You need not switch on your TV to picture in your mind a child running across a battle-scarred terrain, while snipers try to shoot him down; or, maybe, fly-covered faces and bloated bodies of a thousand starving children, somewhere; or of children being incinerated, bombed and shelled in innumerable battle zones — the killing fields of a planet that has gone increasingly mad.
Yes, the statistical roll call of children who are shot each hour, raped, rendered homeless and exploited worldwide reads like something straight out of gory fiction. And, if film documentaries, newspapers and magazines have recorded the “diabolical fare” with drama, restraint and [in]sensitive ambivalence, from the turn of the last century, TV, with all its technological finesse, has now brought practically every facet of the world’s worst nightmares right into the privacy of our living rooms.
How can we thrive as a people if our progeny continues to be treated as lesser human beings, almost like compost? Answer: We need to change what we are doing now. Also, unless we reorient our attitudes toward children, our race will end up so gutted of its decency that it will matter little whether it physically survives or not. Besides, how at ease we are with what’s going on around us. It’s not just a question of our existence, but also of what is increasingly referred to as our spiritual existence. It’s an old-new concept that is making new friends and adherents on a global footing. Not just through self-help books or gurus, but also workshops where it is taught for a “fee”: the more renowned the new age “messiah,” the higher the “price.”
However this may be, a spiritual inclination toward parental tasks is an idea whose time has come, with or without initiation. It is a vision that is tied to a deep personal conviction — parenting as a spiritual force, a structure or worship, and also an acceptable attitude toward children — the heart of any reverential approach to life. Because, in many ways, a teacher is a parent; a coach is a parent; a counsellor is a parent; a politician, believe it or not, is a parent; or, even a simple voter is a parent. Also, we should think of ourselves as parents in the gentlest sense of the term — as guardians of the young, because our relationship with a child is that of a sacred trust. The reason is simple and also profound: Under no circumstance can anything be more important than protecting and nourishing children in our care.
“Nothing justifies anger towards your child... You may get angry — most of us quite frequently do — but never is it justified. There will be times when you need to be firm even with an infant; times when you must intervene in your teenager’s life and say no; times when you will have to pick up your three-year-old and carry them kicking and screaming from the room. But, there will never be a time when you must speak or act from anger rather than love. No matter how long you have pursued an arbitrary punishment, or how deep into your abusive lecture you have gone, it is never too late to change your course.”
If discipline with the wisdom of a sustained commitment to a goal is strength worth pursuing, one is often appalled at the way this term is habitually used vis-à-vis children. As the Prathers add: “By way of generalization, discipline means punishment, and vice versa: a concept that is in direct conflict, if not a corollary, for those who wish to approach parenting as a spiritual pursuit. The guidance you envisage to give your child should be more like the touch of a butterfly on a flower than the heavy hand of domination that breaks the will. In other words, one should always seek to assist children to see the path clearly: a route, which does not place precedence in dispensing rules, regulations and righteousness.”
Says Nelressa Stallings-Faye, a copywriter, teacher and life coach:
“It is a simple fact of life that most of us summon our spiritual strength, or at least seek guidance, when we, and our children, are in a crisis. But, the more difficult challenge of good parenting is remembering to turning off our conflicted mind to our peaceful mind when making those little everyday, non-dramatic choices that have such a powerful, cumulative effect on our children. On the other hand, one finds it shocking when parents use their kids’ desires as leverage. This is not loving. In other words, it is only a cheap way of asking them to sell their souls. For some parents, such manipulation maybe in the form of [un]conscious response: ‘You can have it as soon as you become the person I want you to be.’”
There are many examples, like forcing children to be neat and tidy; punctual; academically-oriented; and/or anything else. This approach is not practical for one simple reason: Most of the world’s geniuses, mystics and innovators were not tidy, out-going, punctual or especially polite. You’d reel off a few names — without difficulty.
Says Vinita Shenoy, a mother of two grown-up kids and academician, who has a knack of helping children realize their own potential:
“Our children are not perfect, but their intuitions are often more appropriate. Kids often — in fact, very often — pick up on hidden thoughts and motivations in their relatives and their parents’ friends and acquaintances. They also can be extremely sensitive to unseen atmosphere at parties, in stores, or while visiting a new school or child-care centre. For example, many children are not happy at ‘the happiest place on Earth,’ or other large amusement parks. Children’s — even older kids’ — overall state of mind is a better indicator of what they are aware of than their words.”
Parenting is a “difficult” task. Is there a way out, or maybe a better way of dealing with it successfully? To look at one example, as Dr. Rakesh Ghildiyal, a psychiatrist, explains: “To do the impossible and receive the gifts your child has brought you, it is imperative for you to meet your child at their level. You must also accept their sense of love, time, fun, priorities, and values. And, above all, you must see and work within your child’s view of your function, not brusquely outside of it.”
This is easier said than done, or so you’d think. Because, there are no rules, no magic formulas, doctrine, science, teaching or philosophy that parents can safely consult in any given situation and with a particular child. Yet, spiritual parenting, which you on your own could cultivate as a concept, may be practiced to help you become a better parent. However, it all boils down to one thing. It is advisable to approach child-care as a spiritual task, and also as a radically new, essential focus amidst the perplexing complexities involved in guiding children toward adulthood — irrespective of the fact whether you, as a parent, believe in god, spirituality, religion or not.
The most important part is — you, as a parent or teacher — need to be action-oriented, and also explore, understand and nurture the heart of your child in the best manner possible. All of this with, of course, lots of patience, warmth, love, resolve, and sympathy. The results would be more than worth their weight in gold. So, there it is. In the chaotic cauldron that exists around us, and where children are under grave threat, the onus is on parents — teachers and each of us — to explore, understand and nurture the heart of every child with patience, warmth, love, resolve and empathy. This would be a small step, yes, but a big leap for a better, child-friendly, world.