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TEACHING CHILDREN TO RESPOND PROMPTLY AND CLEARLY


Strict rules used to govern the relationship between teacher and pupil, parent and child. Nowadays everyone is suppose to be equal. Although a teacher or parent should certainly give children warm comfort and assurance, strict discipline is also important.


Bullying is a sensitive issue in Japan's junior high schools, but some people claim that bullying is equally pervasive in the adult world and that children might as well get used to it at an early age. I think that today's relationships between parents and children, or teachers and their students, have become too cozy, like those between friendly classmates. But the increase in bullying among children in elementary and junior hight school is, I believe, related to the lack of model of good human relations, which does not develop until we encounter the vicissitudes of life.


Bullying has been an issue far more than a decade, and the targets are not only children but even teachers and old people. This problem has its origin in the family, school, and society as a whole. Accountability is multiple and complex. We are all responsible--parents, teachers, our whole social system. Those who cannot find sufficient recognition of their worth at home and at school are the most likely to take out their frustrations on the weak. Bullying becomes a way to feel whole. Parents must teach their children early to distinguish right from wrong. Bullying must never be allowed; children should be warned that their parents will only scorn a bully.


It is very clear what principles we should instill in our children.

My eldest son, Nichiko, the president of the Buddhist organization Rissho Kosei-kai, often quotes Nobuzo Mori (1888-1966), a leading educator and philosopher he admires. Mori asserted that children's upbringing, based on discipline, is the foundation of all education. From Mori's book Katei Kyoiku Nijuikka-jo (Twenty-One Articles of Family Education), my son cites three things that we should teach our children. The first is always to greet their parents on waking every morning, and always to respond promptly and clearly whenever called. The second is always line up their shoes after they have taken them off (in Western homes, this might be comparable to not leaving their dirty clothes in a pile on the floor). The third is always to push their chairs back into place beneath the table or desk when getting up.

It is by following these three principles that children learn the basics of being responsible human beings.

These days, however, I hear that many children do not respond when their parents call. Such a thing was unthinkable when I was a child. My own parents taught me always to respond promptly when called. A quick "yes" to a parent's call, says Mori, constitutes the discipline of ridding oneself of self-centeredness. Neatness is also very basic in all of our activities. I agree with Mori that simple habits such as these foster a wholesome family life.


Nikkyo Niwano

Buddhism for Everyday Life