Conscious Parenting

Right balance between freedom and discipline

Q: What is the right balance between freedom and discipline for children’s growth?

“There are all kinds of different and even opposite theories. Some people say, “Children must be left to have their own experience because it is through experience that they learn things best.” Like that, as an idea, it is excellent; in practice it obviously requires some reservations, because if you let a child walk on the edge of a wall and he falls and breaks a leg or his head, the experience is a little hard; or if you let him play with a match-box and he burns out his eyes, you understand, it is paying very dearly for a little knowledge! I have discussed this with… an educationist, a man concerned with education, who had come from England, and had his ideas about the necessity of an absolute liberty. I made this remark to him; then he said, “But for the love of liberty one can sacrifice the life of many people.” It is one opinion.

“At the same time, the opposite excess of being there all the time and preventing a child from making his experiment, by telling him, “Don’ t do this, this will happen”, “Don’ t do that, that will happen” – then finally he will be all shrunk up into himself, and will have neither courage nor boldness in life, and this too is very bad.

“In fact it comes to this:

“One must never make rules.

“Every minute one must endeavour to apply the highest truth one can perceive. It is much more difficult, but it’s the only solution.

“Whatever you may do, don’t make rules beforehand, because once you have made a rule you follow it more or less blindly, and then you are sure, ninety-nine and a half times out of a hundred, to be mistaken.

“There is only one way of acting truly, it is to try at each moment, each second, in each movement to express only the highest truth one can perceive, and at the same time know that this perception has to be progressive and that what seems to you the most true now will no longer be so tomorrow, and that a higher truth will have to be expressed more and more through you. This leaves no room any longer for sleeping in a comfortable tamas; one must be always awake—I am not speaking of physical sleep—one must be always awake, always conscious and always full of an enlightened receptivity and of goodwill.” (CWM, Vol. 7, pp. 282-83)