If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in. Rachel Carson
If your baby could tell you what she would really like from you, she would tell you that she would like three wishes:
from Dance With Me In the Heart
In search of the Culture of Respect
Have you ever met someone who does something repeatedly, and they don’t know they are doing it? They are not aware of their habit, it just doesn’t show up on their radar. Or conversely, do you know someone who doesn’t do something but they swear they do?
“I always put my clothes out in the wash. Honest.
And I always hang up the towels.”
Most of us are just as sure we respect our babies, we certainly mean to. But maybe when we shine a light on our habits things look a bit different.
Here is a short quiz - If you want to print a hard copy click here
Have you ever? Would you like it?
Answer each question honestly - simply answer yes or no.
Something doesn’t add up
Now that you have answered the questions, you will probably notice two things: Firstly, for all (or most) of the red questions you answered ‘Yes’, and for all (or most) of the black questions you answered ‘No’. Why is that? Why is it okay to treat a baby one way, while at the same time we would not like any of it done to us? Are babies not human? Are they not the same species with all of the human sensitivities and emotions? Of course they are, so the mismatch doesn’t make sense.
Stories are powerful, especially hidden stories
The other thing you may have noticed as you were answering the questions is you may have had stories in your head as to why you did or did not invite baby to be picked up, or why it was “stupidity to ask a baby to give something to you, because what if he swallowed it and choked?” Hearing these stories alerts you to our culture’s subconscious stories around babies and children. And it is good, because it means your subconscious habits are up on your radar screen when you notice your stories. When they are up on your radar you can revise and upgrade the stories, but you can’t do that when they are hidden. For now just be aware of them, awareness is the beginning of change.
Got any ideas?
The bit to really wonder about is why there is such a mismatch of what we think we do and what we actually do. Why is there such a mismatch in our behaviour - respectful for adults, and disrespectful for babies?
Respect your Youngers
We have had it drummed into us - ‘respect your elders’. It might be time to turn that axiom around and start drumming it into our brains that our role as ‘elders’ is to respect our babies and children. Being respectful with babies and children can teach us the really important lessons about being human: lessons around respect, consideration, sensitivity, empathy, compassion and partnership. If we are up for it, we will need to make a shift in the ways we view children, we need to view them as partners we dance with, not little people we do things to. When we dance with our babies and children, we are planting the seeds of happiness and health for the child, in the short and long term. When we do things to our babies and children we are planting the seeds of abuse.
Onwards and upwards
When we were children we ‘downloaded’ what it is to be a child in our culture from the way the big people treated us and the other children around us. That download is still there, operating as our default setting. But we can ‘get conscious’ and begin to change things from the power-dynamic of domination to the power-dynamic of partnership. Here in New Zealand, when enough of us begin to change the way we behave with babies and children, we can look forward to climbing up from our dismal position of last on the table of OECD countries for child abuse, neglect and fatalities. I look forward to that day with all my heart.
Pennie Brownlee July 2012
e d u c a t i o n f o r t h e h e a d a n d t h e h e a r t e d u c a t i o n f o r t h e h e a d a n d t h e h e a r t e d u c a t i o n f o r t h e h e a d a n d h e a r t