A
n undeniable fact faces the educator: the possibilities and performance of the student in the school environment directly relate to the family life. If attention is not paid to the care, nurturing, guiding, loving and educating of the child at home, the teacher will have a difficult time drawing the best from the child at school. This is hardly news. As we witness the drastic changes occurring within the institutions of family and education, this fact is becoming painfully obvious. Many of our children are showing up for school, without the basic vitality, emotional well being and fundamental framework of reality to adequately participate in the educational process.

In the long history of humanity, the institution of family preceded the institution of education. In this sense, the family is the basis of the fundamental introduction of newcomers to this world. Newcomers have the right to receive support, love, training, even a temporary identity through the family. Education ~ in reality only a flowering forth in a formal, organized way, of one of the basic functions of the family. Our task is to help draw forth the inner, often hidden reality of identity and existence out into the environment This drawing forth equips the child for living in, and contributing to humanity and the world.

The problems in education have their roots in problems of the family. A teacher cannot engender self-esteem if the family life destroys it. A teacher cannot instill cooperation, sharing, order, and right group relations if the family does not teach and live these principles. Teachers cannot teach well the emotionally damaged or the neglected child. On the other hand, if the family teaches strong values that are not reinforced at school the child can become confused. If the family life and the educational life of the child are not harmonious, coordinated and integrated, the child suffers, and ultimately society suffers as well.

We can strengthen the educational process by strengthening the family. The pressure and challenges facing today's family are severe. Curing the pain and disruption within our society calls for an expanded context and a deepened meaning of family. We need a new definition of family —based on the best of the old values and the best possibilities of the future. And this new family is being born. In the struggle of everyday life across the planet, millions of families are facing and meeting this challenge.


A Crisis of Values

At the heart of the family and educational problems is a crisis, a crisis of values. The pain, turmoil and disruption of the societal fabric are forcing us to reevaluate our lives. In this present storm of change, we are being forced to recognize what is truly valuable and essential, and what is not

Earlier in this book, we quoted from Education in the New Age, concerning four atmospheres in which children can be raised. Meditating on these atmospheres can reveal the essential role the parent plays in the child's development, and essential values that the parent can convey.


The Atmosphere of Understanding

Parents can understand the predicament of the child and they can also convey the power of understanding to their children. Parents understand that life on earth can be difficult, dangerous and painful, while the child is innocently unaware. children implicitly trust parents to guide them through the labyrinth of daily living. The recognition of the responsibility of this trust is essential.

Parents can understand the need a child has to grow in a secure environment, both physically and emotionally. A child can be made to feel secure and confident even while passing through the inevitable surprising changes that are the certainty of life. With the help of a parent, a child can be fearless to inquire and can be sure that the parent will never misunderstand his or her motives. This requires a parental attitude of relentless searching for the child's needs in the motive behind any action, and deep and unremitting trust. A realization that any behavior of a child is the result of some need, expressed or unexpressed will be apparent to the observant, loving parent.

The parent can also understand that the time, energy and attention put into parenting affects far more than the child. Parenting drastically affects the quality of all of our lives. It is an important way for the "Good, the True and the Beautiful" to emerge more apparent in our society.

Parents can also help children understand that they are members of groups. The child is a member of a family, which is a member of the community, which is a member of a nation, which is a member of a community of nations, of humanity, one of many of the kingdoms of nature making a planet, one of the many planets, etc. Parents can teach children that they have a relationship with each of these groups. The nature of these relationships vary, but each one offers its own opportunities and responsibilities. Because the family is the fundamental group, the lessons learned there will set the tone for the relationships within the ever expanding groups.


The Atmosphere of Love

An ideal circulating through human consciousness is that all men are created equal. While this strikes a chord. of truth within us, it is apparently not true on examination of the world. All humans have their own unique and different opportunities and faculties in life.

