When the child is six years of age babyhood ends and childhood
begins. There are cases of earlier or later development, but
as a rule the change comes at six or seven years. This is the
age of great conflict because the soul is taking a new step
forward in life. And this inner conflict very often seems troublesome
to the guardian. The child is restless and obstinate, too active
and less responsive. At the age of seven this ends and a new
life begins. The child naturally becomes calmer, more harmonious,
more responsive, and yields to any advice that the guardian
would like to give.
Today many think that at six years old the child should go
to school; but this is a mistaken idea. This is the time when
the child should be at home, because six years is the time of
conflict, and seven is the beginning of a new era for the child.
If at that time the child misses home education and is sent
to school to be trained with other children, that takes away
the distinctive care which should be given to it at that age.
If the child has once been sent to school, one should not take
it away from the school; but at the same time it would be better
if one could manage to keep the child from school and give it
home education until it is nine years of age. But if the child
would like to go to school should one not send it? One does
not send the child to school for its pleasure; and also the
guardian can give pleasure to the child by giving it the training
which it likes at home. It is not necessary that the guardian
should teach the child letters and figures at home. The earlier
one teaches a child, the earlier his mentality will wear out
in life. And if one does not teach him, it only means that when
the mind is mature it will grasp more quickly. Just as the voice
producer says that if you begin to sing at a certain age your
voice will flourish, and if you sing before that age it is not
good, so it is with the mentality of a child. If the child begins
before its time, it only means that in the end the mind will
wear out before its time.
Where there are many children in the house and the guardian
cannot give all his attention to each, this means a little more
responsibility. But at the same time it is easier too, because
for the guardian with so many children at the same time there
is a greater opportunity and greater practice.
What generally happens is that guardians become so tired
taking care of the child that they feel a great burden lifted
from their shoulders when the child goes to school, for then
they feel comfortable, being quite free for six or eight hours.
Because one child in the house can be equal to one hundred children.
Guardians think that they love the child, and very often they
believe that they make all sacrifices. But at the same time
when it comes to bearing with an energetic child in the house,
then there is a doubt. It does not mean lack of love, but they
think, 'I would be happier if the child were away for a while'.
But they only think so because they do not know what a great
opportunity it is to begin to train and to guide the child.
It is an opportunity for its whole life. And if the guardian
misses it, it means a loss to the child.
The reason why the guardians are anxious to send the child
to school is that they are conscious of competitive life. They
see how there is competition in business and industry and on
all sides of life. And in order to train the child soon enough,
so that it may take up life's duties and responsibilities, they
wish to do it too early. The consequence is that the child has
lost the best time it could have had at home. A time of rest
and comfort, and freedom from all anxiety about the work that
it has to do at school. So that its mind could have matured
properly, and it could have begun the school work at the right
time. It is because the generality of people are so competitive
in every profession and business, that we make the coming generation
suffer. We deprive the children of their freedom, of the time
which they ought to have at home to play and to think little
and enjoy life more, and to keep away from worries and anxieties.
We take away that best time in the life of a child by sending
it to school.
A proper rhythm should be given to the child in babyhood.
This is the only training necessary, in order that it may be
neither too excitable nor too lethargic; and that its interest
may grow, and that, while playing, it may get familiar with
nature and gain what knowledge nature can give. When a child
is six years of age it is not able to grasp an ideal, and any
ideal given to it at that age is wrong. Only evenness of rhythm
should be maintained in the everyday life of the child. Its
natural tendency is to laugh too much, to play too much. Everything
that it is interested in it does more than it should do. And
if the guardian can try to keep it normal and balanced it will
help make a great difference.
At the age of seven the child is ready to receive any ideal
given to it, because that is the beginning of childhood. And
now comes the question: what ideal should be given? The first
ideal should be the ideal of a respectful attitude towards its
elders; because once grown-up without this ideal a soul never
learns respect. He only learns the form, but it does not come
from within. Among a hundred persons who are compelled to act
respectfully there is perhaps one person who is respectful in
spirit. Ninety-nine persons are compelled by conventionality
to act respectfully, and that action gives no joy. But when
that attitude comes from within, then it comes with joy. It
gives joy to others and it brings joy to oneself.
Today we see the general attitude of insolence increasing
as time goes on. It is the outcome of negligence on the part
of the guardians at the time when it should have been taken
in hand. Many think that this attitude ought to be taught in
school, but the school is not responsible for it. It belongs
to home education, and it is the guardian who is responsible
for it. And it is at this particular age of seven that it must
be given. Of course if a child has not a respectful attitude,
one can very easily accept it. One smiles at the lack of it.
One thinks, 'It is a little child, what do you expect from it?'
