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How to be a good teacher to one's daughter? || Acharya Prashant (2016)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
21 min
72 reads

Questioner (Q): We have two daughters; one is in class twelve, the other in class three. With the elder one we are strict, but with the younger one we are a lot more allowing. We say, “Do whatever you have to do, just don’t trouble us.” So, she is always just playing and all that, and she is coming up really well. But sometimes I feel it is our responsibility to tell her that life is there and you have to work hard and all that. But in that moment emotions take over and we say something which we repent later. We feel that it is our responsibility to let her know all this and push her a little, but we don’t know how to proceed.

Acharya Prashant (AP): You see, first of all it has to be seen that the parents and the daughter are together in this situation. It is not the daughter alone who is facing a particular situation; it is the parents and the daughter together—together in the sense that if the parents let her be totally free, or even abandon her, the situation would not remain the same for her. If she feels the pressure of examinations or future, it is because the parents are there and are contributing to it.

So, just as she must clear an exam, the parents too have to clear an exam. It is as much of a challenge for the parents as it is for the daughter. What does that imply? That implies that parents must firstly stop seeing themselves as guides. All three of them—the father, the mother, and the daughter—have to look at each other as co-travelers in a journey, a movement in which nobody really is in a position to lead the other two. But yes, all three are in a position to hold hands; nobody can walk in front of the other two, but all three can walk holding hands, in togetherness.

The daughter doesn’t do well in the exams—who gets disappointed? The daughter as well as her parents, right? So, it’s tough for everybody. When you say that the daughter did not study, you mean she made a mistake. And just now, as you said, when you know that you said something that was inappropriate or harsh to the daughter, you too know that you made a mistake. So, all are trying, struggling, and faltering at times, right? It’s not the kid alone that is struggling; the parents too are struggling. When it is seen, then it is possible to be more generous, more loving, more compassionate; and then it is also possible to be more forgiving and more accommodative of failures.

When you take yourself as a guide, then the entire onus of success falls upon the guided one: “I am the guide, I am the coach; upon you lies the responsibility to play. You did not play well? Your fault. You were coached so properly, so immaculately, and yet you failed, so the entire responsibility of the failure lies on you.” But when you see that it is a team game, that all three of you are in it together, then if failure is there the failure belongs to all three. And then all three can bond more closely with each other; all three, then, are one in success and also one in defeat. And then you do not unnecessarily burden the other with your expectations.

Because, if you are expecting something from one person in the team, then that expectation belongs to all three. If you are saying that, “You must get ninety-five percent marks,” then indirectly you have said, “Now it is also my responsibility to ensure that you get ninety-five percent marks.” She doesn’t get ninety-five percent—who has failed? All three. So, now you will not even try to burden her with ninety-five percent, because you very well know that you do not really have it in you to produce ninety-five percent. “If I could not do it, and if in this situation I know that it is humanly impossible to put in the effort to get there, then why must I expect it from my daughter?”

Had you been just telling her to run from here till there in ten seconds, then you would have reserved the right to get angry. But when you say, “You know what, you and me both together are going to run from here till there in ten seconds,” and then if both of you cannot reach there, will you still get angry? You won’t have the face to get angry then. She will say, “Papa, we both were in it. It’s not me alone that has failed. Had we succeeded, it would have been our joined success. Now that we have failed, it is our common failure.”

Then, whether you set targets or expectations, they will be far more realistic, because now you are not setting a target for her, you are setting a target for yourself as well. And now you must know what is humanly possible, what is humanly probable, and what is even humanly desirable. Would you have wanted it for yourself to be pushed to become an engineer in spite of your indifference towards technology? Would you have wanted that? Then why do you want to push your girl to do that?

When you are in it with her, then you feel all her pain. When you are outside the arena just as a coach or a guide or as a spectator, then you do not feel the pain of the player. Be in the arena. Be with her. Come close to her. See what she goes through. See whether she really wants to do all that which you expect from her. See whether her personality, her conditioning allows for the kind of direction that you want her to take.

