Discipline methods should be in harmony with our educational goals. And what is the goal of gurukula education? Many devotees have proposed their own objectives. Here are a few: to produce moral citizens, to produce “not hippies,” to produce productive members of the outside society who can maintain devotional principles, to produce book distributors, to produce temple devotees, or to produce varnasrama members.
To help us decide the proper goal of gurukula, let’s look at the often quoted description of gurukula training given by Narada Muni: “A student should practice completely controlling his senses. He should be submissive and should have an attitude of firm friendship for the spiritual master. With a great vow, the brahmacari should live at the gurukula, only for the benefit of the guru.”(Bhag. 7.12.1)
And here Srila Prabhupada describes his goals for gurukula:
“Now organize our Krsna conscious school very nicely for children up to fifteen years old. The parents should not accompany their children. Actually, that is the gurukula system. The children should take complete protection from the spiritual master, serve him, and learn from him nicely. In India, we see how nice the young brahmacaris work. They go in early morning and beg all day on the order of the guru. At night they come back, take a little rice, and sleep without cover on the floor. They think this work is very pleasant. If they are not spoiled by an artificial standard of sense gratification at an early age, children will turn out very nicely as sober citizens, because they will have learned the real meaning of life. If they are trained to accept that austerity is very enjoyable, then they will not be spoiled. So organize everything in such a way that we can deliver these souls back to Krsna. That is our real work.”
– Letter to Satsvarupa dasa, November 25, 1971
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Our goal for gurukula training should be clear: We want our children to become trained as pure devotees of Krsna and thereby end the term of their material existence by going back home, back to Godhead.
In the Bhagavad-gita (15.1) Krsna gives an example to help us understand a soul’s situation within the material world. Both the example Krsna gives and Srila Prabhupada’s words of explanation have relevance in applying discipline to children.
The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: It is said that there is an imperishable banyan tree that has its roots upward and its branches down and whose leaves are the Vedic hymns. One who knows this tree is the knower of the Vedas.
Purport: Now, there is no ready experience in this world of a tree situated with its branches down and its roots upward, but there is such a thing. That tree can be found beside a reservoir of water. We can see that the trees on the bank reflect upon the water with their branches down and roots up. In other words, the tree of this material world is only a reflection of the real tree of the spiritual world. This reflection of the spiritual world is situated on desire, just as a tree’s reflection is situated on water. Desire is the cause of being situated in this reflected material light.
– Bg. 15.1
As desire is the basis for being within the material world, desire is also the basis for attaining the lotus feet of Krsna. Teaching, therefore, is subtle, for one cannot force another to desire residence in Goloka Vrndavana at the lotus feet of Krsna. Teaching can, however, provide an atmosphere wherein students will tend to increase their desire to become Krsna conscious. A general goal of gurukula training and discipline is, therefore, to teach in such a way that our children are freely choosing to become devotees of Krsna.
Some psychology to help our children correctly choose Krsna
The Vedic culture includes a “developmental” view of a child. The fifteenth chapter of the Krsna Book begins: “In this way, Krsna, along with His elder brother Balarama, passed the childhood age known as kaumara and stepped onto the age of pauganda from the sixth year up to the tenth. From the tenth year to the fifteen year was known as kaisora and from his fifteenth year upwards a boy was known as yauvana, or youth.”
During each of these phases of a child’s life, he should be treated differently to facilitate his choosing Krsna.
kaumara: from birth to five
It is generally recommended that a child be given what he wants from birth to age five. The general rule is that he should be “spoiled.”
But what does this mean? Should a child during these ages receive any strictures? To what degree should parents be permissive? What is to be achieved by the child during this stage of his life?
The basic psychological goal for a child during these years is to develop self-confidence and a sense of security. Children, therefore, should be indulged and treated somewhat as if they were the center of the world. During this age, parents should be permissive. Although common sense should also be used to ensure the mental, physical, and spiritual safety of the child, the child should nevertheless receive the full affection of his family so that he will grow securely.
During the years from birth to age five, the physical development of the child is dramatic. He changes from an infant capable only of eating, sleeping, and crying to an independent individual who walks, climbs up and down stairs, runs, and plays games.
His communication ability begins with crying and smiling, progresses to monosyllabic words, to full sentences, and then to the proper use of verbs, tenses, and plural forms. Socially, a child progresses from attachment only to his mother, to attachment to his father and his other family members, before he learns to make friends. By the age of five, a child will seek his parents only when under stress.
