My children used to think that any tiny creature in or around the house deserved swift and immediate extermination. They were gearing up to become bug-stompers like their playmates. Intent on rescuing them from karmic disaster, I tried to get them to see the situation through the eyes of the spider they were hoping to stomp.
I pointed out how tiny it was and, with a bit of exaggeration, suggested that it may be lost and looking for its mother. I asked them to think about how it might feel to be tiny, alone, looking for their mother and about to be killed. Since they are three and five years old, the mere idea of being separate from Mom was bad enough. I explained to them that all creatures want to live just as much as we do, and that they want to be happy as much as we do. Then I simply told them that we do not kill.
I thought that if I could teach them one basic lesson--to cherish all life, no matter how big, small, attractive, or scary it might be--I could at least prevent them from accumulating some heavy negative karma. I also wanted them to look at their world in a slightly different way, so that the compassion I struggle to nurture in them might grow to include non-human as well as human life.
My children may still be terrified of meeting a spider or ant in the house, but now my 3-year-old says, "Oh, poor little thing. He must be looking for his mother." My 5-year old says, quite sternly, "We don't kill." Maybe teaching Buddha's lessons isn't so hard after all.