Raising children today - Ten Steps

by Swami Prajnanananda
Created: 21 Sep, 2007

There is a big transformation taking place in the globe today. Many young couples from developing regions are settling in developed countries. They have good income but less time to manage their children. In developed countries people are reluctant to get married and even so, hesitate to procreate children. Even in developing countries, in urban life, where both the parents are employed, they have enough money and material but not time. A lot of cultural changes take place due to migration and quick communication facilities. However due to indiscriminate consumerism and automation we find it difficult to retain even basic values that are necessary for our children and society. To site a few for example: “Rise early; live a simple life; don't eat too much; do exercise; be kind; don't waste food; recycle.”

We are at crossroads. We need to strike the right balance between managing material wealth and retaining human values. Basic values are crucial in bringing up the children today. Let us see ten critical steps that will help our children face the transforming world and grow rich and strong in the real sense.

  1. Moderate, make best use of abundance
    It is important to provide the children with what they need to grow and learn. But today there are too many gadgets available for children which are actually not necessary for them. Buying a lot of unwanted toys, dresses and gadgets for young children will do more harm than good. What they need Is valuable time with the parents. They need exposure to other human beings and nature. A mother commented, “| am trying to atomize everything to save time. | bought bouncers, monitor, music system etc. etc. But my child wants human touch”. Abundance is no less a problem than poverty. In abundance children may get many things but not necessarily what they need. We need to show our love and attention by caring for our children, being with them, telling them stories, eating with them. We need to take care of the following by exercising caution and providing only the right things to children:
    * Too many gadgets create perpetual insufficiency and intolerance; dependency makes children weaker.
    * Lack of human interaction may lead to isolation and psychological issues at later stages.
    * Adamancy and indiscipline lead to other problems.
    * Lack of interest in education (this is well known problem in advanced, affluent societies today) Parents need to moderate and make best use of abundance. If you are poor, seek help; if you have more, share with others who need your help. If we just check our dump yard we will be surprised to see a mountain of unused things there. Remember, there are millions of children who do not even have a meal a day. By moderation you are helping your child and also the needy.
  2. Regulate information
    Perhaps the biggest problem of today is flow of information. We get a lot of information and finally not the information we need. It is extremely important to teach our children not to waste time in getting unnecessary information. There is a commercial advertisement in everything, from TV program to internet. It is ridiculous that we watch more trash than what we actually want. We are being just dragged in to this, even without our knowledge. Technological advancement is good to human society, as long as we know how to use It. The parents have to be role models to children particularly in regulating information and entertainment. When we watch TV serials and browse internet all the time, how can we ask the children not to? Time management of the entire family is important for regulating information to children.
  3. Be nice, be firm on discipline
    Remember even the kings who had all the wealth sent their children to an acharya (teacher) in hermitage to learn a disciplined lite. They underwent hardship when they learnt archery, horse riding etc. Loving and caring children is not just giving whatever they want. Loving and caring is good, but pampering is not. Indiscipline is a byproduct of abundance. When you start satisfying children with whatever they want, then the situation can become uncontrollable. The child may become arrogant and misbehave. Be nice to children but be firm to tell them the importance of discipline. Take care so that they grow as good citizens with good values.
  4. Be good to all children
    There is a proverb in Tamil which goes” If you feed other's children, your children will automatically be taken care of”. This is the spirit in some villages even today. In a neighborhood, a child can go to anybody's house and spend time safely there. Treat other children as your own children. Feed them whenever possible and take care of them. You cannot be with your children and protect them at all times. You have to trust the society and universal law. For this the first thing you need to do, is to take care of other children as your own children, whenever there is an opportunity. This trust and care for others is the real security for your children.
  5. Guide, don't control
    What is most important in raising children? It is to make them stand on their own feet and lead life successfully. No doubt we love our children and feel happy when they are happy. We should not try to own children like toys. We own the responsibility of bringing up children. We regulate them to flow freely like a river with banks on either side. Trying to control them is not good for both children and parents. Spoon feeding Is not going to help either. You should always think of the children as independent individuals considering their future. You are doing your duty In bringing them up. In the course you also enjoy their company. The problem starts when you want your children to do exactly what you want. This is basically because of your ownership notion. Remember you are parents to your children, not owners.
  6. Listen to children
    In present world both the parents go to work. There is not enough time for the parents to spend time with the children. It is difficult to understand their language and hence you need a lot of time and patience to listen to them and understand them. Further, due to the fast development of cybernetics, your children may have better information than you. You should be open- minded and learn from your children. Sometimes they operate a computer much better than elders, as they are quick to learn. You cannot be a dictator but at the same time, you need to regulate them. This needs your time and no gadget can replace this.
  7. Teach values from tradition
    There is a saying in Tamil, “Packed food and dictated lesson will not last long”. The materials and advice we give will be lost in due course. If you want your children to live their own lives when you are not with them, you need to teach them values which cannot be lost. There is nothing like developing the habit of daily prayer and chanting. There are number of slokas (verses) available in all languages including Sanskrit for chanting. It is extremely important to teach your children to face difficult situations boldly. No parent can ensure absolute happiness and security to the children. Therefore it is wiser to give them the values such as prayer and chanting to face any difficult situation. Each community has some traditional values which are time tested. It is vital to teach these values to children.
  8. Have a master mind hour
    Parents should ensure that at least twice In a week the entire family sits together and discusses about their work and schedule. This is master mind hour of the family. Children must be consulted on common matters according to their maturity and age. Children will feel very confident and proud when they are given importance. This will give an opportunity for all in the family to come out with their issues and find an acceptable solution. This also gives your children an opportunity to understand and appreciate your budgetary constraints.
  9. Realize your child's potential
    It is the most important role of parents to realize the potential of the children. Not all children have the same intelligence and talent. But certainly every child is talented and intelligent in their own way. It is harmful to compel a child to study or do what you like. It is wiser for the parents to closely watch the children and find out their natural talent and develop them. Some may be good in mathematics, others in literature etc. Every field is equally important. It is not necessary that all must become IT engineers. When you try to make your children study, it is not enough to simply ask them to go and study. It is not the number of hours that matters. You need to find out their difficulties and help them. Why should any child fail in a subject? No child does this willingly. After giving the basic education, you should let the children pursue the subjects they find interesting. Even the great mathematician Ramanujam was not that good in other subjects. It is natural and you should respect their aspirations and help them.
  10. Ensure good family atmosphere
    It is ascertained by psychologists beyond doubt that the quarrels between parents ruin the life of children. Most of the adult problems are traced to childhood. A broken family is found to be the most common reason for psychological problems of the grownups. Parents should avoid smoking in front of the children. Don't do anything at home that you don't want the children to do. It is the responsibility of parents to ensure peaceful, healthy atmosphere at home. Above all, parents have a social responsibility. Your children are future engineers, doctors, politicians, and teachers and so on. When you bring up your children, you are also building your nation; in modern context you are shaping the future world. Give your children good values; they will take care of themselves.

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