Breaking Children or Letting them Run Wild – 14 Jan 11


I get a lot of different reactions on my diary entries. That is obvious, as every person is different and thus will have another opinion. Many people appreciated also yesterday’s diary and what I was writing about. They said it was even an understatement to say it is not easy to deal with teenagers, on the contrary it can be really difficult. Another person however said he or she thinks you should not break a child but you cannot let them do whatever they want without any discipline.

I really agree on both of these points, even if the author might be surprised about this. You should never break a young spirit. In older times and in many countries in this world, including India, parents still beat their children and this of course serves one purpose: breaking their will! Domestic violence is unfortunately still very frequent in India.

The opposite effect can be seen in many countries, also like Germany, where I have seen children without any respect, discipline, manners or however you would like to call it. They smoke, drink and take drugs although their parents tell them not to. Sometimes even in front of their noses, just where their parents can clearly see them. They talk to their parents in a language that you cannot imagine, full of insults. This, too, is not the right way.

What we want are strong children with a strong will but with knowledge of what is right or wrong. I have written several times about problems with alcohol, cigarettes and even drugs. I always encourage parents to see why their child is doing this. A 12-year-old boy who smokes feels adult because he has the cigarette in his hand. A 14-year-old girl who gets drunk on a party and wildly kisses several of the boys around, does that because she feels adult through this. Think of your own youth. You may have done something similar, maybe in another way because it was another time, but something to show your parents that you are adult.

You should not let your child run wild without any rules or discipline. No, you need to set rules and teach discipline, already a few years before. But when you are at such a point, you need to look out if, in some way, you can reach the core of this young boy’s or girl’s heart. If he or she can feel comfortable to talk with you and tell you what is going on within them, you have a possibility to reach and softly prevent them to get seriously harmed. To lock them in their room on the weekends so that they cannot go to any party is not the right way. And they would not care too much, they would simply have their own party any day of the week after school. You cannot stop them from getting older and making their own experiences. All you can do is to help them and that is what is your role, once your little child becomes a teenager or young adult.


  1. Karen Walters

    I totally agree Swami Ji! Great entry!

  2. Micha Rocket

    You are saying so many things about what is good or bad for people. Why? And how could you know this across cultural barriers? In my experience it is just very very very difficult to say these things and maintain and open heart, love, and true understanding of a situation.

  3. Rachel Panch

    I really enjoyed this Swami Ji. There doesn’t seem to be a need in taking your agreement or disagreement so personally. If this entry is helpful to you so be it. If it is not so be it. You are free to take it as you will.

  4. Tracy Richards

    It is so terribly sad that some parents beat their children. It is hard to understand how they could stand to do this to their child.

  5. A;exis from Tulsa

    Right on Swami Ji. Although I sometimes struggle with finding the right balance, I realize that I can discipline my children lovingly, with compassion in my own heart. That doesn’t change the fact that they will go to “time-out”. It has nothing to do with giving in to them. But my children seem to hear me and I seem to hear them when we treat each other, despite any outward circumstance with a great deal of love and respect.

  6. Becca Ramsey

    It sounds like you experience a shock and perhaps distaste for the behavior of some western children. I personally wouldn’t argue with your observations. A lot (certainly not all) of the children from my home are like this. when faced with different ways of doing things, different ways of being, different cultural practices in child-rearing or whatnot, sometimes the only thing we see is what the other does not seem to understand about the value or the struggles with our way of doing things. But if we focus on this inevitable short coming we miss the wisdom in the other’s way and we miss what they could teach us. That is a tragedy and the root I think, of so much misunderstanding and misinterpretation.

  7. Sharon

    I am torn. On one hand I think that the children in Germany maybe talk back to their parents because their parents don’t show them any respect, on the other hand, I wouldn’t say breaking a child’s will by smacking them around and “putting them in their place” is respecting them as humans either, and yet in India, doesn’t this kind of treatment produce results? It must be more complicated than that. Outside influence has lots to do with it as well.

  8. Susan Byrd

    I knew a woman once in America, who treated her children like dogs. And yes, she got the results she demanded- they didn’t do drugs or smoke and they were all three married with children by their early twenties. But one of the ways she got her children to obey was by never being satisfied with their behavior. They couldn’t do anything right. So even when they behaved exactly as she wanted- this woman was still extremely unhappy. And her children certainly were. Also she had treated them with hatred and they hated her. Don’t plant hatred in your children’s hearts. It will take them the rest of their lives to get rid of, and many never try and just spread the hatred alone.

  9. James Farly

    Susan- Imagine, in one lifetime your child will likely live 60-80 years. Even you teach them hatred, and they have children to teach this to then add another 60-80 years of hatred, and touching other people’s lives with hatred. See how far and long the roots spread, it could be an infinite cycle. This is why we all have to choose to end cycles. Because they can be passed on to effect hundreds of people for more years than we can imagine.

  10. David Spears

    I’m really glad I have my wife in my life, God bless her, I just don’t know anything about discipline. We both love our children but I don’t know how to lovingly communicate discipline. Don’t know what I’d do without her.

  11. Ester Thorngood

    Beautifully said Swami Ji. As a mother I have learned that there are moments when, despite loving our children terribly, we may not be showing them love. And my own seems so illy affected by it. Growing up, parents tried to control my actions in ways that they could not be controlled. To me it represented the absence of love. To do physical or emotional violence to a child in the name of discipline is not only unhelpful but ignores the fundamental causes of their own misbehaving. And it makes them sick. As an adult I can see that parental attempts to control might sprout from love, but once they have matured they no longer resemble it. Fear, fearful role playing or a demand for your own mental order have nothing to do with love. I am almost shocked, still, when I find myself parenting my son with anger or fear, that I have lost my own love for him in that moment; my own son whom I love more than anyone or anything. I think these attempts at “discipline” occur when I can’t handle my own pain. Why do I expect my son to handle his so well. A thoughtful and valuable entry Swami Ji. Keep them coming. I know you will!

