Last week I had the honor to be invited to the World Law Congress in Madrid, Spain. The Spanish capital became the international center of the legal world, where a numerous group of jurists, lawyers, politicians, entrepreneurs, and professionals of diverse fields from different countries gathered to present their ideas, research, and innovative proposals to achieve peace through law.
For two intensive days I listened to distinguished personalities from the international legal world, many of them prominent figures from Spanish civil society, all united to recognize the importance of the Rule of Law as a mechanism to guarantee democracies in the world. Many of them talked about society’s imperative need of peace, the rebirth of extremist movements in Latin America and Europe, and the relevance of respect and tolerance in a context of global governance crisis.
Then it happened.
During an ecumenical act in the Almudena Cathedral of Madrid, I attended the speech of the president of the World Jurist Association Dr. Franklin Hoet-Linares and his words left a deep impact on my heart. ¡Vamos a educar para la paz!, he said. Let’s educate for peace… Hearing these words made me conscious of the level of responsibility we have as parents and educators with the world and the future of human kind.
All of the sudden those endless appointments at the doctor’s office, sport tournaments, music lessons, and art presentations seemed futile when confronted with my “real” duties as a mother of three. Am I raising children of peace? Are we, my husband and I, giving our kids the tools to resolve conflicts in a peaceful manner?
How do we educate for peace?
How do we raise future leaders pro democracy and diversity?
Then it hit me.
Everything begins at home.
No, we don’t need to enroll our kids in an international congress about law and democracy at the age of 6.
What we need to do is to bring peace to daily activities both at home and school.
Answering these questions and telling you how to do it would be too pretentious. However, I can give you some ideas of where to start creating a culture of peace at home, thus fulfilling your mission as parents in charge of a better world. Then remember the job is yours and as long as we work together towards the same goal, the results will be beneficial for all of us, specially, our children. Who knows… maybe we are able to plant the seed of law in our offsprings and they become lawyers and jurists in the future.
Promoting a Culture of Peace at Home
As parents we all have a role in teaching children about peaceful behavior. We need to be role models for our kiddos by showing them peaceful ways of thinking and behaving.
- Let’s cover the basic needs. If a child is malnourished, sleep deprived, sick and cranky he or she won’t behave nicely. Frequent tantrums and aggressive reactions are always present when a child hasn’t slept well or when the child is hungry and thirsty. Then it is our job to make sure our kids get enough sleep, spend a big deal of time playing outdoors in contact with nature, eat a balanced diet and drink plenty of water. You may roll your eyes at these, but believe me, it is so much easier to deal and teach a child that’s well rested and fed properly. Don’t forget to make adjustments that adhere to your family’s routine and means.
- Let’s discover the world together. Another impediment to peace is intolerance of other people. Intolerance can be to distinctions of race, religion, cultures and lifestyles. We can change this through education. Explore with your children new traditions from a different country, get in touch with people with distinct backgrounds from yours, and talk to your children about commonalities and diversity. Promote respect and tolerance of others at home.
- Let’s be conscious about the impact of media. The media is a very influential source of information and learning. It is our duty to promote watching documentaries or programs that present Peace Journalism. Question what you and your family see and hear from the media. It is important to analyze the way our children view violence. Media glamourizes violence and pornography. Talk to your children about behaviors observed in TV, online and video games that project aggressive behavior and war as a normal conduct. I always tell my kiddos that the fact that a behavior is common doesn’t make it good! Counteract violence and criminal behaviors with acts of empathy. The main point here is to avoid our children’s lack of sensitivity to conflict and violence.
- Let’s be role models of peace. Start by yourself, learn new ways to resolve conflicts peacefully, include your children in family discussions and show them how to participate in conflicts resolution with a respectful and non-violent attitude. Through my years as a lawyer, educator and mother I have read many materials that suggest avoiding fighting with your spouse in front of the children. To me this is somehow utopian and unrealistic. We spend a big deal of time together, we travel together and get out of our comfort zones together… how do we avoid marital conflict in front of the kiddos when we are stuck in a small cabin in the Icelandic countryside and nowhere else to go to vent? What are we supposed to do then? We discuss our problems, yes, in front of the kids (please don’t get self righteous). But we always stick to principles of respect, tolerance, compromising, and love. We make sure the children see us reconcile and come to an agreement, we give them, by example, the tools needed to resolve problems in a healthy and peaceful way.
- Let’s get family members, friends, and teachers involved. Everyone is busy and nobody likes to be told what to do. However, there are many ways to bring up the conversation of creating a culture of peace in the classroom with your child’s teacher and school director. Many schools around the world have started including “Culture of Peace” as a subject to teach children about tolerance, mediation, and rewards for behaviors of peace and justice. Be active! Offering to read a book during story time could be a nice and smooth way to teach peace to young children in elementary school. Supporting the debate team of your teenage child in secondary school could be also an effective way to introduce more tolerance and respect towards other’s opinions at such an important age. The possibilities are endless. Be creative.
The above ideas are just some of the small steps towards a culture of peace we can take at home. By putting ideas like this into practice I’m hoping to create a more peaceful living for our children and our society. Like Dr. Franklin Hoet said, the Rule of Law is key to guarantee peace and justice in the world, however, the relevance and impact of peace starts with our children, and just by teaching peace can we get closer to the goal of a more peaceful and democratic world.
Let’s not forget that our children are the leaders for our future and it is through them we will create a culture of peace.