Empathizing with children is not impossible.

When I was about 20 years old, I met an old pastor’s wife who told me that when she was young and had her first child, she didn’t believe in striking children, although spanking kids with a switch pulled from a tree was standard punishment at the time. But one day, when her son was four or five, he did something that she felt warranted a spanking–the first in his life. She told him that he would have to go outside himself and find a switch for her to hit him with.

The boy was gone a long time. And when he came back in, he was crying. He said to her, “Mama, I couldn’t find a switch, but here’s a rock that you can throw at me.”

All of a sudden the mother understood how the situation felt from the child’s point of view: that if my mother wants to hurt me, then it makes no difference what she does it with; she might as well do it with a stone.

And the mother took the boy into her lap and they both cried. Then she laid the rock on a shelf in the kitchen to remind herself forever: never violence. And that is something I think everyone should keep in mind. Because if violence begins in the nursery one can raise children into violence.

Astrid Lindgren, 1978 Peace Prize Acceptance Speech

It seems adults are utterly unable to retain this lesson.

3 thoughts on “Empathizing with children is not impossible.

  1. Brian L January 27, 2015 at 18:28 Reply

    Very touching and thoughtful story. I believe ANs can easily empathize with both the mother and child. Some might find that statement amusing, considering ANs do not normally become parents. But the reason we empathize is the same reason we, protectively, do not bring children into this world; because we do care, to the point of it being painful.

  2. Brian L January 31, 2015 at 21:57 Reply

    Speaking of empathizing with children, I remembered your posts on the rights of children to optimal health. So, here I was reading the Toronto Star this morning, and what do I see but women with premature babies, and needing mental health nurses to deal with THEM coping with the stress, while the children are just objects they have to deal with, as the source of the stress….


    If only they would stop and think….

    • Francois Tremblay February 1, 2015 at 01:14 Reply

      I’m currently writing a number of entries on childism (the first one should be online in May). This is definitely a good example of objectifying children.

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