Baha’is see the young as the most precious treasure a community can possess. In them are the promise and guarantee of the future. Yet, in order for this promise to be realised, children need to receive spiritual nourishment, such as can be found in the children’s classes happening all around the world.
We know in the Baha’i Writings that mothers are the first educators of the children:
To the mothers must be given the divine Teachings and effective counsel, and they must be encouraged and made eager to train their children, for the mother is the first educator of the child… So long as the mother faileth to train her children, and start them on a proper way of life, the training which they receive later on will not take its full effect.
Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 138
But new mothers are often overwhelmed at knowing where to start, particularly when they haven’t had good role models to follow. Fortunately there is lots of guidance in the Writings to take us back to basics!
Let’s start with the ABC’s!
Associate: The mother is usually closely associated with the baby during this intensely formative time when it is growing and developing faster than it ever will again during the whole of its life. 1
Breastfeed: Thus, ere thou didst issue from thy mother’s womb, I destined for thee two founts of gleaming milk… 2
Cheer, Counsel and Chastise: Whensoever a mother seeth that her child hath done well, let her praise and applaud him and cheer his heart; and if the slightest undesirable trait should manifest itself, let her counsel the child and punish him, and use means based on reason, even a slight verbal chastisement should this be necessary. 3
Decision Making: It is suggested that the children should be made to feel that they are given the privilege and opportunity of participating in the decisions as to the services their parents are able to offer, thus making their own conscious decision to accept those services with consequence for their own lives. 4
Educate: Although the mother is the first educator of the child, and the most important formative influence in his development, the father also has the responsibility of educating his children, and this responsibility is so weighty that Baha’u’llah has stated that a father who fails to exercise it forfeits his rights of fatherhood. 5
Encourage: They must be encouraged and when any one of them shows good advancement, for the further development they must be praised and encouraged therein. 6
Faith: Let them strive by day and by night to establish within their children faith and certitude, the fear of God, the love of the Beloved of the worlds, and all good qualities and traits. 3
Father’s Role: As the child grows older and more independent, the relative nature of its relationship with its mother and father modifies and the father can play a greater role. 1
Financial Security: Similarly, although the primary responsibility for supporting the family financially is placed upon the husband, this does not by any means imply that the place of woman is confined to the home. 5
Health: This matter of protecting the health of the child is essential, for sound health leadeth to insights and sense perceptions, and then the child, as he learneth sciences, arts, skills, and the civilities of life, will duly develop his powers. 7
Intervention: They have a right to be protected from the misbehavior of others. Children and youth should be enabled to initiate intervention for their own protection and should feel that they are surrounded by a loving and caring Bahá’í community. 9
Listen: As part of the education of children and youth, they should learn that it is important for them to tell any responsible older person when someone has done something that feels wrong or frightens them, that such telling is not tattling, backbiting or gossiping. 9
Obedience: The Baha’i Writings teach us that as children, we are to learn to obey our parents, so that as adults, we will know how to obey God. In this sense, our parent’s role in our lives when we are small children is that of “god”.
Pray For: This does not mean that the father does not also love, pray for, and care for his baby, but as he has the primary responsibility of providing for the family, his time to be with his child is usually limited. 1
Protect: Thus, ere thou didst issue from thy mother’s womb, I destined for thee…eyes to watch over thee, and hearts to love thee. 2
Religious Education: Parents must exert every effort to rear their offspring to be religious, for should the children not attain this greatest of adornments, they will not obey their parents, which in a certain sense means that they will not obey God. 10
Spiritual Training: Those children . . . must from the beginning receive spiritual training directly from their mothers. That is, the mother must continually call God to mind and make mention of Him, and tell of His greatness, and instill the fear of Him in the child, and rear the child gently, in the way of tenderness, and in extreme cleanliness. 11
Stay at Home: When the child is born, it is she who has been endowed by God with the milk which is the first food designed for it, and it is intended that, if possible, she should be with the baby to train and nurture it in its earliest days and months. 1
Training: Children must be most carefully watched over, protected and trained; in such consisteth true parenthood and parental mercy. 12
Unity: Note ye how easily, where unity existeth in a given family, the affairs of that family are conducted; what progress the members of that family make, how they prosper in the world. Their concerns are in order, they enjoy comfort and tranquillity, they are secure, their position is assured, they come to be envied by all. 13
Womb: The great importance attached to the mother’s role derives from the fact that she is the first educator of the child. Her attitude, her prayers, even what she eats and her physical condition have a great influence on the child when it is still in womb. 1
Footnotes & Citations
Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 626[↩][↩][↩][↩][↩]
Susan Gammage, MES, Certified Life Coach, author, educator and researcher, maintains an active Baha'i-inspired life coaching practice, which focuses on applying Baha'i principles to day-to-day situations. She is the author of "Violence and Abuse: Reasons and Remedies", a compilation of quotes from the Baha'i Writings and is currently working on several other books including a Baha'i Perspective on "Overcoming Anxiety and Depression"; "The Courage to be Chaste in a Sexual World"; the "Baha'i Marriage Manual" and "The Spiritual Roots of Disease". Visit her Bookstore; get your Free E-Books ; sign up for her Newsletter; and follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin.