By Daisaku Ikeda Part 3
The rapid changes in society have left children exposed to intense forms of stress. The cold and unforgiving logic of the adult world is applied unmediated to the lives of children, who are subjected to excessive degrees of competition, selection, ranking and standardization.
The dysfunction so evident in school bullying today thus mirrors the state of adult society, which is replete with insidious forms of bullying — detached cruelty stemming from cynicism and self-involvement, abuses of people’s rights by the media, television programs that poke fun at the vulnerable, prejudice and discrimination in its various forms. To surround children with such realities while expecting them to adhere to idealized forms of behavior is hardly fair.
Urbanization and the collapse of the extended family have deprived children of the physical and social spaces where they are affectionately enfolded and can comfortably develop friendships. And parents are often so pressed for time and stressed by work that they cannot fully engage or interact with their children.
Many children who become violent carry a deep-rooted sense of being neglected and ignored. The healthy growth of children requires that they feel accepted and embraced for who they are. When children can feel acceptance, they develop a natural awareness of their own unique and irreplaceable value. They come to treasure and care for themselves. At the same time, this awakens feelings of trust and respect for others.
In the end, children desire but one thing — to be loved. This is why the family must be a haven of security and protection for children.
Rosa Parks once shared with me her mother’s words: “There is no law that people have to suffer.” Her mother also taught her the value of self-respect, to respect both herself and others. In these childhood lessons I think we can see the deep sources of courage and dignity behind her crucial role in the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott that marked a historic turning point in the American civil rights movement.
Every child has the right to move proudly into the future, head held high. The horror of a society permeated by different forms of bullying is that it tramples children’s sense of self-worth, robbing them of the light of future hope.
All young people need to be clearly assured that when we are suffering, although it may feel like the darkness will continue forever, that is absolutely not the case. Night always yields to dawn. Though the cold of winter may seem to last forever, it is always followed by spring. And those who have suffered most are best able to understand people’s hearts. They have a unique and vital contribution to make.
Children are our only future, our sole, irreplaceable hope. Children are urging us — literally at the risk and cost of their lives — to become aware of the distortions of the adult world. Our response to their silent cries holds the key to healing the desperate illness of our times. Only by turning to directly engage with children, their feelings and their needs, will we redeem our own humanity.
Daisaku Ikeda is president of Soka Gakkai International, and founder of Soka University and the Toda Institute for Global Peace and Policy Research. This column appears on this page the second Thursday of every month.
The Japan Times: Thursday, Feb. 8, 2007
©2013 Cynthia Klein has been a Certified Parent Educator since 1994. She works with dads, moms and organizations who want more cooperation, mutual respect and understanding between adults and children of all ages. Cynthia presents her expertise through speaking, webinars, and private parent coaching sessions. She is a member of the National Speakers Association and writes the Middle School Mom column for the magazine Parenting on the Peninsula. Contact Cynthia at bridges 2 understanding, bridges2understa.wpstagecoach.com or call 650. 341.0779.