One's love and affection for the child make one think, 'Oh,
what does it matter? Is it not a child?' But to take it like
that is to work against its future. This is just the time when
a respectful attitude must be developed. The tendency to argue,
the tendency to hit back, the tendency to refuse, to disobey,
the tendency to speak in a disagreeable tone, even the tendency
to frown and make a disagreeable face, all these disrespectful
tendencies grow with the years in childhood. One does not think
that they are of any importance but when they are allowed to
grow they grow as enemies, bitter enemies of that child. And,
as Sadi says, Ba adab ba nasib, bi adab bi nasib, 'The
one who has respect in him, he will be fortunate surely. And
the one who lacks it will be unfortunate'.
The lack of this tendency is a misfortune for man. And besides
the man who has no respect for another has no respect for himself.
He cannot have it, he has not that sense. Self-respect only
comes to the man who has respect for another. You will always
find in a disrespectful person a lack of self-respect.
Another ideal is a regard for the guardian. By guardians
are meant parents or those who take care of the child and take
the place of the parents. And regard is not only respect, it
is more than respect. It is the feeling that, 'This is my guardian',
a feeling that 'I owe him something', a feeling that 'There
is a certain duty by which I am bound to my guardian', the realization
of the sacredness of that duty. And in this feeling there is
joy. If the child is inspired by this sense at that particular
time, one will see that it will enjoy that feeling every time
it experiences it.
When we look at life and see how many grown-up people have
lost absolutely all regard for their guardians it makes one
feel that the world is really wicked. There are so many souls
who have no consideration for those who have brought them up
from their childhood when they were helpless. It is very sad
to see how many guardians and parents are treated neglectfully.
And then in some rare case, when you see the devotion of a daughter
to her aged mother, a daughter who has sacrificed everything
in her life in order to make her aged mother comfortable and
to help her, it seems so beautiful. And when you see a grown-up
man who has a regard for his mother and father, so that while
managing his affairs and having duties and responsibilities
of life, he yet at the same time thinks of his aged parents,
it is something so beautiful to see and there is a great blessing
One can inspire this beautiful tendency in childhood; but
if the time is missed then it becomes difficult. It is not only
that it is beautiful to be able to give some pleasure and to
render some service to the parents, but those who have become
considerate in their lives begin to see that this is the greatest
privilege and blessing that one could have in life.
May a child give counsel to its parents? It would be disrespectful
if even a grown-up child stood up and gave counsel to his parents,
unless it was asked to do so. Besides a child is a child even
if it is fifty years old, and if it does not feel a child with
its parents it is missing a great deal in its life. There is
a story of the King of Udaipur, who was still very sad a year
after his mother's death. One day his friends told him, 'Now
you have reached the age of fifty and you are a father, even
a grandfather. Nobody's parents last forever. As long as she
lived it was a privilege, but now she is gone and you must forget
your sorrow'. He said, 'Yes, I am trying to forget. But there
is one thing I cannot forget, and that is the nickname by which
she called me. Everyone is respectful towards me, everyone calls
me 'Maharana'. But she alone called me by a nickname,
and I loved it so much.'
No matter what age one reaches, if one does not feel like
a baby, like a child with one's parents, it is a pity. It is
a great joy to feel like a baby, no matter at what age. It is
a great privilege, a blessing in life when one's parents are
living, and when one has that chance of acting like a baby.
It is the most beautiful thing in the world.
No doubt it is very easy to be insolent, and it is very amusing
to teach others; and when a person is grown-up he may also try
to teach his parents. They are old and weak now, and perhaps
also declining mentally, naturally they give in. But there is
no beauty in it. The beauty is to give a counsel without giving
counsel, if necessary even without speaking. On the other hand,
thoughtful parents, when a child has won their confidence, naturally
wish for counsel. But when the child has the right understanding
he will have the right attitude, he will never make the counsel
seem like a counsel. He will always put it in such a way that
it will seem as if it came from the parents and not from himself.
The third ideal that one can inspire in the child is a sense
of pride, a self-respecting attitude; because this is the time
when the child could lose its self-respect and that little sense
of pride or honor which is now growing in it. It is natural
to see the child pleased with a toy or attracted to a sweet
that is placed before it. But it is better when you offer the
child a toy or a sweet which it likes and it refuses it out
of self-respect. It is pleasant to see a child saying to its
guardian, 'Please get me this,' and 'Buy this for me,' or 'I
would like to have this'. But it is better still to see the
child holding back its desire out of self-respect. If pride
is not developed at that age, then what is life going to be
without pride? Nothing. In the days when communications were
not as they are now, it happened that children of good families
came to a country far from home and where they were unknown,
either because they were exiled or because circumstances or
destiny had brought them there. And what made them prove to
be what they were was pride, not pearls or jewels or money or
anything. A sense of honor is such a great treasure that, in
the absence of all jewels and money and wealth, this will prove
to be most valuable.
