God’s guide to parenting

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Parenting is the hardest task on earth. Little wonder that many parents feel that despite their best efforts their children have not turned out as they may have wanted them to. Based on my experience as a psychologist, I feel that it is our ignorance and flawed understanding that creates what we call a problem child. Broadly speaking, we make two big errors in understanding and executing the role of parenting. The first blunder is to be guided by one’s ego.
People feel that the child is their possession and extension of their own self. The second related blunder is to think of the child as a hollow vessel that needs to be filled with knowledge and guidance. When parents operate from these perspectives in conceiving, providing for and bringing up a child, the end result is tragic. The child structures his life around the parental ego, and never realises his true self. Based on his relationship with his parents he may either conform to the culture, or rebel against it, but either way, he is unable to find himself.
Sri Aurobindo emphasized that the child is a divine being, and he can realise this divinity only when our own efforts to bring him up are in synchrony with the divine plan. This can be achieved “when we conceive of the child as a soul with a being, a nature and capacities of his own who must be helped to find them, to find himself, to grow into their maturity, into a fullness of physical and vital energy, and the utmost breadth, depth and height of his emotional, intellectual and spiritual being.”
If one wishes to make parenting an integral part of the divine design, the only way forward is a deep and reflective transformational inner journey that will radically change how we perceive and bring up a child. No book or expert advice can be a substitute for this inner change. Nevertheless, I’m sharing a few insights to describe the concept and its practical aspects.
Parents often have a fantasy on how their child should be. Often, these fantasies are influenced by qualities they did not possess, or dreams they could not fulfil. Weak parents visualise strong children; those who did not succeed want super achievers, impoverished parents desire wealthy children, parents who admire themselves want a child that replicates them, those who are proud of their heritage want a child that uplifts it even more.
These fantasies influence the way parents bring up their children, and leave a powerful impact on the personality of the child. In many cases, the child does, in part, assume the desired form. Rather than being guided by our ego, can we envisage a child with higher qualities such as truth, enlightenment, creativity, tranquillity, love, empathy, meaningfulness and honesty? This will give the child a headstart in evolving as a divine soul.
A woman once approached Mahatma Gandhi to counsel her son to cut down his sugar intake. Mahatma Gandhi told her to come back after two weeks. When mother and son returned, Mahatma Gandhi firmly told the boy to stop eating sugar. The bewildered woman asked Gandhiji why he could not have said this two weeks earlier. Mahatma Gandhi told her that at that time, he was eating sugar himself and he had to inculcate abstinence before asking the boy to do so.
Parents are all the time preaching and enforcing good behaviour upon children they themselves don’t practice. When mobile addicts forbid their child to use a cell phone the double standard leads him to conclude that either his parents don’t love him, or are trying to deprive him for silly reasons. In both cases, he rebels. The Mother asserted that one should never demand from a child an effort of discipline that one does not make oneself.
Good behaviour is difficult to inculcate as it involves giving up short-term pleasures and developing self-control. If parents want their child to seriously practise it, they must walk their talk.
This is important for two reasons. Firstly, children usually venerate their parents and will try to copy their behaviour. Thus, if a parent already practises the desired behaviour, so will the child. Secondly, because they practise it themselves, the child is more likely to be convinced of its merit. Just as a seed has its destiny already embedded within it, such as how tall it should grow, what kind of roots, branches and leaves it should have, what kind of fruits it should bear, children also have a lot already implanted in them provided we keep our ego aside and
look carefully.

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