A few weeks ago, we made a change to the Dojang Code that kids recite before class. For decades, we have said “Brotherhood”. Over the past five years or so, the TMAA staff has been discussing replacing it with a more gender-neutral term, but we struggled to find something that captured the right spirit. Rick Abel (Sam’s dad) suggested “Solidarity” and our long search finally came to a close!
Last week, we discussed the concept of Solidarity during our Mat Chats. We started with a definition of looking for common ground and ways we can connect with others.
Importantly, we focused on Solidarity as an active process, rather than as a fixed attribute. Some relationships have naturally common ground and strong connections. But the strongest relationships are the ones that are maintained. By emphasizing Solidarity as something that is created and nourished, rather than simply found, we encourage kids to seek out new connections with others and take responsibility for their role in helping those connections thrive.
Ms. V found she got a lot of traction with her students by discussing the meaning of solid (something that sticks together), then applying it to relationships.
When talking with your child about this concept, it is important to also discuss when Solidarity is challenging. You can look at times that they had a difficult time approaching a new person and help them exam their reasons. Kids (and adults) often report reluctance to approach others who somehow look or behave differently, come from an unfamiliar place or somehow are affiliated with a different tribe (sports team, political or religious affiliation, school, etc.).
By examining these areas of friction to seeking common ground with others, you can gain insight into your child’s prejudices and misconceptions about others. With this, you can guide them towards having a more open mind and heart by looking at new ways they can see and relate to people—perhaps even feeling empathy towards the experience of others.
During this time in our history, we as a people seem to be finding more and more ways to reject and despise each other, and to break into increasingly rigid groups of “Us and Them”. By exploring the meaning and application of Solidarity, we can partner with our children to unwind some of the damage this is doing to our society.
Even if it is only improving the few interactions we have in our little corners of the world, we can still have a positive impact.
Plus, a child being able to seek out and establish healthy connections with others is an essential skill that will serve them well when they become adults!