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Leveling With Our Children

Raising children to become people of character is the enduring task of parenthood. And yet, a parent’s efforts may be rebuffed by the children themselves. When this happens, the best of us may feel inclined to scold our kids or to throw up our hands, at a loss as to what went wrong.

Ikeda Sensei suggests, through the following example, a misstep adults commonly make when engaging with children and proposes a different approach:

[A] primary-school teacher, gazing rapturously out of the clear upper panes of a classroom window, urges her young charges to rejoice at their good fortune in being able to study in a room with a wonderful view of Mount Fuji. Her effusion earns only boisterous derision from the children because the lower window panes, through which they must look, are of frosted glass.[1]

Where she has faltered, Sensei suggests, is in assuming that the world looks the same to her students as it does to her, when in fact, from the viewpoint of the children, things look quite different.

Sensei outlines his own approach:

I always think of children as individuals with personalities on a par with my own. … Taking into consideration the budding adult within each of them, I consistently try to adjust my viewpoint to theirs. Children react better when being treated as equals.[2]

But what does it look like, concretely speaking, to treat your child as your equal, when your child is, for instance, throwing a tantrum in public? Sensei offers this simple proposition:

Perhaps the child squatting on the department-store floor and howling for his father to buy a toy would calm down fast if the father abandoned his lofty, adult, scowling stance and joined the child on the floor.[3]

By affirming the world our children know, we earn their respect. From here, we can address them as the budding citizens of the world they will inherit.

—Prepared by the World Tribune staff


  1. Choose Peace: A Dialogue Between Johan Galtung & Daisaku Ikeda, (East Haven, CT: Pluto Press, 1995), p. 24. ↩︎
  2. Ibid. ↩︎
  3. Ibid. ↩︎

LISTEN: Defeating the Doubt Within

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