In the first five years of a child's life, the first two
years are considered as infancy, the next three years as babyhood.
Very often there is a desire on the part of the guardians to
educate the child of four or five years either in a kindergarten
or at home. That time in the life of a child is a time of kingship,
and the eagerness on the part of the guardians for the child's
education to begin is only pressing it with our competitive
life. For our life is competitive and it is getting worse and
worse everyday; and the same spirit unconsciously exerts pressure
on the life of the child, urging it on to become one among the
many competitors of the world, in order to guard its interest
when it is grown up. But what about the most blessed years that
destiny has granted to the baby, when there is no worry, no
anxiety, no malice, and no ambition? That is the real kingship.
If you compare a baby with a king, you will see that the baby
is the king and the king is the imitation.
No doubt it is better that the child learns in the kindergarten,
where it is taught only the alphabet, than at school, because
there its mind is distracted and it has something to play with.
But at the same time, even attracting the mind of a child to
a limited horizon is limiting the growth of its soul. It was
much better to do as the peasants and uncivilized people used
to do, keeping their children at that age perfectly free to
run about and to climb the trees and play with the soil, and
to jump and run about and play with their playmates. It is a
great mistake on the part of the guardians to deprive the child
of that freedom and happiness which the heavens have granted
it in that period.
The story of Adam's exile from the Garden of Eden shows that
there is a certain time in a man's life when he is in the garden
of Eden, and after that time he is exiled from there and no
longer experiences that joy and happiness and freedom that once
the soul possessed. There is not one soul in this world who
has not experienced the Garden of Eden, and that Garden of Eden
Now there comes the question of controlling children's intense
activity. In the first place their intense activity is tiresome
to other people in the family because their interests are different.
But if its interest is different that is not a fault on the
part of the child. For instance the guardian may be working
or writing, or taking a rest, or thinking about something worldly,
while the child is playing and making a noise; and the guardian
thinks, 'No, this is wrong'. But wrong according to which law?
It is a lack of consideration when the guardian is not tolerant
of the activity of the baby. No doubt it does not always fit
in with the earthly people. But babies are not earthly, they
are heavenly creatures. They must be given the liberty to enjoy
their heavenly life, just as we are entitled to experience the
life of this earth.
No doubt there is a certain limit to it. One may say, 'We
will not let them break the things in the house; we will not
let them spoil things; we will not let them trouble us in our
work'; but all that is earthly. In point of fact, the guardian
has no right to prevent the baby from enjoying its free activity,
and every effort must be made by the guardian to allow this.
In the children's play, in their hustle and bustle, in their
crying and jumping and running and climbing their soul is expressing
itself. We call it naughty, but they do not consider it so.
Even if it is called naughtiness they think it is lawful for
them; and it is so. And because we control them and make them
suit our own lives, their energy, their enthusiasm, their spirit
becomes limited; and in this way their real progress is hampered.
At this age a child is conscious of the higher spheres. Many
times children have known much more about what was going on
at the front during the war than even the authorities knew.
They knew intuitively, sometimes in their dreams, sometimes
in a kind of deep imagination; and when they predicted something,
that thing happened. And that shows that at four, five, six,
and seven years the child is extremely intuitive, because at
that time it is under the influence of the jinn.
At the age of three, four and five the baby is very imitative;
it likes to imitate everything it sees. And the best way of
educating the baby is to bring before it everything that is
worth imitating. For instance, sounds, notes, rhythm, and anything
that is pertaining to tone and rhythm build and beautify the
character, and form the foundation of character in babyhood.
And it is best that until the age of five the baby should not
be taught anything in the way of figures or alphabet or letters.
Regularity is the only thing that can be taught to children
at that age, and without their knowing it; regularity in sleeping,
in waking up, in food, in playing, and in sitting quiet.
