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Inspirational Article


Do's and Don'ts of Good Parenting

by Paramhansa Yogananda

From Clarity Magazine - Spring, 2008

Article Index


God, who is love, created man through the love of two souls, and through love alone man can find his way back to God.

Parents and children should understand that their relationship is not fortuitous, but is due to a divine plan. Family life is the laboratory in which human love can be transformed into God's perfect love.

Loving guidance, not harshness

Parents should look upon their child as the honored temple where their conjugal love can be purified and expanded into filial love. They should feel that they are serving God in that little temple.

Children, in turn, should look upon their parents as visible representatives of God on earth. Obedience and respect should activate their behavior.

For parents, kindness and loving guidance should prevail, never harsh treatment. If parents are harsh or unkind to their children, owing to a lack of self-control, they will surely prevent God from expanding His love from the parental heart to the heart of the child.

Parents should take care never to scold their children before others, or to bring an erring child to rebellion by continuous harshness. Strong, loving suggestions, alongside their good example, will do more to change a child than anger or harsh words.

The reforming power of love

Some time ago, I accepted a boy into my school in India who was much older than most of our students. He had been causing difficulties because his parents did not know how to discipline him properly.

Before accepting him, he and I had a heart-to-heart talk. I said, "You have made up your mind to smoke, but your parents do not want you to smoke. You have succeeded in defeating your parents, but you have not succeeded in defeating your misery—think of what you have done to yourself." My "arrow" struck him and he began to weep. He said, "They are always beating me."

I told him, "I will take you on one condition. I will be your friend but I will not be a detective. As long as you are willing to correct your mistakes, I will help you, but if you tell lies, I will do nothing for you because lying destroys friendship. You may decide not to tell me everything but do not lie." Then I said, "Anytime you want to smoke, I will get you the cigarettes."

One day he came to me and said, "I feel a terrible desire to smoke." When I offered him money to buy cigarettes, he could scarcely believe his eyes. He said, "Take back the money." I kept pressing him to take it, but he did not want it. At last, after a tug-of-war, he said, "You will not believe me, but I don't want to smoke any longer."

The result of this discipline was that he finally became a saint. Spiritual growth lies in making a strong inner effort to resist bad tendencies and to go upstream toward real lasting happiness.

Give children necessities only

This is why wealthy parents should not leave too much money to their children. More often than not, it chokes the development of initiative and self-earned success and happiness.

Give children necessities only, not luxuries. Take care not to enslave them to material things or selfish greed by too many possessions or too much money.

A child's exercise of will power

Parents often impose their wills on their children. Don't break your child's will by always denying his inconvenient requests. It's important that your child develop his will power.

As a child, when I made up my mind that I wanted something that could dome no harm, the members of my family had to consent. I always listened to reason; if ever I was wrong I was willing to be corrected. When I was right, however, I remained firm even if the whole family united against me.

I will tell you of an experience I had as a baby. A baby usually cries because it feels a physical need. This first expression of will, arising from that need, is called "physiological will." As the baby grows, and the mother directs its will, it expresses "mechanical" or "unthinking will."

I remember being in that state of mechanical will, always doing just as mother told me. Everyone called me an angel. One day when with my nurse, I saw some little orange-colored candies at a drug store, and I asked my nurse to buy some for me. He refused and took me home.

At home, after having my dinner, I told my mother I wanted some candy. She said, "No, go to bed." A little later I said, "Mother, I want those little, orange-colored candies." "Go to bed," Mother said. Thereupon I cried all the more loudly: "I want those orange-colored candies!"

I continued in my determination to have my way, unheeding of her appeal. Mother finally had to go and wake up the drug store owner to obtain those candies for me.

I was happy. Why? Because I had exercised my own will power. I found it the most wonderful feeling. The next morning I was called a "naughty baby," but only because I had exercised my will power.

Give your child freedom

Remember, when you're young children are self-willed about something that isn't wrong, don't call them naughty. Listen to their little desires and offer suggestions based on love and understanding. Reason with them, but don't curtail their freedom.

If they insist, don't say anything. Let them have their own little hard knocks, if necessary. In that way, they'll learn much sooner what is right. Try not to ask anything of your child that you can't back with a good reason.

Quicken your child's evolution

Children should be taught to concentrate and meditate. By practicing the scientific techniques of meditation, they will, from early life, reveal intuitive faculties that will enable them to grasp knowledge with extraordinary quickness.

Education does not consist of pumping ideas and facts into the brain. It consists of developing one's intuitive faculties and bringing the hidden soul-memory of all knowledge onto the plane of human consciousness. All new truths are simply the hidden truths of the soul; they give us joy upon rediscovery.

By developing intuition, you also quicken your evolution. Teach children to quicken their own evolution through meditation. Have a little family altar where parents and children gather to offer deep devotion to God, and to unite their souls in meditation.

Excerpted from: Spiritual Relationships, Crystal Clarity Publishers and the Praecepta Lessons, 1934-38.