Reading: Above All, Be Kind

Monday, December 7, 2009

I recently read Above All, Be Kind: Raising a Humane Child in Challenging Times and found it to be thought-provoking.  Its purpose is to provide parents with tools to raise compassionate, socially-conscious children.  This starts with self-reflection on the part of the parent as teaching begins with showing by example.  I liked how the author allows that no one is perfect and admits that it is hard to set an example one hundred percent of the time.  We are not always able (or willing) to make the kindest choice, but if we are committed to living a humane life and are conscious of the impact of our decisions, we will make more and more kind decisions over time.

The author, Zoe Weil, teaches that small actions on our part (and the part of our children) can make a difference in the world.  She sets out four steps to help parents guide children in learning to make humane choices:
  • Provide information
  • Teach critical thinking
  • Instill reverence, respect and responsibility
  • Offer positive choices
 She then gives examples at various childhood stages of what these elements look like.

At Little Man's age, instilling reverence is the most significant step (in addition to leading by example).  We try to do this with our time spent exploring nature's splendor.  We also try to provide him with natural and home-made toys that have their own inherent beauty.  It is hard not to be inspired and gain reverence in the beautiful place we live;  majestic trees, flowing waves, and birdsong are all seen and heard daily.  Part of our task will be to show that what is ordinary in our area is in fact special.  And part of what Little Man has already taught us is that what is ordinary to ALL is also special -- he is fascinated by the moon, which elicited his first ever "WOW" on his first moon-sighting.

The book ends with an eye-opening look at facts about the things we eat, wear, and consume.  It is easy to get overwhelmed at this stage, feeling like there is too much to change all at once.  But there is also a positive force in seeing just how many ways there are to make small changes that have large impacts. 

This is a book that I will need to read again.  I know it will have a different impact when read a second time, in a few months or perhaps even a year.  In the meantime, I have much more awareness of the global impact my day-to-day choices make and have important tools to help me in parenting.


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