“Boys like fighting. You know, I have lots of guns at home, because I’m a boy and I like fighting.”This is really what a 4 year-old boy told me and my 14 month-old son this weekend at the park. This boy was playing with colorful, magnetic blocks at the playground and of course my son made a b-line for these interesting items. The boy told us, as we approached, that the blocks were nunchucks and that he was a ninja. He then went on to tell us that because he is a boy, he likes fighting and since he likes fighting, he has lots of guns at home. Hearing this, especially after the tragedy in Orlando, got me thinking about Montessori’s Peace Curriculum and it’s significance in a culture that promotes violent play amongst children, especially boys. Nerf guns anyone?
Maria Montessori was passionate about teaching children how to live peacefully in this world. She said, “Establishing lasting peace is the work of education; all politics can do is keep us out of war.” Mahatma Gandhi was moved by Montessori’s peace curriculum and shared her point of view. He said, “If we are to teach real peace in this world… we shall have to begin with the children.” Montessori and Gandhi had a correspondence for many years in which they shared their ideas about education and peace.
Here are three easy ways to use the Montessori Peace Curriculum at home:
- Instill a love of diversity. Give young children an opportunity to explore objects, maps, music, food, clothing and photographs from all over the world. Your child will learn that diversity is what makes our earth beautiful and interesting. One of my son’s all time favorite books is Global Babies. This book is great because it shows beautiful photos of babies from around the world and discusses how each baby is special and is loved. My son also loves to explore baskets of objects from around the world. The objects in the photo above are from countries in North America.
- Encourage peaceful play rather than play that involves aggressive or violent themes. This is a tough one as fascinations with super heroes, Ninja Turtles, Star Wars etc. are so pervasive amongst children in our country. If a child is pretending to shoot, punch or light-saber (the list goes on) another child, explain that shooting someone would hurt them very badly and then offer to help the child or children think of another way to play. You could say, “Instead of playing a game with guns, you can pretend to be lions or race cars. Which one sounds like more fun?” It is also good to limit the use of plastic guns, swords, shields and other weapons made for children since children are normalizing violent behavior when they are encouraged to incorporate it into play.
- Use child-led conflict resolution (usually for children starting at about 2.5 years old): In order to be peaceful, children must learn the skill of using words to express emotions. This is something that takes a lot of practice, so be patient with your little one. Set up a small table or shelf in your home that will be the designated peace area. Include an artificial rose in a vase or any other object that will be of interest to the child. When your child becomes upset or frustrated you can invite her to the peace table. You as the parent could also invite your child to the peace table (if she is willing). Explain to your child that whoever is holding the rose is the one that is speaking. Show her how to hold the rose and say, ” I didn’t like it when you took my water bottle away.” She can repeat after you or if she is not ready, you can just respond by saying, “I’m sorry that I made you feel upset. We had an agreement that you would not throw it on the floor anymore. Would it make you feel better to have another chance tomorrow?” If she is ready and that option does make her feel better, then you hold the rose together and say “friends.” This is very useful for when two children have a conflict as well. At first it takes a lot of modeling of what to say, but eventually children begin using it independently and are able to express their negative feelings in a positive way. M, my son, is too young for this, but I LOVE reading about ways to positively connect during difficult moments on Janet Lansbury’s blog Elevating Childcare at http://www.janetlansbury.com