|Karen Ryce Presents...
|The following letter was read at a local elementary, mixed-age classroom. At the end of the reading
the children gave me a spontaneous, standing ovation…one of the proudest moments of my life.
OPEN COMMUNITY LETTER
I want to thank you for helping me put my duty to my community into perspective by asking me to
share now some of the information I am writing about in a book. I realized that my primary reason
for writing the book is to share this point of view with others, and that having already worked so
much on the book, my thoughts are now clear enough to share.
Before I begin, I would like to share something said by my Montessori Trainer, “We are not here to
comfort children when they cry, but to see that they have no reason to cry.”
When my daughter Shanti was less than two, I found a name for what had been disturbing me in
the childrearing practices I experienced all around me: slavery, a harsh word for an unpleasant
reality. I became aware that a form of slavery was very much present in our society, even in our
Children were treated as if the only rights they had were those that their parents allowed them, as
if their parents owned them, as women were also treated in this culture; they were expected to
obey their masters (their fathers and then their husbands). Perhaps their masters were kind,
perhaps they were not, the effect was the same. As a dear little boy at Beginnings said to me
about a year ago, while describing his home life, his voice filled with shock and disbelief, “They
treat me like a slave.”
Shortly after this I was at his home and his mother was catering to him in the extreme. You can be
quite kind to your child, but if the bottom line in the relationship is, “Because I told you to!”, slavery
With this realization, many years ago, I too, was shocked and filled with disbelief: How can it be, in
the ‘Land of the Free’, we raise our children in slavery?
For a long time I was filled with anger that this should be happening, that our wonderful children
were treated this way. I did not want to let this anger out in the world. I did not want to cause more
hurt. I knew I needed to say something, but I wanted to offer love to others and perhaps even a
solution to the situation. Anger makes people defensive, whatever their age, and I wanted people
to stay open and to hear me.
Keeping all these conditions in mind, I came to see that there is no blame, no reason to feel anger.
Every parent loves their child(ren). If they are behaving like slave owners, benevolent or tyrannical
or somewhere in between, they are not to be blamed. They are following a cultural pattern learned
in their family and reinforced by the values of the people around them. No one is to blame. No one
is at fault. There is no reason for guilt. Everyone needs love, compassion and understanding.
Still I searched for a clear, workable solution, something that would actually help all these children
and all these parents. My thoughts were still too complicated and tainted with blame to be ready to
One day Baghwan Ram said to someone in passing (translated by Hari), “Treat your children
courteously.” Then just before I left for India, in a discussion of adult/child relations, Misha said, “I
think respect is the key.” That, I believe, is the solution I’ve been searching for: Treat children with
respect, courtesy. Make that your foundation.
For me respectful behavior includes the belief that each of us in equally important, adult or child. If
I do not share your needs or even understand them, that does not make them of less value than
mine. To me respectful behavior means that I treat you in a way that is pleasing to YOU, a version
of the Golden Rule. If you want your children to be guided by this, you must be guided by it,
especially in relationship to them. I also believe that self-respectful behavior is an essential part of
To change behavior, besides needing the desire to do so, it is important to become aware of
present behavior. We can then decide what we need to change to head us in the desired direction.
In the change to respectful behavior, it is essential to eliminate abusive behavior, physical, verbal
and even thoughts. It is also helpful to change demands to requests: “Shut the door.” Becomes
“Please shut the door.” or even “Would you please shut the door?” “Thanks.”
It can also be of value to investigate your behavior, to know whether you practice what you preach,
especially when relating to your child(ren). If you want your child to always do as you say, do you
always do as your child says? If you want your child to be truthful, are you truthful, especially to
your child? If you want your child to be kind to you, are you kind to your child? It is essential to
model the behavior you would like to see in your child.
It is also valuable to learn to share your feelings and thoughts with your child, “I’m grumpy today. It
might be good to keep out of my way.” Also share ESPECIALLY when you like something the child
has done, even more than when they do things you don’t like. This is like nourishing what you like
so it will grow and giving little energy to what you do not like so it will shrivel and disappear.
However you do it, children need to hear your truth in a respectful manner. Children treated with
respect become respect-full.
I believe respectful behavior is a key to peaceful interactions and even peaceful intra-actions.
People treating each other with respect, creates a wonderful medium for peace to flourish. People
tend to be more relaxed when they are assured respectful treatment. People tend to enjoy life
more when they are relaxed. People who are enjoying life tend to spread good energy and are
blessings to all around them. Just think how immediately and how extensively a child’s joy spreads.
I consider this the possible start of a dialog. Please discuss this information with me, if you wish. It
could be helpful to me in the process of writing a clear, helpful book.
I wish you well. Love,