Kim John Payne At Camellia

by on August 18, 2014

About 60 Camellia Waldorf School (CWS) parents, faculty, staff, andCommCirc_KJP_03 board members attended a community meeting on August 17 in which renown educator, author, and family counselor Kim John Payne overviewed the Social Inclusion Program that CWS is commencing this year.

Mr. Payne began by telling a story about the challenges he faced as a young man working in a group home for violent youth in England and how it gave him insights into the dysfunction of the criminal justice system. He wanted to study different systems for dealing with conflict, and he found one in the Maori tribal justice process in New Zealand.

When a conflict large or small occurs in a Maori community, the entire community meets at a tribal council. Mr. Payne attended one such meeting about a situation in which two young men had “borrowed” and then totaled the car of a 19-year old woman. The woman, a parent of two young children, had worked for seven years to earn the money for a used car so that she could travel to college and learn to treat preventable diseases in her tribe’s village.

The meeting started with a story about the history of the tribe, from its creation through the present day.

“It wasn’t a story of triumph,” said Mr. Payne, “it was a story of struggle and of those who came to their aid. Blessings were brought down upon all in the story, regardless of their struggles.”

At the conclusion of the story, elder men told the life stories of the boys who totaled the car, including their skills, good deeds, and struggles. An elder woman did the same for the young woman who owned the car. The young woman then addressed the boys. “You have ruined any hope of me doing my education,” she said. When asked why they totaled the car, one of the boys pointed to the young woman’s brother and said, “ask him.” It turned out that the young woman’s brother had been bullying the two boys for years and the boys totaled the young woman’s car in retribution.

At this point, Mr. Payne said, the community was asked for ideas for how to make the situation better. Through discussion and negotiation, the boys agreed to each work for three years to earn enough money to purchase a replacement vehicle for the young woman. They also volunteered to babysit the young woman’s children, so she could continue to attend school. When she balked at having them watch her children, elders said they would accompany the boys. The next day, many community members greeted the boys and said “well done.” The younger of the boys became a good friend of one of the young woman’s children, and the young woman became a registered nurse and, through a grant, acquired a mobile medical clinic for heCommCirc_KJP_01r village.

“What does this say for our children?” Mr. Payne asked. “It is the embracing of the boys and the justice for the victim. It breaks down the perpetrator-victim environment with a strong presence of accountability without associating it with blame. Each person’s story was told. The whole person was seen.”

And yet, for this to happen, we have to allow our children to struggle and have conflict, he said.

“In contemporary society, there is harmony addiction. Every day has to be crystal rainbows. After school, parents do the pain and anguish interview with their kids. Then they hit the speed dial, call the teacher, and say we don’t send our kid to school for pain, so what did you do wrong? But, conflict is an essential part of development. If we take that away from our children, we take away their ability to know themselves,” Mr. Payne said.

When there is trouble on the playground, it doesn’t mean parents have done a bad job, he said. So, “when things aren’t going well, the last place we need to go is shame and blame,” He said. “Oh, that child is very aggressive, he lives in a media-toxic family and they drive a gas-guzilng car.” Instead, “the healthiest thing we can do is come together and talk about what is best for each child. We can be a community of choice and of consciousness.”

When children tell parents they are being teased or excluded by their peers, Mr. Payne recommended three steps:

  1. Say, “Huh, that’s hard.” Being excluded is one of the hardest things we experience. Don’t normalize it. Don’t blame and shame the other family or the teacher.
  2. Ask the child what he/she has tried. Listen to their story. Then say, “So you’ve tried all that. Well done you. That’s courageous.”
  3. Ask the child why she/he thinks the teasing or exclusion is occurring. Ask the child if there are other children at school with the same characteristics. Often, if the child is being teased for say, wearing glasses, but other children are not teased for this, the parent can say, “So it’s not about the glasses. It’s about us figuring out how to not make them (those doing the teasing or exclusion) your boss.

Mr. Payne then offered multiple examples of how parents and educators can help their children make their tormentors, “not the boss.”

“This is the stuff of childhood. Of addressing and not blaming,” said Mr. Payne. “If parents know there is a process to deal with learning, behavior, and social problems, they are more likely to talk to the school. They’ll know there is transparency and who to talk to. This is not a community of faith. It’ is a community of consciousness.”

Mr. Payne concluded with an overview of the Social Inclusion Process that CWS will undertake over the next three years. “It’s embedded,” he said. “It’s not a program that comes and goes. It does require a high degree of leadership and it needs serious intent. “

Over the next three years, Mr. Payne will work with faculty, parents, and administration on integrating processes that will enhance three streams of care for our children, including behavioral, therapeutic and social inclusion practices. This will be accomplished through professional development of faculty, development of a social health coordinating group, a student social action committee, and social sustainability review.

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