I was very much interested in what Madame Montessori told
me when I was in Italy, that besides all the activities that
she gives to the children, she makes them keep a silence; and
after a little time they like it so much that they prefer silence
to their activity. And it interested me still more to see a
little girl of about six years of age who, when the time of
silence came, went and closed the windows and closed the door,
and put away all the things that she was playing with. And then
she came and sat in her little chair and closed her eyes, and
she did not open them for about three or four minutes. You could
see on her innocent face an angelic expression. It seemed she
preferred those five minutes silence to all the playing of the
whole day. Children enjoy silence when they have become accustomed
to it. Silence is not a strain on a child. Only in the beginning
it might appear to be disagreeable to a child, who is eager
to play and run about, to be sitting and closing its eyes. For
children to sit and close their eyes seems hard in the beginning.
But when they have had some silence every day for a week, they
begin to enjoy the happiness of silence.
Sometimes there is a tendency on the part of the guardian
or of those around a baby to enjoy its irritability. It is a
kind of entertainment for them. Because they love the baby they
are amused by the little gesture of annoyance on its part. But
by appreciating it, by recognizing it, by observing it, they
develop that characteristic. The best thing, however, would
be to overlook it, not to acknowledge it, not to be conscious
of it, not to feel for one moment that the child is irritable;
because once the guardian takes no notice of it, that tendency
of the baby will begin to decrease.
There is also a tendency on the part of the guardian to be
annoyed at the irritability of the child. That too is wrong;
because by being annoyed one gives to the baby, just like fuel
to the fire, the energy to be more irritable. Guardianship of
a baby requires great patience; and the more patient one is,
the more wise one is with the baby, the more one can help its
Very often behind the irritability either of a child or of
a grown-up person there is a hidden reason, and it may be a
physical reason. There may be something physically wrong which
others do not know of; and they only think that this child is
irritable by nature. They attribute the irritability to the
child, instead of seeing that there is something physically
wrong with it. By trying to find out what it is, one will be
able to tolerate that condition better.
There is another tendency in the baby, and that is that during
its development it has varied moods. Some days it is loving,
other days it is less loving; some days it is more angelic,
other days it is less angelic; in this way it changes its moods.
In this phase the greatest care should be taken that all such
moods of the child are controlled, without forcing one's own
will too much upon it. For instance, if the baby is very much
inclined to cry, to laugh, to destroy things, or to play, the
best thing is to direct its attention to something else. If
it is laughing very much one should direct its attention to
something that will keep its mind busy, that will make it more
balanced, and take its attention away from the idea that makes
it laugh. If it is crying, the same thing may be done: to divert
the child's attention from the object, the thought or the condition
which makes it cry, and in this way to bring about a balance
in its life.
Is there any place in the life of a baby for religion? The
answer is that the best opportunity to sow the seed of religion
is in babyhood, because it is at that time that the angelic
quality is fresh and the jinn quality is beginning to develop.
And in what way should one teach the child religion? The ancient
lesson of the God-ideal, which all the prophets and teachers
have given and which will always prove to be the best lesson
there is, is to give the child the idea of God: God of goodness,
God of beauty, God of compassion, God of love, God of harmony.
If in any child there is a spiritual tendency, it will show
even from the age of five years. Love for prayer for instance,
love for the God-ideal: the feeling for something sacred, a
reverence for something religious, it might seem that this was
already there, that the child was born with it.
Sometimes the religious, devotional, and spiritual attributes
are distinctly seen in a child who is growing from infancy to
childhood. The spiritual tendency is inborn, and when it shows
itself in a child one should know that the child has brought
it from above. The child is very often more responsive to the
God-ideal than a grown-up person; because the grown-up person,
by being absorbed in the things of the world, has lost the idea
of God. He has the world before him. The child has not yet the
world before him; and therefore the child is more capable of
conceiving the thought of God than a grown-up person. And if
this opportunity is lost, then when they are grown-up they feel
that something is missing in their life, and they think, 'If
only I had known about God it would have been much better.'
But now it is too late; now it is difficult for them to conceive
the thought of God, because the seed was not sown at the right
There are numberless souls who, because their parents have
not given them the idea of God, find it most difficult to conceive
it; and at the same time their soul is constantly seeking for
it. But the guardian must be most careful that he does not sow
the seed of bigotry with the religious ideal. If he does this,
then a great harm is done to the child. By bigotry is meant
this: first there is a time when a person believes in God, and
that is a very blessed time. And when he is more evolved in
the worldly life then he fights for his Church, that is then
his main idea. And when he is still more evolved, then he despises
other creeds. And so a person evolves higher and higher; it
is that evolution which is called bigotry. If a child is impressed
from its childhood by that spirit, then the main object is defeated.
The main object of religion is to elevate the child to the higher
ideal; and that can be done by giving it the key of religion,
and that key is the God-ideal.
The guardian must also endeavor not to give the child heavier
food than it can digest in the form of religion. Very often
there are guardians filled with a philosophical idea, with a
special idea of religion, with an ethical conception of religion,
who wish to inspire the child at that age. But in this way they
do harm; because instead of giving the first lesson they have
perhaps given a lesson which is too advanced for the child,
and it is all lost. It is just like giving too much water to
a growing plant which dies because of the flood of water that
it cannot absorb. There are very many guardians who talk philosophically
to a baby, because their philosophical conception is so overpowering
that they think it must be poured out on the child; but if the
child is too full of it then it will only forget it. We must
become children with the child in order to bring it up. We must
speak its own language, and we must only give it what it can
Once a nurse came to me and said, 'This child asks wonderful
questions, and I cannot answer them'. I said, 'What are the
questions?' She replied, 'When this child was going to say its
evening prayer before going to bed, it asked me, 'If God is
in heaven, up in heaven, then why must I bow low to the earth?''
The nurse was very perplexed; she did not know the answer; but
if this child had not been answered, from that moment its belief
would have gone, because that is the time when the soul is beginning
to inquire into life and its mystery. I asked the child, 'What
did you say?' The child explained it to me, and I said, 'Yes
God is in heaven, but where are His feet? On the earth. By bending
towards the earth you are touching His feet'. That gave it the
explanation that although the head of God is in heaven, the
feet of God are on the earth; and therefore touching the earth
is touching the feet of God. It was quite satisfied.
Very often children are on the point of losing their belief
because their belief is just like a young plant, a little seedling
that comes out of the earth; and if this is not well guarded,
it can be destroyed in a moment. Therefore one must be most
careful. It does not matter if a grown-up person has a belief
today and gives it up tomorrow. It does not matter because his
belief was nothing. But a child's belief is different. A child's
belief is something serious. It has no doubt; what it believes,
it believes seriously; and therefore its belief is real belief.
If that belief is destroyed it is a great pity and a great loss.
A child one day came to its guardian very perplexed because
a boy had said to it, 'Do you believe in Santa Claus? If you
do then it is not right, because there never was such a being
as Santa Claus.' This child was very disappointed, because
it had just written a letter to Santa Claus before Christmas.
And in its great despair it came to the guardian to ask, 'is
it true that Santa Claus exists or is it not true?' Now suppose
the guardian had said, 'It is true', then in four or five years'
time the child would have come and said, 'No it is not true';
and if he had said, 'No, it is not true', then all the child's
belief would have been totally destroyed. It would have been
completely changed if the guardian had said, 'It is not true'.
That would have rooted out, just by saying no, all the innocent
religious belief from the heart of that child. But the guardian
said to it, 'Remember, all that the mind can conceive exists.
If it does not exist on the physical plane, it exists in the
sphere of the mind. So never say it does not exist. To the one
who says that it does not exist, say that it exists in the sphere
of the mind'; and the child was very impressed by this answer.
A child can remember such an answer all its life. If the
child evolved so that it could touch the heavens, it would still
believe it. Never in life need it say, 'I do not believe it',
and at the same time that is a belief that is tangible. It can
never say, 'It does not exist, it is not real'. It can say'
'It is real', both as a child and as a grown-up person.
It is best to keep the child ignorant of all stories of ghosts
as long as one can. Ghost stories impress a child and interest
it very much, and by this its mind goes in another direction,
a direction which is not suitable for it. The best thing is
always to avoid conversation about ghosts and spirits, and also
about the devil. And the best way of avoiding it is to turn
it into a joke. A witty answer that will turn the mind of the
child from the idea of ghosts to a joke would be the best thing.
