I MET A COUPLE WHO WERE DETERMINED that they were going to train their four children in the way of peace. Every night at dinner they gave a regular sermon on peace. But one evening I heard the father scream at the older son. The next evening I heard the older son scream at the younger son in the same tone of voice. What the parents said hadn't made any impression at all -- what they did was what the children were following.
Implanting spiritual ideas in children is very important. Many people live their entire lives according to the concepts that are implanted in them in childhood. When children learn they will get the most attention and love through doing constructive things, they will tend to stop doing destructive things. Most important of all, remember that children learn through example. No matter what you say, it is what you do that will have an influence on them.
This is a very challenging area for parents. Are you training your children in the way of love which is the way of the future?
It concerns me when I see a small child watching the hero shoot the villain on television. It is teaching the small child to believe that shooting people is heroic. The hero just did it and it was effective. It was acceptable and the hero was well thought of afterward.
If enough of us find inner peace to affect the institution of television, the little child will see the hero transform the villain and bring him to a good life. He'll see the hero do something significant to serve fellow human beings. So little children will get the idea that if you want to be a hero you must help people.
A minister I know spent some time in Russia. He saw no Russian children playing with guns. He visited the large toy stores in Moscow, and discovered that there were no toy guns or other toy implements of destruction for sale.
Peaceful training is given in a few small cultures right within our larger culture. I knew a couple who lived for ten or twelve years among the Hopi Indians. They said to me, "Peace, this is amazing--they never hurt anyone."
I have walked among the Amish people myself. They have sizable communities. Peaceful, secure communities with no violence. I talked to them and I realized it's because they learn, as little children onward, that it would be unthinkable to harm a human being. Therefore they never do it. This can be accomplished if you are brought up that way.
Once a woman brought her four or five year old daughter over to me and said, "Peace, will you explain to my daughter what is good and what is bad?" I said to the child, "Bad is something that hurts somebody. When you eat junk food that hurts you, so that is bad." She understood. "Good is something that helps somebody. When you pick up your toys and put them back into your toy box that helps your mother, so that is good." She understood. Sometimes the simplest explanation is best.
When my folks put me to bed they would say to me very wisely, "It gets dark so that it will be restful for you to sleep. Now go to sleep in the nice friendly, restful darkness." And so to me darkness has always seemed to be friendly and restful. And when I'm either walking all night to keep warm or sleeping beside the road, there I am, in the nice, friendly restful darkness.
Children need roots somewhere while they are growing up, and parents might do well to choose the place where they want to raise them before they have them.