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  • Patricia Wilcox

46. MEAN GIRLS IN A KINDNESS DESERT


I was raised to be a 'nice girl'. At that post-war time in New Zealand, it meant that I was expected to be pleasant, polite, and respectable, and to wear clean underwear at all times, in case I got 'run over by a tram'. (Leaving me to quietly wonder how frequently did that ever happen, so that generations of young girls must always be on guard?)

My brothers, on the other hand, were merely required to be 'good boys'. This meant being well-behaved; no spitting, swearing, thieving, lying or bullying. But in a fairly general kind of way; they should NEVER be 'girly' good.

Girls were expected to have a 'softer' kind of behaviour - more closely patterned on the young ladies of the Bronte novels. But in every school I attended, there was always one or more 'mean girls'.

These girls were hard, spiteful and cunning; not a whiff of a Bronte girl in the lot of them.

I'm sad to say that meaness seems to be on the rise. 'Niceness' and 'politeness' are very amorphous kinds of qualities. And they are also culturally determined; polite behaviour in a Samoan fale is not necessarily nice in New York. The first time I visited a fale, I made the mistake of propping myself back against one of the poles that supported the roof. Wrong - the pole I had chosen was reserved for the Chief.

The expectations of children today are far less determined than in the past. So where do they learn about appropriate behaviour? What does being 'nice' and 'good' look like in these internet days? In her recent press release, UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore commented;

"We've heard from children and young people from around the globe and what they are saying is clear: the Internet has become a kindness desert."

The problem has reached such proportions that in 2004 it became necessary to establish Safer Internet Day (SID); a worldwide event organised by Insafe in February of each year, with the aim of promoting safer and more responsible use of online technology and mobile phones. Responding to the rising harm caused by cyberbullying and digital harassment against children and young people, Safer Internet Day aims to raise awareness of emerging online issues, each year choosing a topic reflecting current concerns.

This year on Safer Internet Day, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) called for concerted action to tackle and prevent online violence, cyberbullying and digital harassment against children and young people whilst, at the Education World Forum in Nepal, young people from around the world called on governments to end violence in and around schools. Through the landmark 2018 Act Relating to Children, the Government of Nepal demonstrated real political will to end violence in schools, by becoming the first country in South Asia to achieve a complete ban on violent discipline, including in schools.

The message is clear; adults must listen and take the issue of home and school violence seriously. In Promulgation of World Peace Abdu'l-Baha stated; Loving-kindness is the divine policy. Shall we consider human policy and attitude superior to the wisdom and policy of God? This would be inconceivable, impossible. Therefore, we must emulate and follow the divine policy, dealing with each other in the utmost love and tenderness. --- Abdu'l-Baha , Foundations of World Unity, p. 25

What are we doing to promote kindness in our homes, schools and communities?

No ideas? Then I encourage you to learn about the Virtues Project which describes parenting as 'the most complex and important activity on the planet'.

Parents are a child's first educator, yet they receive little or no training for this vital role. When the Project's author Linda Kavelin Popov appeared on Oprah Winfrey's show, Oprah said of the latest book 'The Family Virtues Guide, How to instill 'do the right thing' virtues in your children'; "Parents are always saying children don't come with a guidebook. This is one! This helps you get them on the right track of leading a good life."

More and more schools and community groups are taking Oprah's advice and applying these Virtues to help them lead a good life.

Video Bahai On Air; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bS_FDpxj5FM