A child has an inquisitive nature. Knowledge is acquired only through this inquisitive nature. Mischievousness is also a manifestation of this inquisitiveness. A child wants to find out; it wants to know. When the child is awake at night, it goes on asking various questions. You get annoyed! No, you should take immense delight in answering the questions intelligently so that the child will satisfy its curiosity.
A baby may not understand the sublimity of your words, but you should always sing the most sublime lullabies, entertain it with inspiring stories, and avoid all negative thoughts, words and actions in its presence. You should always be positive and spiritual in your approach towards the baby. The parents must never quarrel or speak ill of anybody before the child. You should be all encouragement, love and kindness. You should never show a wry face, nor get annoyed or disgusted.
This does not mean that you should dote on the child. When the child grows into a boy or a girl, when it has learnt to walk, to talk and to play, you should mix discipline with love. Even then you should not frighten the child nor instill any kind of negative emotion. Lovingly and intelligently you should try to maintain discipline, and you should make the child understand the glory of a disciplined life. If your earlier training has been good, you will find that your children will need no chastising. They will readily obey you. And, if you take care to see that they choose the right type of companions, you will have no problems at all.
Even a problem child can be molded properly if your approach is the right one. The problem child is essentially a creation of the parents. Obstinacy should be met with firmness spiced with love; ignorance should be met with knowledge coated with compassion; idiocy should be countered with intelligence coupled with kindness. Let the child’s heart know that you are sincere, eager and earnest in your attempt to mould him into an ideal citizen, a glorious adult dedicated to the good of the world. You will succeed.
It is for the parents to adapt to the child, not for the child to adapt to the parents. In many cases the child receives no real love from the parents, except mere attachment grown out of constant association. The parents think they love the child who is the apple of their eyes, but they really do not. There is a complete disregard for understanding the mind of the youngsters, a lack of the sympathy sought by them. In the name of the child’s welfare, the parents often permanently break its tender heart. By chastising a child before outsiders the problem is aggravated rather than remedied. An unhappy companionship between the parents is often a serious menace to the future home of the adolescent. Many things the child hears at an early age are implanted in the young mind, but when the years bring maturity there is a severe shock which shatters the reverence for the parents. Therefore, the parents should never utter any vulgar or obscene words before the child.
Youth, the most impressionable period, offers the best opportunities for yogic culture. The inner education, training in character building and in the practice of yoga has the best effect on a person while still young. When children learn and practise yoga from a young age, they will have a firm spiritual outlook on life, which no one will be able to break or shatter later on.
Today’s education fails to give adequate training in how to lead a happy and useful life. This is why yoga is so valuable. Together with school education yoga makes a complete and ideal child.
—Printed in YOGA, Year 3, Issue 3 (May–June 2004)