But at the same time to say there is no such thing as a ghost
or a devil is taking upon oneself a very great responsibility.
It is denying something which is written in the Bible and in
other scriptures, and could make a child an unbeliever, so that
when it grows up it will not believe in anything.
It is essential that in childhood a religious teaching be
given. If the guardian is not able to discuss religion with
the child, it is better not to try but to give the child the
habit of sitting in silence for a moment, and thinking about
the higher ideal, God.
The way of Christ was to give humanity the ideal of God,
God as the heavenly Father. And what was the reason? The reason
was that it was conceivable. Even a child can understand that
idea: Father, heavenly Father, the real Father. Besides all
the different names that the prophets and teachers have given
to God are really not appropriate; it was only to make people
understand. Their minds could only conceive those names: the
Judge, or the Creator, or the Supreme Being, or the King of
the Day of judgment. They are not the names of God; all names
given are not the names of God. God cannot be limited to those
names; they are too small for God. Yet at the same time it is
the best one can do to make the ideal of God as concrete to
the mind as possible. What strength, what a help it is for the
child to think from early childhood that there is a Friend unknown,
unseen; to be able to say, 'There is Someone who hears my prayers.
Someone who in my troubles and difficulties can be with me,
Someone whose blessing I ask, Someone who protects me, Someone
who is like my mother and my father and yet unknown, unseen'.
Even if the child is not able to make it clear to itself, yet
unconsciously it will feel it like a support from within. It
will feel that it can stand with that support, a support so
great that at all times, whether the child has its parents or
not, in all conditions it can feel, 'There is Someone who is
always there with me'. And if this ideal is built from childhood
by wise guardians, it helps the child for its whole life.
The guardian need not be discouraged to find obstinacy and
temper and selfishness in the little child. He must know that
either the baby has inherited it or it is the result of some
defect in its physical health, and it must be treated most wisely.
Fire is increased by fire, and the plant of temper is watered
by anger. The more the guardian reacts the more he will encourage
that tendency in the baby. To become annoyed with the child
who is in a temper is to fan the spark of anger in it. The best
way is to first get the baby to respond to him, and then with
that response to make it act according to the will of the guardian.
If the obstinacy of the baby can be directed to its own advantage,
then it can be benefited by the obstinacy. Obstinacy can be
very useful; for most of the great people in this world have
become great by a certain obstinacy in their character, because
obstinacy is a strength and power in itself. An obstinate businessman
can be successful, an obstinate warrior can win, an obstinate
politician can accomplish his purpose and an obstinate industrialist
can accomplish great things. Obstinacy, therefore, if rightly
directed, can be of great use. One only needs to mold the mind
of the child in such a direction that its obstinacy may become
fruitful. It is the obstinate child who will sit and finish
a task that is given to it; if it had not that obstinacy it
would not do it. Sometimes from obstinacy comes the spirit of
rivalry, and very often the spirit of rivalry becomes the means
Manners are most important, and especially at four and five
years of age the lessons of manners must be given. The first
lesson to be taught is knowing when to come near and be loving,
and when to sit quiet and obedient in the presence of the guardian.
If the guardian is showing affection to the baby all the time
the baby becomes spoiled. There must be change. There must be
a time when the child is loved. It requires love, love is its
sustenance. But there is another time when the child must be
obedient. It must sit or stand or do something that it is told
to do. And at that time there is no display of tenderness.
There is one thing that must be taught from babyhood, and
that is not to argue. If that tendency is not suppressed from
babyhood, it will grow unconsciously perhaps and afterwards
the guardian will find it most disagreeable. A person in whom
this tendency is not checked from childhood will show insolence
in some form or another, no matter how good the manners he learned
afterwards. Also, if the child contradicts it should also be
checked, even to the extent that the guardian may say to the
child, 'As you are young you do not know enough. Even of to
you it appears wrong, there is some right in it. You do not
know and therefore you may not contradict; and you may not contradict
your guardian before others. If you think that your guardians
are wrong, when the others are gone you may come to your guardians
and say, 'That was not right, what you said'; but you may not
say it before others, because you do not know enough about what
your guardian has said. There may be some reason in it.' When
you have said this to the baby once or twice or thrice it understands.
