A highly insightful and interesting not only for parents read from Hazrat Inayat Khan.
It is never too soon in the life of a child for it to receive education. The soul of an infant is like a photographic plate which has never been exposed before, and whatever impression falls on that photographic plate covers it; no other impressions which come afterwards have the same effect. Therefore when the parents or guardians lose the opportunity of impressing an infant in its early childhood they lose the greatest opportunity.
In educating the child the first rule that must be remembered is that one person must educate it, not everybody in the family. It is a great mistake when everyone in the family tries to train the infant or to take care of it, because that keeps an infant from forming a character. Each one has his own influence and each influence is different from the other. But most often what happens is that the parents never think of education at all in infancy. They think that is the age when the child is a doll, a toy; that everyone can handle it and play with it. They do not think that it is the most important moment in the soul’s life; that never again will that opportunity come for a soul to develop.
Should the father or the mother educate the child? A man’s life demands all his attention in his work; the mother is born with the sense of duty towards her child, and therefore the mother has the first right to educate it. The mother can also quiet the child in the first days of its life, because the child is a part of the mother, and therefore the rhythm of the mother’s spirit is akin to the rhythm of the child’s spirit. The soul that has come from above is received and is reared and taken care of by the mother; and therefore the mother is its best friend. If there is anything that the father can do, it is to help the mother or the guardian to educate the child. If the child in its infancy were given entirely into the hand of the father, there would be little hope that it would come out right; because a man is a child all his life, and the help that is needed in the life of an infant is that of the mother. Nevertheless, later in the life of a child there comes a time when the father’s influence is equally needed; but that time is not in infancy. As the Brahmin says, the first Guru is the mother, the second Guru is the father, and the third Guru is the teacher.
There are five different subjects in which an infant must be trained in the first year: discipline, balance, concentration, ethics, and relaxation.
The best way of teaching the infant discipline is without agitation, without showing any temper or annoyance, only repeating the action before it. For instance, the infant wants something which it should not have, while the guardian wishes that it should play with a particular toy. This toy must be given continually into its hand; and when the child throws it away, or when it cries, give it again; and when the child does not look at it, give it again. By repeating the same action you will bring the infant automatically to respond to you and to obey. It is a wrong method when the guardian wishes to control an infant and wishes to teach it discipline by forcing a certain action upon it. It is repetition which will bring about discipline. It only requires patience. For instance, if the infant is crying for its food or for something else when it is not the time for it, one should attract its attention towards something else, even against its wishes. The best thing is repetition.
Balance can be taught to an infant by bringing its rhythm at the moment when it is excited by a certain action, to a normal condition. For instance, when an infant is very excited, then the rhythm of its action and movement is not normal. By clapping the hands, or by rattling, or by knocking on something one can make the rhythm of the infant change to one’s own rhythm; because any noise will attract an infant, and a noise made in a certain rhythm will influence its rhythm according to it. However excited the infant may be, begin by making some noise in its rhythm, and then bring it to a normal rhythm. For instance, if a rattle or something similar is first moved with the infant’s rhythm, and then moved gradually in a slower rhythm, the infant will come naturally to that rhythm. The excitement will abate; the whole condition of the infant’s mind, the blood circulation, the movements, the expression, everything will change to a normal rhythm.
And now regarding the concentration of an infant. Toys with different colors, fruits, flowers, things that attract an infant should be brought before it, whatever attracts most; and then one must try and attract its attention to that particular object, let it play with it, let it look at it, be interested in it. In this way the guardian can develop in the child the faculty of concentration, which will be of the greatest importance when it is grown-up. If this quality is not developed, it will be very difficult for the child to concentrate when it grows up. Besides that, one brings a great interest into the life of the child when it begins to concentrate. And the child concentrates without knowing it. Give it any beautiful thing it likes to amuse itself with, and if its fancy is taken by it, if it is absorbed in it, the child will concentrate naturally upon it. It is good for the child, for its soul and its body, because concentration is all the power there is.
Regarding ethics: this important word is used here, but in reality, the greatest ethics or morals that one can learn in life are friendliness, which culminates in generosity; and it is never too soon to cultivate this seed of morals in the child. When you give something to an infant which it likes, and with friendliness and sympathy and love you ask the child to give it to you, that brings about the feeling of giving and at the same time the feeling of friendliness. Very often the infant is not willing to give, but that means it is not trained to do so. You do not need to force it out of its hands, but by having patience and repeating your wish that the object may be given you, in the end the infant will give it. It may be that the first three or four times, if the child is very tenacious by nature, it will refuse, but in the end it will give it to you; and in this way it is taught the essence of morals.
Finally we come to relaxation. The infant can become very troublesome to the guardian and to others if it has not learned relaxation properly. But relaxation is learned by an infant much sooner than by a grown-up person. One only needs to put the infant in an even rhythm, to give it calm and quiet surroundings, to place it in a comfortable position, to make passes over the child to give its nervous system rest, looking into its eyes with sympathy and with the thought of its going to sleep, producing by one’s own thought and feeling and atmosphere a restful and peaceful atmosphere for an infant so that it can experience relaxation.
It is very necessary for these five different subjects to be taught in infancy. Besides that, regularity should be observed in everything concerning an infant. In its food, in its sleep, in everything there must be regularity, because nature is rhythmic. The four seasons come regularly; the rising and the setting of the sun, and the waxing and the waning of the moon, all show that nature is rhythmic. By observing the rules of regularity with an infant one can build a foundation for a soul to grow up most successfully.
….read more about these 5 subjects here.