Managing children through positive parenting
I D Soni
Khalil Gibran once said, “Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you. You may give them your love, assist them in their manners, train their minds and shape their morals but not your thoughts. For they have their own thoughts”. Expenditure on child-education is really an investment. What we spend today will return to us a thousand fold in the future. Pay well, secure able teachers – men and women of true education and character. The child’s unfoldment proceeds, partly, on the line of imitation. Therefore be careful in the choice of teachers. Every child is a specific element within the whole of the manifest divine Being. Whenever children find themselves alone, as a natural reaction, they start looking for company. Whenever they are in trouble, they look for someone to help them. Whenever they reach an impasse, they look to someone to show them the way out. Every recurrent anguish, longing and desire finds its own special helper. There exists a divine power that can lift them up from confusion, misery, melancholy and failure, and guide them to their true place. Children, therefore, need proper guidance being our most precious possession.
Children are most precious possession: Children are the most precious of a nation’s possession. And every little school for children is to me a star of hope. In Western Countries child-education is receiving more and more attention. At once governments and rich individuals are spending large sums of money to improve primary schools. We cannot spend too much for child-education. It begins in home-life and even earlier. In a sense, child education is ante-natal. The child’s education begins in the mother’s womb. Let the mother, in her period of pregnancy be in a good atmosphere, physical and metaphysical. Let her eyes rest on beautiful pictures. Let her mind dwell on noble ideals. Let her heart be rich in aspiration. And the child in the womb will be influenced accordingly. After birth, the child’s educational life may be divided into 3 broad periods: (a) 1-7 years, (b) 7-14 years, and (c) 14-21 years. In the first period, the child is shaped by home-life more than anything else, except the child’s own impulses and endowment brought from previous births.
In the second period (7-14 years), the boy’s reasoning faculty and will power are yet undeveloped. He develops them. In the third period (14-21 years), and as these develop, he asks for more and more ‘freedom’. How to educate child’s reasoning powers and child’s impulse towards freedom is the teacher’s task in the 3rd stage of the student’s life. The child’s education from 7 to 14 must proceed along other lines. We must in this period help him/her in self-realisation through education of the senses and feelings. For these are awakened first and then, judgment and will-power. Education in this second period must take special note of child’s senses and emotions. The senses are gateways of the Atman. Don’t neglect them. The body must be trained and disciplined to be a help to the spirit. Take good care of the child’s health. And see that he/she grows not only in health but, also, in strength. Both health and strength grow through exercise. A playground is as important as the school-building. To be a sportsman is to add child’s own and other’s happiness. Their irritations and nerve-excitements will disappear, if they are sportsmen in life.
Education of feelings asks for three things (1) Music (2) Garden classes and (3) Pictures. Music awakens and disciplines emotions. Music is a spiritual necessity for boys and girls. They, also, have an instinctive sympathy with Nature – with birds and trees and flowers. Try to hold open-air classes, preferably in gardens. Children would, thus, also, have the benefit of sunbaths. The sun’s ultra-violet rays have a curative value. I believe, too, in the moral influence of pictures. Every picture is a teacher. Pictures of the truly great: they form one brotherhood. Their pictures and life stories will do much to broaden the minds and hearts of children. The future is not with sectarianism. The future is with the Vision Catholic, the Vision Human, the Vision that regards Truth not as as the monopoly of one nation or religion but as the spirit of Life revealed to the peoples and prophets of many lands and many ages.
In ancient India, as in ancient Greece and Arbia, a beautiful feature of social life was reverence for the teacher. Not with the reason. For the teacher in training the child is engaged in sacred work. At the Gate of Life stands the child, asking for help to grow, to unfold latent power and to achieve. Pay well, and get the best teachers to draw out the good inherent in the souls of the boys and girls. Only those teachers can perform this sacred function whose own character is unsullied, who are always ready to learn and grow from perfection to perfection. Every primary school should be a centre of spiritual work, that of unfolding the hidden life of the little ones of God. Multiply such schools. Carry the message of true knowledge to every cottage. Vidya is the light of life. Vidya is the light of nations. Spread it far and wide. Of Goethe, the great German poet, it is said the last words he uttered before he died were, “Light! More Light.” The children are the richest treasure of a nation. New India will not be built in the Assembly or the Lok Sabha, or in our conferences and seminars; a new India will be built in the Home and in the school. Therefore, let us take care of our children.