A child is easier to work with than grown-up people.
At the same time the baby should be inspired with the spirit
of self-respect. There may be something delicious on the table,
something attractive in the room. Something beautiful within
its reach, there may be some gold and silver coins lying loose
in its presence, but its natural tendency of taking them, of
losing them, of breaking them, of spoiling them, must be checked.
And how must it be checked? The baby must not think that it
is forced to keep away from what attracts it, but it must feel
that it is self-respect not to look at it. That it is glad to
take its eyes away from the sweet that is on the table, that
it feels a great pride and honor to think that it will not even
look at it. That teaches the baby patience; and its self-respect
gives it more joy than even the sweet and the toy would give
it, because it touched its very being; it wakens the soul when
the child feels pride in refusing something that in its heart
it is attracted to. This does not mean that the baby should
be denied all that is good and beautiful. No, it must be taught
that when something is given, it can be accepted; but when it
is not given, then the baby must be proud enough to control
The child must be taught not to be over-enthusiastic about
anything that appeals to it, whether it is a sweet, a toy, or
something beautiful; it must be taught not to show too great
an appreciation. Because it is a humiliation, it is making oneself
small before the object that one is enthusiastic about. The
baby must be too proud to be enthusiastic. And remember that
a baby will begin to appreciate this, if not in the beginning,
then a little later. Self-control gives the child such a feeling
of power and satisfaction that it begins to enjoy it.
A child must be checked in the feeling, 'You have taken more
than I', or 'My little brother, or my little sister, has received
more than was given to me'. That must be stopped. It must not
judge; it must appreciate it if the little brother or sister
has got more; it must be glad. It will not be glad naturally,
but if it is taught then it will be glad; it will enjoy being
glad. Virtues are virtues because they give joy once they are
practiced. If a virtue does not give joy, it is not a virtue.
Very often guardians do not attach importance to what toys
they give the baby to play with. There are certain toys which
have the effect of making it lazy; there are certain toys which
will make it confused, or which will bring about stupidity,
or make the child irritable or timid. Unconsciously they have
that effect upon the child. Besides, playing with certain toys
does not bring any benefit. When we think that every moment
of babyhood is so precious in the life of the soul, and that
this soul is to be denied something that can add to its progress,
it seems a great pity.
There must be discrimination even in choosing toys, as to
what toy will inspire the children and help them, and will elevate
their souls. There are many meaningless toys with horrible faces,
horrible toys with nothing beautiful about them. The child likes
them because it likes anything. Sometimes a child likes a doll
without arms or legs. But we must give the child toys which
are finished and not without arms or legs.
Sometimes it likes horrible toys most. For instance, what
does a teddy-bear do to the child? Does it inspire the child,
does it elevate its soul? It does nothing. On the contrary,
it gives to the receptive mind of the child the impression of
an animal, which is not good. Very often there are toys which
give no inspiration, which have no action, and therefore have
a confusing effect upon the child. One gives a child a teddy-bear
because one thinks that it likes it. But why must we give something
to the child because it likes it? A friendship with a bear!
There is much else to occupy one's mind. Besides, there are
certain toys which give no exercise to the mind and no inspiration
to the child, and that makes it lazy. Anything constructive
is good. For instance, a train that runs, or an instrument that
sounds, that is good for a child, or anything that it can construct
with, as the pieces of a puzzle that a child can make a picture
from, or the little bricks and pillars and different things
from which it can make a house or something else. All such toys
are good. In short every toy must be constructive, must lead
to some purpose; that should be the guiding principal.
