The Parental Role

Dr. Swami Vivekananda Saraswati, MB, BS (Syd.), MANZCP, DPM (a senior swami of BSY who is currently touring and lecturing throughout Colombia).

The world of the small child is a delicate and ineffable one. The child is without limitation in his or her ability to play, imagine and create. He can be whatever he wants to be, his consciousness can soar far and away, free from the adult's neurotic behaviour patterns, self defeating concepts and self-imposed limits. For the child the world is a magical place, full of possibility and inspiration. In one sense it is a great shame that we must leave that world when we embark on the journey to adulthood as mature men and women. We must grow up and find our role and place in the 'real' world of everyday life- that is unavoidable. What can be avoided are many of the traumatic transitions and negating experiences which children encounter as they adjust to adolescent and adult life. In this respect, it is we as parents who can allow that transition to take place in a positive, life affirming way, preserving and cultivating the child's inborn abilities and sensitivities. If parents can give their children such a start in life then they have fulfilled a great calling and a great mission which will flower and bear fruit in the ages to come. They have made themselves immortal in guiding the destiny of their children.

If children are allowed to develop in the optimum way, their potential is unlimited. So it behoves parents to lovingly prepare the soil for them to flower to their fullest, to grow proud and free, to be independent and self contained, and assert themselves within the widest bounds of reason and consideration 'or others. They must be prevented from ill-treating hose smaller than themselves, but short of this, we need not fear that they will become bullies. It is insecurity and lack of love that makes the bully, not self assertion. In fact, independence and self assertion lead to such confidence with others that love and compassion flower easily.

Even with the best yoga system and guidance, it is difficult for the timid, dependent person to develop enough strength, confidence and security to roam the earth physically or expand his consciousness through the cosmos. Thus it is very important that children grow to maturity with these qualities intact.

Very soon in life the child realises that he is an individual and proceeds to practice his individuality. Let him. At first it may be just playing at feeding; he will spit out the breast and suck on it again or push mother away. Later on, the child will explore, try to wander away. He will play with fire, knock things over, climb, jump, pat strange animals, go fearlessly into water. He is showing his natural independence, self assertion and strength of will which form the very basic foundation of his personality.

Thus motivated by the inherent drive of the manipura chakra, the little child starts trying to be independent, meeting with successes and failures, victories and hurts. His forays into the world of self assertion also meet with various responses from his parents such as encouragement, rejection, over control, amusement, fear, apathy, etc.

Whatever his experiences or the responses of his parents, all is remembered- nothing is forgotten. It is all stored at an unconscious level but continues for the rest of his life to influence his feelings and behaviour, especially in areas of self assertion, strength of will and sense of individuality. If these qualities are allowed to develop, the child has a good chance to grow into an excellent person with the potential of attaining the highest realisation.

So often, however, we do the opposite. We become disappointed as soon as the child 'rejects' us. We insist on total compliance to our timetables, our place-tables, our preconceived ideas, and all the same old rules and regulations that made us 'half people'. We are constantly saying 'Don't touch', 'Come here at once', 'Don't do that', 'Don't go there, it is too dangerous'.

Of course, we must protect our children from harm- this is our duty. This duty can best be fulfilled, however, by allowing them to explore while continuing to observe them- watching not witching, vigilance not violence, encourage not discourage. When children are growing up, allow them to wander to the edge of deep water, go to the fire, etc. but watch them. If they fall into the water we know we can reach down and pull them out. Moreover, we soon find that a child has a natural protection which allows him to avoid trouble, and that if we mainly leave him undisturbed, he will develop this gift to a high degree. We realise too, that it is not good to allow children to 'walk all over us' and dominate our lives. Thus it is necessary to exercise a firm, balanced, consistent, loving discipline with them.

It is essential that parents come to terms with their child's self assertion and allow it to develop in a balanced way. Unfortunately, however, it is difficult for parents to be this confident and independent unless they themselves are well balanced. So parents (and potential parents), if you are having problems with your self-assertion and discipline, practice yoga and your children will be grateful to you for the rest of their lives.