Slaying the Scary Green Monster
Green. Everything today is green. Cars are green. Food is green. Sports equipment is green. Kermit the Frog should be happy because he crooned that "it's not easy being green."
Kermit was right, though. It isn't easy being green, or even hearing about it, especially for our children.
They are bombarded with images and advertising messages that our world is a horrible mess and that if our children don't do something about it--convince their parents to buy the right car, etc.--our planet will flood, and all the polar bears and penguins will die. These messages convey to our children that they have a bleak future, or perhaps no future at all.
How powerless a child must feel against these messages that insinuate that they are the last great hope to stop global warming, pollution, deforestation, energy shortages, world hunger and more.
Here's the news, folks. The world's problems are not our children's problem. They are our problems.
It is our responsibility to protect our children from a world view that lacks optimism, hope and compassion. It is our responsibility to show our children the potential, excitement and joy of life.
Each of us only can control our personal actions and attitudes. We assist our children when we help them develop skills to take care of themselves from a young age. Saving the world can wait until they are adults.
Children report feelings of helplessness against the frightening green forces that our media deliver. I imagine these children feel much like I did when we went through nuclear attack drills and training that included how to set up an indoor latrine, how to open 55-gallon drums, and how to disinfect close quarters against a myriad of deadly diseases, so we could live underground for a year. Not a vision of hope for this 12-year-old.
For our children we start by helping them develop personal power by learning how to care of themselves. If everyone on this planet knew how to take care of him- or herself, then we'd all be positioned to help each other.
Sounds like a paradox, but interdependency relies on the independent skills of individuals. You can't truly help others until you know how to take care of yourself.
We can show our three-year-old how to be careful with shared resources from turning off the water and lights to turning the pages in a book carefully. Small actions of loving intent make the world a better place.
As we are able to take care of ourselves, we learn to take care of our homes and the people, animals, plants and objects around us. Stephen Covey, in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, calls this process of learning as enlarging our sphere of influence.
As we master skill-building activities, we gain competence and confidence. These qualities allow us to continue to enlarge our sphere of influence, little by little, until one day we are adults who can stare down Green Scary Monsters.
Until that moment, our children's job is to learn to take care of themselves, then others, in a world that is full of love of all living things, and life itself.
For in our heart of hearts, we know. We know that we can only solve our problems with love. The only way to rid the world of Scary Green Monsters is to love them to oblivion, one self-sufficient task at a time.
Next week: Raise a Child Who Loves the Earth
Kids Talk™ is a column dealing with early childhood development issues written by Maren Stark Schmidt. Mrs. Schmidt founded a Montessori school and holds a Masters of Education from Loyola College in Maryland.
She has over 25 years experience working with young children and holds teaching credentials from the Association Montessori Internationale. She is also Creative Director for a video-based reading series for children ages three to six, The Shining Light Reading Series. Contact her via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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