The Art of Parenting
The relationship between the child and his parents is primarily based on love, freedom and a total acceptance of the child as an individual. The parent's core philosophy, in dealing with their children, should be a deep trust in children's natural intelligence and their ability to make their own decisions based on awareness and understanding.
The relationship between parents and children should be such where children should be able to express themselves with honesty and integrity, have trust in themselves and understand that their lives, actions and feelings are their own responsibility, and have a non-serious, zestful, confident, creative and fearless approach to life and learning.
The parent's main focus should be to help children transform their natural curiosity into a strong inner discipline and motivation. Parents should understand that each individual child comes with some gift, some treasure. It may be academic, it may be practical, or it may be artistically creative. Parents should try to provide as much space and as many opportunities as possible for the child's individuality and creativity to unfold.
Parents should not use comparison and competition as stimuli for achievement and performance. Life is so vast, individuals so unique, and there are so many human gifts that cannot be quantified, tested or measured: for example, a loving heart, sensitivity, courage, awareness, honesty, vitality, being generous or understanding. All these qualities are valued as precious, in fact priceless.
Parents are the first teachers of the children and their homes their first classroom. Parents should help in every possible way to give freedom, to give opportunities for personal and spiritual growth to their children.
WHY ARE PARENTS SO CRUEL TO THEIR CHILDREN? IS THERE ANY SENSE IN MAKING THEM RESPONSIBLE? AND HOW CAN ONE AVOID MAKING THE SAME MISTAKE?
PARENTS ARE CRUEL TO THEIR CHILDREN because parents have some investment in them. Parents have some ambitions they would like to fulfill through their children -- that's why they are cruel. They want to use the children. The moment you want to use somebody, you are bound to be cruel. In the VERY idea of using somebody as a means, cruelty has entered, violence has come in.
Never treat another person as a means! -- because each person is an end unto himself.
Parents are cruel because they have ideas: they want their children to be this and that. They would like their children to be rich, famous, respected; they would like their children to fulfill their unfulfilled egos. Their children are going to be their journeys.
The father wanted to be rich but could not succeed, and now death is approaching; sooner or later he will be cut off from life. He feels frustrated: he has not yet arrived. He was still searching and seeking... and now comes death -- this looks so unjust. He would like his son to carry on the work, because his son represents him. He is his blood, he is his projection, his part -- he is his immortality. Who knows about the soul? Nobody is definite about it. People believe, but belief is out of fear, and deep down the doubt remains.
Each belief carries the doubt in itself. Without the doubt there cannot be any belief. To repress the doubt, we create the belief -- but the doubt remains gnawing in the heart like a worm in the apple; it goes on eating inside you, it goes on rotting you from the inside. Who knows about God and who knows about soul? They may not be.
The only immortality known to man is through children -- that is actual. The father knows, "I will be living in my son. I will be dead, soon I will be under the earth, but my son will be here. And my desires have remained unfulfilled." He imposes those desires, implants those desires, in the consciousness of his son: "You have to fulfill them. If you fulfill them, I will be happy. If you fulfill them, you have paid your debts to your father. If you don't fulfill them, you have betrayed me."
This is from where cruelty comes in. Now, the father starts moulding the child according to HIS desire. He forgets that the child has his own soul, that the child has his own individuality, that the child has his own inner growth to unfold. The father imposes HIS ideas. He starts destroying the child.
And he thinks he loves: he loves only his ambition. He loves the son also because he is going to become instrumental; he will be a means. This is what cruelty
You ask me: WHY ARE PARENTS SO CRUEL TO THEIR CHILDREN?
They cannot help it, because they have ideas, ambitions, desires -- unfulfilled. They want to fulfill them, they want to go on living through their children. Naturally, they prune, they cut, they mould, they give a pattern to the children. And the children are destroyed.
