& the Family
Good and Bad Behavior
An idealized view of a child portrays a delightfully innocent creature who responds favorably to kind words and wise direction. While children are not “little adults” with well-practiced vices, they do come complete with a mix bag of good and bad tendencies. Children are often guilty of bad behavior. They disobey parental rules and they lie to protect themselves from punishment. Most children and adolescents commit minor felonies at home and in the community.
Human populations display a range of characteristics. In any group, you can find nice people and you can find bad people at all ages. All human characteristics are present in each human as a variable mix that changes over time. We recognize that one individual will move through different states and may display contradictory behaviors and express contradictory ideas.
We also recognize that humans young and old are competitive and strategic and that everyone will sometimes lie, cheat and many break laws routinely. We recognize that the tendencies of predators remain in the deepest layers of the human mind and are expressed spontaneously by children in their play and in their day to day behavior towards others.
The exploration and explanation of bad human behavior is not as simple at it might seem. You could argue that bad people are distinctly different from good people and can be identified by a combination of biography and diagnostic tests. Good people, however, sometimes display bad behaviors and, if your sample their behavior at the wrong moment, you will come to the wrong conclusion. Children are especially vulnerable to overly harsh judgments when they make mistakes and break rules. Children are in the process of learning how to behave in an acceptable manner and must make mistakes to learn. They learn the wrong lessons from angry adults who punish them often.
Empathy is an important ability of good children who gradually become skilled in sensing and appreciating the needs and feelings of others. Empathy is, however, selective and unstable. Children and adults tend to follow group rules; a normally empathetic child may be callous toward a child who has been rejected by his or her friends.
What if we could combine two exemplary humans, Albert Einstein and the Dalai Lama as the goal for our children's' development? Both won Nobel Prizes and are recognized worldwide as exemplary humans. The Dalai Lama is a spokesperson for sanity and human goodness. The Dalai Lama holds each person responsible for what humans do or do not do. He won the Nobel Peace Prize and his life-story has become familiar to millions people through the movies Seven Years in Tibet [i] and Kundun. [ii] The Dalai Lama has stated that the goal of spiritual practice is to become a "good person; [iii] the pursuit of spiritual goals and ultimate liberation from suffering requires the intention to be of service to others. Selfish goals and methods alone are not sufficient and inevitably lead to unhappiness. " His prescription for human happiness is the cultivation of compassion - a long and dedicated process that involves meditation and practice. Each person can work with his or her own mind to develop a higher consciousness, characterized by compassion and ethical conduct. The tendencies of the human mind are universal. Life is difficult, suffering is inevitable and no human is entirely successful in all his or her dealings with others.
[i] Harrier H. Seven Years in Tibet. 1954 EP Dutton and Co. The movie based on this book was released in 1998. Directed by Jean Jacques Annaud. Available from Columbia/Tri-Star Video
[ii] Kundun 1999 Directed by Martin Scorsese; Available from Touchstone Home Video
[iii] Dalai Lama. Kindness, Clarity and Insight. Snow Lion Publications Box 6483, Ithaca, N.Y., 14851 USA
Persona Digital Books