Good values and behaviours in children 30 Sep 2021
Mr. Ajai Raj Sharma, IPS is one of the country’s most respected police officers. He was the Commissioner of Delhi Police and the Director-General of the Border Security Force. After a few conversations with Sandy Hooda, Founder Vega Schools, Mr. Sharma wrote this letter to him. In reality it’s a letter to all parents and educators.
Vega, one of the top schools in Gurgaon believes strongly in core values. Our values-based program ‘Shram’ is designed to imbibe these values in all our learners. This program is provided in online classes for nursery students, all the way up to primary, nursery and senior students.
The letter has been condensed and edited.
I am writing to you on a subject, which is very close to my heart. In some of my meetings with you I had touched on the subject. Since you also appeared to me to be equally interested, I am writing to you on this subject. To me this subject is most significant. I feel its significance will be equally important for all human beings wherever they may live.
Let me start with the words of Wordsworth, ‘Child is the father of the man’. These famous words are the creation of William Wordsworth, the well-known English poet. These words express the idea that the character and the inner qualities a child develops right from his childhood as he grows up into an adult. It is, therefore, very important that a child should be brought up with great care and attention. Society needs good human beings. Its fabric depends on the upbringing and quality of its members.
It is, therefore, essential that a child gets a lot of attention during the period of his upbringing. This can only be ensured by the parents and the school in which the child is educated. In many cases there are some children, who don’t receive the attention of their parents to the extent they should receive. This is especially true in the case of many rich and affluent parents and also in the case of parents, both of whom are working. Some parents may also have misplaced notions about how a child should be brought up and how children should be educated. They feel that their duty is to get their child admitted in a school which is not only famous but also expensive. Thereafter they feel their duty towards their child is over and never bother to know what their child is doing and achieving in the school.
I came across a case in my police career, which will justify the point I have made in the above paragraph. A well to do family got their son admitted in a famous Indian boarding School in Dehradun. During one of his holiday trips, he was arrested by the police. His mother, who was a well-educated lady barged into my office and began shouting at me. I was taken aback not knowing what had really happened. I calmed her down and offered her a glass of water. After she drank the water, I enquired what had happened. She told me that the police under my jurisdiction, had arrested her son and implicated him in a totally false case of loot and murder. She continued to curse the police and threatened the police officers of dire consequences. I asked her to narrate all the facts of the case as told by the police to her.
She began that as per the police version, one evening her son along with his three or four friends entered the house of a very rich and old lady. The lady was alone in the house and was watching TV. When she enquired about their identity, they caught hold of her and gagged her mouth. Thereafter, they strangulated her. As a result she died. They searched her house and decamped, after taking away all the cash and jewellery they could lay their hands on. After being arrested, they were interrogated by the police. During their interrogation they informed the police that they had seen a Hollywood movie, in which they witnessed the commission of a very serious crime which they found to be very exciting. They were inspired and motivated by this crime. As a result they committed the crime for which they had been arrested. When they told the police that the motive of the crime they committed was the kick and excitement which they got from the Hollywood film they had seen, the police were flabbergasted. The lady who had come to me to complain about her son’s implication in this case was not ready to believe the police version. However, when an independent enquiry was instituted in this complaint the police version was found to be correct. Later the case got the nod of the judiciary and the trial ended in conviction.
Here are some ideas that may help educators and parents instil values and qualities in children.
Wisdom from ancient India
The purpose of education as per the Vedas and other ancient teachings is to develop a pure mind, to cultivate virtues and to entertain good wishes for all beings of the world. This education philosophy inspires people to lead a higher life. Character building is one of the main objectives of education. According to the ancient teachings, the best teachers are those, who not only teach but also make their pupils worthy citizens possessing noble virtues.
To me ‘Humility’ is one single quality which can help make an individual a very good human being, which should be the main aim of our education system.