"Equal" may not be the best word to describe our state of being on the level of social existence. Words such as "unity" or "one" or "whole" come closer. The word "universal" describes the situation well: we are one Humanity expressing through diverse, unique points; individual human beings. While there are no doubt other factors, we could discuss the diversity of humans in terms of experience. There are those of us with great experience and those of us with little. We may have great experience along some lines and have little experience along others. Experience helps us develop faculties and abilities. It opens doors that were previously closed. It conveys certain freedoms based on learning difficult lessons; yet, it does not always enlarge our sense of responsibility.

There is a choice that the more experienced human beings make in their relationship with the less experienced. It is the choice between love and exploitation. In choosing exploitation, the more experienced recognize the relative weakness of the less experienced and seeks to turn it to personal advantage. Some of the more experienced understand the methods of manipulating those with less mental experience, by stimulating their desire and instinctual natures. Many use sex and the glamorous life as lures to promote products and services. Those of us with the exploitation consciousness manipulate others for purely personal power, money or position in the community. This sort of advantage tends to separate and insulate the more experienced from the less experienced. The overall effect is to make the gaps between people wider and deeper. Exploitation is the choice of the people who believe they are strictly separate, devoid of connection to the whole group.

With love as the choice, the more experienced are also aware of the relative weakness, yet they do everything possible to strengthen the less experienced. The goal is not personal advantage, but rather group success. The parent recognizes the child struggling to achieve control in his or her life and does everything necessary and possible to help. Having been down the same road, the more experienced parent seeks to make the journey easier for the next traveler. The effect of love is to bridge the divisions and heal the rifts between people on all levels of society.

Nowhere can love be lived more truly and naturally than in the family. The more experienced parents give the best of their lives to the less experienced children, asking" nothing in return. By the living example of the parent, the child learns the choice of love. The wise parent can help the child expand this living love to the child's environment, friends, community, nation, community of nations, all of humanity, the world and infinitely into the Cosmos. The parent can help the child see that there is an endless chain of love reaching to and from him in both directions, and that the child has a part to play. As daily situations arise, the parent can seize the opportunity to demonstrate the choice of love, and to help the child integrate the truth of love with the actions taken. The family is truly a living laboratory of love.

 

The Atmosphere of Patience

It is redundant to say that development takes time, yet how easily we can forget that fact in the press of daily family life. The atmosphere of patience can evaporate at a dropped glass of milk, or upon discovering destruction of some useful possession, or any display of childish carelessness. We know that development of a human being has its steps and stages, but it is all too easy to try to press development along before it is ready.

It is easy to be patient with a newborn. If we think through why, we see it has to do with expectation. We do not expect a newborn to be ready to do much. Yet, expectation is valuable; the child needs and grows with the help of the expectations of the parents. If the parents and teachers do not expect anything, the child is forced to find the next step in development alone and unaided. Of course expectation is a two edged sword. One can expect too much or the wrong thing from our children. Parents can reasonably expect children to go through certain general steps and stages, but children can only work in their own way, developing their own qualities as they go. Patience then flows naturally from balanced, reasonable expectations about development, recognizing that each of us must develop at our own speed and in our own way.

Developing patience also has to do with developing an attitude about time. There are just so many hours in a day, our capacities are just so large, and we need a certain amount of rest. Time pressure is a frequent cause of stress, which causes a lack of vitality, which decreases our health and thereby our capacities, which increases the time pressure..., etc. We can deal with time pressure by periodically taking the time to get in touch with what is valuable and then organizing our lives to reflect it.

The Atmosphere of Ordered Activity

It is the wise parent who can teach the child about responsibility and allow the child to develop the consciousness truly and lastingly at their own pace. The parent must use understanding, love and patience to help develop ordered activity. Obviously consciousness does not change in a day. The wise parent must balance keeping order themselves (as a living example), with the growing ability of the child to learn to maintain order in their own right.

We might examine the theory that life progresses in the form of a spiral. We are always growing "up" in conscious perspective and "out" into activity. The expanding range of activity naturally expresses the growth of consciousness. We can teach this pattern of growth to children in terms of "freedom" and "responsibility." Children naturally want freedom of activity. Parents know that if freedom of activity is not supported by a sense of responsibility (a proportionate growth of consciousness) the child is in for some difficult lessons.