That destruction is bound to happen -- unless a new human being arises on the earth, who loves for love's sake; unless a new parenthood is conceived: you love the child just for the sheer joy of it, you love the child as a gift from God. You love the child because God has been so... such a blessing to you. You love the child because the child is life, a guest from the unknown who has nestled into your house, into your being, who has chosen you as the nest. You are grateful and you love the child.
If you really love the child, you will not give your ideas to the child. Love never gives any ideas, never any ideology. Love gives freedom. You will not mould. If your child wants to become a musician, you will not try to distract him. And you know perfectly well that being a musician is not the right kind of job to be in, that he will be poor, that he will never become very rich, that he will never become a Henry Ford. Or the child wants to be a poet and you know he will remain a beggar. You know it! but you accept it because you respect the child.
Love is always respectful. Love is reverence. You respect! because if this is God's desire to be fulfilled through the child, then let it be so. You don't interfere, you don't come in the way. You don't say, "This is not right. I know life more, I have lived life -- you are just ignorant of life and its experiences. I know what money means. Poetry is not going to give you money. Become a politician, rather! or at least become an engineer or a doctor." And the child wants to become a woodcutter, or the child wants to become a cobbler, or the child simply wants to become a vagabond, and he wants to enjoy life... rest under trees, and on the sea beaches, and roam around the world.
You don't interfere if you love; you say, "Okay, with my blessings you go. You seek and search your truth. You be whatsoever you want to be. I will not stand in your way. And I will not disturb you by my experiences -- because my experiences are my experiences. You are not me. You may have come through me, but you are not me -- you are not a copy of me. You are NOT to be a copy of me. You are not to imitate me. I have lived my life -- you live your life. I will not burden you with my unlived experiences. I will not burden you with my unfulfilled desires. I will keep you light. And I will help you -- whatsoever you want to be, be! with all my blessings and with all my help."
The children come through you, but they belong to God, they belong to totality. Don't possess them. Don't start thinking as if they belong to you. How can they belong to you?
Once this vision arises in you, then -- then there will be no cruelty.
You ask: WHY ARE PARENTS SO CRUEL TO THEIR CHILDREN? IS THERE ANY SENSE IN MAKING THEM RESPONSIBLE?
No, I am not saying there is any sense in making parents responsible -- because they have suffered because of THEIR parents, and so on and so forth.... Understanding is needed. Finding scapegoats is of no help. You cannot simply say, "I am destroyed because my parents have destroyed me -- what can I do?" I know, parents ARE destructive, but if you become alert and aware you can get out of that pattern that they have created and woven around you.
You ALWAYS remain capable of getting out of any trap that has been put around you! Your freedom may have been encaged, but the freedom is such, is so intrinsic, that it cannot be utterly destroyed. It always remains, and you can find it again. Maybe it is difficult, arduous, hard, an uphill task, but it is not impossible.
There is no point in just throwing the responsibility, because that makes you irresponsible. That's what Freudian psychoanalysis has been doing to people -- that is its harm. You go to the psychoanalyst and he makes you feel perfectly good, and he says, "What can you do? Your parents were such -- your mother was such, your father was such, your upbringing was wrong. That's why you are suffering from all these problems." You feel good -- now you are no more responsible.
Christianity has made you feel responsible for two thousand years, has made you feel guilty, that you are the sinner. Now psychoanalysis goes to the other extreme: it simply says you are not the sinner, you are not to feel guilty -- you are perfectly okay. You forget about all guilt and you forget all about sin. Others are responsible!
Christianity has done much harm by creating the idea of guilt -- now psychoanalysis is doing harm from the other extreme, by creating the idea of irresponsibility.
You have to remember: the parents were doing something because they were taught to do those things -- their parents had been teaching them. They were brought up by parents also; they had not come from heaven directly. So what is the point of throwing the responsibility backwards? It doesn't help; it will not help to solve any problem. It will help only to unburden you from guilt. That is good, the good part; the beneficial part of psychoanalysis is that it unburdens you from guilt. And the harmful part is that it leaves you there; it does not make you feel responsible.