It is not very good for the child to play with animals. If
the child can have a kind feeling towards the animal it is quite
enough; because every association has its special effect on
the child. And very often the tendency of the guardian is to
think that the child likes the animal very much. That may be
so, but it is not good for the child; from a psychological point
of view it is sometimes bad for it.
Boys' toys should not be given to girls, neither should girls'
toys be given to boys. If boys get accustomed to playing with
the toys of girls, then their mind goes in another direction;
and it is the same with girls. It is better that the girl has
her own toys and the boy his own toys. Both must have toys appropriate
for them, and very often guardians do not discriminate between
One may wonder if it is bad for children to play with tin
soldiers. Yes, it is, because it develops a tendency towards
fighting. But it is delicate and very subtle question, and one
must not lay down rules about it. What a terrible thing it would
be if as a child a person did not play with bow and arrows and
sword or anything that is soldier-like, and then when he was
twenty-one years of age, the country called him to defend it
and he knew nothing about warfare, for he had never received
any preparation for it! And another question arises: when the
whole nation is ready for war and there is one youth, perhaps,
who feels, 'I will not go because I am not in agreement with
the principle, it is his right to disagree with the principal
but at the same time he is willing to accept the order and peace
that is maintained by the nation, to share all the privileges
of being a member of the nation. He shares them, but he refuses
what the majority wants him to do. It is against his principle
certainly; but what the majority wishes him to do he refuses
although he does not refuse the privileges. If he refuses the
privileges also it is different. If he does like the sages,
if he goes away from the country and stays in solitude under
the shade of a tree, it is different. If he does not want money,
if he says, 'I do not compete with you. I do not want to have
any benefit from your progress in life. I do not keep any money
that a thief can steal from me, for which I might then have
to come to your court', then it is different. But if a person
is ready to share all privileges that belong to the country,
and then when the need of defense comes says, 'It is against
my principle', that is quite another matter. Never think that
this means standing up for war. But at the same time let the
little boys be capable of everything.
Every little manner that is sweet in the child, every good
little tendency it shows, should be emphasized and appreciated.
One must not take it silently. Never think that by showing the
child appreciation it will become conceited. No, the child will
be encouraged. It will be just like watering a plant when you
appreciate anything that is nice in the manner of a baby. And
there is never a time in one's whole life when one appreciates
a word of praise so much as when one is a baby. The child really
appreciates it and is encouraged to do the same again.
Then there is the question of blame. When the child has done
anything wrong, the first thing is to reason with it, to convince
it. And if it is not convinced at once, then try a second time,
and then a third, a fourth. Never be disappointed, even if one
has to try ten times to convince the baby by argument.
Very often a guardian thinks it is too much waste of time
to argue with a baby who does not understand; it is more easily
done when one scolds and finishes with it. But that does not
finish it. Much scolding blunts the spirit of the child. The
spirit of the child must be kept so fine and so sharp that the
slightest glance could make it feel hurt. But if one scolds
the child all the time, it blunts its spirit, and the child
becomes worse and worse.
Never for one moment imagine that the child will not take
in your reasoning. If not the first time, it will take it in
the second or the third time. One must continue to reason with
the child; and by doing so the guardian brings the child closer
to his spirit, because the child feels a friendship between
itself and the guardian. By reasoning one draws the child closer
to one's own spirit. And if the child does not listen to the
reasoning and the guardian has reasoned for many days, then
the next thing to try is temptation. To tempt it with a sweet,
with a flower, with something that it likes, with love, with
appreciation. To say, 'You have done right', 'Now you have done
it nicely, and I will give you a toy,' 'I shall give you a sweet
if you will do it'. Show appreciation, tempt it to do right.
This is the next step. It is preferable that the child should
learn with reasoning; but if not, then a reward must make it
If even a reward is not enough, then the third way is scolding,
punishment. But scolding must be short. The scolding must be
in the voice, in the way it is said. It must not be hard, nor
must it be harsh. There must be a certain tone that the child
at once realizes is scolding. One must avoid scolding as much
as one can. But if one cannot help it then that is the third
way. There is a wrong method which guardians very often adopt,
perhaps in the East more than in the West, and that is to frighten
a child by saying some bogey is coming or something like that.
