Children need to be mischievous. If they are not allowed to be mischievous and are suppressed or restricted, they will become bad later and their parents will not be able to control them. When children are naughty in a space, but if there is a property like an ashram, who cares? The children can run five times from one end of the boundary to the other. They can play, make mischief and exhaust all their energy, then they sleep well. That kind of mischief is bal lila, child's play.
Children have an excess of energy. Therefore, they need to run, play and enjoy a lot of games. It is not good for them to simply sit and study alone. Their energy has to be balanced. Parents have a very bad habit of nagging their children, and saying, "You are not studying. Have you done your homework?" Children are never asked, "Why don't you go and play football?" or "There is a good movie showing today. Take some money and go and see it." People think their children have the same level of consciousness as they do.
The levels of consciousness of a father and his six year old child are entirely different. When the child says, "I want to see a movie," there is a different idea in his mind to when the thirty year old father wants to see a movie. Children do not have an impure motivation; their level of awareness is very high. Children are very close to God. It is true that children are pure. This state of innocence is described in the first part of the Ramacharitamanas where the childhood of Rama is described.
Arrangements must be made for games or sports to become a subject at school. Games could be compulsory for all children except those who have physical problems. Games, drama and music competitions need to go on side by side with intellectual pursuits. What is the use of teaching your child that Akbar was born in 1615 and Aurangzeb in 1750? Who wants to know all this history? When children have time and want to read then let them, but do not impose it as a part of their education. It is not necessary to overburden children with too much bookish knowledge.
Children do not become great through study or qualifications. They become great through the quality of their mind, intelligence and receptivity. This is based upon how much they are able to receive, retain and give. It doesn't mean that one should not study. One must have qualifications because today this is the system throughout the world and we must respect it. But when children are continually asked if they have done their homework, they become scared of not getting first class marks in their exams. They worry about what their parents will say because if they fail, they know they will have to face the music.
School children are always afraid that they might fail in their exams. What does it matter if they fail? Parents should tell their children, "Never mind, if you fail you can try again." But parents do not have the courage to say such things, so their children think, "Other students are fighting for a first division. If I only get a second division, what will Daddy say?" This idea which is drilled into the minds of children ruins their entire personality. Instead the child should be told, "Go and study if you like, but do not bother too much about it."
We know that many students who lagged behind in their school studies went on to have brilliant careers. Isaac Newton, who discovered the law of gravity, was a poor student, but he became a foremost scientist, and today the law of gravity is the basis of every scientific experiment. If a child is a dull student, it does not mean that he will remain dull all his life. In my school days I was very bad at mathematics, but today I can do any calculation without a calculator. You have to be able to tackle the problems of life, whether business, family or institutional. If you can't, then what is the use of being a first class student?
The popular notion is that if children play and have fun, they will fail in their studies and in life, but it is not true. However, if they have time to play and have fun, they will be successful, and if they study too much, they will spoil their lives. Playing balances the muscular and nervous energies of children and it circulates blood throughout the system many times over. If a child sits in front of the TV all day or studies with one leg up on the table, his blood circulation becomes very sluggish like a choked drain. His studies suffer.
The power of children to grasp new things is normally so strong that a teacher needs to teach them something only once. Children listen to a song from the cinema just once and they are able to memorise it, yet they need a tutor to help them learn from their school books. Children should be left free to play. I grieve to see what is being done to children these days.
Usually there is a very big gap between the mental state of teachers and young school students. While teaching, one has to be mindful of this gap. One has to come down to the level of the students in order to teach them. A teacher must not always be saying, "Do this; don't do that." Don't always try to find fault with the child. A teacher is neither a policeman nor a hunter. Rather he should be a loving companion who can become their teacher when the child is ten or twelve years old. Until the age of seven, forget that you have to teach children anything. There should be education through positive samskaras. Children should be allowed to grow and develop in a natural way: to sing, play, make noise and mischief. There is nothing wrong with that.
An important point to remember is not to tell the child what is right and wrong, good and bad. This distinction is the complex of a guilty mind. Don't put this sense of guilt into the minds of children. When they grow up and become adults, they will know the difference between right and wrong, good and bad. Even birds and animals know this. Parents should not tell their children to read a lot, study hard or try to be great or important. Let them enjoy their schooling. They should think that their teachers in the school are good, loving and friendly. This will generate a feeling of unity in their hearts.
Education has two purposes. The first is to equip you with qualifications so you can earn a livelihood. Through education you receive instruction about the outside world. This is apara vidya, formal, academic or worldly knowledge which helps you to earn a living in daily life. It gives empirical knowledge about mathematics, science, astrology, physics, chemistry, biology and other material sciences. The second purpose is to impart knowledge about the inner world by which you can remove the darkness of ignorance within you. This is para vidya, spiritual knowledge. This form of education instructs you about yourself, your body and your social dealings. In today's system of education we have neither.
In education systems throughout the world the stress is only on empirical knowledge. One type of education will not serve the whole world. In Africa, Latin America, Southeast Asia, China and Central Asia, only one system of education was adopted, which is why there is economic imbalance. There is a lot of intellectual frustration. Students spend many years at college and university, yet they have no jobs when they graduate.
The purpose of education should be twofold. First, it should make students capable of earning their own bread and butter without spending so many years at school. Second, it should develop the personality so that students can discover their own self. In the absence of this kind of education there is social disorder on every continent, because we have not discovered appropriate forms of education for different types of people. Children should be taught from an early age how to cope with the demands of day to day life according to their particular circumstances. A person in Western Europe has to cope with certain circumstances. In Africa, Asia and Latin America, the circumstances are entirely different.
Whatever I learned at school never proved useful to me. At the age of eight or ten one is very bright, and by the age of eighteen or nineteen one is full of conflicts and problems. I wasted my precious youth learning useless things about geography and history. Whatever I memorised from the history books at night would be completely forgotten by morning. On the other hand, whatever I learned for twelve years at my guru's ashram has been useful throughout my life. Even the smallest practical teaching proved highly valuable. I learned gardening, cooking, typing, accounting, book keeping, translating, writing articles, printing and every aspect of construction work. Swami Sivananda gave me one hundred percent perfect knowledge that proved to be most useful. The most valuable lesson I learned was that life is ever flowing, always moving ahead. One has to just watch the phenomenal world as it comes and take it in one's stride.
When children are born it is the parents' duty to initiate them into spiritual life, not into religion. A child is an experiment. It is good to have a child. Why not? There is no harm in having a relationship and producing children, but the children should not be the joy of the lower soul. Every child that a mother produces is a divine incarnation, a product of God. Parents should treat that creation of God as an experiment. How will that child become great? The child must have a personality of substance which is his own. Children who constantly receive the love of their parents, who never look for love in themselves, who never look for bliss within, who always trail behind their parents whining like a pup, will not have a strong personality.
Parents want their children to boost up their own egos. Their children should not bring disrepute to their name or give people cause to point a finger at them. A child is before you. How can you make him or her into a work of art? Chisel him, chisel her. A beautiful statue lies hidden within the rough stone. God has produced that raw material which is before you. Now make it into a work of art.