Buddha was a great father to his son Rahula for he guided his boy towards enlightenment.
If we study the Buddha’s life, we could see that his son Rahula remains a playful young boy after joining his dad in the monastic order at age 7. In fact he took a liking to telling lies for fun. Consequently, complaints were made against Rahula.
Buddha patiently guided Rahula and helped him understand the disadvantage of telling lies. He taught Rahula correct reasoning instead of telling him simply to stop lying.
Someone asked my guru once about parenting and he replied that foremost, we have to recognise that our children are unique individual beings. They are not our property simply because we provided them the physical body to be reborn.
Furthermore, each person is reborn with specific karmic potentials and habits that were brought forth from their previous lives.
If we believe our children are an extension of ourselves because we “created” the child, then we are greatly mistaken.
While it is our reponsibility to teach our children good, there is no good in us trying to control them like a puppet.
We also have to understand that although we play a huge role in shaping the life of our children, but ultimately, their past karma will also affect their life. Therefore we should not be mistaken that our children’s future is within our control.
Here some advice from Buddha in regards to parenting. (Referred to the Sigalovada sutta)
Foremost is to be mindful of our emotion because that will affect our speech and actions.
What should we be mindful about?
We have to be mindful that unwholesome attachment, adversion, ignorance and fear does not influence our actions and speech. (Ignorance such as believing that we can be in total control of the child or that we “created” the child etc…)
The Buddha advice that it is the duties of the parent to do the followings.
(i) Restrain the child from evil,
I interpret this to mean helping the child understand the faults of evil deeds. For young children, the parents is responsible to stop the child from any act of evils. (such as killing and harming animals, bullying etc)
(ii) Encourage them to do good,
Provide a nuturing environment that encourages good thoughts, speech and actions from young.
(iii) Provide them education to obtain a right livelihood,
(iv) Arrange a suitable marriage,
In ancient India, it is customary for parents to decide the marriage of one’s children because it is not just 2 individual joining in matrimony, but 2 families joining in relations. In the modern context, I think it makes sense to interpret this as providing advice and counsel about marriage and choice of life partner.
(v) at the proper time one hands over their inheritance to them.
I do not think the Buddha is saying that it is compulsory that one must let their children inherit one’s wealth. I think this advice is concerned about the parent making an informed decision after observing their children’s potential for wealth abuse.
Some people make use of wealth brilliantly for the benefit of others and themselves.
Others create much misfortune when they inherit wealth.
Therefore for people with wealth and property to be inherited, the advice is make sure that one’s children inherit it at the right time when it is beneficial.
May there be many happy families.