We are busy gathering silver and gold: but we generally neglect our richest treasure. The richest treasure of a community, a society, a nation is the children. A new type of education – is this not the one urgent need of India, today? For, today, India is wandering from distraction to distraction. Today, India lives in forgetfulness of her Vedas and her Upanishads, her Ramayana and her Gita, her Shankara and her Shivaji, her Kabir and her Nanak, her Gurus, her Prophets, her Seers, her Sages and her Saints. And, today, in India both knowledge and power are running to waste, are being perverted into instruments of social chaos and destruction. Today, more than ever before, our urgent need is a new type of education, an education which may build up the character of the students through development of the body and through training of the will-power and the emotions. Five factors, as I believe in, enter into the making of new education. What are they?
(a) The first factor, is respect for the child. Respect the teachers, yes; but every teacher must respect the child. They are angels of God who come to school to bless the teachers. Respect the child and do not punish him/her; do not scold him/her, and never, never beat him/her. If the teacher beats a child, he offends the angels of God.
(b) The second factor which enters into the making of new education is reverence for the Universe, reverence for Nature. For Nature is a garment of God. Let the students come in contact with Nature, with trees and flowers, with rivers and rocks, with the bubbling brook and the flowing river that sings its song as it flows. Let the student grow in reverence for Nature: and he/she will grow in reverence for life, for every unit of life.
(c) The third factor of new education is reverence for oneself. Let the student be trained to respect his/her body. Keep the body pure, undefiled. The body is a temple of the spirit, a temple of the Lord. This can be possible through True discipline. True discipline is self-control, self-discipline.
(d) The fourth factor is reverence for humanity – reverence not only of the great ones of our race, of our country, but reverence for all the great ones, the seers and sages, the poets and patriots and the heroes and holy men who have appeared in the East and who have appeared in the West.
(e) The fifth factor that enters into the making of new – education is ‘Seva’, service of the poor and broken ones, reverence for the lowly and the lost. For the poor are the pictures of God. To serve them is to worship God.
Let us, therefore, try at home and school level to help the children (who are our precious possession) to be ‘Bharat ka Sipahi’. They must be trained to renounce all thoughts of separation and narrow provincialism. Help them to build up their bodies – pure and strong, create in them the spirit to grow in the strength of body, and mind and heart and will – to – achieve. Assist them to build their lives in discipline, obedience and spirit of sacrifice. Prepare them to spend all they are, and all they have – their knowledge, their power, their time, their talent, their money, their life itself in the service of the poor, needy and uncared for. Let them be ready to dedicate themselves to the service of India and humanity.
(ii) Let’s guard our children: Mere intellectual learning, mere pedantry does not take us to God. Life eternal cannot be realized by knowing the meanings of texts, not by brain power not by the study of many books; but we can learn the truth only by undergoing a churning of our mind, undergoing a laceration of our whole nature. It is not easy. But it is possible for everyone to attain it. If some people have attained it, they are the heralds for the rest of the humanity. They are the elder brothers, so to say, who tell us, “What is possible for me is possible of you. I am not made differently. The same God who dwells in me dwells in you too”. So it is that many meta-physicians and thinkers have searched for a vision of true greatness, a vision of good men, saints; etc. If their stories are listened to by young children, if they patiently go through their tales of woes overcome by attainment of joy, unconsciously the mind is moulded. We will see that an impression is made. All influence is not deliberate, not conscious. It is more often unconscious. By surrounding young children with examples of true saintliness and great goodness, we unconsciously permeate their minds, perfume them, colour their minds with a desire for attaining: similar positions, similar achievements. The child is an imitative being, first and foremost. Whatever we say it will do. If we put before it the ideals of great character, not military victory, not industrial power, not intellectual eminence, but true saintliness, people who have suffered for humanity, who have laid down their lives that other people may live, if that kind of idea is put before them, there can be no doubt that the idea will have some kind of influence on the young people’s minds. It is, therefore, necessary that in every school and in every home a little space must be left for the individual to be alone with himself, to examine himself.