To feel guilty is one thing: to feel responsible is another thing. I teach you responsibility. What do I mean by responsibility? You are not responsible to your parents, and you are not responsible to any God, and you are not responsible to any priest -- you are responsible to your inner being. Responsibility is freedom! Responsibility is the idea that "I have to take the reins of my life in my own hands. Enough is enough! My parents have been doing harm -- whatsoever they could do they have done: good and bad, both they have done. Now I have become a mature person. I should take everything in my own hands and start living the way it arises in me. I should devote all my energies to my life now." And immediately you will feel a great strength coming to you.
Guilt makes you feel weak: responsibility makes you feel strong. Responsibility gives you heart again, confidence, trust.
That is the meaning of sannyas. Sannyas wants you to be free from Christianity, Hinduism, Jainism, Mohammedanism, and sannyas wants you to be free from Freudian psychoanalysis and things like that too. Sannyas wants you to live your life authentically, according to your innermost voice, not according to any other voice from anywhere. Not according to the Bible or according to the Koran. If God has spoken in a certain way in the Koran, it was specifically meant for Mohammed, not for you. It was God's dialogue with Mohammed, not with you. You will have to find your own dialogue with God. You will have to find your own Koran!
If Jesus has spoken those beautiful words, they are out of the dialogue that happened between him and the totality. Now don't go on repeating them. They are meaningless for you. They are not BORN in you, they are not PART of you! They are like a plastic flower: you can bring a plastic rose and hang it on the rosebush -- yes, they are like that -- it is not the same as when a roseflower comes out of the rosebush itself.
You can deceive people. Those who don't know may be deceived. They may see so many beautiful flowers are blooming on the rosebush, and they are all plastic. But you cannot deceive the rosebush -- you cannot deceive yourself. You can go on repeating Jesus, but those words have not been uttered in your cars by God; they are not addressed to you. You are reading a letter addressed to somebody else! It is illegal; you should not open that envelope. You should search and find your own relationship with the totality.
That relationship I call responsibility. Response means spontaneous capacity to relate. Response means capacity to respond tc life situations according to your heart, not according to anybody else. When you start feeling that, you become an individual. Then you stand on your own feet.
And remember, if you stand on your own feet, then only one day will you be able to walk without feet and fly without wings. Otherwise not.
And you ask: AND HOW CAN ONE AVOID MAKING THE SAME MISTAKES?
JUST TRY TO UNDERSTAND THOSE MISTAKES. If you see the point, why they are committed, you will not commit them. Seeing a truth is transforming. Truth liberates. Just see the point! -- why your parents have destroyed you. Their wishes were good, but their awareness was not good; they were not aware people. They wanted you to be happy, certainly, they wished you all happiness. That's why they wanted you to become a rich man, a respected man; that's why they curbed your desires, cut your desires, moulded you, patterned you, structured you, gave you a character, repressed many things, enforced many things. They did whatsoever they could. Their wish was right: they wanted you to be happy, although they were not aware of what they were doing, although they themselves had never known what happiness is. They were unhappy people! and unaware.
Their wish was good -- don't feel angry about them. They did whatsoever THEY could. Feel sorry for them, but never angry at them. Don't feel any rage! They were helpless! They were caught in a certain trap. They had not known what happiness is, but they had some ideas that a happy person is one who has much money. They worked for it their whole lives; they wasted their whole lives in earning money, but they remained with that stupid idea that money brings happiness. And they tried to poison your being too. They were not thinking to poison you -- they were thinking they were pouring elixir in you. Their dreams were good, their wishes were good, but they were unhappy people and unaware people -- that's why they have done harm to you.
Now be aware. Search for happiness. Find out how to be happy. Meditate, pray, love. Live passionately and intensely! If you have known happiness, you will not be cruel to anybody -- you cannot be. If you have tasted anything of life, you will never be destructive to anybody. How can you be destructive to your own children? You cannot be destructive to ANYBODY at all.
