(KUNM Airdate: 7/28/06)

Mother Theresa said: "If there is no peace in the world today, it is because there is no peace in the family. Help your families to become centers of compassion and forgive constantly and so bring peace."

On this program, the third in our series on Peaceful Parenting, we talk with Laura Ramirez, author of the book Keepers of the Children: Native American Wisdom and Parenting.

Ramirez' husband is a member of the Pascua Yaki Tribe. In her book, she uses little known Native American concepts and teaching stories to show parents how to raise children to unfold the gifts within their hearts. By teaching children how to create fulfilling lives, she says, parents deepen their sense of satisfaction with their own.

Carol Bost hosts the program.

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Transcription: Rogi Riverstone

Laura Ramirez

CAROL BOSS: What are some of the differences in how families in mainstream society generally raises their children and Native American families raise theirs?

LAURA RAMIREZ: The differences are huge - starting with the difference in discipline. In the mainstream world, typically, we punish our children, to try to keep them in line. Whereas, in the Native world, they believe in teaching a child to develop the self-discipline to make the right choices on his own. That is a very big difference. It creates a very different dynamic between the parent and the child.

Another important difference is the way Native people see children. It wasn't too long ago, in this culture, that women and children were seen as property. A lot of parents today still view their children as their property, whereas, in Native American culture, children are seen as adults' spiritual equals. It's a very different way of seeing the child.

When I first started dating my husband, I had dated quite a bit. At that point in my life, I had traveled around the world. I had been exposed to a number of different cultures. I started to see that he was wise, that he was kind. He was compassionate and generous. Yet, at the same time, he was nobody's fool. He was very psychologically savvy. When we decided to have children, I made a conscious decision to cultivate these same qualities in my children. I was also aware of the importance of raising our children with ideas from both our cultures. I did a lot of research. I did a lot of self-reflection. I really thought about which ideas, from each of these cultures, would be most humane and most resourceful in raising my children.

What happens, when a child is born, is that the parents spend a lot of time, recognizing themselves and each other in the child. This is an important step in the bonding process. The parent needs to identify with the child, in order to become the child's caretaker. But, what we need to remember is, the child is not you, is not your husband, is not just some combination of the both of you. The child is a unique entity, unto himself. My husband's tribe, the Pascua Yaki tribe, has a great story that illustrates this point.

What they say is that, when a woman is pregnant, she has a piece of turquoise inside her womb. When that piece of turquoise is born into the world, it's the parents' job - not to try to break it up, not to try to make it into something else, not to try to shape it into anything other than what it is - but to polish it until its unique beauty comes to light. This, to me, is the essence of parenting. It becomes a journey of discovery; because you get to discover who your child is, separate from yourself.

I think it is essential that the parents - rather than protecting their children from the outside world (which you need to do, at the beginning of the child's life) - they need to teach children how to see: how to see beyond a person's credentials, beyond their presentation, beyond the number of their possessions, to the actions that really reveal them. You're giving your child grounding in human psychology.

Keepers of
The Children


BOSS: How do you do that?

RAMIREZ: I do it with Mother Nature. It's a Native American way of understanding the world: nature is reflective of human nature. My kids are twelve and ten right now. When they were young, I used the animal world to teach them about human nature. I taught them you recognize an animal by what it does. Dogs bark; cats meow; birds chirp. Then, I taught them that, in the human world, it's a bit trickier. Human beings are not always what they present themselves to be. That's why you've got to look beyond what they say, to what they do.

BOSS: Let's talk about conflict resolution. How important is it to teach children the skills of conflict resolution?

RAMIREZ: There's conflict all over the place. There's conflict with family; there's conflict at school and there's conflict in the world. When you teach children conflict resolution skills, you teach them tolerance. You teach them how to be humane.

You do that by inviting them to consider another perspective. You do this in Native American culture by using something called the Talking Stick. The Talking Stick is a symbol. It's a tool. In the Native culture, and in my family, when there is a conflict - or when there is a disagreement about what we want to do - we sit in a circle. The circle is important; it is symbolic of the idea that we are all equal. There is the concept of spiritual equality again. No one is first. No one has to be last. We are all on equal footing - when we lead with our hearts. The Talking Stick is in the center of the circle. When someone feels compelled to speak, they pick up the stick. That is the sign for everyone else to be silent - not to think about what they are going to say when it is their turn to hold the stick - but to actually listen, to consider the words of the speaker, to consider this person's pain.

We know, whenever there is conflict, there is pain. There are needs that are not being met. When that person has spoken what is in their heart - in our family, and in the Native American world - it is done by saying, "I . . ." You're taking responsibility for your feelings. You are not blaming anybody else. You're saying, "I feel this way."

When you are done speaking, you put down the stick or pass it to someone else. The next person speaks. Everybody gets a chance to be listened to, and it's very important for children to be heard: to feel like they are seen, like they are visible, like their voices count. We grew up in a time when there was a saying, "children should be seen and not heard." When you raise your children that way, they will find ways to make themselves visible to you. It may not be a way that you like very much.


WALK-IN-PEACE.COM - Laura Ramirez Website for her book and more

WEBSITE: Laura's Links To Native Wisdom Sites on the Web





This Page is about behavioral individuality in infants, children and adults. It is intended as a clearinghouse for research and practical information about temperamental characteristics to be used by parents, students, professionals and others who have an interest in temperament.

Other Books: Touchpoints: Your Child's Emotional and Behavioral Development by T. Berry Brazelton, M.D.

How To Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber, et al.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families: Building Beautiful Family Culture in a Turbulent World by Stephen R. Covey.

Pathways To Peace: Forty Steps to a Less Violent America by Victor LaCerva.

Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys by Daniel J. Kindlon, et al.