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Gaetane Montreuil on Teaching Kindness

Gaetane Montreuil

Gaetane Montreuil talks to NoBullying about teaching kindness to children and the release of her new book series. 

Gaetane Montreuil

Gaetane Montreuil

1- What inspired you to write The “Leelo” series?

The inspiration in wanting to write the Leelo series came from two experiences.

The first was when I was running my kindergarten Montessori school.

As a young mother, I started my school in my home. I had a morning and afternoon classes for a total of sixteen children.

There was a woman in our town that had a five year old daughter with Down’s Syndrome.

She had tried to get her daughter into a kindergarten program at many regular schools, but none would accept her and, at that time, there were no facilities available for handicapped children.

She came to me hoping I would let her daughter join my classes, even though it was expensive for her as my school was private.

I did accept her daughter, but many parents were concerned that it would not be good for their own children. These parents were paying good money and they wanted the best for their kids.

I convinced them that that it would be an opportunity for their children to be kind to those less fortunate and to help them appreciate their good fortune not to have to live with such a handicap. They agreed to accept the challenge.

The miracle was that the children began to help the little girl rather than resent her. They would tie her shoes and help her put on her heavy winter coat. They totally accepted her. It was the most amazing experience of my teaching career!

The other inspiration came when I was a social worker. I was assigned to handle the cases of children with behavioral problems.

There was one little boy, he was about seven, and wow, did he have problems. He was setting fire to garbage cans; pushing other kids, stealing and more….the school had rejected him completely.

I met with this little boy and I could see that he was very suspicious of any adults, including me. I probably looked like just another angry teacher wanting to punish him.

We began to just talk. It was lunch time but he did not have any food. I treated him to a hamburger at McDonalds. As we talked, it became clear to me that he did not have any body to take care of him. Everybody had rejected him. I told him that from now on he was under my protection. When he had problems, he could call me any time, I would be there for him. All I needed from him was a commitment to try to behave.

I went to the school board to fight for this little boy and they agreed to let him in under my close supervision.

It took less than two months for him to transform his behavior. And all it took was someone who cared and was willing to stand up for him.

These experiences and many others have made me realize that all children can behave well, care for others, and develop self -confidence. It is the adults, mostly parents and grandparents who have the responsibility to develop these qualities.

2- I see you have children and grandchildren? How would you describe your relationship with them? Did any of them, hopefully not, get bullied or face some sort of unkindness in society?

I am very happy to say that my relationship with my children and grandchildren is very good. Although they are living in different places and all thousands of miles away, we communicate by email and by phone. We also visit each other during holiday times.

I have to say that I really do not recall any bullying issues with my children or grandchildren.

3- I noticed you live in Canada, how do you view bullying and cyber bullying in Canada? Is it widespread? Is it approached by the government and media?

Bullying and cyber bullying is definitely a problem in Canada as it is in many other parts of the world.

4- You wrote Leelo to The Zoo , which talks about bullying, if you were to talk to children directly about  bullying, what would you tell them?

I would tell them to make their parents or an adult who they trust aware about the situation. They can always find help.

DO NOT SUFFER IN SILENCE.

5- What are the basic values and ethics that you hope to convey to children via the “Leelo” series?

Although the theme of bullying is the main subject of the Leelo series, the larger objective is to encourage children to be more caring of each other.

Leelo is a boy- like angel who helps those who are in trouble. He befriends the lonely children and makes them feel included. He even transforms bullies into good kids. He is a sort of hero, a model for young children to follow. By following his behavior the children could become ‘friends of Leelo’.

I envision a movement where the kids will rally around Leelo’s values. They would reach out to the child sitting alone, they would support the one who is being bullied, and they would help a child in distress.

Although there are many books about bullying, they are usually directed at older children. However, bad behavior in children can be seen at quite young ages. My books are targeted at younger children deliberately to address the problems before they get too serious.

6- You own and run a private kindergarten. What is the one thing that you took from your daily interactions with children from this age? And what is the one thing that worries you about children in this age group?

These experiences and many others have made me realize that all children can behave well, care for others, and develop self -confidence. It is the adults, mostly parents and grandparents who have the responsibility to develop these qualities.

When I was growing up, the families were always together at dinner where there was time to talk about what happened in our lives and our parents would give us guidance about how to deal with things. What worries me the most today is life is so busy that there is not enough time for parents to connect with their children and help them with life’s challenges.

7- It was mentioned that the book series will appeal to children who grew up in “homes with strong spiritual beliefs”, do you mind elaborating on that?

I did not suggest that my books would appeal to children who grew up in “homes with strong spiritual beliefs”.

I hope my books will appeal to all children regardless of their beliefs.

8- Finally, if you had a super power that entitles you to instill one value in all children all over the world, what would it be?

The one value I would give to all children is KINDNESS.

About the Author: Gaetane Montreuil was born in Quebec, Canada and has finally realized her lifelong dream of writing inspirational children’s books. She is now sharing the knowledge she acquired by owning and running a private kindergarten school. Montreuil has also worked as an interior decorator and has always enjoyed creating environments that favor a child’s development. She has four children and five grandchildren, all of whom have been instrumental in the creation of Leelo.  You can reach her on Twitter.

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