If you have known awareness, then that's enough. You need not ask "And how can one avoid making the same mistakes?" If you are not happy and aware, you cannot avoid making the same mistakes -- you will make the same mistakes! You are bound to, you are doomed to make the same mistakes.
So I cannot give you a clue as to how to avoid -- I can only give you an insight. The insight is: your parents were unhappy -- please, you be happy. Your parents were unaware -- you be aware. And those two things -- awareness and happiness -- are not really two things but two aspects of the same coin.
Start by bang aware and you will be happy! And a happy person is a non-violent person.
And always remember: children are not adult; you should not expect adult things from children. They are children! They have a totally different vision, a different perspective. You should not start forcing your adultish attitudes upon them. Allow them to remain children, because they will never be again; and once lost, everybody feels nostalgia for the childhood, everybody feels those days were days of paradise. Don't disturb them.
Sometimes it is difficult for you to accept the children's vision -- because you have lost it yourself! A child is trying to climb a tree; what will you do? You immediately become afraid -- he may fall, he may break his leg, or something may go wrong. And out of your fear you rush and you stop the child. If you had known what joy it is to climb a tree, you would have helped so that the child could learn how to climb trees! You would have taken him to a school where it is taught how to climb trees. You would not have stopped him. Your fear is good -- it shows love, that the child may fall, but to stop the child from climbing the tree is to stop the child from growing.
There is something ESSENTIAL about climbing trees. If a child has NEVER been doing it, he will remain something poor, he will miss some richness -- for his whole life. You have deprived him of something beautiful, and there is no other way to know about it! Later on it will become more difficult for him to climb on the tree, it will look stupid or foolish or ridiculous.
Let him climb the tree. And if you are afraid, help him, go and teach him. You also climb with him! Help him learn so he doesn't fall. And once in a while, falling from a tree is not so bad either. Rather than being deprived forever....
The child wants to go out in the rains and wants to run around the streets in the rain, and you are afraid he may catch a cold or get pneumonia or something -- and your fear is right! So DO something so that he is more resistant to colds. Take him to the doctor; ask the doctor what vitamins should be given to him so that he can run in the rains and enjoy and dance and there is no fear that he will catch cold or will get pneumonia. But don't stop him. To dance in the streets when it is raining is such a joy! To miss it is to miss something very valuable.
If you know happiness and if you are aware, you will be able to feel for the child, how he feels.
A child is jumping and dancing and shouting and shrieking, and you are reading your newspaper, your stupid newspaper. And you know what is there -- it is always the same. But you feel disturbed. There is nothing in your newspaper, but you feel disturbed. You stop the child: "Don't shout! Don't disturb Daddy! Daddy is doing something great -- reading the newspaper." And you stop that running energy, that flow -- you stop that glow, you stop life. You are being violent.
And I am not saying that the child has always to be allowed to disturb you. But out of a hundred times, ninety times you are unnecessarily disturbed. And if you don't disturb him those ninety times, the child will understand. When you understand the child, the child understands you -- children are very very responsive. When the child sees that he is never prevented, then once you say, "I am doing something please..." the child will know that it is not from a parent who is constantly looking to shout at him. It is from a parent who allows everything.
Children have a different vision.
"Now, I want it quiet " said the teacher, "so quiet you can hear a pin drop."
A deep silence descended on the classroom. After about two minutes an anguished voice from the back shouted, "For Pete's sake, let it drop!"
It was the little boy's first day at school, and as soon as his mother had left him, he burst into tears. Despite all efforts on the part of his teacher and the headmistress, he went on crying and crying until finally, just before lunch, the teacher said in exasperation, "For heaven's sake, shut up child! It's lunch-time now, and then in a couple more hours you'll be going home and you'll see your mummy again."
At once the little boy stopped crying, "Will I?" he said. "I thought I had to stay here until I was sixteen!"