A child during these years is egocentric. He thinks the world revolves around his needs. And typically, after passing through this stage, a child will arrive at school in his fifth year thinking himself a prince.
pauganda: from five to ten
From age five to ten the child develops skills in socialization and assimilates the basic laws of social conduct that he will use for life. He also learns basic academic skills. A child, through his increasing social and cognitive development, loses some of his egocentricity. He thus learns to look at situations through the perspective of others.
We can say the goal of this stage is smooth transition: to provide the necessary basic skills – spiritual, physical, cognitive and social – that will allow him to transit from childhood to adolescence to adulthood.
The permissiveness which was the rule during the first five years of a child’s life should be gradually transformed into discipline and respect for authority. This change must be gradual so that the “green sapling” is bent, not broken. By the time the child is ten, he ideally should have achieved – through a proper combination of affection, relationship, discipline, and training – basic control over his mind and senses.
Beware of indulging a child in sensual stimulations during this period. Srila Prabhupada states that to give a child sense gratification at an early age, when he is already naturally satisfied and happy in all circumstances, is the “greatest violence.”
If the child, during this period, perceives that life is meant for sensual pleasure, it will be extremely difficult to pull back on the reins of discipline and restrict him during the turbulent years of adolescence.
kaisora: from ten to fifteen
This period is crucial. Both boys and girls, at some time during this period, reach puberty. “Unless there is rigid and systematic training of the brahmacari by the expert spiritual master, and unless the student is obedient, it is sure that the so-called brahmacari will fall prey to the attack of sex.” (Bhag. 3.14.20, purport)
Children go through dynamic changes during these years. Intellectually, their conceptual abilities increase; physically, they change from children to adults; and socially, the tendency to associate with the opposite sex becomes strong. Adolescents’ emotions are often turbulent, as they acquire their own separate false ego and sense of identity. Srila Prabhupada once instructed gurukula teachers to be strict with adolescents so that these students would fear the consequences of disobedience.
yauvana: after fifteen
JAGADISA: We see that when they are given good discipline in that way, they respond nicely.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Why should you be lenient? That is your fault. Out of “love,” we shall see our sons and disciples go to hell. That is not good; that is foolishness. But when they are grown up, sixteen years old, they should be treated as friend. Prapte tu sodase varse putram mitra-vad acaret. Here are [Canakya’s] instructions from five to fifteen years, all the sons and students should be kept under strict disciplinary order. If they do not follow, they should be chastised. Then, as soon as they attain the sixteenth year, treat them as friends. At that time, do not force, or they’ll go away.
– Conversation with teachers in Dallas, July, 1975
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After fifteen, children should be treated as friends. That is Srila Prabhupada’s instruction. A child who has attained his sixteenth year is intellectually and emotionally mature enough to have imbibed most of the instructions of Krsna consciousness and can execute them by his own will. Children over the age of sixteen will rebel if forced to act against their will. Moreover, if they are continuously forced, they may become psychologically unbalanced or over-dependent.
This does not imply that at sixteen a child magically is on a par with all adults, parents, and teachers, and that no adult can instruct, order, or advise. It simply means that a grown-up child’s false ego must be considered. Because of this, if force is applied without consent, he will rebel.
The challenge of the hourglass
When a child is five, he is submissive to authority. He will do whatever he is told. He will engage in Krsna conscious activities, simply because he has been told to do so. Even if he doesn’t like to do something, he must and he will. He has no independence.
Srila Prabhupada: Where is his independence? He cannot be independent. He is born dependent because part and parcel of God. His constitutional position is dependent. Just like a child. A child declares independence. What is the meaning of that independence? Danger. That’s all. Simply inviting dangers. A child wants, “Oh, I don’t care for my parents. I shall cross the road. I shall go everywhere.” So if he is allowed to do that, that means he is simply inviting dangers. And if he remains under the protection of the parents, he is always safe. So this living entity’s declaring independence means he is insane, different kinds of insanity. He cannot be independent. He is thinking independent of God, but he is dependent on his sense pleasure. That’s all. Who is independent? Is there anyone independent? Nobody is independent. To think of independence is maya. Best thing is that, “I am dependent, and let me remain dependent properly. Then I am protected.”
