Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Positive Self- Identity:  Finding Purpose
Spending the day at the County Fair with our grandchildren, we stopped at the 4H tent
to get a bite to eat.  Eight-year-old Sofi, feeling particularly hungry, ordered the steak sandwich. 
“This is good!” she said after the first bite.  Then we didn’t hear from her again, until she was finished. “That steak sandwich was delicious!”
“It’s always nice to tell the cook when you like the food.  After all, he’s been volunteering at
 that grill all afternoon,” I suggested.
So we walked over to the grill and caught his attention. 
“That steak sandwich was delicious!” Sofi called to him.
At first he looked wary, perhaps thinking we had come to complain.  When he realized what
she had said, he grinned brightly.  “Thank you.  I’m glad you liked it.”
“Sofi,” I pointed out as we walked away, “Did you see how happy you made him with just one sentence?”
“Nana,” she told me seriously, “That’s my purpose.”
“Pardon me?”
“It’s my purpose to bring people happiness.  It’s why I’m made,” she explained.
Now I was grinning!  Sofi’s mom had taken care to teach her daughters that they were
created out of love to bring love into the world.  It’s a lesson that will serve them – and the rest of us – well throughout their lives.

                So much is written about building children’s self-esteem.  We want them to know that they are special, unique, loved.  We tell them they are beautiful, smart, the best, the winner.  We bend over backward to keep them from feeling inferior or discouraged.  We know that confident children will be happy children, more likely to perform well in any situation.
                There is also much written about over-doing the attention.  We are warned of the danger of coddling a child until he grows to expect praise for any effort at all.  We read of the “new bully,” the one who is so self-centered, she feels entitled to all the attention and anything she sets her sights on.  These new bullies have no sense of boundaries.  They will do whatever it takes to get what they want.  Nor do they have any sense of remorse if their target gets hurt. In their minds they are more than the Center of the Universe; they are THE universe.
                Working with Peacemakers: The New Generation, we began to shift our focus from developing positive self-esteem to developing positive self-identity.  We realized that children need to think of themselves, not as lone individuals, but as individuals who make up something bigger.  They are part of a community: a family, a class, a neighborhood, a country.  Those communities help to define their uniqueness: she is empathetic, he is a good speller, she is thoughtful, he is honest, etc.    Those communities also help define each one’s purpose: care taker, crossing guard, dog walker, patriot.  So we endeavored to extend our message to the children broadening, “You are loved.  You are unique.  You are beautiful.”   We began to add, “”You are loved just because you are.  You are unique in what you bring to the world.  You are beautiful in the way you complete the picture. And you are connected.  We need you and you need us.  We are one.”  
When they are young, children’s parents will help them recognize their purpose.  As they grow, they will find it for themselves, sometimes pleasantly surprising their elders. Years ago my daughter Amelia and I facilitated a retreat for families.  As part of the day, we asked parents to hear what their children wanted to be when they grew up.  We then encouraged them to help their children appreciate how their choice would add love and peace to the world.  We were all gratified to hear the youngsters announce such plans as:  “I will be a fireman and keep people safe.”  “I will be a ballerina and make people smile at the beautiful music and movement.”  “I will be a pro football player and teach kids how to be good sports.”
Helping a child develop a positive self-identity builds her self-esteem, withdraws her need to bully, and adds to peace in the world.

Puzzling It Over
Adapted from Peacemakers: The New Generation, Grades 6- 8, p. 5

Materials:  Photo or drawing of the earth cut into various puzzle shapes, as many pieces as there are children, markers
Purpose: To help children realize the unique contribution each person makes to the world.

In the Circle of Peace discuss the word “interdependence.”  Compare the word with “independence.”  When we are young, it seems that our whole goal is to learn to be independent.  That’s important, because independence brings freedom to accomplish the things we want to do.  But really, even adults are interdependent to some extent.  Doctors help their patients, pharmacists help the doctors, chemistry teachers help the pharmacists, etc.  Ask for examples of interdependence in a family, classroom, and neighborhood.  How are countries interdependent?
Divide the puzzle pieces among the children.  Have each write his name on the front of the piece.  Allow time for them to assemble the puzzle.
Ask the children to complete the metaphor: We are each like a piece of the puzzle because ___.
·         Though we fit together to make a whole, we are each uniquely made, no two pieces are alike.
·         Sometimes we have to turn ourselves around or up-side –down in order to fit properly.
·         No one else can fill our space.  If we are not allowed to fill our space, it will remain empty.
·         If we refuse to fit, or if someone prevents us from fitting, then we will be alone outside the picture and the puzzle will be incomplete.

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