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May 8, 2011

Question: What are parents’ roles in passing on values?

Let me begin with the importance of parental training in the values’ education of children. On a scale of 1 to 10, it deserves a 10. The Bahá’í sacred writings strongly emphasize the duty of parents in the material and spiritual education of their children. Both parents must assume this responsibility but the mother’s role is particularly emphasized. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (1844-1921), the son and successor of the Prophet-Founder Bahá’u’lláh (1817-1892), wrote: “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” (Selections p. 138).

Fathers share this responsibility which includes teaching the children reading and writing: “Unto every father hath been enjoined the instruction of his son and daughter in the art of reading and writing and in all that hath been laid down in the Holy Tablet”( Bahá’u’lláh, the Kitáb-i-Aqdas (Most Holy Book), p. 37). Prayers are taught in earliest childhood. When the child becomes formally educable, the Bahá’í teachings are taught both at home and at children’s classes which is one of the “core activities” of the community. If finances permit, the best schooling should be obtained.

Most importantly, the parents must strive to exemplify the teachings they transmit to their children. Regardless of the faith tradition, if a disconnect occurs between words and deeds, the children may become luke-warm in their reception of the faith of the parents or abandon it altogether. In the Bahá’í dispensation, striking and vilifying children is forbidden and parents must not use coercion in matters of faith.

Bahá’u’lláh declares year 15 to be the child’s spiritual coming-of-age. At that time, offspring are left free to affirm their faith as to whether or not they choose to follow Bahá’í practice as they experience the transition toward full autonomy. In a telling role reversal of patriarchal society, the Bahá’í teachings declare that if it is impossible for parents to provide education for all children, preference is to be given to daughters since they become the first educators of the next generation. - Jack McLean

Printed in the The Ottawa Citizen May 8, 2011
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