(iii) Managing child through positive parenting: It was a great horticulturist who said, “We pay greater attention to the growth of plants than we do to the growth of our children”. The responsibility of the parents begins the day the child is born and keeps on growing with a passage of time. Not many seem to realise the tremendous responsibility that is theirs as parents of children. We do nothing to take care of them. We pay no attention to their upbringing. We do nothing to inculcate in their minds, qualities of character which alone lend a meaning and value to life. We do not train them to grow in the love and fear of God. I recall having read how 15-year old boy in France, was sentenced to hard labour. He heard the sentence coolly. Then he asked for silence and shouted at the top of his voice, so that his words could be heard by all present in the courtroom. He said, “I forgive the judge, for he has sentenced me justly. I forgive the guard, they have done their duty. However, there are two persons in the Court-room whom I can never forgive. They are my father and mother. They paid no attention to my upbringing. They did not object when I visited Cinema houses, where seeds of crime are planted in young hearts. They did not take care of the company in which I moved, with the result that I have grown full of vice and crime. The fault is theirs, though I have to pay for it by going to the prison”. Not many parents seem to realise their responsibilities towards the children. It was William Tame who said, “Men are generally more careful about the breed of their horses and dogs than of their own children”. And of Plato – the Great Greek Philosopher, it is said that he found a child doing wrong, he went and corrected his father. Fathers usually feel that they have no share of responsibility in bringing up their children in the right way. They believe that it is mother’s job. They come and go in the house as boarders with no active interest in the welfare of the children. It must not be forgotten that no amount of piling of the earth’s treasure can compensate a man for the loss of his incomparable jewels – his children. A stage comes in the life of every growing child when what he needs is a friend more than a parent. It is at this stage that the parent must learn to play a double role. In addition to being a parent, he/she has to be a friend. When a parent offers unsolicited advice to a growing child, specially a teenager, it may be mis-understood as interference. When a friend advises a teenager, he/she immediately responds. If we would wish to influence our children, make friends with them. It is only as friends that we can advise them and lead them to purity and perfection. Let us lead our children to the Pure and the Perfect and we will have done our duty by them. Make friends with the child – and the generation gap will disappear. Make friends with the child – and he or she will have no secrets from us: his/her life will be to us an open book. True education is not by words and ink. Education is an atmosphere. Try to create an atmosphere at home which is not merely mental but aims at drawing out the higher innate emotions of the children, their inner sense of simplicity and service, of purity and prayer. When we pray together – we stay together. The deeper spirit of Humanity should move above creeds and communities in the said atmosphere. They may be taught at home to cultivate love and reverence for the “race of hero-spirits” who, through the ages, “pass the lamp from hand to hand”. We, as parents remain worried when our child shows no interest in books. Our child does not mingle with his peer group and we wonder what kind of social life our child will lead. Then there are other worries: how should we inculcate good manners, etiquette, communication skills. How can we make him/her confident and independent? But do we realise that our worrying is doing more harm than good to our child? Consciously or subconsciously our tensions and worries are being transferred to our child. And this can have an adverse effect. Our tensions will ultimately strain our child and mar his/her natural abilities. So if we want to be effective parents who intend to nurture a happy and successful child, first relax and let go. Shed our worries, analyze what best we can do for our child and then get into action.
(a) Be a child: Splash about in the water tub, imitate animals and birds, have a pillow fights, make castles in the sand, get soaked in the rain.
(b) See the child in him: Laugh aloud at his/her silly jokes, visualise talent in his/her messy drawings, encourage his /her creativity with paper and glue, relish the fun he has in jumping about, acting silly.
(c) Love the child he is: Every child has some unique qualities. Be proud of those special qualities in our child rather than focus on what he does not have.
(d) Tell stories of great men/women: This is another way, which has been used time and again for generations together. Each child is in love with stories.
(e) Go for picnic: ‘Let us go for picnic,’ brings in an atmosphere of entertainment for the child. A picnic need not be an extravagant outing. Any place we may go to, with packed lunch can be called a picnic.
(f) Tell the child I have an idea: “I have an idea”, this statement literally switches on a bulb in the child’s mind. Our idea may be as simple as “Let us get dressed fast then we will have milk in a saucer today”. We will be amazed with the results.
(g) Help the child to worship and admire: We appreciate that a child is a threefold entity of body, mind and spirit – not twofold one of body and mind only we know that any organ of the body that fails to carry out its assigned function will tend to atrophy and grow weak and useless, so it is important that, in the child all three of these aspects should function in balanced harmony if he/she is to grow and develop to the optimum wholeness of body, mind and spirit. The function of the body is to eat and work. The child’s body should be protected from destructive foods. Most of the children do receive plenty of mental stimuli, plenty of food for their minds. It is the duty of the parents to provide opportunities for mental exercise by showing them toys and pictures and by encouraging responses from them. Mind needs to be protected from wrong and ugly thoughts so, too, should his/her spirit be protected from false values which may assault and hurt it. This can be possible to satisfy the deep seated need of the spirit by helping the child to worship and admire something other than self. The need of the spirit is to love and worship. These are the functions of the spirit and the parents should foster without in any way becoming involved in religious dogmas
(h) Take Care of children’s company: If the parents want to sow good karma – take care of their Sanga. If their company is right and good, their actions will also be right and good. Good company will lead them on the path of virtue. Bad company will lead them to evil.
(The author is President, Home for the Aged & Infirm, Amphalla).