In what must this pride consist? It must consist in the sense
of contentment. If the child understands, 'Where I am not wanted
I need not be', or, 'No matter how much better an object
belonging to another person may be, or how beautiful is the
fruit or the flower, or anything that belongs to him, I must
not even show that I would like to have it', that sense of honor
is riches itself. How many parents strive all their life to
collect money to give comfort to their children afterwards!
But how much can they depend on that money, and especially at
this time when money is changing so quickly in value that it
takes no time for a rich man to become poor? If money makes
a person rich, then those riches are not reliable. But the parents
can give riches which cannot be taken away from the child. And
these riches are in the form of ennobling its spirit.
May not the feeling of honor develop a false pride, one might
ask, and how can one prevent this? This is the guardian's responsibility.
Anything exaggerated and anything carried to the extreme is
bad. One can become too proud and one can think too much of
honor. But generally the life of the world is so wicked that
instead of increasing the sense of honor it does the opposite.
There are so many needs there are so many wants. There are so
many conditions and situations which instead of raising a person
pull him down. Therefore the effort on the part of the guardian
should be to give a hand to the soul to climb upward, instead
of letting it go downward. There are many influences which pull
downward. One must inspire the child with such pride and honor
that in poverty or wealth, and in all conditions it may prove
to be a noble soul.
Then there is a fourth ideal that one should inspire in the
child. That ideal is thoughtfulness in speaking or in doing
anything. This means the child must become conscious of its
child's place. It must not try to take the place of the elder
one. It is a child. It must keep its place. For instance, if
two elderly people are discussing something and the child comes
in and says, 'No, no, it is not so,' it is out of place. Maybe
according to its mind it is not so, but it is not entitled to
say so. It must keep its place. That is what is meant by thoughtfulness.
Care must be taken of everything. For instance, when the
child wants to sit down somewhere, if it does not consider those
who must be seated first, but first takes a place for itself,
letting others wait. Or if when entering a place or leaving
it, the child goes forward and keeps back those who should go
first. Or when at the dinner-table, a child holds out his hands
first, before the others have moved. All such things must be
taken care of.
In speech, in movement, in action the child must be conscious
of its childhood and must know its place. If not what happens?
How few thoughtful people one meets in one's everyday life! When
one sees the ordinary life in the world of today there is no
end to the lack of consideration. Why? Because they have left
out all those things which are of most importance in education.
They have left them out in order to make room for mathematics.
The primary cause of the loss of all the finer principles in
the education given today is that it has left out the ideal.
And the fifth ideal that can be inspired in the child is
the ideal of the unknown, of the unseen. If that ideal is not
inspired, what does a person live for? Only to earn a loaf of
bread? Only to strive in this life of competition day after
day, ruining one's health, weakening one's mind, humbling ones
spirit? And what does one gain? If earthly gain is all there
is, it is a very small gain after all. If a higher ideal, a
spiritual ideal, or God-ideal is not inspired in the child,
then it is as you see today, thousands and millions of souls
who are lost in the crowd, who do not know anything except living
from day to day, their whole energy is spent in the struggle
to live, and there is still a greater struggle to live more
comfortably. Beyond this there seems nothing else. But how long
can they be contented with this ideal? A time comes when they
may lose their mind. They may have millions in the bank, and
yet they are not satisfied because they cannot see where they
are going and whether there is anything to look forward to.
It is in childhood that the spirit is responsive, and if the
God-ideal is inspired at that time then one has done what Christ
has said, 'Seek ye first the kingdom of God... and all these
things shall be added unto you'; one has given the child a start
on the path of God; and that is the first lesson that should
be given in childhood.
In training children the best way is not to show them that
you are teaching them. The best thing is to be the friend of
one's child. In a friendly talk with children one can inspire
these things in them. Because as soon as a child knows that
it is being taught it takes it heavily. But if you bring out
the good that is in the child and the ideal that is in its spirit
already, then the child will gladly listen to what you are saying.
To rule the child is one thing, and to give loving and friendly
counsel to a child is another thing. By ruling one cannot hammer
these ideals into the head of a child, but by winning its affection
and love you can very well train its spirit and tune it to the
The age of seven, eight, and nine years is considered childhood,
early childhood. The beginning of this age is the beginning
of a new life, a step forward into life. From seven, eight and
nine the child is conscious of the human sphere. Before that
a child is conscious of the higher spheres, but at this time
it is conscious of the human world. For the guardians this age
of the child is of the greatest interest.