If it continues to be naughty something will come to frighten
it, a ghost or a spirit. That is the worst thing that one could
do to a child, because every such shock takes away a great deal
from the enthusiasm of its spirit to progress. It hampers the
progress of the soul to be frightened by anything.
Very often a stubborn child who does not listen and who does
not change, by being asked to turn around three times changes
its point of view at once. If one wants to make the child feel
more deeply, if one tells the proud child to go and stand in
the corner with its back turned to everybody, it really feels
hurt. One can also ask it to go out of the room and stand outside
the door. That hurts the child still more.
Is it right to punish a child? Punishment is natural. Every
soul is punished in some way or another. For everything one
does there is a punishment; it is the law of nature. The law
of life has punishment just the same. But punishment for the
child must be gentle. It is better to avoid a severe punishment,
but rather to give a little mental punishment, which makes the
child realize that it is being punished. Suppose one told the
child to go from one place to another five times or ten times.
In point of fact, walking up and down can be an enjoyment for
the child, but by the very fact that you have given it as a
punishment the child does not like it. The feeling, 'I am punished',
in itself corrects it. In order to punish you do not need to
torture a child; you only need to make it realize that it is
being punished. That is quite enough.
Sometimes guardians think it is necessary to slap a child,
to slap its face. Slapping is sometimes dangerous, because there
are veins and delicate organs in the forehead and on the temples,
and slapping could cause a condition which though not manifest
at the time, might become so after twenty or forty years. And
therefore instead of slapping it is far better to tweak the
ears. Punishment has a very bad effect when it blunts the sharpness
of the child's spirit. Very often punishment may work with the
child, but in some way or other it blunts its fineness; and
therefore one must try to do without if one can. Then, after
giving good advice and counsel and encouragement, and after
showing appreciation and doing everything possible, the last
thing is to tweak the ears. Boys are sometimes more stubborn
than girls; and if you give them a little punishment in the
form of gymnastics it corrects them. If a boy is told to stand
up and sit down fifty times, it helps him in his gymnastics,
and at the same time he feels punished. Boys are difficult to
control, and can easily become insolent if they are not trained
from their babyhood. A girl by nature is thoughtful, and a boy
by nature is contrary. When a boy is thoughtful it means that
life has taught him.
Very often both boys and girls can be taught by means of
repetition. For instance, if you told the boy to repeat a hundred
times, 'I will not make pencil marks on the wall', after repeating
it for a hundred times he will be impressed by it. There is
a great difference in the effect of making a child repeat a
phrase and making him write the phrase a hundred times. If you
make the child write the phrase a hundred times the effect is
one quarter compared with the effect if you had made him say
it a hundred times; that is the best punishment you could give
him. While he is repeating a hundred times he becomes impatient,
he becomes tired and he is displeased with it; at the same time
he is impressed that he is being punished. When one asks a child
to stand for a long time and repeat, 'I will not be mischievous',
in fifteen minutes time it will take away a great deal of that
spirit of mischief from it.
One may ask what one is to do if the child will not take
the punishment, will not repeat a phrase, for instance. But
the child will surely do it. If from babyhood it is not controlled,
then it becomes insolent and refuses afterwards, but if from
babyhood it is taught to obey a normal child will not refuse.
How should one treat a child when it is angry? By not partaking
of its anger. That is the first principle. When the guardian
loses his temper because of the child's anger, then everything
goes wrong, because then there is a fire on both sides. The
child is not helped in that way. It is best to keep calm and
direct the child's attention to something else. If the child
is in a temper and the guardian gives it punishment, that does
not do it any good. It is wasted.