  12. Gomer

    It is very simple. And not just even speaking about children- if you want to be surrounded by decent people then you have to treat people decently. Why not go a step further and treat them excellently.

  13. Brain Jones

    “What we want are strong children with a strong will ” I adore this statement. It is absolutely true. And you can’t teach your kids to be strong by being overbearing and controlling, all you can do is recognize their own will and help them find healthy ways to live and build up what they are natural at.

  14. Nikki Jones

    “Don’t plant hatred in your children’s hearts. It will take them the rest of their lives to get rid of, and many never try and just spread the hatred alone.”Susan, these words had a big impact on me. And I think they can be applied to relationships not just with your children but with neighbors, family, friends and strangers.

  15. Kelly Harmon

    I agree. One of the things I can’t stand is to see people smacking their children around like monkeys. Have they never thought there might be other ways of dealing with problems? Welcome to the 21st century.

  16. Gary

    How can people be like this? Don’t they see how unhappy they are and how unhappy they make other? Why wouldn’t someone want to change that. Maybe they don’t know there are other options.

  17. Larry Barren

    Choosing to end cycles of violence can be done by us and inside of us, each time we experience pain, the desire to be violent or when we are responding to violence. Breaking that cycle not only changes the world around us and the people around us. It frees us from our own misery. Thank you James

  18. Tanya Lyn

    When it is said that someone is doing something just to be “adult” I start thinking a lot. Essentially what is meant by this is that the person doing the action is doing it as a means of replication, a mimic, not out of desire or choice or authenticity. I have watched children and adults pass me by and Sometimes I stare and look for this one point of cross-over. I am looking to see at what point does it stop being imitation and start being authentic action? So many things that we do are things learned, perhaps an action is only truly yours and not just you trying to be “adult” when you are old enough to forget what the origins of your desire to commit that action in the first place came from. Can that be true? Aren’t almost all actions an experiment or else a repetition? I don’t know if a child’s actions should be thought of this way, or really what I’m saying is that maybe much adult action should be thought of this way as well. You objectify someone when you say that they just mimic. You are taking power away from them, brushing their validity under the rug when you say something like this.

  19. Karen

    It definitely applies to all relationships.

  20. Sampson

    It is important for us not forget how much our children are actually teaching us. This isn’t quite on-topic but I read some of the comments and this came to mind. Children can’t stand hypocrisy and they have a real eye for truth and being transparent. Through the love of my children, and also the times when they have made me feel plainly miserable, there is a different perspective on life that they just force me into. I wouldn’t be able to see it without them. I hope that one day someone will accuse me of doing something just to be childlike.

  21. Jessica

    Sampson and Delilah:Parent-child relationships are close and so personal, like any relationship there is a give and take of learning from both sides. In fact, I often feel broken by my children.

  22. Hana from SC

    Tanya,I think that what you said is very interesting. The last line really caught my attention. I’m not sure I would hold myself to my initial reaction but I will say it anyways: After reading your post and re-reading Swami Ji’s I started wondering if it would truly be possible to be at peace, to be full of love while drinking, smoking or “kissing all the boys at the party.” After thinking about it I just don’t know. And I’m not sure that it does me (personally) any good to have an opinion. There is a certain kind of wildness/madness to mainstream American “fun” that feels purely egoic and somehow distracting from life. At least that has been my experience with myself on so many occasions. It seems to be able to bring the healthiest people further from peace. And then again I have deeply enjoyed some of those times. My friend and I were actually discussing this last night; the times we have enjoyed a night of drinking with dearly loved friends. Everyone was happy together before they had a beer and happy together after they had a beer. I doubt it would have mattered to anyone if there was beer or not. But there was and we drank it and I cannot honestly argue that I feel it harmed us or enhanced us. It changed us and it was an enjoyable experience. I also notice in myself that having a beer can simply make the world you see less beautiful but I sense that calling it wrong, immoral or calling it anything also seems to make the world less beautiful. As far as wildly kissing boys at parties goes that is something everyone I know from home grew up with. I’m not sure if that was ever about being “adult” for me personally. Other things were. I kissed because I felt it. It was an unchecked sexual expression from a newly sexual being. The wildness in it is not something that feels good to me or that I consider good for me. But I try to imagine what it would be like if every one of those kisses were genuine and I do believe that is possible. I find it sad and unnecessary, but understandable that anyone might see that kind of behavior as inappropriate. I think it is very important not to offend people and equally important to loose wisdom to belief structures. I have to chuckle at how very American I feel when saying with a rebellious tone that it would take away someones power to condemn any of these activities or write them off as unhealthy behavior. But then again, I just don’t know. I just don’t know. Thank you for all of the interesting thoughts and ideas to consider. I hope we keep the conversation going!

  23. Kit from the South Bronx

    When we are so sure that some behavior, action, feeling or thought turns us away from God, we are turning ourselves away from God.

  24. Tricia

    It seems that there are two extremes between parents raising their children, letting them whatever they want and not letting them do anything at all. Where is the happy medium? Perhaps I really respect my parents so muchbut I think that they have found a sort of happy medium in a way as I feel that my sisters and I turned out quite well if I do say so myself, haha, but seriously I should ask about their technique…or is there was just tons of prayer involved…

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