Nature, and natural life, has undoubtedly a special attraction for children; while it’s also healthy and good for adults to be outdoors and enjoy nature, the importance natural life has for children cannot be overestimated.
I have found that disturbed and ‘difficult’ children calm down and improve spontaneously after having spent a few hours in open air, enjoying the wind and the sun, and moving their bodies as much as they can.
It is strange to see how little this simple fact is known among educators, and especially among specialized educators. They often believe in their technologies, their healing methods, their machinery for lifting handicapped children in huge water basins, their health food and their professional expertise.
But most of the time, these children are kept in a prison-like existence, indoors most of the day, and afar from the adventures that a rough climate can offer; a simple rain, a thunderstorm, snow and ice, a walk at the river side, walking through mud, running over beach sand, picking some flowers at the roadside — all these activities, which most adults take for granted without seeing their dimension for the child, have healing qualities.
Nature heals. It’s as simple as that. Nature widens inner space, and it unwinds inner knots, it heals emotional stress, and it lets us breathe deeply, which by itself already is a powerful trigger for healing.
In addition, it has to be seen that contrary to many adults, children are indiscriminating regarding the weather conditions; they take nature as it is and derive joy from any kind of weather, and the educator should learn doing the same.
I remember I always complained about rain, but once I was working with children and had to go for walks with them, my aversion against rain quickly vanished when I saw them hipping and hopping through the water pouring down, more noisy and more joyful than ever, as if rain had a magic quality to lift children up. It’s really wondrous to me why children enjoy rain so much.
In South-East Asia where I am living since several years, there are very heavy rains during the rain season and that means tons of water pouring down in about half an hour. As there are as good as no drains in the streets, children simply run around naked, wading through the water that quickly comes up and floods houses, shops and public buildings in less than an hour. When you see the locals, they seem to enjoy nature’s abundance in just the same way, men, clothed with just an underwear, carrying stuff out of the house and taking it to a dry place, women taking down the laundry that is soaked in water, and elders standing in front of their houses, patiently waiting, with smiling faces, contemplating the naked kids playing with empty coke bottles, cigarette boxes and all the rest of a layer of garbage that happily floats on the water.
Needless to add that I was never setting a foot out of my house and could not understand that these people could enjoy water so much. However, I remember that as a child I enjoyed rain very much and from my mother and grandmother I heard they enjoyed rain more than anything when they were little girls. It must have to do with the magic quality of water, for children experience the same joy when they come to the beach and look over the ocean, or take a ride on a boat. They are just crazy for it, and I have never met a child who was not enjoying an excursion to the seaside, or to a lake. Besides, the high ionization, and the salt-contained air near the ocean is of course very beneficial for children’s health, as it purifies our bronchial system, and recharges our vital batteries.
Generally, the ocean has a strong metaphorical quality; it is associated in the subconscious with the matrix, and the eternal feminine, with the cosmic flow, and with sexuality. Children love to search for shells and snails that symbolize their intimate parts, and they are obviously reassured of their sexual identity by so doing. I have always observed that children gain incredibly in expressiveness when close to the sea, that they are exuberant and full of joy, energized, and that even when they come from dim or abusive home conditions; at the seaside they can really forget their sad milieu for a few hours, and relax.
The intrinsic value of the ocean and generally of wild untouched nature for children is that they can exhibit their full desire for discovery, for the expansion of the known. Children are much less scared of the new, the unknown, than most adults; that is why they are generally more courageous than adults. When they explore something, be it the nature around them, be it the nature within them, they want to go as far as their courage reaches. They may not go through, but when they don’t, that should be within their own discretion, not the discretion of the educator.
Of course, when there is danger involved, for example children playing in the shallow waters when the tide is coming up, there is no question they have to be gently called for return, but generally when children explore they should be left alone. Sometimes it’s good to say something funny, as humor generally expresses permissiveness regarding sensible matters such as sexual curiosity, but in general, the principle is non-interference. When an educator is invited to join in children’s intimate games, which happens more often than not, the situation can get out of hand if the educator is not mentally and emotionally prepared for it. The appropriate response in such cases is gentle refusal, that may be uttered as a half-joke, but not a joke that sounds like ridiculing the child.
And it goes without saying that punishment in such situations is the ultimate insanity, and has to be discarded out from the start when the school is setup. To punish a child for pleasure, pleasure seeking or exchanging pleasure is pure sadism, and it’s pretty much a criminal behavior in my opinion. It should be legally prohibited. When children are excited and seek to exchange caresses and erotic favors, nobody, not even the state, has a right to interfere let alone punish them for it! If governments do that nonetheless, they have to be dismissed by the vote of responsible citizens, parents and educators. We cannot raise children without sexual pathologies if we distort their psychosexual growth through denial and violent interference.
Permissiveness is not a fashion, not a trend, and not a new age invention, but a necessity when dealing with children. Or we can as well throw out our constitutions and return to political anarchy and chaos, for what governments do with such behavior is to raise perverts, not sane citizens, and when that happens, in my view, educators should openly and explicitly boycott such laws, measures and regulations, and lobby for a change.
Now, let me say a word about violence. There is no doubt that children, just like adults, are violent at times. Children are afraid of violence but that doesn’t exclude their being violent themselves once in a while. We have to be careful to not put up an idealistic scheme that posits a should-be reality, saying that ‘well, children may be violent, but they should not be violent.’ This leads straight to the result that children are punished every time they are violent, thus meeting violence with violence.
