Having heard you talk about competition and our childhood the other morning, it set me thinking of my own education. I realized that for twenty-one years solidly, every single event at school – from playing in the garden, through official sports, to Latin Grammar – was basically an exercise in how to beat the next person. It seems as if it was the single most damaging experience of my life. I can’t think of a more perfect system to destroy children and make us completely inharmonious with the world around us. How can we help children to grow to their full potential, without encouraging this competitive spirit?
The moment you start thinking how to help children to grow without any competitive spirit you are already on the wrong track, because whatever you are going to do is going to give the children a certain program. It may be different from the one that you received, but you are conditioning the children – with all the best intentions in the world.
The trees go on growing without anybody teaching them how to grow. The animals, the birds, the whole existence, needs no programming. The very idea of programming is basically creating slavery – and man has been creating slaves for thousands of years in different names. When people become fed up with one name, another name immediately replaces it. A few modified programs, a few changes here and there in the conditioning, but the fundamental thing remains the same – that the parents, the older generation, want their children to be in a certain way. That’s why you are asking “How?”
According to me, the function of the parents is not how to help the children grow – they will grow without you. Your function is to support, to nourish, to help what is already growing. Don’t give directions and don’t give ideals. Don’t tell them what is right and what is wrong: let them find it by their own experience.
You can do only one thing and that is share your own life. Tell them that you have been conditioned by your parents, that you have lived within certain limits, according to certain ideals, and because of these limits and ideals you have missed life completely, and you don’t want to destroy your children’s lives. You want them to be totally free – free of you, because to them you represent the whole past.
It needs guts and it needs immense love in a father, in a mother, to tell the children, “You need to be free of us. Don’t obey us – depend on your own intelligence. Even if you go astray it is far better than to remain a slave and always remain right. It is better to commit mistakes on your own and learn from them, rather than follow somebody else and not commit mistakes. Then you are never going to learn anything except following – and that is poison, pure poison.”
It is very easy if you love. Don’t ask how, because how means you are asking for a method, a methodology, a technique – and love is not a technique.
Love your children, enjoy their freedom. Let them commit mistakes, help them to see where they have committed a mistake. Tell them, “To commit mistakes is not wrong – commit as many mistakes as possible, because that is the way you will be learning more. But don’t commit the same mistake again and again, because that makes you stupid.”