I went to a training day last Monday and we were asked to discuss the answer to this question with the people sitting next to us.
'How do we repair the world with children?'
The answers that came up at the end were as I expected. "We teach them self-help skills", "We teach them about diversity and inclusion". Three educators from my workplace were sitting with me. They didn't say anything but all turned to look at me, waiting for my answer. I said, "I love them". They all giggled, but didn't make any comments. I said "I'm not joking. It sounds simple but that's my answer".
I've learned something lately that I consider to be very important. I need to be less judgmental of other people's interactions with children. To see someone stand and watch a child crying puzzles me and hurts me because I can't stand to see people suffer. It seems that for some people there is a barrier between themselves and a person who is feeling pain and it is difficult to cross. Maybe this is because their childhood experience is of having their pain unacknowledged.
If this is so, then this is an even greater reason to push through this barrier. We can't repair the world if we have barriers between ourselves and others, if we are impaired in our ability to give and receive love, and if we are unable to show the care and comfort that we feel. We want to create children who are different. Self-help skills and teaching inclusion are not enough to build a world that is safe and whole if people are undernourished in their sense of self-worth.
Self-worth is difficult to acquire if we have not been unconditionally loved and accepted. Love and acceptance of others grows from being loved by others. We put up barriers to protect ourselves and if we know we are loved and accepted we don't need barriers. I believe so strongly that we can teach children many things, but that they learn social and emotional skills primarily through the way that they are treated. We need to show kindness if we want children to be kind. We need to show them care and comfort if we want them to care for and comfort others.
I wish we could be less clinical as educators, stop talking around in circles, stop quoting frameworks etc., and get right to the heart of what matters most. One of the speakers said that she's recently visited some Reggio centres in Italy and found that their focus is now centred on relationships. This is enough for me to remain strong in my belief that this is the best approach. Without love, acceptance, trust and a strong sense of self-worth children will struggle to build friendships, develop their strengths, and learn. Let's cross barriers and 'repair the world!'