WATERVILLE — Stan Davis was an 18-year-old college kid in 1965 when he went to Selma, Alabama, after listening to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

He said he found a bunch of like-minded folks at the Universalist Unitarian Church in Boston and the march for civil rights changed him forever.

“It set a course for my whole life,” Davis told another group Sunday at the Universalist Unitarian Church in Waterville.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed later that year, and Davis said the cause and effect of his actions and those of others in America made him believe that who people are leads them to the things they do, and those things can move mountains.

Davis, 70, who lives in Wayne, is a retired child and family therapist and school counselor in the Messalonskee school district. He said he traveled the world training people on child development and bullying prevention and published three books.

Davis said that if people are nice to other people – sitting with someone who you see sitting alone, for example – that action results in smiles and seeing those smiles makes the people want to be nice again and ask themselves: What else can I do?

In other words, teach children to be nice to the other kids. Raise kids to be stronger, resilient and to think for themselves and not to succumb to the effects of bullying – either to join in or become one.

“An act of kindness has immense power,” he told the church group, which had set the day’s services focused on children and peace.

The hymn for the day was “I seek the Spirit of a Child,” and member Margrit Thomas read to some of the smaller attendees from “Cat and Bunny” by Mary Lundquist.

Davis’ talk was titled “Helping Children Learn to Think.”

He said one way to combat what he calls “peer mistreatment,” or bullying, is to teach children that their actions can make a difference. There are consequences, either way – nice is nicer, bad is worse in the long run.

He said that it is better to focus on how children feel about the outcomes of their behavior, rather than how parents, teachers or other adults feel about what a child has done. Self-efficacy – knowing that our actions make a difference – is more important than self-esteem, believing that one is special or more intelligent than others, Davis said.

“Ask the child how they feel about the outcome of their behavior,” he said, and they will be more likely to develop internal motivation for hard work and kindness. “It’s so helpful for a child to have a big emotional vocabulary,” he said.

“When we encourage youth to think about what is likely to happen when they act in different ways and then to help them reflect on what really happened as an outcome of their behavior, they become flexible problem solvers who can learn from their mistakes and from their successes,” he wrote in program notes.

The bottom line, Davis, said, is to be nice to each other. Adults can be role models when they take responsibility for their behavior in terms of outcomes, respect, and their children will see that and learn.

And paraphrasing Mahatma Gandhi, he said: “What we do is more important than what we say.”

Doug Harlow can be contacted at 612-2367 or at:

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Twitter: Doug_Harlow

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