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Yogi Bhajan Lecture: Give a Child Self-Values

Excerpts from a lecture on 2/19/85 in Los Angeles

In childhood you were never taught responsibility. You have been shoved and pushed. The majority of child-raising I have seen in this country is very regimental. Nobody uses the heart; it is all a head thing. This kind of childhood is very painful. If I would have been raised as we raise children here, I would have committed suicide at the age of two. True!

The way you address your children is so rude, so inhuman, so neurotic! You are so discourteous when speaking to your children. In spite of that fact, you think you are very loving parents. You never say to a child, "Please." You never call a child by his full name. You never treat him or her like a person. You just treat them like puppies and you expect them to learn how to live. Impossible.

I remember when I was almost three or four years old, how I was addressed. My full name was always called. My mother never ever called me by a nickname. Never.

I still remember my mother would call, "Harbhajan Singh ji, this is the time for you to come and join us at breakfast." Or she would call me by my full name and say, "I have prepared the food you love very much. It is there. Let us go and sit down and eat. I'd like to feed you." There was a great respectability and responsibility.

The greatest thing I was taught was that I have a complete, full, isolated, but sovereign identity. Your sovereignty can only be given to you as a child by your mother, by her identifying you as a complete, total individual. What you call 'grit,' the strength of the identity, is given to you by the father. It is all done in the first eleven years. Afterwards anything done or said and taught by the parent is useless, because the base is already built.

The sweetness of giving a child an identity is very difficult for you. You think the child is a piece of furniture, your property that you have absolute control over. Is there any parent who can just feel that their own child is a complete, independent, sovereign person within the family? Not at all. The maximum you give him is that he's a night's guest or a visitor or a dependent. If you are affectionate, you are very loving. If you are mad, you are very obnoxious.

Do you bring things to trial? If a child has done wrong, have you given him a chance to defend himself? If a child has done wrong, totally wrong, bring him to trial. In my life I remember, I used to sometimes do things intentionally wrong. I would intentionally get mad sometimes and do something really weird. Then the notice was served. "Okay, tomorrow at 11:00, what you have done today will be considered. Prepare yourself."

So I'd ask my governess, "Well, I did it. Now how to get out of it?" And she'd say, "Well, Baba, I have told you many times but you always put me on the spot with these troubles. My job is at stake, you fully understand. I'm a very good woman. I'm always with you but why do you do these things? Now we have to go to grandpa and plead mercy. There is nothing we can do. The facts are against us." I would say, "Well, what are the facts? Tell me the facts." And she would say, "Well, this was expected of you and this was the situation and this is what you did wrong. What am I going to do?" So in that very affectionate situation I would look at her and she'd say, "Well, there's a way out. We'll ask for a postponement."

So the next day at 11:00 grandfather would sit and we'd go and she would say, "Baba has to prepare for school exams and we need one week's post­ponement." After a week we would go again and by that time there was enough of a gap that things had calmed down. In that week, I had done very, very good things. First it was discussed that my exams were very good, my result had come out and my grades were very good, and that I had participated in the best dressed show among the children. She would plead the whole thing, and then say, "Well, it was a slip of circumstances and Baba did lose control. I'm not saying it was right. He has recognized and every morning he has read two Japjis extra and I think that should be enough."

So basically I was taught the most fundamental law of karma, cause and effect. As you sow, so shall you reap. And you are a sovereign independent identity. When you do fault, you lose your sovereignty. You subject yourself and subjection is worse than death. I was taught all that right from day one. It was a continuous process. It was a continuous learning. It was a continu­ous training. It was a continuous behavior.

You just say, "Nobody is above the law," but do you train your children like that? Do you give them the practical experience that nobody is above the law? Do you tell your own child that nobody is above the law? Do you subject yourself sometimes when you have done something outside the family rules? Have you apologized to your sons, "Sorry." Or do you just say the right things, and give knowledge all the time? Where is the practical application of life, living and living principles? When the living principles are practiced, life is practiced. 

What can you give to your child except the values of self-justice, self-identity and self-sovereignty? A child must be told in a practical way how to behave and must be treated to be self-sovereign. Otherwise you are absolutely not giving self-respect to that child. If you take away self-respect, after childhood, the child reacts and then needs psychologists, psychiatrists, mental hospitals, and the like. In childhood we have to be taught about life and justice. We have to be asked to relate to the reality of life in practical sovereignty, and to our independence. We have to have a system of judiciary within ourselves so we can have the experience of it.

© The Teachings of Yogi Bhajan

Published in Beads of Truth, Summer 1985 #15