They have their vision, their understanding, their ways. Try to understand them. An understanding mind will always find a deep harmony arising between him and the child. It is the stupid, the unconscious, the non-understanding people, who go on remaining closed in their ideas and never look at the other's vision.... Children bring freshness into the world. Children are new editions of consciousness. Children are fresh entries of divinity into life. Be respectful, be understanding.
And if you are happy and alert, there is no need to be worried about how not to commit the same mistakes -- you will not commit. But then you have to be totally different from your parents. Consciousness will bring that difference.
Walk Without Feet, Fly Without Wings and Think Without Mind
Chapter title: First Taste Your Own Being
HAVING HEARD YOU TALK ABOUT COMPETITION AND OUR CHILDHOOD THE OTHER MORNING, IT SET ME THINKING OF MY OWN EDUCATION. I REALIZED THAT FOR TWENTY-ONE YEARS SOLIDLY, EVERY SINGLE EVENT AT SCHOOL -- FROM PLAYING IN THE GARDEN, THROUGH OFFICIAL SPORTS, TO LATIN GRAMMAR -- WAS BASICALLY AN EXERCISE IN HOW TO BEAT THE NEXT PERSON. IT SEEMS AS IF IT WAS THE SINGLE MOST DAMAGING EXPERIENCE OF MY LIFE. I CAN'T THINK OF A MORE PERFECT SYSTEM TO DESTROY CHILDREN AND MAKE US COMPLETELY INHARMONIOUS WITH THE WORLD AROUND US. HOW CAN WE HELP CHILDREN TO GROW TO THEIR FULL POTENTIAL, WITHOUT ENCOURAGING THIS COMPETITIVE SPIRIT?
The moment you start thinking how to help children to grow without any competitive spirit you are already on the wrong track, because whatever you are going to do is going to give the children a certain program. It may be different from the one that you received, but you are conditioning the children -- with all the best intentions in the world.
The trees go on growing without anybody teaching them how to grow. The animals, the birds, the whole existence, needs no programming. The very idea of programming is basically creating slavery -- and man has been creating slaves for thousands of years in different names. When people become fed up with one name, another name immediately replaces it. A few modified programs, a few changes here and there in the conditioning, but the fundamental thing remains the same -- that the parents, the older generation, want their children to be in a certain way. That's why you are asking "How?".
According to me, the function of the parents is not how to help the children grow -- they will grow without you. Your function is to support, to nourish, to help what is already growing. Don't give directions and don't give ideals. Don't tell them what is right and what is wrong: let them find it by their own experience.
Only one thing you can do, and that is share your own life. Tell them that you have been conditioned by your parents, that you have lived within certain limits, according to certain ideals, and because of these limits and ideals you have missed life completely, and you don't want to destroy your children's life. You want them to be totally free -- free of you, because to them you represent the whole past.
It needs guts and it needs immense love in a father, in a mother, to tell the children, "You need to be free of us. Don't obey us -- depend on your own intelligence. Even if you go astray it is far better than to remain a slave and always remain right. It is better to commit mistakes on your own and learn from them, rather than follow somebody else and not commit mistakes. But then you are never going to learn anything except following -- and that is poison, pure poison."
It is very easy if you love. Don't ask "how", because "how" means you are asking for a method, a methodology, a technique -- and love is not a technique.
Love your children, enjoy their freedom. Let them commit mistakes, help them to see where they have committed a mistake. Tell them, "To commit mistakes is not wrong -- commit as many mistakes as possible, because that is the way you will be learning more. But don't commit the same mistake again and again, because that makes you stupid."
So it is not going to be a simple answer from me. You will have to figure it out living with your children moment to moment, allowing them every possible freedom in small things.
For example, in my childhood... and it has been the same for centuries, the children are being taught, "Go to bed early, and get up early in the morning. That makes you wise."
I told my father, "It seems to be strange: when I am not feeling sleepy, you force me to sleep early in the evening." And in Jaina houses early in the evening is really early, because supper is at five o'clock, at the most six. And then there is nothing else to do -- the children should go to sleep.
