A "No" uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a "Yes" merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble. — Mohandas Gandhi
IN TODAY'S SESSION... We learned about the fifth Unitarian Universalist Principle, the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process. We heard about Maria Cook (1779-1835), an early Universalist preacher who responded to an unfair vagrancy charge by practicing passive resistance, and then preached Universalism to others in prison. We role-played scenarios in which people felt they were being treated unfairly and talked about ways the characters could respond. Children had the chance to stand in the middle of our group circle and voice something they object to, why they object to it, and what they think would be a better way. We added the signpost "Speak Out" to our Faithful Journeys Path.
EXPLORE THE TOPIC TOGETHER. Talk about... Ask your child what they or others spoke about in the "I Object!" circle. Why did they object, and what did they tell the group they thought would be better? If your child did not share an objection, they can tell you how they felt about objections raised by others in the group. Share your own thoughts on something that really bothers you, which you think is wrong. Share why, and suggest a better course. Then, thank your child for allowing you to speak out.
EXTEND THE TOPIC TOGETHER. Try... If Internet petitions come to your e-mail inbox or you encounter someone collecting signatures for a petition, engage your child in conversation about the petition. Do they agree with the petition? Do they think the topic is important? How might the petition make a change?
As a family, participate in a protest march or vigil. Talk beforehand about what to expect. Help children understand the purpose and goals of the gathering. Point out signs, chants, and other ways the group or individuals speak out.
A FAMILY RITUAL
Any time your child begins to whine or complain, you can interrupt with a ritual declaration of "You object!" to which the child can respond, "Yes, I object!" You can follow up with the invitations we used in the "I Object!" exercise: Ask your child, "Why?" (Affirm rational arguments, even if you do not agree.). Ask, "What would be better?" and listen for suggestions of a different solution. The ritual does not assume that you will create a different outcome — bedtime can still be bedtime! It creates a way to affirm your child in speaking out and encourage them to practice rational discourse rather than whining.
A FAMILY GAME
Take turns finishing the sentence, "I wish ... ." The sentences can range from the socially responsible (I wish there were no war) to the extremely silly (I wish there were a parrot on your head).
Learn about the tradition of nonviolent resistance. You can find a brief biography of Gandhi, a site dedicated to Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gandhi and King's principles of nonviolence online. Martin Luther King by Rosemary L. Bray (Rev. Rosemary Bray McNatt), illustrated by Malcah Zeldis (New York: HarperCollins, 1995) is an excellent picture book about Dr. King.