The parent may see the child shooting off the spiral in a straight line of irresponsible freedom If so, it is the parent's obligation to restrict and guide the activity until the sense of responsibility is commensurate. The art of parenting lies in nudging the straight line of the child's activity back into the stability of the spiral without compromising the child's sense of freedom. Most of the difficulty of parenting falls in this area. When is the child ready for the next step in activity? When has the child gone too far? Should the parent or the situation provoked by irresponsible activity be the teacher? Wisdom and skill in action will help the parent do what is right.


 

Living Truth

Regardless of what the parent wants to teach, the child learns the most from the living example of the parent. Living the truth as we know it is the best and perhaps the only effective method of teaching. Most parents have lived the lie of screaming at the child, "Stop screaming." Many of us have swatted a child and said, "Now that will teach you to stop hitting your brother." What this teaches the child is that if a giant person is displeased with a little person, it is all right to whack them to force them to do what they want. Out of fear rather than choice, the little person may indeed stop hitting his younger brother-while the big person is around. It might be a different story when the big person is gone, or the little person grows up.

This is not to suggest that because one is a parent one could act perfectly always. We lose patience; we lose our temper. Some parents hurt their children physically; some hurt their children verbally. Yet we know that hurting children is not what we would do if we were calm. rational and loving. Some irritation. some stress, some loss of patience causes us to lose our composure. It is accurate to say we get "mad. " We actually go mad temporarily, and in this madness we do damage to our relationship with our children. For whatever momentarily justified reason we trade our love for abusive madness of some degree.

There is a process that we all can go through in dealing with this madness. First, it is possible to realize that we have gone mad, even while we are expressing our anger. Sometimes we have to wait until later, but we can at least realize that we have been mad. Then we recover. What we are recovering is our true nature, love. After recovery, we can make restitution. This means repairing the emotional damage wrought while mad.

This means so much to a child. Nothing can make children feel so bad and lost as when the person in whom they place all their trust, hurts them. But if that parent explains that all of us get mad sometimes, and they hold them in their arms and apologize from the heart, what a beautiful lesson the child has learned. The child has learned that nobody is perfect, but at least someone is trying. The child has had a beautiful living example of their teacher falling into madness, realizing it, recovering and making restitution. They have learned a way to deal with their own madness. They have experienced the power of living love and of living truth.

Being There

There are no easy answers to the instability in family life today. There are just too many high energy factors working on the fabric of human life, for the family to be unaffected. But we can all agree that it is better for children if they are raised in a stable family. Seedlings can only stand so many transplanting and dry periods.

Of course this is stating the obvious, and there is no shortage of
answers for this tough problem. The best of the answers propose a new sense of value for the family. Families are not unstable because parents stop loving their children. Families break up because parents stop loving each other. Of course this is complicated and each case is unique, but there are some trends and generalities we can talk about

We must realize that the attraction two people experience which is strong enough to cause marriage is necessary, mysterious and temporary. We can call it romance. We can all agree that romance in any marriage is going to change into something else or disappear completely. IT the marriage is based only on romance, it is doomed. A marriage needs romance to get the relationship started, but something else sustains a stable marriage.

That something else is service. Marriage is essentially service. It is the service of providing physical bodies, emotional nurturing, mental culturing and spiritual guidance to incoming children. Through the gifts of love and enlightenment to our children. we lift the world and save it from its past of hate and hurting. A marriage that grows in commitment to these values deepens and expands. It becomes more meaningful and beautiful and strong. It ceases to be a mechanism to exclusively feed the two persons from which it sprang but becomes instead a wellspring of spiritual energy for all it touches.

Self-esteem is not an issue to the children from such a marriage; it is taken for granted; it is solidly below the threshold of consciousness. Their parents have loved them and they know it They have learned to love and they know it Children raised in atmospheres of understanding, love, patience and ordered activity are stable, secure and ready to serve in their own unique way.