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A Buddhist Perspective

Parental Responsibilities

The basis of all human society is the intricate relationship between parent and child. A mothers duty is to love, care and protect the child, even at extreme cost. This is the self sacrificing love that the Buddha taught. It is practical, caring and generous and it is selfless. Buddhists are taught that parents should care for the child as the earth cares for all the plants and creatures.

Parents are responsible for the well being and up bringing of their children. If the child grows up to be a strong, healthy and useful citizen, it is the result of parents efforts. If the child grows up to be a delinquent, parents must bear the responsibility. One must not blame others or society if children go astray. It is the duty of parent to guide children on the proper path.

A child, at its most impressionable age, needs the tender love, care and attention of parents. Without parental love and guidance, a child will be handicapped and will find the world a bewildering place to live in. However, showering parental love, care and attention does not mean pandering to all the demands of the child, reasonable or otherwise. Too much pampering would spoil the child. The mother, in bestowing her love and care, should also be strict and firm in handling the tantrums of a child. Being strict and firm does not mean being harsh to the child. Show your love, but temper it with a disciplined hand — the child will understand.

Unfortunately, amongst present day parents, parental love is sadly lacking. The mad rush for material advancement, the liberation movements and the aspiration for equality have resulted in many mothers joining their husbands, spending their working hours in offices and shops, rather than remaining at home tending to their off spring. The children, left to the care of relations or paid servants, are bewildered on being denied tender motherly love and care. The mother, feeling guilty about her lack of attention, tries to placate the child by giving in to all sorts of demands from the child. Such an action spoils the child. Providing the child with all sorts of modern toys such as tanks, machine guns, pistols, swords and such like equipment as an appeasement is not psychologically good.

Loading a child with such toys is no substitute for a mothers tender love and affections. Devoid of parental affection and guidance, it will not be surprising if the child subsequently grows up to be a delinquent. Then, who is to be blamed for bringing up a wayward child? The parents of course! The working mother, especially after a hard days work in an office to be followed by household chores, can hardly find time for the child that is yearning for her care and attention.

Parents who have no time for their children should not complain when these same children have no time for them when they are old. Parents who claim that they spend a lot of money on their children but are too busy should not complain when their "busy" children in turn leave them in expensive Homes for the Aged!

Most women work today so that the family can enjoy more material benefits. They should seriously consider Gandhis advice for men to seek freedom from greed rather than freedom from need. Of course, given todays economic set up we cannot deny that some mothers are forced to work. In such a case, the father and mother must make extra sacrifices of their time to compensate for what their children miss when they are away. If both parents spend their non working hours at home with their children, there will be greater understanding between parents and children.

In his discourses, the Buddha has listed certain primary duties and functions as essential guidelines for parents to observe. One of the primary guidelines is, by precept, practice and action, to lead the children away from things that are evil and through gentle persuasion, to guide them to do all that is good for the family, for society and for the country. In this connection, parents would have to exercise great care in dealing with their children. It is not what the parents profess but what they really are and do, that the child absorbs unconsciously and lovingly. The childs entry to the world is molded by emulating parental behavior. It follows that good begets good and evil begets evil. Parents who spend much time with their children will subtly transmit their characteristics to their offspring.

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