I’m surprised that only two lists of The Ten New Commandments urge us to protect and nurture children as a guideline for living. If not us, who? If not now, when? Throughout history children have been abused and exploited for the gain, benefit, and sadistic pleasure of adults. Although the world community has clearly condemned such violations and inhumanity, problems continue to this very day. That’s why it’s important to support organizations like UNICEF. And that’s also why it’s important to pay attention to our own attitudes and approaches when it comes to children. I say we put the needs of children first. What about you?
As I write this, my wife and I are again snowed in by the edges of a winter storm labeled as “snowmaggedon” by US President Barack Obama. Whereas some part of the greater Washington, DC area were hit by around 2 feet of snow, making it one of the top snowstorms of all time, we fared much better thanks to above-freezing temperatures when the storm first moved through our area. We had lots of rain followed by about 4 inches of snow • still enough to bring this area to a standstill.
Ironically, the snow storms last weekend and then again this weekend could not have come at a better time. My wife and I are bearing down with our final set of copy edits on our new book,Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a Time. If you have not yet had a chance to check out the beautiful cover design, I encourage you to do so by going towww.EvocativeCoaching.com. We’re quite pleased with how it is turning out.
I mention our book because it brings me to today’s topic: nurture children. Here’s the opening lines from our book:
This book was written for students, but it is not about students. Evocative Coachingwas born of a desire to see students everywhere learning in vibrant, life-giving environments. It is designed to assist teachers to reinvigorate their teaching practices so that students can flourish. When teachers and schools come alive, the work of student learning is sure to follow. This book is about creating relationships that foster and support the ongoing learning of the women and men who show up every day to share their curiosity, knowledge, and spirits with students.
In other words, we have written our book to help educators better help each other to nurture children. We have worked actively on this book for about a year and half; at times, like the last few weeks, we have worked tirelessly on this book to meet our publisher’s deadlines. All of that energy, effort, and focus flow not just from the mental stimulation of creativity, design thinking, and writing, but also from our sense that this book can make a real contribution in the world. Simply put: children matter. Our book flows from that understanding, commitment, and love.
Only two of the six sets of Ten New Commandments that I shared with you in the opening edition of this series have anything to say about children. The Ten Commandments coming out of the Channel 4 news poll in the United Kingdom urges us to “Protect and nurture children.” while the Muslim Qur’an urges to “Care for orphaned children.” (17:34). The other versions are curiously silent on the subject, although it can certainly be inferred from other principles of consideration, respect, and kindness.
I prefer to make it explicit. Throughout history, children have not always been treated with consideration, respect, and kindness. On the contrary, they have often been misunderstood and exploited. Consider the following description from Bertrand Russell in The Impact of Science on Society:
The industrial revolution caused unspeakable misery both on England and in America. … In the Lancashire cotton mills (from which Marx and Engels derived their livelihood), children worked from 12 to 16 hours a day; they often began working at the age of six or seven. Children had to be beaten to keep them from falling asleep while at work; in spite of this, many failed to keep awake and were mutilated or killed.
Parents had to submit to the infliction of these atrocities upon their children, because they themselves were in a desperate plight. Craftsmen had been thrown out of work by the machines; rural laborers were compelled to migrate to the towns by the Enclosure Acts, which used Parliament to make landowners richer by making peasants destitute; trade unions were illegal until 1824; the government employed agents provocateurs to try to get revolutionary sentiments out of wage-earners, who were then deported or hanged. Such was the first effect of machinery in England.
But the industrial revolution of the 19th century was unfortunately not the first and not the last time that children were abused and taken advantage of by society rather than protected and nurtured. Many of those same and even worse exploitations exist to this very day in countries around the globe.
To address that concern, the United Nations adopted an international Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989. It came into force on September 2, 1990 after it was ratified by the required number of nations. Ironically, given its role in drafting the convention, the only country in the world to have never ratified the convention is the United States of America. Many others countries have ratified it with specific declarations, reservations, and exceptions.
So what child-specific needs and rights does the Convention recognize and guarantee? Here’s a quick summary:
- The right to life.
- The right to their own name and identity.
- The right to be raised by their own parents within a family or cultural grouping.
- The right to have a relationship with both parents, even if they are separated.
- The right to express their opinions and to have those opinions heard and acted upon when appropriate.
- The right to be protected from abuse or exploitation.
- The right to be protected from all forms of physical or mental violence.
- The right to have their privacy protected.
- The right to have their their best interests protected by the state.
- The right to separate legal representation in any judicial dispute concerning their care.
- The prohibition of capital punishment for children.
The world would be a better place if these Rights of the Child were recognized universally. Given their relative vulnerability, children need strong protections and strong champions. Perhaps that is why President Barack Obama has described the US failure to ratify the convention embarrassing and something he wants to review. When you look at those rights, you wonder who could be against them • until you look at human history.
Take the debate over corporal punishment, or hitting children as a form of punishment when you think they have done something wrong. Quite apart from the effectiveness of rewards and punishments in general, let alone of corporal punishments in particular, where do you draw the line between punishment and abuse? That’s one of the sticking points when it comes to the Convention. Many religious and cultural traditions take sides with the tired, old mantra: “Spare the rod, and spoil the child.”
The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child doesn’t buy that line and neither do I. They prohibit and proscribe all forms of corporal punishment. From my vantage point, the only way to protect and nurture children is to meet their many physical and developmental needs. We have to understand them, both as individuals and as a group, if we hope to care for them. Rewards and punishments only serve to interfere with such understanding. Empathy and consideration prove to be far more effective.
In his recent book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, author Dan Pink documents the research base related to facilitating intrinsic motivation. He identifies three primary factors: autonomy (having a sense of control over what you are doing), mastery (having a sense of capacity in what you are doing), and purpose (having a sense of value about what you are doing). He and many other authors, from Alfie Kohn to Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman, have made it very clear that these factors have as much to do with nurturing children as it does to working and playing with adults.
So might we all take that to heart. Let’s go beyond the bare minimum of protecting the rights of children. Let’s go all the way to nurturing children with love and reason so that they might grow into the fullness of their potential and the happiness of their joy.
Coaching Inquiries: Who are the children in your life who need to be protected and nurtured? How can you reach out in ways that help them to become more fully alive? What kind of support are you able to offer? Why not make some child’s day today?
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Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob.
Excellent Provision on Respect. This seems so easy when we want others to do it and so hard when we have to do it.
I was doing my Course in Miracles lesson on my I-touch when I woke up and checked my e-mail. I read your entire Provision • really nice message about respect and civility.
May I add a word to this guideline on respect: “Treat YOURSELF, your fellow human beings, your fellow living things, and the world in general with love, honesty, faithfulness and respect.” So much suffering, anxiety, worry, and fear springs from treating ourselves badly. Without this, nothing else matters. (Ed. Note: Perfect! Thanks.)
May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC
President, LifeTrek Coaching International, www.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformation, www.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coaching, www.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a Time, Online Retailers
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