Part 2: Human Revolution
Chapter 13: “Faith for a Harmonious Family” [13.4]
13.4 Advice on Raising and Educating Children in the Home
In a speech celebrating the establishment of the SGI-USA’s Future Division, President Ikeda offers six points of advice for raising and educating children in the home.
I would now like to turn to the subject of how we raise and educate children in the home, sharing a few points as they come to mind. I have observed many families and experienced many situations, and what I offer are my own conclusions. I will be most happy if they are of some use to you.
(1) Let Children Focus on Their Studies
First, the members of the Future Division should make study their first priority. It goes without saying that faith is important, but faith is something we practice throughout our entire lives. There is a certain age and period in life when one should study. If one doesn’t work hard during that time, one may fail to acquire important knowledge and skills, and come to regret it deeply later.
Faith manifests itself in daily life. For the members of the Future Division, faith is expressed in their studies. During this period, to devote themselves to study represents an important part of their Buddhist practice. If they neglect their studies because they are busy doing gongyo or attending meetings, it certainly cannot be called the correct way of faith.
Even if sometimes your children can’t do gongyo, there is no reason for you as parents to become overly concerned or agitated about this. There are occasions when simply chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo three times is quite sufficient.
The main thing is that they continue practicing. It’s important to foster in children the spirit to stay connected to the Gohonzon and the Soka Gakkai throughout their lives. It’s fine if they progress in their faith and practice bit by bit. Parents should be broad-minded on this matter. They might even sometimes reassure a child who is busy with studying by saying: “Don’t worry, I’ll do gongyo for you today.”
In fact, putting too much pressure on children to practice may only alienate them from faith. I hope you will lead them wisely so that they can grow and develop freely and naturally in the best possible way.
(2) Take Time for Parent-Child Communication
Next, I would like to request that, no matter how busy you may be, you make an effort to get together and talk with your children. The length of time is not important. What matters is that you use wisdom.
Even if it’s only a brief encounter, give your children a hug when you see them. Bond with them, talk with them, and try to make time to listen to what they have to say. As long as you have love and compassion, you will find the wisdom to make it work.
Faith manifests itself as wisdom. The purpose of our faith is to become wise so that we can live our lives wisely.
Even if we talk about our commitment to helping others, our words remain empty if we cannot genuinely communicate with our own children or build strong and happy families.
The good fortune that accrues to parents who apply themselves diligently to Soka Gakkai activities will protect their children without fail. Please have that conviction. Nevertheless, you must still make positive efforts to open and sustain dialogue with your children, not allowing yourselves to neglect them, claiming that you’re too busy, or that it can’t be helped, or telling yourselves that somehow things will work out on their own. That is what it takes to be responsible, compassionate parents.
It’s not a question of conforming to any particular style. It is the heart that is important. Are your hearts connected? Some families may always be together physically, but their hearts estranged from one another. Other families may only be together for brief periods but manage to enjoy rich and lively heart-to-heart communication at such times. Families who share bonds of closeness as a result of consistent efforts to stay connected feel comfortable and at ease with one another, no matter where they are or what they are doing.
I ask that parents come up with creative ways for their families to stay connected and continually strive to improve themselves together with their children.
(3) Avoid Arguing in Front of Your Children
Always remember that a child is a person, an individual with a distinct personality. Children can at times be even more keenly perceptive than adults. That is why we must be careful how we behave in front of them. For example, parents should avoid arguing in front of their children. If you must argue, do it where they cannot see you! Children are saddened when their parents fight. They go off to school with heavy hearts, and they will not forget the incident for a long time.
According to one psychologist, when children see their parents fighting, they are often shaken to the very core, experiencing fear and anxiety as if the ground has given way beneath them. Tall trees grow from secure and solid ground. Please give your children a home where they can enjoy tranquility and peace of mind.
(4) Refrain from Scolding Your Child at the Same Time
Sons tend to rebel when scolded by their fathers, while they are more likely to listen to their mothers’ scolding. The worst thing is for the father and the mother to gang up and scold the child together. This leaves the child with no one to turn to.
Fathers tend to have a soft spot for daughters and, consequently, are too easy on them. Mothers and daughters, meanwhile, often share a deep, natural understanding as women. That is why it is often better for mothers to talk with their daughters as well.
Regarding parents scolding their children, President Toda said: “When fathers get angry, they alienate their children. But even when mothers get angry, their children stay close to them.”
This wisdom is based on an understanding of human behavior and psychology.
Of course, there are always differences among cultures and among individual households, but I hope these observations may provide some helpful insight for you.
(5) Be Fair and Don’t Compare One Child with Another
Parents must be fair. They must never favor one child over another for being smarter, better-looking, or more accomplished in anyway. A parent’s single thoughtless remark can often deeply wound a child and instill a sense of inferiority. How much worse the damage will be if children are always being compared with their siblings and treated unfairly! They will be starved for affection and feel lonely and hurt. Under such circumstances, they cannot grow and develop in a healthy fashion.
Watch over your children with warm affection and encourage them. Discover and praise their strengths, building their confidence. Become their unfailing allies, support them, shower them with love and believe utterly in their potential. Respect each child’s individuality. That’s a parent’s role.
Our society and our schools may operate on the unfeeling principle of competition, judging and selecting people by their abilities and appearance. That is all the more reason why it is important for the family to be a place of fairness and equality, where everyone is valued as a unique and irreplaceable individual.
(6) Share Your Dedication to Faith with Your Children
Ultimately, to raise children to become fine adults, parents need to be firmly in tune with their children and grow together with them, moving forward as one.
As Soka Gakkai members, we are dedicating ourselves for the sake of the Law and the happiness of others. Ours is not a self-centered existence. As a result, we may be busier than most and perhaps not have as much time to relax with our families as we would like. Nevertheless, we continue to devote ourselves to others.
Ours is the noblest way of life. We must make sure our children can understand and respect our beliefs, our way of life, and our dedication. It is a mistake to assume that they will somehow come to know we love them or to understand our commitment to kosen-rufu on their own, without us having to say anything. We must make conscious efforts to verbalize and communicate our thoughts and feelings to them—and to do so wisely, in a relaxed way, without pressuring them. Finding the wisdom for this task is an expression of our faith.
I have heard that the breakdown of the family has become a major social problem in the United States. The same tendencies are emerging in Japan. In light of this situation, and also prompted by the announcement of the upcoming establishment of the SGI-USA Future Division, I have shared with you several points that come to mind on this topic.
“Faith for a harmonious family” is one of the eternal guidelines of the Soka Gakkai. I am visualizing the day when the youngsters nurtured by your warm and delightful families grow to become outstanding leaders of the 21st century who will illuminate America and the entire world like a brilliant constellation of stars or the dazzling sun. With that thought, I conclude my speech.
From a speech at an SGI representatives conference, U.S.A., February 3, 1993.
The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace brings together selections from President Ikeda’s works on key themes.