I think I can spare a comment. You won’t fight disease by making the body sicker; you do it by making it more healthy. Violence cannot be fought by violence. The trigger of this insanity is the premise that splits life in ‘what is’ and what ‘should be;’ putting up ideals is insane. Ideals are projections, at best, wishful thinking. Let me sort out the mess.
When children are violent, there are reasons why they are violent; they may have learnt violence from their parents, or their educators, or they may be stuck in an emotional impasse that came about through repressing certain emotions. Or they may have pent-up negative feelings toward specific other children in school, and these children, in turn may harbor similarly negative feelings against them. When you see this variety of possible factors in the etiology of violence, in one single case, you are becoming perhaps aware that to find a way out of the violence trap is not a simplistic matter. It’s not done by punishing violent behavior; actually punishment often just is laziness; it’s so easy to hit when you are too lazy to find out what’s really going on. That’s why punishing children not only has negative effects in the children’s psyche, but also in the punisher’s psyche. It will gradually get him or her at the border of insanity because by regularly hitting children, you are reinforcing your inner shadow.
This is so because every time when you hit a child, you actually hit your own inner child. You simply accumulate guilt and shame! You are making yourself down in front of yourself. Of course, in most cases educators are not conscious of these implications when they hit a child; they may get nightmares once in a while, they may be shielded even against their dream self. They may have repercussions in their private life, in own partner relation, with their own children.
Violence against children is not something the creator especially likes, nor is it something practiced by any animal race. It’s a perversity, if you ask me. And it’s a signal for me that a particular educator is not up to his or her task, and has unresolved issues; it’s also a signal that an educator isn’t really self-aware and thus can’t be tolerated in the consciousness-based educational setting. In most cases that I myself observed, I found that educators who hit are depressed, for one, and entangled, for two. I found invariably a strong codependence issue in their lives, typically with a parent, that was carried through to adulthood and is projected upon children. The depression then is the reaction of the biosystem to the repression of the violent impulses that are invariably triggered by the fusional rage.
When educators project unresolved issues on children they care for, they will unconsciously free the violent impulse that got turned into the depression response (which is a psychic cover-up triggered by the thought ‘I ought not be violent’), and release it on the body of the child. This is how violent behavior can be explained in most cases, while there are other cases that are more complex, of course. I elucidated the typical case, and for the purposes of this essay, that may suffice.
As this article cannot cover all the practical aspects of teacher training, I can’t really treat all the details of the problem here. But when educators accept basic awareness building, when they agree with the idea they have to build emotional awareness, they are able, in most cases, to solve the hangup by themselves and change their behavior accordingly.
Now let me get back to our focus on the child, for this is the primary focus I would like to uphold here. Let us look at the child, when they are violent. What are they saying when they hit another child? Do they not say ‘I am confused, I need help?’ Do they not say ‘I need to handle my emotions?’ Do they not say ‘Sorry, I haven’t learnt to cope with my hot energies, I just let them explode?’ I think this is what their body language and their face mimicking conveys in these moments, when they hit and sweat, and shout.
And have you observed those who get hit, or hit back, when they fall down, how quickly, how energetically they jump up again? I think it’s important to realize that violence, when it’s exchanged between children, doesn’t lead to depression but to energizing the other organism. And now look at the Gestalt of a scene where you see an educator hit a child and the child falls down from the force of the blow.
Have you ever seen that? If you have seen it, you know the child will not jump up energetically, but remain a moment in that position; in most cases the child will take a fetal position, and cry. The Gestalt shows depression, and humiliation.
So, this may suffice to render you aware of the essential difference of children being violent with peers, on one hand, and adults being violent against children, on the other.
You do not need to agree with me, I may be too black-and-white in this matter, it’s well possible. But I think the principle is correct that children tend to react differently when receiving a violent response from an adult they have been bonding with, and whom they may love, compared to receiving a blow from a peer boy or girl.
In the first alternative, a real inner damage may have been caused, that in some cases cannot be repaired, at least not in that specific educational relationship. It may be healed later on in another educational relationship, where again bonding occurs and where again the child falls in love with the educator, but where the violent response did not take place. Or it may happen with a parent who finds out about the problem and reacts appropriately, or with a child psychologist.
In the second alternative, there may be anger against the violent child, but there is hardly depression let alone humiliation. (The latter may well be the case when the violence was inflicted upon the child by an adolescent the child looks up to). Anger is always temporary, depression is longer-lasting than anger, but humiliation is not time-bound and will endure on the level of the unconscious. It will be repressed and projected, thus the child who has been humiliated will later try to humiliate other, often smaller, children.
As a general rule, to open the way for understanding children who are violent at times, who are mad at times, who are out of their mind sometimes, any kind of morality scheme is to be discarded. This is the starting point.
With any kind of ideology in the back of your head, be it religious or political, you won’t be able to see what’s really going on because your perception will be veiled and distorted by your belief system. To get there entails already some work you should have done prior to begin working with children; it should be part of your professional education and is in some countries. In France, for example, the national constitution bans all and every religious tint in the whole of the school system; there must not be crosses on the walls, and Muslim girls can’t wear their traditional hijab. In other words, a functional approach should be taken in all matters educational.
When the mind is calm, and there is inner peace, the educator bears a non-judgmental look upon the child.
Children at times may not only be violent, they may also know streaks of perverse behavior. They may put their feces in the bath water, for example, which is considered by psychoanalysts as a typical case of perverse behavior with small children. The response should never be violent. The child simply is told that it’s against the culture to put one’s feces in the bath water. That’s all, and that suffices in most cases to change the child’s behavior accordingly.