You were young once, not too long back, right? You still are; I don’t mean to be offensive! And you wanted to paint, and you wanted to run, and you wanted to climb a tree, you wanted to sing, maybe you wanted to solve a mathematical problem. But you did have your individual wants, didn’t you? Now, what about the girl? Is she devoid of individuality? Is there nothing that arises from within her? Who will figure that out? Not the demanding parent. The demanding parent will never be in a position to learn the stuff that the kid is made of. For the demanding parent, the demand comes even before parenting because he is the demanding parent; the demands come before the parent. So, all that you can see is your own demands: “What do I want from her?” Is that not very self-centered of you? What else is selfishness?

So, stop acting as if it is about her life. First of all, acknowledge that it is about our life; that it is about you, me, your mother, your sister, or your brother, and all those that are related to us. It’s a joint thing. It’s a thing of communion. Then you will not unnecessarily bother one particular child. Now it’s a thing of the family.

Q: My daughter was doing a degree in IIT but then she decided to leave it, and we agreed. She is a masterful painter. She said that she will go into the design business. So, now she is pursuing a design career. When I am teaching her design stuff—and obviously I feel I have very little knowledge on that because I am an engineer—I try to guide her and give her feedback: “Hey, you know, you should draw this like this, you should look from this perspective, you should read like this.” And when she doesn’t do what I suggest and does her own thing instead, that’s when sometimes the disappointment creeps in and that leads to irritation.

AP: You want a return for your investment. “I am in it full time, I better get results!” You see, no kid should be burdened with earning a livelihood. It’s a tragedy of our civilization that every kid must earn. But I really do not know why—why must that happen? Why must it be an inalienable part of living that one must earn a salary every month? Or every year, whatever.

A few weeks back there was this kid and he asked me this question. He said, “Sir, will I be able to earn money?” There was nothing spectacular about the question, or loud, but it just pierced me. Why should a young man have to bother about this? Why? Why do we live in this way? Ah, don’t give me answers based on economics and all that, I know most of them. But still, I feel that pain. Why must a twenty-year-old or a twenty-four-year-old have to earn? Why can’t he just play? Why must he be under constant pressure to earn a salary, a living? And why must it be a disgrace to not earn? Why must it be a disgrace?

Q: Why am I not able to tell my daughter that “I will provide for you, don’t worry about it. Do whatever you have to”? Somehow it just doesn’t come out.

AP: I think it must come out. The closer you get to her, I think it will happen. You know, there are these people of the Foundation who live with me, work with me. And because they are often so very casual and inattentive, I keep getting angry. When nothing else works, I keep threatening them. When no other trick works, I say, “You will not get your salary this week!” And I actually mean it. The moment I say you won’t get any money, I mean it because mathematically I really see that they don’t deserve money. But when it comes to deducting, I do not know why it cannot happen.

There again rises this question: why does anybody have to work to get this money? I mean, why can’t this money just belong to somebody? Take it! Why do you have to prove that you are worthy of this money? Alright, there are so many other things that you must be worthy of: you must be worthy of love, you must be worthy of attention, you must be worthy of courage. But money is something that you must get for free. Nobody should have to crave for it or burn himself for it. I am not talking of millions; I am talking of basic sustenance money.

At one point—now, this will appear as contradictory but still I must say it—at one point I used to be harshly critical of inheritance: one should not accept money from parents and all that, because all that leads to an internal corruption. You are getting something that you have not earned, that you do not deserve, and you’ll misuse it and you’ll not know the value of it. But more and more I am coming to see: what is the harm if you get some free money? It’s good. Go ahead; play, enjoy life. What is so very respectable and venerable about going and slogging in the workshop of some businessman, and what is so dishonorable about taking money from parents? How is it greatly honorable to go to a businessman and allow yourself to be exploited by him? Is that honorable? Is that extremely honorable?

