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Teach Children The Joy of Giving
By Mrs. Rita Bruce

Bhagavan Sathya Sai Baba called Mrs. Rita Bruce and her husband for two interviews to guide them with the publishing of a new manuscript. When the manuscript was complete, Bhagavan said, "Call it Sathya Sai Parenting; it is for all my devotees".

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'Teaching self-discipline to children' is a chapter from the book 'Sathya Sai Parenting'. It is about the importance of inculcating discipline in children. In this interview Bhagavan stresses on the need for morality-based education and discipline-based parenting.

Character Through Example

Have you ever thought that if we don't tell our children, "No," how will they ever learn to tell themselves ‘No’? Stop and think about this, it is very important. Swami says, "Parents have the primary responsibility to mould the character of their children." The character is moulded through our example, instruction, love and discipline.

The subject of discipline has been continuously emphasized by our Beloved Baba. He says, "Ninety percent of the blame for spoiling the behaviour and character of children, go to the parents. They show too much unintelligent affection and give too indiscriminate a freedom to them."

Apply the 'Brake' of Self-Discipline

Why is discipline so important? Because we would not even get out of bed in the morning without discipline. It is the function of the conscience that tells us to ‘Stop’. To stop sleeping too long, eating too much, crying too long, etc. It is the conscience mechanism that controls our behaviour. Would you put your child in a car without a brake?

Can you imagine yourself driving a car without a brake? It is the same with our behaviour; discipline is the brake. The car is our body, our action, our personality. As of now, the children are driving their bodies without using the brake of discipline. They are out of control. Their behaviour is not in accordance with Swami's teachings.

Now, what we are seeing in the Western culture is children who control their parents. In a way, the children are ruling the parents, instead of the parents governing the children. This is not a correct situation. Sai says, "The parents are to blame for three-fourths of their children's behaviour. When parents allow the children to go astray, sometime or other they will suffer the consequences. It has become fashionable in the Kali Age (present times of value degeneration) to let the children have their own way. The parents give a free rein to the children instead of controlling them."


Materialism vs. Morality

In my opinion, our generation has seen the greatest "annihilation of morality." We have experienced the great revolution of immorality. Many of the values that existed for our parents are non-existent today. We have had to emotionally and psychologically accept what is, while longing for our memory of family values that once existed.

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Divorce was the rare exception and only for extreme cases. Swami says, "When materialism goes up; morality goes down. When morality goes up; materialism goes down."

This is our dilemma. Our society has lost its moral fibre because of its focus on enhancing our physical life with more and better products, as well as pleasing ourselves, fulfilling desires, regardless of spiritual expense.

What has happened to the moral strength gained by the struggle to overcome difficulties which sustained the pioneering spirit of the older generation? We live in such physical comfort that our children are pampered into indolence.

It has cheated and impaired their spiritual character. Spoiling them has made them weak. They do not know how to fight for survival. We have certainly failed them.

Because of the industrial and technological age, we became consumers of comfort and pleasure. We wanted our children to have everything. We watch the commercials on television, followed their advice, and bought and purchased and consumed ad nauseam. We discovered that happiness couldn't be purchased for ourselves or our children.

You can't buy happiness, period. The children only want more......why? Because we did not teach them or ourselves how to apply the brake of self-discipline. We are programmed to be consumers. We have bought into the marketing strategy, hook, line and sinker.

The 'Me' Generation: A Subconscious Conditioning


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We work, work, and work. Why? To have a higher standard of living? Do we really need as much as we have? When we keep purchasing goods, we are teaching our children by our example to continue the same behaviour. The manufacturing companies love it.

Swami says, "Waste of money is evil, teach children not to receive anything for nothing. Let them earn by hard work the things they seek."

Love and discipline have been replaced by purchasing power. We buy items to tell our children how much we love them. We reward our children with gifts if they study, do a chore, or correct a negative behaviour.

We are controlling them with rewards, physical rewards, not teaching them the self - discipline that rewards the child by building their self esteem.

It is the inner reward that counts. People need character to sustain themselves. Just think about yourself. Don't we all want to earn our own way? We seek independence, not dependence.

Often, people find receiving more difficult than giving. But we are not teaching our children to give, thus we have a "me" generation, with very low self-esteem.

One night, Swami gave me an insightful dream. I was struggling to understand the cause of the "me" generation. In the dream Swami told me that my generation, the first to raise children with television, was unknowingly, subconsciously programmed by the commercials on television.

All of the commercials were targeted for parents who had the money to buy items for their children and family. For example, only the best detergent for diapers, the best baby food, the best products for cooking, etc. Every household had been subtly programmed to create parent peer pressure, in addition to the peer pressure created for our children.

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If the neighbour's child gets a Barbie Doll that was advertised on television, the other parents in the neighbourhood feel obligated to do the same for their child. The same peer pressure is extended in countless ways. For example: birthday parties, dancing lessons, sports events, etc. Rarely on television are the children programmed to give to the parents.

In previous generations, children were trained to help. The parents taught the children to support them and to be grateful for their parents. They learned to help them grow crops, take care of the small children, do chores, assist in the family business, etc. The emphasis was on the children helping the parents.

In this modern age of material comfort, the emphasis is on parents doing everything for the child. Very rarely do you see anything on television, in the commercials, films or sit-coms that addresses the issue of children helping and respecting their parents? How are they to learn? How do we stop this avalanche of self-centeredness instead of selflessness?

Swami says, "Apart from educational programs, do not look at television at all, especially while taking food. Concentrate on the work at hand, whether it be eating or anything else."

Since parents are responsible for developing the character of their children, it is our duty to teach them the joy of giving to others.

Parents Must Take Back Responsibility

Few are going to teach them in our western society. We parents must take the reins. How can we do this? When the children are very young, we talk to them about the joy of giving to others. The small child can bring the newspaper for dad to read, the diaper for the new born member in the family, the napkin for grandma's lap, the cookie for a friend. This is character development.


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The emphasis is on the child helping first its parents, then its family members and friends which eventually extends outwardly into society ending in service to God, and service to man is service to God. The husband and wife set the example by giving to each other. The child will observe and learn.

But example is never enough. Teaching must also be there; speak Swami's truths and use discipline to influence the behaviour that is desired. If the child will not bring a napkin to the grandparents, then you tell them why they need to help others.

"We can only give love through serving others," says Swami. It is the joy and love that we extend to others that brings true happiness or union with God.

Now a small child may not understand what you are teaching, but you are planting seeds to programme his sub-conscience with Swami's wisdom; you are creating and developing his future behaviour.

If your emotions express joy while you are explaining, the child will respond to the emotion. If the child does not comply, you will need to correct the behaviour with some form of discipline. Swami says, "Discipline means the observance of certain well-designed rules. Without such regulation it is not possible to maintain humanness."

Dear Reader, did this article help you? We invite you to send your responses concerning the positive influences your parents had on your life: the sacrifices they made for you; the love and discipline with which they cared for you; and how they molded you by their example. Alternatively, if you are a parent who is following Swami’s teachings in bringing up your child, we would also like to hear and learn from you. Please contact us at [email protected] mentioning your name and country. Thank you for your time.

- Heart2Heart Team




You can write to us at : [email protected]      
Vol 5 Issue 05 - MAY 2007
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