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Life is full of trials and tribulations, and a child must learn how to overcome them. The Chinese character for "parent" is said to represent someone up in a tree looking into the distance. True parental love is best shown by preparing children for the future, not by lavishing affection and attention on them to the point of spoiling them. A parent should never hesitate to say what has to be said.

The lower mammals learn all they need to know during the few months in which they drink their mother's breast. What sets humans apart from other mammals is our highly developed cerebral cortex, which enables us to continue learning even after infancy. This is why child rearing is so important.

Proper child rearing fosters reason and good judgment. "The child is father of the man," wrote the poet William Wordsworth. We never forget the lessons of childhood. It is in the home that a person learns to strive for goals and care for others., These lessons can be neither forced nor ignored. Parents who fail to teach them evade their responsibility.

The best way to teach a child is by example.

Child rearing requires parents to have a firm grasp of how they want to live and how they want their children to live. Strictly adhering in word and deed to the morals and ethics we believe in is the best way to instill these same morals and ethics in our children. Fathering a child or giving birth does not automatically make one a parent. Rather, we become parents in the gradual process of raising our children.

Rissho Kosei-kai's Fumon Hall at its Tokyo headquarters is a multipurpose building with a stage and convention facilities, available to both members and nonmembers (hall no longer in existence). Members of Japan's imperial family have attended events there, such as a concert by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Herbert von Karajan and occasional conferences of the Japan Red Cross. On one of those visits I heard a chamberlain sternly admonish a young member of the imperial family. I realized then that even royalty can be taught proper conduct.

The former court chamberlain Minoru Hamao once told me that when he was entrusted with the education of the present crown prince, he was instructed to emphasize character. Whenever the prince refused to obey after being told the same thing three times, the chamberlain did not hesitate to spank him. I, too, have spanked my grandchildren on occasion. I have found that it won me their affection rather than arousing their resentment.

We must remember to scold our children out of compassion, never just because they have inconvenienced us.

A sharp reprimand when a child has done what he or she knows is wrong can actually be a great comfort to the child. I have often seen parents nagging their children and yelling at them, not because they need discipline but because the parents are in a bad mood. Children are not fools; they know they are thinking only of themselves. It is no wonder that children rebel. The parents' attitude determines the child's conduct.

Nikkyo Niwano

Buddhism for Everyday Life

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