Most parents understand the importance of early learning and teach their kids basic knowledge such as letters, vocabulary and counting. Some parents start in the womb by playing tape recordings and they tape flash cards to the mobile hanging over the crib. Will such early learning really provide our children with a better life if they live in a culture of hate and violence?
Author: Eliane Leao, PhD
Cooperation versus Competition
After babies turn a year old, they are ready to use their native language and exercise their mind more as they enter a fresh developmental phase. The second year of a baby´s life will be a period filled with great challenges. Language, ego and self-confidence will be developed while trying to adjust to the external world. Babies perceive who is unknown in their environment and are able recognize new and different faces. Fears, anxieties, and habits begin to surface, and the first personality traits are visible. Baby’s individual personality traits become more apparent as they interact with their parents, pets and other family members. During this time period parents have the great opportunity to provide a learning environment for their babies who absorb information like a sponge.
Babies have their own developmental rhythm, and go through the same phases and/or levels of development and utilize their potential on their own timetable. Some develop at a fast pace, others at a slower one. As a parent, you may wonder: “Why bother educating my baby?” “Won’t they learn everything they need to know through social interaction or in school?”
When Darwin presented us with the theory of the evolution of the species, we learned that human beings are a competitive species and that we adapt biologically to diverse environments, through diverse ways, in order to survive. We also learned that competition was a survival resource useful in a society for its progress and also for the permanence of the being in it.
Today, the challenge is on a different scale. In the 21st century, with the computer science age at full steam, environmental imbalance threatening the earth, thousands of children facing death every day by starvation, countless epidemics that shorten the lives of human beings, it is urgent that the posture of preparing our children for competition and power be replaced by one of preparing them for love and cooperation. We must prepare them to help. An exclamation urges: – cooperation YES, competition, NO!
There is a unique home common to all of us: – planet earth. It is possible to find people just like us in distinct points along the face of the earth, which in turn belongs to all of us.
Some parenting tips to teach your children peace, love and understanding:
- Donate – Give your kids cash to put in the salvation army bucket or let them bring some from their piggy bank before you go shopping.
- Volunteer- Take your kids with you to the soup kitchen or domestic violence shelter from an early age.
- Be intolerant of intolerance – Do not allow hate talk in your home – ever. Don’t just tolerate different cultures, genders, religions and skin colors – Celebrate them.
- Foster a love of animals – Have family pets, dogsit or volunteer at your local no-kill shelter. Go vegetarian/vegan if you dare.
- Be vocal and adamant about opposing war and other human rights violations- Bring your kids to anti-war rallies or have them help you write letters to politicians online.
- Maintain a green home – Always explain the importance of reducing, reusing and recycling. Plant trees – Eat from your organic garden.
This cooperation will act so that people can maintain life on earth and maintain their internal uniqueness from the affirmation: – I´m unique, but I´m not potent without the others. We must educate our children so that they want to preserve nature, thus being possible to simultaneously preserve the I, the personal. The opposite is not true. It is not only through the power of the I that the power of another will exist, in this planet. The power comes from the strength of all, which in turn will give strength for the survival of the I.
This equilibrium of life on earth will lead to the exercise of loyalty with all forms of life, in an exercise of respect for life itself. It will lead to the exercise of human loyalty preserving what is human. This is the grand revolution that humanity aspires to achieve.
Our children don´t need to learn that they have to prepare for wars anymore. To present-day intelligence, and to our thinking children, war is a total waste of efforts and of life. Our children have to learn that we don´t need to practice actions that benefit only our homeland, while all other countries are destroyed. The destruction of other spaces and lives leads to the impossibility of a future for this place we call home. It imbalances the eco-system, twists the relations of respect, and shades the hope of a better future. If we don´t diminish the differences among men, and violence as a whole, we will not have peace in our own little corners, our homes. The anxiety of the whole reflects the anxiety of each individual.
We must teach our children that the main necessity of men, women and children is love. Without it, we are empty. Not passing it forward we don´t cooperate, in fact we destroy the one thing we have that is good about ourselves, others and nature. And we will stumble upon the greatest challenge, that consists of de-constructing the truth reflected on everyone´s eyes: it´s getting harder and harder to love, to show love, and to donate something good to another.
We are not capable of demonstrating hate to a flower, grabbing it and throwing it at the floor and stepping on it. It sounds insane. But we are insensitive to the extent that we are able to pass a homeless person thrown there on the ground, and we are incapable of understanding or trying to help. We just walk on by and pretend it´s not our problem! Human abandon is not a problem anymore! Our exaggerated competition has led us to total insensitivity!
We need to discuss and practice love, with the commitment of leaving aside the economical, cultural, racial and ideological differences. We need to teach our children that it is necessary to rescue humanity´s dignity so that the existence on this planet be worthwhile. We need to start with every newborn and child. We seek a new model of man. Is your baby a candidate? A lot will depend on you!!!
As with most early learning, kids learn by example. If daddy is making misogynistic jokes or leering at women behind mom’s back, little boys will learn to be lecherous cheats who don’t respect women. If mommy refuses to go to an African American doctor, then little girls will learn racism from an early age.
If daddy beats the crap out of mommy and she doesn’t leave, then boys will learn to beat their wives and girls will learn to put up with it. If parents allow toy guns, violent video games, animal cruelty and disturbing adult movies in the home, then you can bet their children will grow up with a violent mentality. It really is up to us, the parents, to help our children create a loving, peaceful world that they can live in long after we are gone.
About the Author:
Dr. Eliane Leao is a native of Brazil, South America. She has a background in Education from Purdue University (Masters) and a PhD in the Department of Educational Psychology from the State University of Campinas (UNICAMP)/Purdue University (Ph.D.). Dr. Leao is currently a professor of Music Education and Music Therapy conducting research on the influence of Music in Early Childhood Learning.