There is, however, another time when the punishment may be
usefully given. Punishment may be given when the child is in
its balanced, normal condition. For instance, if you held a
court in the house, where the children could be judged at a
time when they had forgotten all about what they had done, then
they would remember. That is the time when whatever punishment
is given will have effect. But when the child is cross and the
punishment is given immediately, it is lost. At that time every
effort must be made to take away the temper by kindness, by
sympathy. But very often that is where the guardian makes a
Must a child obey without understanding? There is a vast
difference between the mentality and experience of the child
and of the guardian. Very often the child will not know why
it is told, 'You must not do it'; and if the child always asked,
'Why must I not do it?' then it would be difficult, because
very often it cannot be explained. And very often it had better
not be explained. Very often it is better that the child only
listens to the guardian and does not argue. Just as the musicians
in the orchestra are accustomed to look at the conductor's baton,
so a baby must be taught to look at the glance of its guardian.
And if the guardian is wise enough to conduct the action of
the baby from morning till evening by his glance alone, he is
sure to train that child to be a most promising soul in the
And now another question arises: how much must a baby he
kept in control, and how much must it be allowed to play with
its playmates? There must be certain times when the baby is
allowed to play with its playmates. But the guardian must select
the because the association in childhood is more responsible
for the baby's future than the association than when grown-up.
Very few people think about this. Mostly the tendency of the
parents is to think that any child that comes along can play
with their child. But when it comes to home education it is
not the same thing. That system will not do; because home education
is an individual education, while school education is different.
There they are all together, but home education is something
else, it is a different ideal. And this must be remembered,
that school education without home education is not sufficient.
The greatest drawback today is that home education is lacking,
and only school education is given. And therefore in many personalities
there is something missing that ought to have come from home.
If there were thousands of schools most wisely and wonderfully
organized, they still could not take the place of home education.
Home education is the foundation of school education; and that
opportunity of being educated at home must not be denied to
a child, because it is a great blessing.
There must be discrimination in regard to the playmates that
one chooses for the baby. And the time must be limited so that
the baby plays with its playmates during that time only. But
if the child is allowed to run wild in play and there is no
limit to it, then no training is given and it is not education.
There is need for play, but only for a certain time and no longer.
Regularity in life is the rhythm of life; and the more the
rhythm is maintained in life, the better it is. It is not necessary
for many grown-up persons to handle a baby; it is better that
only one handles it. It is just like an orchestra and its conductor.
If there were four conductors conducting the orchestra, they
would spoil it. Even if there were four hundred musicians playing
there must only be one conductor. It is the same thing with
the guardian. If there is more than one person to guide the
life of a child, it will be spoiled. In the case of two parents
one must become the hand to the other. But if both wish to manage
their child, then it will be spoiled.
If the baby is an orphan, what can one do? That is destiny.
One can only be sorry about it. And those who are blessed by
providence and who have to look after an orphan, should consider
their responsibility as that of a parent, of a guardian towards
the orphan that is in their charge. But every woman and every
man in this world should consider it their duty, whenever they
are in contact with a new soul, to be as parents to that soul.
For in the total scheme of life all the elder ones have to take
the part of the parents to the younger ones, while those have
to take the part of the children to those who are older. So
that we each have our older ones and our younger ones to look
up to and to look after.
The greatest ideal that one can give a baby is to look up
to its parents. That is the first ideal; and if at that time
the baby has not received this ideal, then all his life he will
have no ideal, because he will have no basis for it. Someone
went to the prophet Muhammad and said, 'Prophet, I am so spiritually
inclined, and I would so much like to follow your Message and
come and meditate in your presence. But I am still young and
my parents need me at home. What shall I do?' the prophet said,
'Remain at home first, because some consideration is due to
your parents.' One might think that the Prophet was a greater
ideal still; why did the prophet deny him that ideal, why did
he send him home? Because the Prophet thought that was the first
ideal. If the youth did not reach the first ideal, how could
he get to the second ideal? If he did not look up to his parents,
did not appreciate them or feel grateful for them, how could
he appreciate the Prophet?
It is the parent's duty to give the ideal of themselves to
their own child. Not for their own sakes, but for the good of
the child. That ideal must be given from babyhood so that the
child looks up to its parents as it would look up to the King
or Queen, or to God or to a prophet. When the ideal is sewn
in that way, in the child from the beginning, then it will flourish,
and then that ideal will become a guiding torch in the life
of the soul.