Ten Spiritual Principles of Discipline

Wisdom I Learned from My Teacher, Avatara Adi Da


9. Discipline often feels like a betrayal.

Parents want their growing child to be self-empowered, strong and assertive, and often create a too rich, too stimulating environment of over-nurture and permissiveness as they err toward spoilage.

Self-establishment should be nurtured and encouraged, while at the same time disciplining self-obsessiveness. While this may be intellectually obvious, it is much more an emotional issue than a philosophical one. When we discipline our children, there is a feeling that we are somehow betraying them, that we are not giving them what they want or need. Discipline often feels like a betrayal. New parents particularly over shield their darlings from the necessities and pains of life and shy away from obligations and discipline. (Thus my adage, "Have your second child first.")

[I must also credit my sister who enlightened me when she said, "Yeah, but if you don't spoil 'em a little, you ain't doin your job!"]

We must see our work as parents and teachers as humanizing, socializing, and unifying. We must guide our children from their autistic self-absorption and self-oriented automaticities into an integrative and relational authenticity. We must push beyond the common mind of self-orientation and adolescent egoity and gain strength for ourselves, our children and our social fabric. Doing so, we discern the difference between the naive and the native and appreciate the distinction between the precious and the sacred.

Discerning thus, we accept the lament of discipline. We see through the feelings of betrayal, both in ourselves and in our children. The lament remains, but it is outshined as we, full of heart, require our children to meet us eye to eye.

When we are unafraid to penetrate our children's errant demands, we give them a great gift, the demonstration that they are not subject to their mechanical nature. They become empowered to then freely engage the world and penetrate it. To the degree we lovingly penetrate our children is the degree they penetrate the world and their own mechanics and thus stand strong in their own emotions and passion.

So we come to see that enforcing relationship is often a forceful penetration of a child's self-possession ---; and that is a great gift we give to our children; we must propose a will stronger than their errant insistences and come to see that this requirement as a most empowering gift. That violent-free force measures the art of the teacher, mother, and father. And when we fail and act from reaction more than love, we can say, "sorry." How else will they learn to say "sorry"?