At a time, it was considered necessary to give a physical punishment to children to discipline them. One day, a young mother decided to scold her boy for being naughty by hitting him with a stick. As she had never done it before, there was no stick at home. She ordered the young son to go get a stick. He came back home a while later. He cried and said, “I can’t find any stick but instead here is a pebble. You can throw it at me.” Looking at the pebble in his hand, the mother read his son’s mind. He must have thought that his mother would hit him with a pebble if she could do with a stick. The mother cuddled up his son and cried at the thought of how scared her son must have felt. Afterwards, she put the pebble on the kitchen shelf not to forget the lesson.
The story was told by Swedish children’s fiction writer Astrid Lindgren, whose book titled “Pippi Longstocking” is famous across the world, when she was awarded the Peace Prize by the German Publishers and Booksellers Association in Frankfurt, Germany in 1978. Lindgren said that it was the right time to ponder upon what drives people to wield violence, regrettably pointing out that there was no place for true peace in the world then. Her message argued that making peace can be done first by not punishing children physically.
With a lesson learned from her, probably, Sweden prohibited physical punishment on children by law in 1979, making the occasion the first of its kind in the world. However, not everyone followed it right away. It was only in the late 2000s when Germany, which gave her the Peace Prize, took the same legal measure.
Saying “no” to physical punishment does not necessarily lead to the end to all kinds of violence across the world. However, her message still stays valid by teaching us that non-violence starts from how we treat our children. Lindgren ended her speech by suggesting awakening us and our children with a pebble placed on the kitchen shelf. It came across as a beautiful proposal.