It is the duty of parents to see to the welfare of their children. In fact the dutiful and loving parents shoulder the responsibilities with pleasure. To lead children on the right path, parents should first set the example and lead ideal lives. It is almost impossible to expect worthy children from unworthy parents. Apart from the Karmic tendencies children inherit from previous births, they invariably inherit the defects and virtues of parents too. Responsible parents should take every precaution not to transmit undesirable tendencies to their progeny.
According to the Sigalovada Sutta, there are five duties that should be performed by parents:
1. The first duty is to dissuade children from evil
Home is the first school, and parents are the first teachers. Children usually take elementary lessons in good and evil from their parents. Careless parents directly or indirectly impart an elementary knowledge of lying, cheating, dishonesty, slandering, revenge, shamelessness and fearlessness for evil and immoral activities to their children during childhood days.
Parents should show exemplary conduct and should not transmit such vices into their childrens impressionable minds.
2. The second duty is to persuade them to do good
Parents are the teachers at home; teachers are the parents in school. Both parents and teachers are responsible for the future well being of the children, who become what they are made into. They are, and they will be, what the adults are. They sit at the feet of the adults during their impressionable age. They imbibe what they impart. They follow in their footsteps. They are influenced by their thoughts, words and deeds. As such it is the duty of the parents to create the most congenial atmosphere both at home and in the school.
Simplicity, obedience, cooperation, unity, courage, self sacrifice, honesty, straightforwardness, service, self reliance, kindness, thrift, contentment, good manners, religious zeal and other kindred virtues should be inculcated in their juvenile minds by degrees. Seeds so planted will eventually grow into fruit laden trees.
3. The third duty is to give the children a good education
A decent education is the best legacy that parents can bequeath to their children. A more valuable treasure there is not. It is the best blessing that parents could confer on their children.
Education should be imparted to them, preferably from youth, in a religious atmosphere. This has far reaching effects on their lives.
4. The fourth duty is to see that they are married to suitable individuals
Marriage is a solemn act that pertains to the whole lifetime; this union should be one that cannot be dissolved easily. Hence, marriage has to be viewed from every angle and in all its aspects to the satisfaction of all parties before the wedding.
According to Buddhist culture, duty supersedes rights. Let both parties be not adamant, but use their wise discretion and come to an amicable settlement. Otherwise, there will be mutual cursing and other repercussions. More often than not the infection is transmitted to progeny as well.
5. The last duty is to hand over to them, at the proper time, their inheritance
Parents not only love and tend their children as long as they are still in their custody, but also make preparations for their future comfort and happiness. They hoard up treasures at personal discomfort and ungrudgingly give them as a legacy to their children.