The upbringing of a child is the most delicate, crucial responsibility of a parent. While routine parental responsibilities like feeding, providing for and educating a child can somewhat be taken for granted, the moulding of personality and character is truly the prime duty of any parent.
People often say that a child is a reflection of the effort and dedication of the parents. While you will find that there is seldom any individual who has not learned to eat, dress or bathe by the time they grow, it is common to find children lacking in a value system or core beliefs.
The traditional joint-family set up has been crumbling over the years, and it is now more common to find small, nuclear families. Moreover, responsibilities have become so shared that both parents work, pitch in at home, and also play a role in parenting. In the whole race towards aspiration and achievement, what the child tends to lose is a sense of belonging and the inculcation of family values
Children are born divine. They have limited wants, live a contented life, and are always smiling. It is somewhere along the journey of childhood that their being is corrupted with wants, greed and malice. While this can be attributed to the environment to a large extent, much can be said about the involvement of parents. Parents are the ones who teach children to be overly competitive, focus on academic learning, and reach for the highest expectations.The Bhagavad-Gita: when Krishna is speaks to Arjuna He takes more or less like a parental role, the role of a Guru is parental. Just a parent gives guidance, the Guru gives guidance. Arjuna also accepts this that the way a father forgives the son, You please forgive me. But still we see Krishna does not dominate and demand, rather He appeals to the intelligence. In the Bhagavad-Gita there are two streams of thoughts that underline Krishna’s message. One is enlightenment and other is encouragement. Enlightenment tells us what we should do. Not just what should we do, why should we do it? Along with that encouragement gives us the confidence that we can do it. When there is only enlightenment without encouragement, this is, ‘what you should do’, ‘well, I can’t do it’. When actually that enlightenment is alienating. Because people just feel he says it on a high in a model pedestal, and shoots down commands at us. So it alienates.
On the other hand if there is only encouragement without enlightenment, now whatever you do is very good, you’re a nice person, things are fine, then when there is only encouragement without enlightenment, then there is no upliftment. We do not actually benefit the person the way we could have benefited.
So these two dynamics apply in a parental relationship also. Broadly speaking the parents can be classified into 4 categories. Parents are expected to, on one side offer love to their children, and the other side also offer guidance. Offering guidance also means discipline. ‘This is what you should do. This is what we should not do’. And when something wrong is done some disciplining has to be done. Now let us consider Ist category.
There are some parents who offer neither love nor discipline. The children live in their world and the parents live in their own world. The parents are watching TV all day or they have their jobs, they are busy in their own life and least bother about their children. This is very unfortunate; offering neither love nor discipline.These are negligent parents..
The 2nd category is of the parents who offer love but no discipline. These are permissive parents. ‘I love you, therefore how can I correct you? Whatever you do, I will keep loving it’. Often this is thought of as if you should love, you should let the person be free, yes that is true. We should give freedom but also there is a responsibility when there is love. Now if a mother says that, ‘I love my side and I let my child whatever she wants’ and the child is going and standing in the middle of the traffic on a square, ‘oh my child wants to be there, I love her I let her do it’. And the government child services will come and say, ‘no you’re not fit to love your child’. So permissive parenting where there is only love and there is no discipline; that is incomplete. And that often leads to children harming themselves. The parents are not doing anything.
The Third category is of Parents who offer only discipline and no love . ‘Do this, don’t do this!’ And that is authoritarian, that becomes dictatorial. Because the children are subordinate to their parents and they may go down and obey but when they grow older they just rebel. A huge gap comes between the parents and the children. Because the children feel that I was never loved. I was just dominated. So these are authoritarian parents.
The last type is of authoritative parents who offer both love and guidance. So going back to the Bhagavad-Gita which talked about love and discipline; Authoritative parents offer both love and discipline.
So from the Bhagavad-Gita’s point of view there is encouragement and there is enlightenment. That’s similar to love and discipline. So that means ,discipline is correlated with enlightenment. Discipline doesn’t mean just punishing. ‘You did wrong, so this is the punishment’. No! Discipline also means actually telling why something should be done.
The example of permissive parents is there right in the Mahabharata, of which the Bhagavad-Gita is a part. And that is Dhritarashtra. Especially during turbulent phases in our life and the adolescence is one turbulent phase, in that willpower alone is not enough. We need divine power. We need the power of God. If children having provided spiritual Sankskaras, some connection with God in terms of the spiritual music, going to temple, taking darshan, having some exposure to the pastimes of the Lord, Rama Katha or Krishna Katha, meditation and much more;then that creates impressions. Such spiritual acts should be from the birth and not later in life. So by adopting spiritual path and becoming authoritative parents we can save our children from the suicide, drug addictions ,excessive aggression ,psychological problems and others.
(The author is a Lecturer in Psychology)