Inspiring Character In Children
Question: Swamishri throughout the world parents desire for their children to become virtuous. But how should they inspire and foster character in their children?
Swamishri: Firstly, parents should deeply reflect upon and endeavour for inspiring character. The reason being that children are our possession, wealth, and capital. It would be appropriate if we were to say that children are the wealth of our society and nation. We look after all our worldly possessions and wealth, and strive to develop and increase it. Virtuous children are a valuable possession. That is why in Hinduism there is an importance in performing rites for a child prior to and after his or her birth. When the individual dies the funeral rites are performed. So, from beginning to end, the individual is exposed to the rites of passage. A child grows with the influence of these rites, (that provide character, etc), becomes old and then dies with happiness. One can never derive happiness from a character-less life.
A child is inspired with character from its foetus stage in the mother's womb. Prahlad is an example we talk of. When someone has received virtues in his or her mother's womb that person is referred to as one who is noble from his womb stage (garbhshrimant). One receives such nobility and character through God or His Sadhu. When one imbibes character there is peace and happiness in one's life. That is why parents should first think about instilling character in children. Just as we are always thinking and worrying about the progress of our social, political and occupational facets of life, similarly, we should think about inculcating values in the life of our children from their infant years.
If the mother and father are virtuous, then the child will become virtuous. If there is water in the well then one can draw it into the trough. But if the well is dry, no amount of effort will fill the trough. Likewise, if parents have character then it will be transmitted to their children. So, parents have to be particular and vigilant. Because of our need for money we get overly involved in business or work and thus forget to attend to our child. We don't even ask him what he is studying and where he has been. A child raised in this fashion gets spoilt by the external attractions of TV and websites. He then falls into bad company. His character is spoilt through the company of bad people. But if the mother and father are particular, then the child will be inspired with virtues.
At home one should worship God and read sacred scriptures like the Ramayan, Vedas, Upanishads, Mahabharat, Bhagvat, Gita, Vachanamrut of Bhagwan Swaminarayan, Shikshapatri and other wholesome books that inspire good thoughts. The source of good thoughts lies in God and the holy scriptures. One gets noble thoughts by reading the lila of God. When one neglects and rejects them, one becomes aimless and directionless.
There are no values in schools. The students only study if they want to. The teachers do not care either. They are interested in earning money. They do not have a rapport with students and the latter do not have a rapport with teachers. Formerly, the rishis taught students in their hermitages with a sense of belonging and love. They taught them to be self-dependent. The students would have to bathe in the river, wash their clothes, prepare lunch, fetch firewood and along with this they were imparted quality education. They were also taught the knowledge of atma and Paramatma or Para knowledge. These children grew up to serve lovingly and do the utmost for society and country. The rishis resolved all types of problems and inspired mankind on the path of righteousness. To build a virtuous society Yogiji Maharaj spread the values of satsang in children and the old. It was his dream to inspire a good society so that everyone in the world could be happy and experience peace. That is why he preached the necessity of instilling values in children. An impression from a young age never fades even in old age. When a child is inspired with good habits from a young age, like doing daily bhajan and puja, studying well, achieving first rank, refraining from stealing and wrongdoings, not sinning and doing unrighteous things, then those virtues will keep developing while he grows up. Then his virtues can make our society and country happier, and with his refuge in and bhajan for God he can attain moksha. That is why parents should inspire virtues in children. If parents do not love their children then how can the latter get virtues!
Parents must also protect themselves from today's environment. They, too, need to turn their outward inclinations within and give their fullest attention on their children. When they inspire virtues in them there will be peace in society. Yogiji Maharaj has also said that when a virtuous society arises there will be peace. God and His Sadhu are the source of peace. The more we obey their instructions the more our children will be inspired with virtues. Our lives will prepare our children and enable them to make our society and country happier and help redeem themselves. Parents, therefore, must look after the new generation. They must be looked after with virtues. Instil in them the elements of faith for God, refuge in God, devotion for God and other virtues. This will inspire morality, honesty, compassion and service in them. So, parents should look after their children in this manner to produce virtuous children in society.