Monday, March 11, 2013



       It was snack time for the three-year-olds at Thunderbird Preschool.  A little boy reached out and accidently knocked over his cup.  As the milk rolled across the table, down onto his chair and to the floor, his face changed from a look of surprise to one of despair.  I was sure there would be tears.  But, before I could even begin to reassure him, his classmate Abigail jumped up, napkin in hand, saying, “My Mommy says, ‘These things happen!’”  With that bit of wisdom, she cheerfully wiped up the spill!
        How pleased I was with Abigail and how proud of her Mommy!  She was teaching her children resilience in the face of adversity.  Resilience is the ability to recover rapidly from disappointment or misfortune.  Resilience gives one the strength to face difficulties head-on.  It is a gem of a characteristic with many facets.  We have several ingredients in our recipe for resilience:
  • ·         Trust. Children need to believe and rely on the people in the community, as well as themselves.
  • ·         Creative Problem-solving. Children can be taught to “think outside the box,” to look at a problem from many sides.
  • ·         Gratitude.  Awareness of one’s blessings can save one from drowning in self-pity.
  • ·         Heroes.  Children need models of resilient people to inspire them and pave the way.
  • ·         Humor.  Understanding the ironies of life helps a child laugh off the small things.
  • ·         Hope.  Everyone needs to believe that good things do happen and we can help make them come to be.

No matter how well we protect them, our children might skin a knee, miss an opportunity, be rejected.  They might fall prey to a bully. A child who lives with daily abuse, be it from a bully at school, a racist community or an addict in the family, is bound to develop an inner anxiety and self-doubt. Parents, teachers, and other loving adults need to be alert to the grief and, using the above ingredients, fortify their children with an inner resilience.
Children of even the best parents will make mistakes in their lives.  No matter how caring and attentive we are, they might spill their milk.  As they grow they might fail a test, tell a lie, or hurt someone.  Mistakes happen. 
We adults best help children when we show them that it is not the end of the world.  We help by standing with them and showing them, as Abigail’s Mommy did, how to
1.      Take responsibility for the consequences of their mistakes (wipe up the milk).
2.      Learn from their mistakes (in the future, be sure the cup is further from the edge of the table).
3.      Get on with life (enjoy your pretzels)!

Discuss or journal:  Where does your own resilience come from?
                        Do you have a pet phrase to help the child in your heart work through a disappointment or pain?

In the primary grades children know the disappointment of broken promises.  They know that a lie is purposely misleading and they know that it is wrong.  What we adults can help them identify is how distrust affects relationships and disrupts the community.
In the following activity, children will experience how trust can be inadvertently hampered when there is not enough information.  Hopefully, they will begin to rely on their own experience and knowledge coupled with input from other reliable sources to discover what is and isn’t true.

Piecing It Together

From Peacemakers: The New Generation, Grades 1-3, pages 37-38

Materials: A large picture (about 11x 14 or bigger), self-stick notes (3” squares), board or newsprint, Story “The Three Blind Men and the Elephant” (See below)

Purpose:  To understand that sometimes we have only part of the truth and we need more to get the whole picture or the whole truth.

Preparation: Cover the entire picture with self-stick notes so that each can be lifted without disturbing the others.  Set the picture aside, facing away from the children.

In the Circle of Peace, tell the story of the “The Three Blind Men and the Elephants” (below) .
Process the story by asking:
            What did the men think they were feeling?
            When they describe what they felt, were they correct?
            Were they stupid?
            Were they lying?
            How could they finally figure out the truth?
Explain to the children that sometimes we have only a small piece of the truth on which to base our actions.  When we do, we must be careful not to judge too quickly.
When we have only small pieces of information, we need to share with others to find out what they know.  Then, putting the pieces together, we can come closer to the truth.  The more pieces we have, the more we can trust our conclusions.
            What would have happened if the blind men had shared their information with one another?
            Would they have been closer to understanding what an elephant is?

Propose a game.  Display the picture.  Invite each child to approach the picture, one at a time, and look under just one self-stick note to reveal a portion of the picture.

When all have had a turn, give each child a chance to say, “I saw _____, so I think the picture is _____.”

Record each guess on the board or newsprint.

When all have reported their “piece of the truth,” ask if anyone wishes to change her guess based on what the others saw.  When all are satisfied, uncover the picture and compare the guesses with the reality.

Explain that often we think we know the truth when we haven’t examined all the evidence.  This is called making a mistake.  It isn’t really lying unless we purposely mislead someone.  It is always best to gather as much information as possible before making a judgment.

                                                Reproducible for classroom use only. Copyright 2007 E.T.Nedder Publishing

Three Blind Men and the Elephant

The original parable originated in China sometime during the Han Dynasty (202BC-220AD) and goes something like this:
One day three blind men happened to meet each other and talked a long time.  Suddenly one of them recalled, “I heard that an elephant is a strange sort of animal.  Too bad we’re blind and can’t see it.”
            It so happened that a merchant with a herd of elephants was passing, and overheard their conversation.  “You fellows, do you really want to feel an elephant?  Then follow me.  I will show you,” he said.
Taking one another’s hand, they quickly formed a line and followed while the merchant led the way.
After reaching their destination, the merchant led the first blind man to feel the elephant.  With an outstretched hand, he touched first the left foreleg and then the right.  After that he felt the two legs from the top to the bottom, and with a beaming face, turned to say, “So, the queer animal is just like that.”  Then he slowly returned to the group.
Thereupon the second blind man was led to the rear of the elephant.  He touched the tail which wagged a few times, and he exclaimed with satisfaction, “Ha!  Truly a queer animal! Truly odd! I know now.  I know.”  He hurriedly stepped aside.
The third blind man’s turn came, and he touched the elephant’s trunk which moved back and forth turning and twisting and he thought, “That’s it!  I’ve learned.”
The three blind men thanked the merchant and went their way.  The second blind man blurted out, “This queer animal is like our straw fans swinging back and forth to give us a breeze.  However, it’s not so big or well made.  The main portion is rather wispy.”
“No, no!” the first blind man shouted in disagreement.  “This queer animal resembles two big trees without any branches.”
“You’re both wrong,” the third man replied.  “This queer animal is similar to a snake; it’s long and round and very strong.”
How they argued!  Each one insisted that he alone was correct.  Of course, there was no conclusion, for no one had thoroughly examined the whole elephant.
How can anyone describe the whole until he has learned the total of parts?

Reprinted with permission from Chinese Folk Tales by Louise and Yuan His Kuo  copyright 1976 by Celestial Arts, Berkeley, CA,

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