There was once a man in prison who offered the State all
his wealth if he were allowed to come out of prison. It took
a long time for the government to decide. And when the government
decided that he should be released he said, 'No, now there is
no purpose in coming out. There is a child at home, and this
was the time of the greatest interest, to watch it grow, between
seven and nine years old. Now that age is passed I prefer to
finish my sentence'.
Early childhood is like soil that is just prepared for sowing
the seed. It is such a great opportunity in the life of the
child, and an even greater opportunity for the guardian to sow
the seed of knowledge and of righteousness in the heart of the
There are three subjects of interest which may not be taught
to the child, but the child may be helped to interest itself
in them: drawing, music and dancing. It is at this age that
the movements of the child should become graceful. But once
the guardian begins to teach the child, then it is a training.
This is not the time to train the child, this is the time to
give free expression to its soul. To let it dance in any way
that it likes to dance, a natural dance. To draw pictures just
as it wishes to draw them and paint just as it wishes to paint,
without any direction given to it, only interest in its work.
Also if the child wishes to play an instrument or sing, let
it sing in whatever way it likes. Maybe a word here and there
to help it, but not to correct it, not to give it lessons on
these subjects, not to let it think it is being taught. The
child should only feel that it is being helped.
When we study life keenly, we find that drawing, singing
and dancing are innate or inner inclinations. A child need not
be taught, they come by themselves. Every normal child has a
desire to sing, a desire to draw and also a desire to dance.
Only the child begins sometimes by drawing lines and figures
on the wall and spoiling the wall. The guardians can check this
inclination by giving the child pencil and paper and asking
it to draw pictures on it. The child will feel proud to have
the material to draw. Very often guardians become cross because
a child has been drawing on the wall. But it cannot be helped.
It is a natural inclination.
The next inclination is that of singing. Very often an energetic
child will show this inclination by shouting, by making a noise,
by raising its voice. And this can be controlled. It can best
be controlled by showing appreciation for a little song that
the child may sing. And if it does not know one, then let it
learn one somewhere. A child who has the inclination to hear
its own voice will be very glad to imitate any song it hears.
The third inclination, that of dancing, the child shows in
jumping up and down and running from one corner to another.
This shows restlessness and an inclination to move. And this
activity can be controlled by showing appreciation for the dancing
movements of little children.
There was a time when the ancient people thought very much
about movements. And they were right in thinking thus about
them. Because whenever you see a person with awkward movements
you will find something awkward in his character. A person who
is deficient in brain will always show it in the awkwardness
of his movements. If movements have so much to do with a person's
evolution, with his mentality, then graceful movements will
always help the mentality of a person. The child which is naturally
inclined to movement, will take interest if it is directed towards
moving with rhythm.
One might think it is difficult to teach a child dancing,
but one need not teach it dancing. One has only to teach the
child action. For instance, to turn, to take something from
the ground or from the mantelpiece, to move something, any such
everyday actions, and naturally all these actions turn into
a dance. Besides children are very imitative, and anything that
appeals to them they readily imitate. If they see graceful movements
they are most eager to imitate them. That is the age when the
imitating faculty begins to develop. Is it then good for children
of that age to take them to dancing performances and exhibitions
of pictures? Sometimes it is good, as long as one knows where
one is taking them and what kind of performance it is.
There are three things that a child may be taught at this
particular time: perseverance, patience and endurance. The child
may be taught perseverance in anything that it is engaged in
doing. Perhaps it is mending a toy, or doing some other work.
One should help the child, encourage it to continue and not
to leave it before it is finished. For however small this may
appear, when this habit is formed, it will show later on in
big things. A soul who has learned perseverance in childhood
will show a tendency all his life to finish everything that
Frequently we see that this tendency is lacking among grown-up
people. And this is very often the cause of their failure in
life. And if their mind is restless, then it is still worse.
They take up something today, and then after a week their interest
is gone and there is something else. And they accomplish nothing
in their lives. Life is a great opportunity, and the one who
does not complete the thing he has undertaken, however small,
certainly loses most in life.
Accomplishment is more valuable then what is accomplished.
For instance, if a person has loosened a knot in a string, apparently
he has not gained anything, the time has been spent on a very
small thing. And yet the action of completing it is useful,
he has built something in his spirit that will be useful to
him when he wants to accomplish great works.
And now coming to the subject of patience, how can a child
be taught patience? By teaching it to wait. Because a child
is very impatient by nature, and if this tendency remains, then
after that child is grown-up it will give it great unhappiness.
When a person has no patience life becomes death for him. Patience
is like death, but not to have patience is worse than death.