I said to him, "When my energy is not ready to go to sleep, you force me to go to sleep. And when, in the morning, I am feeling sleepy, you drag me out of the bed. This seems to be a strange way of making me wise! And I don't see the connection -- how am I going to become wise by being forced to sleep when I am not feeling sleepy? And for hours I lie down in the bed, in the darkness... time which would have in some way been used, would have been creative, and you force me to sleep. But sleep is not something in your hands. You cannot just close your eyes and go to sleep. Sleep comes when it comes; it does not follow your order or my order, so for hours I am wasting my time.
"And then in the morning when I am really feeling sleepy, you force me to wake up -- five o'clock, early in the morning -- and you drag me out for a morning walk towards the forest. I am feeling sleepy and you are dragging me. And I don't see how all this is going to make me wise. You please explain it to me!
"And how many people have become wise through this process? You just show me a few wise people -- I don't see anybody around. And I have been talking to my grandfather, and he said that it is all nonsense. Of the whole household, that old man is the only sincere man. He does not care what others will say, but he has told me that it is all nonsense: `Wisdom does not come by going early to bed. I have been going early to bed my whole life -- seventy years -- and wisdom has not come yet, and I don't think it is going to come! Now it is time for death to come, not for wisdom. So don't be befooled by these proverbs.'"
I told my father, "You think it over, and please be authentic and true. Give me this much freedom -- that I can go to sleep when I feel sleep is coming, and I can get up when I feel that it is time, and sleep is no longer there."
He thought for one day, and the next day he said, "Okay, perhaps you are right. You do it according to yourself. Listen to your body rather than listening to me."
This should be the principle: children should be helped to listen to their bodies, to listen to their own needs. The basic thing for parents is to guard the children from falling into a ditch. The function of their discipline is negative.
Remember the word "negative"... no positive programming but only a negative guarding -- because children are children, and they can get into something which will harm them, cripple them. Then too don't order them not to go, but explain to them. Don't make it a point of obedience; still let them choose. You simply explain the whole situation.
Children are very receptive, and if you are respectful towards them they are ready to listen, ready to understand; then leave them with their understanding. And it is a question only of a few years in the beginning; soon they will be getting settled in their intelligence, and your guarding will not be needed at all. Soon they will be able to move on their own.
I can understand the fear of the parents that the children may go in a direction which they don't like -- but that is your problem. Your children are not born for your likings and your dislikings. They have to live their life, and you should rejoice that they are living their life -- whatever it is. They may become a poor musician....
I used to know a very rich man in the town who wanted his son, after matriculation, to become a doctor. But the son was interested only in music. He was already no longer an amateur; he was well known in the area, and wherever there was any function, he was playing the sitar and was becoming more and more famous.
He wanted to go to a university which is basically devoted to music. Perhaps it is the only university in the world which is devoted completely to music, and has all the different departments -- dance, different instruments -- but the whole world of the university is musical.
The father was absolutely against it. He called me -- because I was very close to his son -- and he said, "He will be a beggar all his life," because musicians in India cannot earn much. "At the most he can become a music teacher in a school. What will he be earning? That much we pay to many servants in our house. And he will be associating with the wrong people," because in India, music has remained very deeply connected with the prostitutes.
The Indian prostitute is different from any prostitute in the rest of the world. The word "prostitute" does not do justice to the Indian counterpart, because the Indian prostitute is really well versed in music, in dance -- and India has so much variety. If you really want to learn the deeper layers of music, of singing, of dancing, you have to be with some famous prostitute.
There are famous families -- they are called gharanas. Gharana means family. It is nothing to do with the ordinary family; it is the family of the master-disciple. So there are famous gharanas which have a certain way of their own. Presenting the same instrument, the same dance, different gharanas will produce it in different ways, with subtle nuances. So, if someone really wants to get into the world of music, he has to become part of some gharana -- and that is not good company. According to a rich man it is certainly not a good company.
But the son was not interested in the company. Not follow