What is humility? Humility is a virtue. It is considered as an act of lowering one’s self in relation to others. It also means having a clear perception of one’s self. It is an attitude of spiritual modesty that comes from understanding one’s place in the larger order of things. It entails not taking our desires, successes or failures too seriously.
Humility does not mean being self-effacing or being submissive. Humility treads the fine line between arrogance and self-depreciation. Humility is an attitude of spiritual modesty that comes from understanding our place in the larger order of things. We can also understand humility as a character strength. It is the opposite of pride, arrogance and a sense of our importance. Humility is based on fundamentally caring and being compassionate towards others. So, what makes an individual humble? Are the humble meek or psychologically weak?
In today’s stressful world, most people are greatly concerned with the pursuit of happiness. A bit of humility can deliver great reserves of inner strength. All spiritual individuals value humility and make it essential for a person to be able to receive divine benediction.
To my mind the best example of humility in history is Nelson Mandela. He was well known for his ever present humility. Mandela once said that ‘humility is one of the most important qualities which you should possess, because if others realise that you are humble and no threat to them, then people will embrace you.’ Mandela understood better than anyone else that no one can accomplish their goals alone.
Mahatma Gandhi too, felt that humility is an essential virtue that must exist in a person for other virtues to emerge.
Another quality I would like to see being given a lot of impetus in the educational curriculum is that of ‘forgiveness’. Alexander Pope had stated that ‘to err is human but to forgive is divine’. To acquire the quality of forgiving individuals whose intention is to cause harm, is best cultivated by being practised over and over again. It helps to apply the balm of ‘forgiveness’ as a preventive measure. It is investing in a peaceful future. Forgiveness disarms our perceived future opponents because it is accompanied by patience and calmness.
The benefits of being forgiving are many. It promotes healthier relationships, better mental health, less anxiety, stress and hostility. It helps in maintaining a balanced blood pressure and does not allow depression to exist. It provides for a stronger immune system and an improved self – esteem.
I feel that this is one of the most important qualities a human can possess. Each time he forgives a person who has tried to harm him, he will derive a lot of happiness. Once he inculcates this quality, and earns a reputation for being a forgiver, he will not only become known for it but will also be admired and respected for it.
Similarly if a child can be made to acquire patience as a part of his personality, it will endow him with a very valuable asset, which will help him in his life to tide over difficult situations.
Patience is an exercise of self-control. It shows that you can handle life when the going gets tough and that you have the ability to look outside of yourself. In short, exhibiting patience shows that you have a high moral standard in your life. Patience is a virtue. It displays that your commitment to success is clear. Patience indicates clearly that you can be persistent and stay in something to achieve your objective for the long run. You don’t cut corners or do things in an unethical way, instead you patiently work things out, do what needs to be done and make things happen. Patience is a virtue because it requires self-control. It requires you to have insight to think about other people and their happiness.
The quality of possessing ‘Hope’ is one of the greatest gifts God can bless any individual with. Hope is important to possess because it reduces the feeling of helplessness, boosts happiness, reduces stress and improves the quality of life. People who have hope can face very bad times with a very positive attitude. That is why hope is regarded as one of the most important qualities in an individuals’ personality, along with possessing a very positive attitude in life.
Hope increases the performance potential and the probability of favourable outcomes. Hope helps to always be positive in life and look at the brighter side of life. It is having a desire for things to change for the better and wanting a better situation to prevail.
Hope is a powerful force. It can pull a person out from the depth of despair. Hope is the only antidote to despair. You may have every talent, skill or ability but if you are devoid of hope, it will count for nothing, especially during difficult times. It is the ultimate and the single most vital psychological vehicle essential to get you through in life. People can survive through the most dreadful situations in life only by holding on to hope. It is a key to success.
A bad situation does not remain forever. Happier times must follow bad times, as every night is followed by morning. If one has hope he will understand this phenomena easily.
One of the best examples is Barack Obama, who was the American President since January 2009. The main planks he used to win over the American voters in this election was hope and change. He promised to become a transformational leader- someone who could alter the fundamental direction of the nation’s politics in a more progressive way. The rest is history.
