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A Yogic Guide to Parenting: Conception through the First Eleven Years

Excerpt from Lifecycles and Lifestyles KRI Level 2 manual.

The child’s first eleven years are the foundation upon which the rest of the life is built. If the young child experiences trust, discipline, boundaries, intimacy, values, and a connection to Infinity, he or she will grow into the next stages with ease. If this does not happen, he or she will most likely struggle in trying to develop them at a later time.

The key to the first eleven years is the relationship with the mother and father. They are role models and impersonal archetypal forces. When these roles are well done, the child gains a deep sense of security, self-presence and sovereignty. They have a clear relationship to their soul which prepares them to act in the world with integrity, courage and kindness.

“The greatest thing I was taught is that I have a complete, full, isolated but sovereign identity. That only your mother can give you. You can't get that in any other way. Your sovereignty can only be given lo you as a child by your mother, by identifying you as a complete, total individual. And what you call grit.

“The strength of the identity is given to you by your father. And it is all done in the first eleven years. Afterwards, anything said or done and taught is useless. Anything thereafter is a matter of knowledge; the base is already built.”
-Yogi Bhaian, F2/19/85

Conception through Birth

The parents' influence on a child doesn't begin at birth. It begins at the time of conception. The vibration between the parents at the time of conception sets the tone for the child's life. The frequency of their psyches in the aura merges at the moment of conception and sets the projection of the aura which then attracts the soul to the slowly forming fetus.

From the yogic perspective, the gunas of the mental qualities are created. This will interact with genetic and other influences as the fetus grows in the womb. Before the 120th day of pregnancy, the soul has not yet entered the fetus, but may be hovering around the mother.

In fact, there can be many souls that are potential matches for the psyches of the parents, the physical and social potential of this fetus, and the karma of the soul. The purity of her prayer, the karmic agreements between the souls of the parents and the child, and the projective state of the mother's aura in this time can determine which soul will finally merge with the fetus in the womb.

After the 120th day of pregnancy until birth, the fetus's psyche is directly impacted by the mother's experience and by her level of stress and emotion in each moment. This link shapes the foundation for the child's subconscious mind. The mother's prayers at this time can significantly influence the child's karmic imprint and the strength of its subtle body.

After birth it will take up to three years for mother and child to gradually differentiate and establish their individual auras. Even then there is a link that is never broken which is unique between mother and child. During this first year, the link is more a merger than a link across individuals. From conception through the first three years the mother's habits and strong spiritual practice will affect the child strongly and enduringly.

There is a significant amount of research that establishes the importance of parental harmony while the child is in the womb. The love between the parents Is the most important thing that children experience in the womb, and it can overcome the negative effects of many stresses and traumas.

There is evidence that stress, whether it comes from parental distress, conflict, drug use or environmental insults, can sensitize the fetus and change the nervous and immune systems.

In an ideal pregnancy, the mother communicates with the fetus and "shows" it the world and what it can expect to experience at birth. The development of the fetus is largely driven by factors internal to the baby. The brain gains billions of excess cells that will be pruned according to the needs of the environment.

In the first few years this environment includes the mother and her reactions to the world. If the mother can communicate love and give the child the sense of being a sovereign soul that she stewards but does not own, an incredible strength Is engendered in the baby. Even when there is trauma in the womb, the influence of the primary relationships, nutrition, and meditation can heal most wounds.

Birth to Three Years

After birth it is essential that the infant bond with its primary caregivers, with touch being a primary ingredient for its emotional, mental and physical development. As the young child learns to trust those in its immediate environment, she learns to trust her own actions and decisions.

If her needs are met, she learns that her needs are good and therefore she is good. This becomes the foundation for the development of her identity and self-esteem. She will be able to move into the next stage of development with a basis of trust and the ability to establish intimate relationships and set healthy boundaries. The approach of the parents to give both support and challenge influences the emotional, psychological and subtle functions of the child.

“A child who will be able to confront and exalt their mind and feelings will only develop where the mother and father have talked in unisonness. Otherwise we will produce children who will escape and run. It's not the fault of a man as he is or a woman as she is. You learn this in the very first three years. Very rarely is this capacity ever changed. That's the number one thing you must understand.

 “If the mother does not give confidence and love, when the man grows to adulthood, he becomes revengeful. A saying in the scriptures goes: "The mother can create a God or she can create a demon. She is the one who writes the destiny on the forehead.

“Whatever character the mother gives to the child in the first three years becomes his or her first fundamental permanent foundation of character. The next four years up to the seventh year are the second coat. All she can give the child is given up to the eleventh year. After this time the child will become more a friend than a disciple of character. Therefore. whatever a mother has to give a child must be given within the first eleven years.

“Many parents did not become their teachers. Instead the parents become their shield. When parents become the shield of the individual young person, that child's shield body doesn’t work. Parents tell them things subtlety instead of engaging their subtlety. Their subtle body doesn't work. Parents give them the prana. "Take this wealth. Do this with it. I will not do for you." Their pranic body doesn't work.

“The love of a child and parent has to end and they grow into the adult. First seven years the consciousness of the child is the responsibility of the parents. After eleven years the standard of intelligence is a responsibility of teachers. At eighteenth year parents must withdraw. The man must walk. The bird must fly. It must have his wings.

“Whatever parents are giving or over-giving lo the child, they are stopping the working of the automatically subtle, simple, protective radiant, pranic, auric body. This deficiency in the sense of self and aura is one reason that our children are trying to form gangs—their auric body is not proper so they feel they are handicapped, weak and need something.”
-Yogi Bhajan, 2/10/93

At this age, the key to the young child's security is discipline. Discipline is established with consistent routines: bath time, meal time, play time, and bed time. Young children also learn discipline by watching the examples of their caregivers. They thrive on consistency and knowing what to expect. They learn to confront their own feelings and deliver their actions realistically.