Now, instead of that, if your mother wants to give you something—alright, we all know how mothers are, but still, probably they are better than the businessman—rather take it from the mother. Instead of borrowing from a bank, borrow it from your father; it’s alright. I don’t know; I mean, this is one thing that I am not very sure of.

Q: But isn’t this concept of being ‘self-made’ overrated?

AP: It is an overrated thing, because it is just ego. Self-made—what do you mean by self-made? If you are getting it, take it. You anyway keep losing without your consent, don’t you?

Q: Sir, it has been seen that the people who work not to earn actually do great. They do it because they like to do it and that turns out to be something spectacular.

AP: I think we all must go deeply into this thing called work. Why must work be such an important part of self-esteem? Why must one’s worth in life be decided by some businessman or by the rung of the ladder he is currently standing on?

Q: There is this famous dialogue by Amitabh Bachchan. He goes and asks about work from some person, and the person says, “I want those who are loyal to me.” So, he says, “If you want loyalty, get pet dogs; man will work consciously.” So, I think this ‘trustworthy’ and ‘loyalty’ thing is overrated.

AP: Exploitative.

Q: Organizations are not loyal to employees, but employees have to be loyal to organizations. Now, how does it work out? I don’t know! Why is there a need to do anything in that matter anyway?

AP: That’s the question, obviously. Why does one need to do anything? Need—why does one need to do anything? Why can’t just existence be there? Why must one supplement his existence with work? Why is just being not enough? Why is doing really needed? Doing is alright as a natural flow from the being. But doing that completes the being—it’s beyond my comprehension. I do not quite see that.

If we can have a world in which no kid is under the pressure of having to obtain a livelihood, it would be a beautiful world. And that will not really require immense prosperity; that will not require a great social security system; that will just require some wisdom. I still see that the earth has enough to offer to meet our basic needs. Most of the work we undertake, professional work, does not serve to meet our needs. It only serves to… You know the one who was fond of collecting gadgets, right? So, that’s what work results in—a heap of gadgets.

Q: They pay you to get an apartment, and then you pay the apartment’s EMI. Then they pay you more and you get a bigger car, and then you pay more again. So, there is always a debt; you want to clear that debt, so you work like hell, and then one day you burn out. But that debt is still there. So, what do you do? You commit suicide.

AP: But to come to that world, a few people will work their asses off. Without that we can’t come to that world, which means that still somebody’s got to work.

Q: But why are we talking only about kids here?

AP: Because with kids at least there is a possibility of remaining uncorrupted. With adults just too much effort is needed to bring them back to their kid state. That is why, when I started off ten years back, I started off with school and college kids: because they are not yet corrupted. It’s easier to work with them. Working with thirty-year-olds or forty-year-olds is close to impossible; they are neck-deep in their indebtedness, in their investments. You cannot talk to them.

In fact, it happens—and it has come to me not less than fifteen thousand times—they’ll say, “If you want to say all this, why didn’t you tell all this twenty years back?” The same thing that you (referring to someone in the audience) were saying yesterday: “I understand all this, but what to do now?” It’s a very common dilemma. “Now, what to do? Even if I know that I’m stuck, how do I come out of the rut?” It’s easiest with twenty-year-olds; it’s also easy after you have crossed sixty. In between it remains quite difficult.

You know, after fifty your age starts moving in the reverse gear. But then you can reach twenty. Around seventy, you tend to reach twenty.

Q: Sir, there is this beautiful thing my daughter used to do when she was very small. Whenever she was painting or reading something, she used to mutter this voice, “Aaa…” And I told my wife to never disturb her when she is doing that. So, she was all attention, and she draws and sings very well, and whatever she reads, she remembers. But the school killed her muttering because the teachers told her to stop doing it in the class.

AP: They’ll say, “Be silent.”

