“It’s the Conditioning That Kills, Stupid!
“We can see the scientific evidence that confirms how our early childhood experiences profoundly affect how we evolve as individuals, which in turn determines the quality and direction of our societies.
This means that in order to solve the major challenges we humans face — violence toward ourselves, toward others, or toward the ecosystem our survival depends on — we need to radically change the way we bring up children. It is we who trained yesterday’s children to be today’s violent people. It is we who are, right now, training today’s children to keep right on butchering the future.
“It is one of the most fundamental problems facing humanity today; the future depends on how we solve this problem. It has never been encountered before. For the first time man has come of age, a certain maturity has happened — and as you become mature you have to face new problems.”
“Every society, until now, has been trying to indoctrinate every child. Before the child becomes capable of asking questions, he is being given answers. Do you see the stupidity of it? The child has not asked the question and you are providing him with an answer. In reality what you are doing is killing the very possibility of the question arising. You have filled his mind with the answer. And unless he has his own question, how can he have his own answer? The quest has to be sincerely his. It cannot be borrowed, it cannot be inherited.”
As psychiatrist and author R.D. Laing once wrote, a couple of generations ago when nuclear war was the “only” major catastrophe facing us:
Long before a thermonuclear war can come about, we have had to lay waste our own sanity. We begin with the children. It is imperative to catch them in time. Without the most thorough and rapid brain-washing, their dirty minds would see through our dirty tricks.
What is the way out of this conundrum?
We need to understand how this is happening:
Researchers from many different fields, like Robert Boyd from anthropology, evolutionary psychology and social change, and Peter Richerson from biology and environmental science, and Noam Chomsky from linguistics, philosophy, politics and cognitive science have clearly identified the main sources of conditioning: often politely referred to in the literature as the agents of cultural transmission or inculturation. (Don’t mention brainwashing! That only applies when “other” people do it, like in North Korea.)
The six most significant agents of cultural transmission and change that have been identified are religion, leadership, the law, schools, the media, and family.
You see the problem here. Most people in the religions and leadership roles in society, whether in industry, the law, education, or the media have achieved their positions of influence in institutions whose power relies precisely on the promotion of these same beliefs and values. These people are naturally highly motivated to prevent change.
That leaves mom:
She is already struggling with her ever more rebellious kids who perhaps have already understood what is going on. Now we are left depending on her to also unravel this mess? Maybe that is how it has to be. How many mothers or caregivers really want to see their kids grow up to be destructive rather than creative? How many want to see their kids blown to bits for someone’s great ideology?
How many mothers, fathers or caregivers have the time to work out the connection between today’s “normal” upbringing and the latest horror on the news? The academics are the ones with the relevant research data, and the parents are the ones who need to discover how this information transforms the upbringing of children.
The really good news is that this is already starting to happen. Not only is contemporary neuroscience, including the new understandings of epigenetics and neuroplasticity, confirming how sensitive children are to their environment, it is also showing that adults too can change.
In addition, many academics such as Jon and Myla Kabat-Zinn, co-authors of Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting, Aletha Solter, Kristen Race, and Shefali Tsabary are all widely disseminating the scientific basis for questioning the existing idea that the main role of parenting is to frog march these rather dumb, uneducated little children into the existing model of adulthood, using force as required.
It is becoming clear that the usual game of bribery, via punishment and reward, is unnecessary and counterproductive. Kids are already motivated by life itself, motivated to live their own lives, but not necessarily to live the lives that adults want them to live! Naturally they rebel and parenting turns into a war zone.
Of course, these new arrivals will need our help in distinguishing between a dangerous hot plate and a harmless cold plate. But rather than seeing the issue as only of them learning from us, caregivers are realizing that this learning process is a two-way street.
The flow of information between academics and parents is evolving as a revolution in taking care of children, often called conscious parenting. The result is the increasing realization that these children are very smart — they are just totally unfamiliar with everything and everybody, including whoever is taking care of them. Naturally, whatever they see, they see with completely fresh eyes, as yet un-programmed to see the world the way we do.
There are three extraordinary outcomes of all this
Firstly parents are realizing that these fresh eyes are showing us adults who we really are — in a way other conditioned adults never can. Like a little “Zen Master” as Laura Markham, another academic and author in this area puts it. Kabat-Zinn makes the same point, confirming what Osho has long explained, “Children bring freshness into the world. Children are new editions of consciousness.” So, rather than parents assuming they have to “teach” their children, they are starting to realize that it is they who can learn from the children.
Secondly, caregivers and parents are starting to experience the results of this approach. They are learning to accept that these children have their own way of seeing things. They are learning to respect that unique view and make a sincere attempt to listen to the child and understand things from the child’s point of view.
The results are dramatic – instead of the home turning into a war zone, peace breaks out. In that peace, the caregiver can see that most of the conflict comes from leftover trauma from their own upbringing, which they can now acknowledge, see, and resolve.
Again, Osho identifies the crux of the matter: “If you have to love even a small child, you will have to change yourself. To hold a little hand with love, you have to bring about a change in your life. You cannot remain the same person any more. Love is a fire; it is bound to change you.”
The vicious parenting cycle of discipline and control, rebellion, more discipline and control, and so on, is becoming a thing of the past. It is now being replaced by a virtuous cycle: respecting the child’s individuality, allowing the child to show you where you are stuck in your past, while both caregivers and the kids can enjoy the amazing result of a mutual learning environment of discovery.
Thirdly, and most importantly, the child is allowed to discover the world in his or her own way. The parents keep the child safe but stay out of his or her way as much as possible. At the same time the caregivers discover how they can change and dissolve all their own childhood traumas and misunderstandings about themselves, which are of course affecting not just their parenting but are also negatively impacting all the other areas of their lives.
“Up to seven years, if a child can be left innocent, uncorrupted by the ideas of others, then to distract him from his potential growth becomes impossible.
He will be well grounded, centred, strong enough…. You will be surprised to meet such a child. He will be as sharp as a sword. His eyes will be clear, his insight will be clear.
Such children will never agree to impose themselves on others, any more than they will allow anyone to impose themselves on them. In particular, no one will be able to persuade them to become killers and rapists, to destroy themselves or others.
The implications for our species are almost unimaginable. These children will create a different world, finally a world fit for human beings without all the havoc that plagues us today. It is in our hands.
To continue reading and see all available formats of this talk:
Osho, My Way: the Way of the White Clouds, Talk #14 – Parenthood: Giving Your Child a Wholeness