Because young children have not trained their perception and fantasy to match the adult world, they can easily see subtle forms, lights and beings. It is important for adults in their immediate environment to allow them to see and to fantasize and develop their relationship to a sense of the lnfinite.

Discipline and mental sensitivity support each other. Children’s yoga and short meditations can support this relationship with their inner divinity. Set up a children's altar with candles, incense, special rocks, photos of holy people and family members and other meaningful things they choose to put on it. Encourage them to sit there. Chant with them at their altar.

“Let your children be, and give them basic spiritual values. Deal with their spirit. Uplift, keep up, and give them faith. That is the most positive thing they need.”
-Yogi Bhajan

Ages Three through Seven

Because of the innocence of young children, they tend to learn through the heart, not the head. They need to experience, not be told and controlled. It is a good time to teach through stories that connect them to a sense of belonging and to their heritage. Personal stories of lineage, stories of spiritual teachers and their spiritual path, and stories that instruct them about the way ahead are all excellent influences.

They need to learn who they are and who their parents are and how they are each unique. They are beginning to expand beyond their parents and family. Their minds are absorbing everything in their environment. Continue to establish a dally practice with them. Inner discipline will serve them in life much more than external pressures.

“Create a story when you want to guide a child. Children love tales of the unknown. They enjoy it, so add to their joy. The child will love it.”
-Yogi Bhajan

From ages three to seven the child ventures further into the world through companions and increased contact with the father. It is essential to have gained trust in themselves through the mother's love and connection by this point. Now they will learn to trust in the world as they explore, form friends and reach into new social environments. The child tests whether things are real. Their mind wants to know how to control things and what works. Guiding them with increasing physical, social and cognitive challenges so they can test themselves and learn is essential.

“From the fourth to the seventh year it should be “yes-no” period. Then the child is determining whether positive is positive, negative is negative, or whether there is all positive, all negative, or God knows what.”
-Yogi Bhajan, 4/22/85

Ages Seven through Eleven

“If a woman, as a child, could not trust her father, it will be a miracle of God if she can ever trust another man. Because basically when a child is from seven lo eleven years old, she must have the strength and security and trust of a man—and that is the father. And when the father is unknown, then they must trust God.

“From the seventh year to the eleventh year, the father is the strength and the ability needed. After the eleventh year, you can't do anything to the child. Forget it. It is over with. There is nothing more to it.”
-Yogi Bhajan, 4/22/85

Seven is a significant year for the child. It marks the first 7 year Cycle of Consciousness. Whereas family was his or her main priority, the child realizes that his world is expanding into new relationships and experiences. The child of these years sees everything in absolutes with very little awareness of the grays in life. It is an age of values such as truth, courage, purity and honesty. They want those closest to them to live these values to affirm their own sense of right and wrong in the world.

This is also a time of tremendous intellectual potential. The child's mind is capable of absorbing large amounts of information in their environment. With increased global competition in sports and in technology, you see children as young as 3 or 4 begin to imitate their parents and leap ahead in areas of performance.

The amazing plasticity of this period is designed for modeling and apprenticeship. The self­-contained confidence and self-recognition of the parent helps the child develop their own identity. Anxiety and too much dependence of the parent on the child for a hopeful future or for fulfillment of the parent's desires blunts the crystallization of the sense of self-efficacy and sovereignty.

The result of the first seven years is a feeling of sovereignty. You are complete. Nothing is lacking. You can call on resources. You are self-­approving. You are an individual by yourself.

“If a child, after 7 years, is given total freedom to identify himself as an individual, that child survives in dharma. If that freedom is taken away by any emotional form of love, affection, or concession, then there is a 60% chance that the child won't survive in the consciousness of spiritual sovereignty and dharma.”
-Yogi Bhajan, 12/29/90

From seven to eleven years the father increases their formative influence. A good relationship to the masculine principle strengthens the trust needed to explore the world further. The result is grit and endurance. You not only have sovereignty, you can deliver your sovereignty on the battlefield of life. You begin to test your identity.

We develop our sense of individuality freely and completely. Both love and rigid discipline can interfere. If we find our sense of self, then our connection to dharma—a spiritual sensitivity and disciplined path—and our connection to the intuitive self is assured. It is very important to not try to live your dreams through your children. Make your children strong for tomorrow. Protect them today. Save them from yesterday. Your children will always thank you.

Each child is born with great sensitivity and lots of potential. If we give them too much, they do not know how to use their own pranic body to discover themselves and to create. If we protect too much, they lose the sensitivity of the arc body and seek others for protection rather than cultivating the confidence and ability to protect and project themselves. To fly on their own they must take on challenges steadily and gradually until the parent leaves them as a child and meets them as a person.

“People who cater to children will always lose them. Because you are not giving values, you expand the ego to such an extent that there is nothing to stop it. Then life is destructive and the first thing such a child will do is to disobey the parents and leave the home.”    
-Yogi Bhajan

The eleventh year is the child's first 11 year Cycle of Intelligence. It is a monumental time because the child is beginning to apply his intelligence. It is not enough to have knowledge. Now, the child is beginning to be able to make sense of that knowledge and apply it to situations in his everyday life. It is recommended that children of this age learn a martial art as well as the healing arts to channel their enormous supply of energy and to build upon their inner discipline. The sensitivity and intuition of the child and the growth of their intelligence work together at this time to manifest their maximum potential.