My sister has just returned from a parenting training. They discussed a lot of things. Among which was the fact that the trainer advised the participants to train their children to postpone their (meaning: the children’s) desire.
When children ask for something, parents do not necessarily have to obey the wishes immediately. Delay them appropriately. Give a pause between the wishes and the fulfillment.
This, the trainer said, would train the children to have pauses in life. To not act reactively (instinctively and emotionally) at that very instance. To think before they respond to any stimuli in life. Thus, to act wisely. Ouch.
Very interesting, I thought. What a great habit to teach in such a simple manner. I know it is best to think before we act. I know that it is good to postpone one’s desire. But I never link the two together, at least not when it comes to child-rearing activities.
I will let my two great teachers tell the rest of the story in this entry.
Jalal-ad-din Rumi said that, “The beginning of pride and hatred lies in worldly desire, and the strength of your desire is from habit. When an evil tendency becomes confirmed by habit, rage is triggered when anyone restrains you.”
Then he said, “If you are irritated by every rub, how will you be polished?” Good one, teach. How should we do this? How do we restrain our desire? Along came my other teacher, Al Ghazali.
In his book Disciplining the Soul (which probably ranks among the most influential books in my life), Al-Ghazali quoted Yahya ibn Muadh al Razi, “Fight your soul with the sword of self-discipline. These are four: eating little, sleeping briefly, speaking only when necessary, and tolerating all the wrongs done to you by men. For eating little slays desire, sleeping briefly purifies your aspirations, speaking little saves you from afflictions, and tolerating wrongs will bring you to the goal—for the hardest thing for a man is to be mild when snubbed and to tolerate the wrongs which are done against him.” (Al Ghazali, Disciplining the Soul, p57)
You’re absolutely right. Tolerating wrongs is among the most challenging task. How can I hold myself from confronting the people who have snubbed or wronged me? When should I say something and when I should remain silent?
He (Al Ghazali) then said, “A man once enquired Umar ibn Abd Al-Azis, ‘When should I speak?’ And he replied, ‘Whenever you wish to remain silent.’ ‘And When should I be silent?’ the man asked, and Umar replied, ‘Whenever you wish to speak.’ (Al Ghazali, Disciplining the Soul, p59)
I nodded my head. Right. But then, I became puzzled with the statement. Looks like I am still learning.
Let’s just start from the beginning then. Like what my sister’s trainer said. Postpone the desire. Ours. Not the children’s.