Every individual sooner than later has to face difficult situations in life. Some of them could spell disaster like a life threatening disease, serious threat to one’s career, bankruptcy, etc. A child’s education must prepare him for such eventualities. His education must ensure that pessimism has no place in his life. He must become an optimist and learn to have hope even in the worst of situations. Hope is the antidote of fear. He must firmly believe in Shelley’s words, ‘If winter comes can spring be far behind’. A real leader must possess this quality and should be able to see light at the end of the tunnel and also show it to his followers.
A guru was giving precepts. The topic was how to maintain the balance of mind in pleasant and unpleasant situations. A disciple asked ‘’ heat is heat and cool is cool. How can I avoid feeling joy in my success in life and not feel the pain of losing a dear family member? Is equanimity even possible? The guru replied: ‘Yes, with equanimity, the experience of happiness and unhappiness would be different in both cases’. It is this maintenance of mind in both these extreme situations which can be termed as equanimity.
Equanimity is a capacity for calmness and balance in difficult and provocative situations. Equanimity is the key to maintaining healthy social relations. Equanimity is always the best solution for interpersonal conflicts. Martin Luther King Jr. famously said ‘Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hatred, only love can do that’.
Equanimity is one of the four Noble truths of Buddhism. The idea of ‘Love thy neighbour as thyself’ and ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,’ are the golden rules of most religions. But practising equanimity is a secular concept. If you want to succeed in life, equanimity is going to take you a lot farther than hostility. Learning not to be emotionally reactive when you are being provoked or attacked takes a lot of restraint and practice.
Make equanimity your golden rule. Taking a few long, slow and deep breaths and literally counting up to number ten is perhaps the best way to kick start equanimity, which will always ultimately prevail. It’s that simple to learn.
Honesty & Integrity
Honesty is extremely important. Honesty and integrity are vital for an individual becoming a good human being. It must be ensured right from childhood that the seeds of honesty and morality are sown in the mind of a child. This perhaps is one of the most significant ways to create an honest and scrupulous society, in which people are not greedy and enjoy living within their means.
Not being greedy is not enough. An individual must empathise with the more unfortunate persons in the society who are poor and unable to provide for the basic needs of their families and themselves. He should be philanthropic in his life and should contribute a percentage of his earnings for the welfare of his needy brethren. Only then will he be contributing towards the fulfilment of the Vedic teaching, ‘Life is to give and not to take.’
Success & Failure
In today’s society everybody’s ambition is to succeed in life, which is quite natural. But we should not be unnecessarily bothered about success and failure. Failure must be regarded as a stepping stone to success in future. Being confronted with failure must not upset us. We should accept it as a normal part of life. If we are unable to face failure and are very concerned about it, we can never think of becoming a famous scientist, inventor or discoverer, all of which requires a lot of diligence and perseverance. Our efforts made to be successful can often result in failure. If we get extremely upset by failure we can never succeed making important inventions or discoveries. If a child fails in his initial attempts, he should not be discouraged to the extent that he abandons his efforts and gives up his pursuits. Instead he must continue to persevere with his ambition, with greater determination and zeal, till he ultimately meets with success.
An education system must aim at an all-round development of a person. A successful and sound education system provides for the simultaneous growth mentally, physically, socially and spiritually. We should not be content with only one sided growth. An all-round education will make an individual stand out amongst his fellow beings. During his education, a lot of emphasis should be laid on good health. He must be exposed to the ways by which he can develop good health and the ways he should adopt to perpetually enjoy good health and attain a long life. Good health will help him to undergo a lot of stress and strain and work hard to attain results. In addition good health will help him to enjoy life and experience all the pleasures which nature has bestowed on the humans.
There are more qualities which can be added to this list, but I feel that the qualities mentioned in the above paragraphs could bring about a qualitative difference in the human beings, who are part of our society and improve the quality of life of the citizens who comprise it.
Ajai Raj Sharma
Copyright Vega Schools
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