The eternal question of all parents is how to raise the children. Everybody wants their children to be better than them. Parents will be happy when children exceed their expectations. Sometimes parents do this by providing them all the things that they did not get in their life. This is in terms of material things like toys, cars and other luxuries, which causes problems for them, more than helping them. In order to know what the right thing to do is, we should first understand the purpose and meaning of children and their relationship to us.
All things in life happen for a cause, including children. This cause is the karmic baggage or debt or relationship. It is said that we do not choose our children. It is our children that select us to be their parents to burn their karmic baggage (desires). In order to understand this we need to understand death as per Sanatana Dharma. When a person dies, the causal body the Atman (Ghatakasa- contained soul) merges with the Parammatman (Chidakasa – all pervading Brahman). The subtle body (mind) with its pent up desires and memories become the karmic baggage (pretatma).
This waits for a suitable family to be born again to fulfill its pent up desires. It is the gross body that is left on earth that is burned or buried that merges with the five elements in nature. When a suitable family is found the subtle body along with causal body descends into the gross body in the womb of the mother around the 12th week of pregnancy. Child thus brings with it the karmic baggage of past life with it and is born in a particular family, because it has some karmic relationship with that family to fulfill. Birth of a child is complex event.
The parents feel that they are responsible for their children, while it is the choosing of the child to be born into that particular family. Thus each child has three layers with three bodies. It is a combination of Karmic baggage (prarabda) from the subtle body of past lives and hereditary genes (from parents) the gross body and the Atman, causal body. There are three elements in child parent relationship. One the karmic baggage and relationship (samskaras-tendencies) that the children bring into this life, second the hereditary tendencies of the parents through gross body, the third one is the environment that the parents provide as parental dharma towards the child to grow to its full potential.
While parents have no control over the first one of karmic baggage, and the second one of hereditary genes, they do have some control on the type of environment (nurturing) they provide to the child. All our focus as parents should be on this variable aspect of nurturing and nourishing the growth and development of the child to be a productive, contributing human being in society and to Divinity, the full potential. The right attitude for parenting is to keep these facts in mind and function accordingly. What the children become is the product of samskaras (fate, prarabda), genes and nurturing. All three play a role.
Thus parents who think that everything a child becomes depends on their nurturing is not fully correct, because of the other two factors. Mythology gives several example of this phenomenon. Hiranyakasipu is a Rakshasa that is born with asuric tendencies (bad); however his son Prahlada was born with daivic tendencies (good). Prahlada’s son Virochana was born with asuric tendencies while his son Bali Chakravarthi was born with daivic tendencies. While same parents raised Ravana and Vibhishana, Ravana developed asuric qualities and Vibhishana developed Daivic qualities. We see this in the world now.
If five children of same parents, brought up the same way, each one become different way in their mental makeup like Jimmy Carter and his alcoholic brother. Five fingers of the same hand are not similar. No two brothers and sisters are the same. Keeping this in mind is important, so that the parents will not take ownership for good and bad that happens to children and feel elated or guilty depending on how they turn out. Their only responsibility is to provide equal good opportunity as parental dharma to their children to grow as productive children of the society. This is their Grihasta Dharma to the society.
What they ultimately become, they do not have control, since other factors of samskaras and prarabda karma comes into picture. The correct attitude to raise children is as custodian of God’s trust. We are a trustee for the children. We are custodian to our children. We need to be good custodians, trustee for God’s trust, our children. This brings an attitude of detachment. We should Love our children, but not own them. If we own them, we own their successes and failures also. This most often brings sorrow like in the case of Dritarastra who forgot this truth and was blinded by mamatva. The first sloka of Bhagavad Gita starts with the word of Dritarastra “Mamaka Pandavachaiva”.
This mamakar is responsible for the destruction of his clan and ultimate sorrow and defeat. Similarly Arjuna’s Mamatva is the reason for Arjuna’s vishada and is the prompting for Gita as a solution. Gita runs between Mamatva to Mama Dharma. Similarly each parent has to get away from mamatva and fulfill their mama dharma (parental dharma) with detachment. WHAT IS THE MAMA DHARMA OF PARENTS THEN? PARENTS TO BE GOOD ROLE MODELS: 1. Parents should lead extemporary lives that their children can emulate. 2. Parents should be positive contributors to society. Actions speak louder than words. 3. Parents should work towards the vision of oneness and unity in the world. EDUCATION THAT INCULCATE VALUES AND CHARACTER: 4. Provide educational opportunities for children that give values and bring splendid character in children.
End of education is Character. Sign of education is humility and fragrance of education is goodness. Goodness is greater than greatness. Then what is character? Sustained, spontaneous positive behavior over a period time is character. Character is something we do right when nobody is watching. Education should open up the minds of our children. GOOD EXAMPLE: SCRIPTURES: SASTRAS: BIOGRAPHIES: How do we impart this? First by being a good example. Second through study of scriptures and Sastras. Ramayana, Bhagavata, Maha Bharata are such examples. Life histories (biographies) of sages, saints and good people is also a motivating factor.
NAMASMARANA: MANTRA: 5. By having children practice namasmarana (Ram,) or a mantra like OM (or panchkshari, astakshri) or Gayatri that will purify their mind and connects to the cosmic knowledge. BHAKTHI AND KARMA YOGA: 6. By encouraging children to have their own shrine and do daily pooja and thus planting a seed of Bhakthi in them. 8. By encouraging them to participate in community service, volunteering and such other altruistic activity.
Help them involve in community activism like protection of environment, noise pollution and the like. COMMITMENT: PERSEVERANCE: EXCELLENCE: SELF CONFIDENCE: 9. By creating an enthusiasm and thirst for knowledge and excellence in everything they do. 10. Empower them with responsibility and help them develop self confidence. 11. Help in developing commitment, steadfastness and perseverance in all the things they like to do. POSITIVITY: ONENESS: UNITY: 12. Help them develop a positive attitude for life and living. 13. Help them see unity and oneness in creation. Let them experience connectivity of humanity. REVERENCE: RESPECT: EQUANIMITY: 14. Help them to show respect and reverence to people in their life (mother, father, teachers, and guests) and to all in creation with an attitude of gratitude.
15. Help them see the big purpose and meaning in all the normal ups and downs of life. Help them develop to be proactive instead of being reactive to life events. FRIENDSHIP: CHEERFULNESS: BE HAPPY: 16. Help them to become Stitapragnas. Teach them how to smile, laugh and be happy. 17. Help promote goodness in them with friendliness to all, but keeping friendship with likeminded good people. TRUSTEESHIP: GUARDIANSHIP: CUSTODIANSHIP: BE A FRIEND 18. Be a trustee and a custodian of God’s trust (your children).
Be detached like a Lotus in water and mud. Be a good friend when they grow to be young men and women. While the above were my views based on my growth under my parents and as per my understanding of Sanatana Dharma. I humbly invite others comments and experiences so that the readers will be benefitted by several peoples experiences in this difficult area child rearing.