There was this player, from Yugoslavia, I think, Monica Seles. Her career was cut short by some maniac who stabbed her. And she used to grunt. I don’t know what her game would have been without the grunt. I think it was very imperative for her to grunt. When you cut off the voice from her game, her game would collapse. So, you never know what contribution that sound has in the process of painting.

Q: The teachers just don’t realize that every kid is an individual, unique. I don’t know why they want everybody to be the same. Or maybe it’s the system and not the teachers; everything has to happen in an organized and rigid manner.

AP: See, it’s just like that. You have different periods for different activities. So, in the period for science, you won’t be doing maths; when you are doing Hindi, then you won’t be doing English. It’s a compartmentalization. So, when you are painting, obviously you cannot be singing. If you want to sing, then you have to go to the music class. “This is the painting class; here you will just paint. Nothing should come from here (points towards the throat) .”

But this compartmentalization, this division of life, we keep on doing in everything. This world needs many, many, many free people, and the biggest possibility is the young ones. In fact, to some extent that is the only possibility. Even the old ones have to become young. Otherwise, it’s quite an ugly world as it is. We need people who are free to express themselves, free to weep, laugh, kiss, kick, everything. We have just too much compartmentalization, orderliness; just too much of that.

And, you know, so much of that happens in the name of love. Because the parents profess that they love the kid, so they strangulate the kid. And probably because I didn’t bear a child myself, so I see it more clearly all around me. It’s pathetic, the way kids are being raised. And it’s not as if the parents have vile intentions; the intention, at least the conscious intention, is always good.

But all are trapped in the same thing. In the same mouse trap there is the mother mouse, the father mouse, and the baby mouse. Whom to blame? That’s why I said, first of all please see that all of us are in it jointly, together; as a family, all of us are in it. It’s not as if the daughter alone is running the race.

In fact, being a parent today is such a wonderful, humongous opportunity. You can almost play God as a parent. You have the opportunity to give rise to a new world. If you can really take care of one girl as a free girl, then you have done your bit; your life is done. That’s what is destiny: you are already there, you have done that much.

Funnily, doing that will require a lot of non-doing, that will require that you keep an arm’s distance from the life of the girl. So, you prevent yourself from doing a lot that you are tempted to do as a parent. “Oh, I am a responsible father; I must interfere! Who are you going out with?” Please refrain. “What will happen to your career? Painting? You think you will ever earn anything?” So, a lot of non-doing is required.

That gives us a good definition of God: the ultimate non-doer.

Please, please be very compassionate, very close to your kids. That is your chance at redeeming yourself—non-doing. Be like an observer, like a compassionate witness. Keep watching; watch from a distance. Meddling is not needed.

Q: So there is no need to know what is happening to him, what is coming to him either?

AP: No, there is a need to know, because there are forces other than you that will influence the child. You might not influence, but what if the others do? So, it’s necessary that one knows of what is happening. This world leaves no empty spaces. You might move away, as it is concerning your child’s freedom, but what if the TV occupies that space? That’s why it is necessary to be alert and attentive.

Did you just hear the school bell ringing? These come as shocks upon the little, sensitive mind; these come as shocks. You are absorbed in something, and then there is this. (Imitates the sound of the school bell) It’s like somebody beating up your mind: “Stop, stop, stop, stop, stop, stop, stop! Now, something else, something else, something else!” This is not the way nature operates; in nature there is always a smooth, seamless flow. And this is a crude, sudden division of time. Suddenly time is divided. One minute before 10 a.m. it was geography, and one minute after 10 a.m. it is mathematics. Do you see what kind of an abrupt division this is? It comes as a total shock to the sensitive mind of the child.

Q: I think Osho once said that when a baby takes birth in the hospital, there is too much light for it; the lights should be dimmed when the baby comes out so that it is not shocked.

AP: Yes, of course. And that is commonsensical; in the womb there is no light. Now, why are you suddenly irradiating the face of the child and giving him so much of noise also?

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