Besides, patience produces wonderful fruits, and patience is
a quality which is beyond comparison with any other qualities
in the world. If there is anything that gives kingliness to
the soul, it is patience. What was the secret of the masters
who have accomplished great things, who have inspired many and
who have helped many souls? Their secret was patience. This
is the time to sow the seed of patience in the child. In little
things you can give the child the habit of patience. In asking
for food, in wanting to go out to play, and in many other things
a child shows lack of patience; yet if at that time, without
hurting it, one gives it the habit of patience, the child will
begin to show nobleness of spirit.
The third thing is endurance. One might ask, 'We have so
much to endure in life when we are grown-up, why must we make
a child endure at that age?' But the answer is that for the
very reason that life will make it endure when it is grown-up,
let it know from this time that there is such a thing as endurance
and that every soul has to go through this. No doubt it is painful
for the loving guardian to see the child develop the faculty
of endurance, but at the same time it would be more painful
if the child were to grow up without this faculty. And in what
way can one teach the child this? From morning till evening
in the life of a child there are a thousand things happening.
So many times it falls and so many times it hurts itself and
so many times it has to swallow a bitter pill. And every time
it is not inclined to go through something that is good for
it to go through, one should give it courage and strength and
a word of encouragement or of advice, appreciating its endurance.
In this way it will develop the enduring faculty.
In teaching the child, the best method is not to let it know
that you are teaching. Teach it without the child knowing it.
And that can be done by showing appreciation for the least little
thing it does which you wish to develop in its spirit. The ego
is born with pride, even in the child. And if you appreciate
something, the child likes it too, and even sometimes more than
the grown-up, because grown-up people have lost faith in words.
Very often people teach wrong nursery rhymes. It is not only
a waste of time, but it has a bad effect on the child. Sometimes
they are useless words, and sometimes they are meaningless words,
and sometimes they are words of suggestion which may just as
well be kept away from the mind of the child. Every rhyme that
rhymes only is not beneficial. It must have some sense in it.
And therefore the guardian must know first what he is teaching
before teaching the child.
It is the same with stories. The best method of teaching
children is to teach them with stories. There are fables that
interest children very much, and also there is a meaning to
understand. If the guardians will explain to them the meaning
that is in the fable the children will become still more interested
in it, and at the same time they will learn something. A story
need not be always very instructive. Even grown-up people do
not like that. The most interesting story for children is a
funny story. And if one can put some little meaning into a comical
story, that is the best thing one can do. They remember it,
and at the same time the sense remains concealed in the story.
And as they grow the sense begins to emerge, and one day they
understand what it means.
There is a fable of a donkey and a camel. Once a donkey went
to a camel and said, 'Camel Uncle, I would like very much to
go grazing with you.' The camel said, 'Yes, I will come with
you tomorrow.' And so they went into a field. It took a long
time for the camel to feed himself, but the donkey fed himself
very quickly. After the donkey had finished his dinner he said,
'Camel Uncle, I am so happy, first to have your friendship and
then to be here in the field. I feel like singing and I would
very much like you to dance.' The camel said, 'I have not yet
finished my meal but you seem to be ready.' 'Well', said the
donkey, if you are not ready I will try my voice'. And the donkey
began to try his voice. And the farmer came with a stick in
his hand, but the donkey jumped out of the way and the camel
When next day the donkey went to invite Uncle Camel, the
camel said, 'I am too ill. Your way is different and my way
is different. From today we will part.'
This story shows the sense of friendship between the one
who is dignified and the one who has no sense of dignity. If
a young child asks a question about his origin, the answer one
must give is: God. This question gives one an opening to sow
the seed of the God-ideal in the heart of the child.
It is always good to tell children stories from the Bible
or other sacred scriptures, but the person who puts them in
a form that the child can understand must be very wise. If not,
as the stories are, sometimes they are not proper stories to
teach children. Also, the time of the Old Testament was a different
time, and there are certain stories that do not suit the present
time. It is always a good thing for the guardian to make his
own stories; to get the ideas out of different books and put
them into his own story and then give them to the children.
Once a wise guardian was asked by a child, 'But is it a real
story?' and he said, 'As a story it is real'.
It is learning while playing, for no one is so interested
in stories as little children. And if one makes use of that
interest for their benefit, one has the greatest opportunity
to put wonderful ideas into their minds with the stories. In
no other way will the child absorb ideals as it will do in the
form of stories. The stories told in its early childhood will
remain with it all through its life. It will never forget them.
Maybe that every year, as the child grows, that story will have
another meaning. And so there will be a continual development
of the ideal, which will become a great blessing in the life
of the child.
The time between the ages of ten and twelve years may be
called middle childhood. It is in this period that a child begins
to be distinguished as a girl-child or a boy-child. And each
must be given its particular direction, for a girl a girl's
direction and for a boy a boy's direction. At home an education
can be given which is not to be expected at school. Even if
the same subjects were taught at school it would not be the
same as what a child learns at home. Therefore even when the
child is going to school there still remains a responsibility
for the guardians to give it home education apart from its studies
in the school.
