What does it mean to “accustom our children to hardship”?

February 1, 2012

What does it mean to “accustom our children to hardship”? One meaning is that we can’t always have what we want. Not every child who wants a pony for her birthday can get a pony for her birthday. And if she does want something, she will learn to save up her own money for what she wants, and manage her own expectations.

The Baha’i Writings tell us to “Give [our children] the advantage of every useful kind of knowledge. Let them share in every new and rare and wondrous craft and art. Bring them up to work and strive, and accustom them to hardship. Teach them to dedicate their lives to matters of great import, and inspire them to undertake studies that will benefit mankind.”*

This is a very tall order! Not only are we to accustom our children to hardship—when we want nothing more than to protect them from hardship—but to give our kids the advantage of every useful kind of knowledge! At first glance these two aims seem contradictory. But it really can be very simple—and these two ideas actually complement each other.

So, practicing or demonstrating hardship can be a small thing—like learning to make a weekly allowance last a full week. This is itself a useful kind of knowledge. Hardship for a child can mean no ice cream today. Maybe tomorrow, but not today. My sister has demonstrated this well with her daughter. Whenever they are on holiday, my sister gives my niece $20 for the entire trip, so that my niece has to make her own choices about how to spend it. Which souvenir will she buy? She has to make her own tough choices, because once the money is gone, it’s gone.

What is the benefit? Children who grow up understanding hardship, which can be the same as learning that there are always limitations—can also convey the benefits of self-sacrifice and of giving to others instead of to oneself. I’ll go way out on a limb here: learning to make the small, difficult choices in childhood means more independence and altruism in adulthood.

by Sandi Bean
Corvallis, Oregon

 

*‘Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 129

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Josh February 6, 2015 at 8:36 am

While I agree that those are small ways to accustom, I think it means we must lovingly push them to understand they’re capable of doing the impossible.
Not only that, children around the planet SUFFER greatly. If we’re going to help our children to understand the reality of that suffering so they commit to solving it, they need to understand it for real.
I think it’s more than just restricting allowance (allowance at all seems like like the opposite of hardship tbh)
I’m not saying i’m right, but that’s how I feel. I spent years in south east africa, and partially raised my daughter there. That experience and understanding helps ground her in the reality of human existence outside of the bubble we live in in the west.

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