around them, which impacts them profoundly. A tap dripping or clock ticking may sound like thunder, a light brush on their arm may feel like they’ve been hit. This sensory input is very real for some children and it may be more difficult to help these children find their inner peace when the outer peace is unusually threatening, all of the time. This emphasizes the importance of knowing children well and accepting their individualities. This is especially important for a teacher in the classroom. Children should get what they need. Some may need a cushion to sit on while the rest of the class sits on the floor. Some children may feel more comfortable standing at a table to do their work rather than sitting and others may do better when lying on the floor. Other children may need regular active body breaks from the task at hand. Differentiated learning spaces, balanced with active and calm places create a culture of children getting what they need. Good communication between parents and educators is also essential. An understanding that we are NOT all the same just because we put similar aged children altogether each day. It does not mean all children need the same thing. Catering for the individualities for all children creates a sense of mutual respect, trusting and confident children that are building their sense of inner peace, and be the best they can be!
Creating a culture of peace
Ideally we want children to make their own choices that contribute toward a peaceful culture, whether it is in the classroom or at home. These three rules provide a simple framework that can be used to guide children’s behaviour and help them learn about peace within themselves and when around others wherever they are. These bullet points are just some ideas to help open up conversations with children about what ‘Respect yourself, others and the environment’ look, feel and sound like.
1. Respect yourself
- When children learn to look after themselves, their school bag, their belongings, this translates to their behaviour. They are responsible for their own behaviour and their actions affect others.
What does respect for yourself look like?
- Eating healthy food
- Going to sleep when you are asked
- Looking after your belongings
- Controlling your ‘wanter’
- Being polite
- Being kind
- Feeling content
2. Respect Others
We are careful and look after other people because people matter. This translates to helping children understand and have empathy for others.
What does respect for others look like?
- Listening when being spoken to
- Greeting people with a smile
- Being helpful
- Inviting others to play
- Being honest
- Being attentive
- Forgiving others
- Being patient
- Being gentle
3. Respect the environment
This maybe the classroom or personal toys as well as caring for nature and all that has been given to us to look after.
What does respect for the environment look like?
- Using toys carefully
- Cleaning up the space you were using
- Feeding food scraps to the worms
- Building a bug motel
- Using water carefully
- Watering the garden with left over water
- Switching off power when not in use
- Tending the garden and growing vegetables/fruit to eat
Practical ideas to help children create a sense of PEACE
Make peaceful spaces at home or in the classroom
It is important to have spaces and places that are calm and lovely for children to be in. Peaceful places don’t always mean ‘quiet’ spaces, as children love and need to be active. A space that gives a sense of wellbeing and peace may look different for different children. It maybe a small box to climb into or maybe a run around a track outside. A veiled corner with cushions, fiddle toys and books, or maybe a well-loved climbing tree.
Allow children to enter or go to these spaces before they spiral into sensory overload. This happens best when we know them very well, as we will notice the signs. Very quickly children learn to notice the warning signals themselves, and will know what to do about it!
Nature is intuitively calming. It is a balm for the soul. We are created to be outdoors and in today’s’ society children are not spending enough time outside. When encouraged, children often find their own outdoor secret spaces, even if its just a corner of the backyard or a cubby made under the bushes. Respect children’s need for exploration and private inner reflection that nature inspires.
How we view children is important. I believe children are capable, wonderfully created, full of knowledge and in control of their own learning, not empty ‘buckets’ waiting to be filled by adults! This influences how I speak to children (give respect first, and children will return respect), and what tasks and self-directed learning opportunities I create for them. Give children responsibilities that are age appropriate, as well as learning to listen, remember and follow instruction, there is a sense of trust when we ask children to do an important task.
Allow children to do for themselves what they can. Think about building tasks into their day, according to their age and stage of development. Children can…
- Carry their own school bag
- Pack their own lunch
- Pour their own drink – yes there will be spillages, however, this becomes less as children learn and have the opportunities to build muscles and eye/hand coordination.
- Handle breakable crockery – giving children plastic crockery all of the time sends an unconscious message that they can’t be trusted with glass or ceramics, but I know which is nicer to use, and so do children! Value children by teaching, then trusting them!
- Give children tasks in the supermarket – Can you get the red can of tomatoes from the bottom shelf? Problem-solving, positional mathematical language and helping to do an important task!
- Put their own shoes on – break down a task such as dressing themselves into small, manageable parts; ‘you put the shoes on, and I’ll do them up’ scaffolds their learning to do things for themselves. Eventually, we can remove the help as they realise they can do it for themselves.
- Allow time for long periods of unstructured, uninterrupted play. Younger and older children need time to play. Never accept the word ‘bored’ there is no such thing! Children who say they are bored are actually disconnected with their environment and often not well practised at creating their own play, as they have always had an adult entertain or manage it for them. Allow children to be ‘bored’ and encourage them to make up their own games. Make believe play increases social skills, develops relationships and builds empathy for others. Children use play to work through feelings such as sadness or fear, and to explore the world. Role play allows children to step into an adults shoes and explore what having power feels like.
- Engage children’s hearts and hands. Create opportunities for children to directly give. They enjoy making – a card, a drawing, tree ornament, cookies or bread to give to a family member, neighbour, friend or someone in need. They may enjoy sorting through their own possessions and giving away a treasure to someone in need.