For the intellectual development of the child it is of great
importance that it becomes familiar with nature. It must not
be done as a lesson. It must be done as a friendly talk to explain
to the child about plants, trees, insects, birds and animals.
And when it is given by the spoken word the effect is quite
different from the reading of natural science or any other studies
of nature that the child may make. It wakens its interest and
it develops its knowledge, it deepens in it a feeling for nature;
and it will later culminate in the wakening of the faculty of
communicating with nature, which is the principal thing for
every soul in its spiritual development.
A soul who is not close to nature is far away from what is
called spirituality. In order to be spiritual one must communicate,
and especially one must communicate with nature. One must feel
nature. There is so much to be learned from plant life, from
birds, animals, insects, that once a child begins to take an
interest in that subject, everything becomes a symbolic expression
of the inner truth. If the child is deeply interested in the
knowledge of nature, that shows that it has taken the first
step on the path of philosophical truth.
The next thing is to acquaint the child with the customs
of the country where it was born and has to live. It is the
absence of this knowledge that makes people continue their old
customs without knowing what they are and why they are. People
go on sometimes for thousands of years following the same custom
and yet not knowing the meaning of it. People in the East are
very keen on their ancient customs, and very often they have
followed those customs for more than a thousand years without
knowing why and what is in them. They do it only because it
is a custom. But it happens also in the West, where in some
places there is a festival almost every day. It would be good
for a child to know why such a custom exists, what is the good
of it, what is the meaning of it, what we derive from it and
what it suggests. It is interesting to celebrate a fete
and to be gay and joyous. But one can make merry every day
and yet achieve nothing. Besides, life is an opportunity and
every day and every hour of life is of the greatest importance.
And if one allows so much of one's time to be given to customs
of the country there is no end to it.
Every generation must take a step forward in evolution. And
it can do it better by understanding life better. The guardians
can help the child very much by making it understand life. And
the best way of educating the child is not to give it one's
opinion about those customs, not to say directly that it is
a good or bad custom. Only to explain the psychology of it and
the meaning of the custom, and let the child see for itself
if it is a custom worth following or better forgotten.
The third thing one can help the child to understand is something
about the people of its country; what they were and what they
are, their characteristics, their inclinations and their aspirations.
And let the child imagine what it would like its world to be.
This also gives it an opportunity of reconstruction as the world
And the fourth thing is to acquaint the child with its own
family. Very often it happens that a child knows about China
and Japan and about Egypt and Persia, having read about them,
and it does not know the name of its grandfather. If it knows
something about its family, its genealogy, it will be able to
control life better. Maybe there are things that the child will
follow, that it will adopt for its betterment. And it may be
that there are things that it will correct in itself. Maybe
it wishes to repair some harm that was done before. In both
cases the child will be able to manage its life better as it
If a soul is not interested in knowing about its own family,
when it is grown-up it will not be interested in knowing about
the source from whence it comes. Because this is the first point
from which it can go further, until it reaches to that source,
to that family, from whence it truly comes. And so in reality
this is leading the child to God. For instance, a child is interested
in knowing about its father, its mother, its grandfather its
grandmother, and perhaps about its great-grandfather; but where
does it lead to? It only leads from the world of illusion to
the source of reality. It gives the child an excuse to inquire
further into life, and where it has come from. And in the end
it will come to the conception of the source, which is the Source
of all. And in this way it will find one day that the whole
of humanity is a family, and that in the end we all meet in
the same place where we have come from. When the child is grown-up
it will change its whole attitude towards human beings. The
narrowness will vanish, and a broad outlook will come to him
As the fifth aspect of knowledge one should give the child
a little instruction into metaphysics, not much, just enough
for it to know that there is a soul, that there is a mind, that
there is a body; that there is a relation between the soul and
the mind, and the mind and the body. For instance, if a child
asks, 'What is the soul?' the shortest answer will be, 'Your
innermost being, your invisible self, your self which is covered
by your body. But that self is your real self, the body is only
a covering.' Very often one little idea about a metaphysical
truth goes into the heart of a child like a spark of fire which
slowly blazes into flame, a flame which will guide it through
its whole life.
This is the period in the life of a child when the guardian
must find out the trend of its mind, and which way it will take
in life. This does not mean which profession it will take or
what work it will do, only one should know if the child has
a literary, a mechanical, an idealistic, or a religious trend
of mind. And once the guardian has understood this it is better
to give the child a suitable impression. For instance, when
the guardian has found out that the child has a literary trend
of mind, and there is a great man lecturing in the city, it
is good to take the child there. If it does not understand one
word it does not matter. Let it be there, let it look at what
is going on, and that impression will remain with the child
for its whole life. And maybe that impression will help the
child to become like the one it has seen.
