People-watching sure can teach you a lot. When I'm on a trip, I spend a fair amount of time observing how other guests treat the hotel staff. Some are polite, but removed, others clearly see beyond the role to the human doing the job, and some are just downright rude. I find myself wondering if there is a parallel here with how they treat children and young people.
It’s sad that there are individuals who need to feel superior by treating those who they deem to be less important, more shabbily than they would their peers or those they want to impress, but it’s true. Children are right at the bottom of the pecking order in terms of social status (who needs to impress a child?) so if you are a person who adjusts their behaviour according to a perceived hierarchy, they are not going to get the best of you.
But it’s not that simple, culturally, other factors come into play, class, race, faith, caste even. A child from a family more highly positioned in society might be viewed as deserving better treatment than an elder from a more lowly section of the community. It’s a complex way of existing. How much simpler then to adopt a more egalitarian position, to treat our fellow humans as just separate souls leading other lives, no more or less valid than our own.
For me, and I’m sure for most of you, that’s the kind of behaviour I would like to be engendering in children, and I try to model it as best I can. Empathy is a core value that is of boundless use in a child’s development, for their own mental health, their ability to connect with others, and to feel part of a group, as they will be asked to throughout their school lives and beyond.
In a climate of self-promotion, self-protection, division and suspicion, we need all the tools at hand to enable our children to avoid a purely isolationist outlook.
So in every situation where we are interacting with others, we should be mindful of what we are letting our children think is acceptable behaviour. They are people-watching all the time, and what they see will effect who they grow up to be and the kind of world they create for themselves.
So what are you scared of? Do you want your children to be frightened of that thing too?
In evolutionary terms, we can understand the benefits of learning from our parents which creatures to avoid or run away from, and this holds true even nowadays when it comes to stroking lions or using crocodiles as stepping stones. Most of us, however, live in a world that is mostly un-fraught with danger and where we have to be afraid, it is primarily of each other. But we are still passing on our own fears to our children.
Yes. This week I’d like to deal with the issue of attention. I’m not sure I understand exactly why it seems to be such a problem for us adults.
How many times have you heard a grown-up explain away, or dismiss, a child’s behaviour on the grounds that they are, “just doing it for attention” and have you ever stopped to think about what underpins that dismissal?
My recent visit to Estonia included a weekend off, and during that time, I did some Yoga and Pilates classes. I don’t speak the language, but I nevertheless found it relatively easy to follow instructions. I think this reflects some important points about basic levels of communication.