Be a Friend

Swami Satyananda Saraswati

Why is it so difficult for parents and children to live and work together? What can we do?

Because parents are neurotic. I tell you very frankly. The mistake is with the parents. Children have no mistakes. They are younger than you. Parents should have more wisdom, patience and understanding. Don't apply your religion on them. Your personal view is called religion. You keep your morality in your pocket. Don't tell children to be this or that. They are your children, but they are another soul. What right have you to develop them in your own image? You go on throughout the world making everybody Christian, because you are Christian. You make the whole world Muslim because you are a Muslim man. People do become Christian or Muslim out of fear. In the same way, you are trying to make your children become like yourself.

You are a bundle of unhappiness, frustration, failures, suppressions and depressions. You have not enjoyed life. When you were married, you became aware of your duties. You could not enjoy. From the years of fifteen to nineteen are the years to enjoy and you don't want them to. You are jealous of them, and that is why your children don't care for you. Because they have to depend on you for money, for protection, so somehow your children keep quiet.

Once my father told me that I should read Gita every day, because he was reading it. I said, 'No, I'm not going to read if I don't like it. That was the first and last confrontation between us. He said, 'If you don't read Gita, you don't stay in my home. I told him, 'You should not stay in this home, because the home is mine and not yours. His eyes were opened. 'Why do I depend on you? You are dependent on me. Tomorrow, if you die, I am going to do your funeral. If you become blind, I am going to help you because I am your child, and I will perpetuate your clan.

So, in my opinion, parents must get out of this neurosis: 'My child must be a nice one; my child must be a nice one'. You should not be ashamed of your children's liberated mood. Let them eat the whole night. Let them smoke the whole night. Let them do what they want. From fifteen to nineteen is the golden period for children. It is a very transitional period. You must be by their side, and you will see that there is a greater communication between you and the children.

First thing parents must stop is admonishment. You are not a judge of right and wrong. What is right today can be wrong tomorrow. In the last fifty years, every value has changed. What Christianity said was a sin, Dr. Freud said just the opposite. Now, who is right and who is wrong, the biblical parents or Freudian parents.

Morality is relative; it is not absolute. It is subject to political, economical conditions. It changes and it should change, and there fore you should not try to bind your children within the frame work of your morality. Let them create their own morality. If they don't want to practise yoga, don't force them. If they don't want to pray or to read the Bible, don't force them. Don't tell them any thing. Don't give them any thing. Only one thing you have to give — your confidence. Religious parents, strict parents, cannot give confidence. Disciplinarians can never give confidence.

It is said in one of the books in India, after the child becomes twelve, he is your friend and you should behave with him as you behave with your chum, friend. Therefore, make friendship with your children. Up to the age of twelve, you are father and mother. After the age of twelve, you are not father and mother. You are just friends. A friend is somebody to whom you can say everything; he will not mind it. When you do something wrong, you can tell your friend, never your parents. Otherwise, the whole night, you will have to hear the Bible.

But still, after saying this, it is going to be a very difficult job, because we are so worried about the children. Read the last poem in the book The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran and keep this idea before you. Also read one of the statements of Plato. Then you will understand what mistakes we have made. Why do the children disobey you? Why do they insult you? Why do they hate you? Why do they want to avoid you? Why is there a difference between you and the children? Because that prophetic relationship between us is absent.

—21 June 1984, Satyananda Ashram, Paris, France