At the age of ten, eleven and twelve the child is most imitative,
and if you know the bent of its mind, and if you give it an
impression which it may imitate and which would be good for
it to imitate, this means that you are setting it on the road
which will lead to its destination. The best thing one can do
in the life of a child is to give it good impressions, to show
it wonderful personalities and wonderful works. Nothing in the
world can help a child more than a good impression.
One might ask if one should develop only what is the child's
special trend of mind. Should one not also show him another
direction? Yes, but gently. And then one must see if the child
has a tendency, an inclination, towards it. For instance, if
a child shows more tendency to become a mechanic and if you
urge it to become a violinist, in the end this will prove to
be disastrous. The child will be neither a mechanic nor a violinist.
It is better to watch the bent of the child's mind.
Regarding the cultivation of different qualities in the child,
this can be best done with each child by teaching it to sing
and play, and by giving it ear-training and rhythmic movements.
If a child is inclined to sing it is best for it to sing. But
if the child is not inclined to sing, but wants to play an instrument,
it is best to give it an instrument to play. Which instrument
is the best? This one cannot say. But an easy instrument should
be given first. And afterwards, if the child wants another instrument
which he likes better, then one should give it that instrument.
In the case of a girl it is better that she learns rhythmic
movements. In the case of a boy it is better that he learns
gymnastics. For a girl rhythmic movements serve the same purpose,
and yet they do not hurt her girlish characteristics. For the
boy gymnastics suffice, and these keep each in their own direction.
The energy in a boy that makes him so restless and uncomfortable
will be used in gymnastics, and that will bring about balance
Should every child be taught music? Yes. In the first place
there is no child who is not inclined towards music. There is
an Arabian story that when God commanded the soul to enter the
body of clay He had made, the first body of man, the soul refused
to enter it. The soul said, 'I am free to move about in any
sphere I like, and I have the limitless strength and power I
derive from Thee. I do not want to enter into this body of clay.
To me it looks like a prison.' Then God asked the angels to
play on their harps. And the soul on hearing this music began
to dance and went into ecstasy. It entered the body unknowingly
and was caught in this prison.
Therefore no soul comes on earth without a feeling for music.
It is only when souls have become dense after having come to
the earth that they lose that feeling. But when someone has
lost interest in music one should know that that person is not
living; there is something that was living in that person that
is now dead.
It is not necessary for every child to be brought up to be
a musician, but elementary teaching of music is necessary for
every child. It will help it in every walk of life. What ever
it may do a musical training will help it. And therefore musical
training must not be considered as a branch or as one part of
education but as the foundation for the child's whole life.
The time between the ages of ten and twelve years is the
period that finishes a cycle, the first cycle in the life of
every soul. Mystics consider each cycle as twelve years. Therefore
these last three years of the first cycle are of very great
importance in the life of the child. During this particular
period at the ages of ten, eleven and twelve, what is taught
is like the finishing touch given by an artist after having
painted a picture. And after this another cycle begins.
The time of preparing children for the next cycle is a most
important period. If the child by this time has not been taught,
has not been corrected, has not been given that direction which
it ought to have taken, then later on it will be difficult;
for the most important period has passed. The more guardians
understand of their responsibility, the more they will realize
that if things were not taught which should have been taught
at that time they can never be taught later.
The appropriate direction must be given to the girls and
to the boys. One cannot drive both with the same whip. For instance,
a word of displeasure will touch the boy on the surface and
the girl to the depth. And it is the same with a word of appreciation,
often with the boy it will go in one ear and out the other,
whereas the girl will keep it with her perhaps for her whole
life. Those who think that boys and girls can both be directed
in the same way will find in the end that they made a great
mistake. The psychology of the boy is quite different from the
girl's, and for each a special method must be used in order
to bring them up.
If the girl or the boy receives a word of admiration or of
blame, it must be given in different terms and in different
words. And one should be most lenient towards the girl, whereas
it does not matter so much with the boy. Often the boy takes
a punishment and after half an hour, or even before half an
hour, he forgets it. And often a girl remembers it for months
and months. It affects her most deeply. Besides there are certain
characteristics to be developed in the boy and certain characteristics
to be developed in the girl. And you cannot call them virtues
for both. For instance, courage in the boy, modesty in the girl.
Common sense in the boy, idealism in the girl. Responsibility
in the boy, duty in the girl. God-ideal in the boy, religion
in the girl. Also, thought in the boy, consideration in the
One may ask why it is necessary to develop the inherent qualities
of boys and girls. Why not pay attention first to their opposites?
