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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.