Every child is potentially light of the world

As we celebrate another National Children’s Day on 2 November,  let us reflect on joy and rewards associated with raising our children.

Child-rearing is not only a source of great joy and reward, but it is a sacred obligation. Our children have the potential to be good, to do well with their education and to develop spiritual qualities in a loving and caring atmosphere and through proper guidance and discipline. 

According to the Bahá’í Writings:  “Every child is potentially light of the world and at the same time its darkness”  “… the aim of an educator is to so train human souls that their angelic aspect may overcome their animal side”.

To educate is “to bring forth” what already exists.  Bahá’u’lláh says: “Regard man as a mine rich in gems of inestimable value. Education can, alone, cause it to reveal its treasures, and enable mankind to benefit therefrom.”   We as parents therefore, should value the God given gifts in our children and help them to develop their inherent potentialities.  It is important to see each child as a unique individual and skillfully bring out the best in them. 

The training, which children first receive at home, constitutes the strongest foundation for their future development.  The positive values that are to guide children throughout their lives are formed during the early years of their lives under the shadow of their families. The degree to which children form healthy relationship with others is also determined during that important period. It is in the family that children learn to love, to be tolerant and to act with justice.  It is in the family that children are prepared to confront the challenges of life.

Our responsibility and privilege as parents
The upbringing of children is our responsibility and privilege as parents.  It is important that we create in our homes such conditions and an atmosphere, which will be conducive to the material and spiritual welfare and advancement of our children.

The aim of educating our children should be development of their personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential.  We should encourage our children to acquire branches of knowledge which are of benefit. 

Our children also need to be nurtured spiritually.  They should not be left to drift unguided in a world so laden with moral dangers. Spiritual education is essential for the victory of the child’s spiritual nature over his or her lower nature. Infusing in our children the love of God and guiding them spiritually help to instil in them good behaviour.

The Bahá’í Writings state: “…  from the very beginning, the children must receive divine education and must continually be reminded to remember their God.  Let the love of God pervade their inmost being, commingled with their mother’s milk,” and “schools must first train the children in the principles of religion, … but this in such a measure that it may not injure the children by resulting in ignorant fanaticism and bigotry”.

Emphasis on moral and spiritual education of our children together with their intellectual education, as well as education for international understanding and in the concept of world citizenship, will be essential for our children to become ‘light of the world’ and to contribute to justice and peace on earth.  

Love and discipline
Loving our children does not mean that we should leave them without discipline.  Much of the art of teaching children consists in knowing how to guide them so that their behaviour contributes to a joyful yet disciplined atmosphere at home, at school and in their communities. 

Spiritual education eliminates the need for drastic discipline that uses frequent scolding and harsh punishment.   Infusing in our children the love of God and guiding them spiritually help to instill in them good behaviour. Spiritual guidance has played and continues to play an important role in facilitating a spirit of cooperation and harmony as well as of service to others.

Of course, it is important to reward good behaviour and not only punish the bad behaviour. Encouragement plays an important role in assisting the children to realize their full potential.  If a child is told his intelligence is less than his brother or sister or fellow-pupils, it is a great drawback and handicap in his progress. 

The following quotation from the Bahá’í Writings emphasizes the importance of encouragement and discipline: “Whensoever a mother seeth that her child hath done well, let her praise and applaud him and cheer his heart; and if the slightest undesirable trait should manifest itself, let her counsel the child and punish him, and use means based on reason, even a slight verbal chastisement should this be necessary.  It is not, however, permissible to strike a child, or vilify him, for the child’s character will be totally perverted if he be subjected to blows or verbal abuse.”  

Through spiritual guidance, secular education and proper discipline all children have the capacity to achieve their highest potential, to direct their energy and talents towards building better communities and to become ‘light of the world’.

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OPINION: Flora Teckie