The reason is this: that any quality that is an inherent quality
is born in a person because that quality will lead to the purpose
of his life. For instance, the lion is given the quality of
the lion. That is the purpose, that is his destiny. And the
deer is given the quality needed for the purpose of his life.
But if the lion had the deer quality or the deer had the lion
quality, neither would be properly equipped for living in the
world. What the deer is shows in its own quality, what the lion
is shows in its own quality. One must not think it is not necessary
for the other quality to come to the boy or girl. But what should
be developed is the particular quality, and the other quality
will come by itself. It does not mean that a boy must not have
those qualities which have been said to belong to a girl. For
instance, if the boy is without any ideal he is useless. But
the ideal will come. In the girl, however, it must be planted,
it must be developed.
It is the psychology of the boy and the girl which makes
it necessary to give certain things to the boy and certain things
to the girl. But as they develop they take each other's qualities.
With development it comes naturally. Balance is best, whether
in the boy or in the girl. And balance comes through opposite
qualities. The work of the teacher is not to teach balance,
the work of the teacher is to teach qualities. Life will bring
about balance by itself, as long as boys and girls are taught
that particular quality which belongs to them.
The question arises how children should answer the different
demands of life, such as helping at home, helping outside, seeing
friends and seeing strangers. Children of ten, eleven and twelve
need not be given particular work to do at home, but at the
same time they should be made acquainted with the duties of
the household and with the work in outside life, so as they
grow up they may understand and appreciate the responsibility
and the duties of their guardians.
With friends of the family children should have a respectful
attitude, the same attitude they have towards their own guardians
or parents. One day the Prophet heard his children calling a
servant by his name, and the prophet said, 'No, children, he
is older than you. Call him uncle.' This ideal was taught from
the beginning, in order that as they grew up they might attract
more friends, instead of offending friends of the house. Also,
it shows a beautiful manner in the child to have a friendly
outlook and a respectful attitude towards the friends of the
family. And when children of that age meet strangers, the strangers
can understand from the manner of the children what home, what
family they belong to, what education, what training they have
been given. If they are rude, thoughtless, inconsiderate or
ill-mannered, they represent their family in this way. Therefore
it is the responsibility and the duty of the guardian to make
the children aware of these rules of everyday life.
The period between ten and twelve is the period when children
must be taught to practice whatever work is given to them, whether
it is music, painting, drawing or anything else. This is the
time when they must learn to concentrate upon that work, stick
to that work and not let their minds be disturbed by anything
outside. Because later on this faculty will prove to be the
foundation of spiritual development.
And then comes a still more delicate question, and that is
that in their food, in their fancies, in their clothes, they
must not have too much their own way. Because this is not the
time when they should be thinking too much about clothes or
about the food they eat or about anything like that. It is the
time when they should be quite unaware of it. Whatever is given
to them they should take gratefully, thankfully. The days of
fancy and fantasy will come afterwards. And if care is not taken
of that side of children's nature, it will develop disagreeably
and later on it will take the form of a very undesirable spirit.
How can this be done? It should be done, not by correcting
them nor by impressing rules upon them, but by making them see
the pleasure of contentment. And the thought must be impressed
upon them that this is the time when they must put their mind
to work. By gentle counsel and friendly advice they will soon
understand. A guardian once told a little girl who was very
fond of looking in the mirror, 'Jinns can peep through the mirror,
and you must look out for them. People who look in the mirror
too many times will have to meet jinns'. And from that time
the child showed less of that tendency. One may ask if there
is any harm in looking in the mirror. There is. Looking in the
mirror makes one self-conscious, and self-consciousness makes
one nervous. And all the tragedy of life comes from self-consciousness
when it culminates in self-pity.
It is a very delicate work to train the child without its
realizing that it is being taught. Everything one teaches it
must be in such a way that the child does not know that a certain
rule or principle is imposed upon it. That is the way to work
with it. In laughter, in smiles, in stories, in friendly conversation,
things can be told to children that they will always remember.
But as soon as they are corrected and one imposes a certain
principal upon them they begin to feel the burden of it.
It must be remembered that life is an opportunity, and this
particular period of ten, eleven and twelve years is a most
wonderful opportunity. This is the period when children drink
in and assimilate any knowledge, and that knowledge grows with
them in their growth. Very often the knowledge of the various
rules of life can be given to them in a very mild form by telling
stories, because a story gives a wonderful picture of life and
yet they do not feel the burden of the teaching. They are interested
and very often after the story children will even ask, 'What
does it mean, what do we get from it?' And when that happens
then one should know that one has the greatest opportunity of
tuning the child's spirit to the knowledge and the consciousness
to which one chooses to tune it.