– Conversations, Vol. 1, Columbus, Ohio, May 10, 1969
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But by the time a child is sixteen, he is free to make independent choices and can no longer be forced. Of course, as Srila Prabhupada says, “Who is independent? Is there anyone independent? Nobody is independent. To think of independence is maya.” Still, at this time, a sixteen-year-old will demand that his personal commitment to Krsna consciousness dictate the extent of his spiritual activities. He will not allow an external authority to override his “independence” and “freedom.” An intelligent and pious youth will surrender to Krsna conscious authority, but his surrender will be of his own volition rather than imposed by the authority.
Our task, then, is to help a child journey from the age of five to the age of sixteen and at the end choose Krsna. The proof of having successfully trained a youth is that he will freely choose to advance in Krsna consciousness. This must be firmly established within his consciousness by his sixteenth year. And as the five-year-old grows up, time – like the sand running through an hourglass – is running out. Teachers, in all their dealings with their students, should keep in mind that they have eleven short years to complete this transition.
Here are the basic steps:
1. The child must accept and surrender to authority as early as possible.
2. As his intelligence grows, the child is gradually trained. As he accepts the training and makes Krsna conscious choices, he should be given more freedom. In other words, there should be a gradual transfer of authority from the teacher, who is directing the child, to the child’s own intelligence. This is of prime importance. If a child successfully imbibes his teacher’s instructions with his intelligence, the child can keep his teacher – through his instructions – present with him for his entire life. For such a child, “vani is more important than vapu.”
3. By the time he is sixteen this transference must be complete. The child should already possess steady, trained Krsna conscious intelligence, and with the strength of that intelligence, he must control his mind and senses. His own Krsna conscious realizations must be fixed and strong.
evam buddheh param buddhva
jahi satrum maha-baho
Thus knowing oneself to be transcendental to the material senses, mind and intelligence, O mighty-armed Arjuna, one should steady the mind by deliberate spiritual intelligence [Krsna consciousness] and thus – by spiritual strength – conquer this insatiable enemy known as lust.
– Bg. 3.43
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How to Do It?
How can we help a child increase his Krsna conscious realizations to the point where, by the time he is sixteen, he freely chooses Krsna? What can a teacher do to guide his students in that direction? We certainly cannot force the child to “freely choose Krsna.”
Factors beyond a teacher’s control
There are no pat answers, and there are many variables beyond a teacher’s control that make it difficult to predict success or failure in training a child. Here are some of those variables:
The consciousness of the parents at the time of the child’s conception.
The personal karma a child carries with him.
The experiences of a child before he became a devotee (if he had such experiences).
Whether the child can be given a vision of a suitable future engagement in Krsna consciousness.
The external influences, such as culture, parents, and ISKCON stability.
Whether or not his first five years were stable and favorable for Krsna consciousness.
If he has Krsna’s grace.
Factors within a teacher’s grasp
Here are some variables more within a teacher’s own control which can influence a child to increase his Krsna conscious realizations.
Be Krsna conscious
1. Teachers should be sincere, happy, and satisfied in their own Krsna consciousness.
If a devotee is shaky in his Krsna consciousness, how can he teach the children? Unless he is firmly convinced about Krsna consciousness, I don’t think the children will learn properly from such a person.
– Letter to Satsvarupa dasa, February 16, 1972
2. Teachers should be deep and knowledgeable.
In teaching the children, refer very carefully to my books. Teach the qualities of a brahmana mentioned in the Bhagavad-gita. These qualities will naturally develop if the teachers give the process purely. The information is in my books.
– Letter to Hiranyagarbha dasa, August 19, 1974
3. Teachers should be good examples of all that they wish their students to be. Srila Prabhupada wrote in 1969, “You are right to say that setting a good example for the boys is the best precept. Example is better than precept. Exemplary character depends on strictly following the four principles. This will conquer the whole world.”
4. Teachers should preach to their students! Be convinced and let the students know the purpose of gurukula education.
The ultimate goal of teaching is to train the students to conquer the repetition of birth and death. The teacher must be able to educate the student to this understanding. That is perfect teaching. No one wants to die, but he has no education how to become free from the punishment of death. Krsna consciousness stops this nuisance business, repetition of birth and death. Big scientists discover so many wonderful things, but they cannot discover anything to stop their own deaths. All big scientists die. We shall also die, but after this death, we shall not accept another material body. That means, no more death. This is the last death. This is our teaching. That should be impressed upon the students, and the teachers must know it. Then education will be successful.
Conversation with gurukula teachers in Dallas, July, 1975
Make teaching your devotional offering to Krsna
- Know that Krsna is the Supreme Lord and that a teacher’s business, as His part and parcel, is to serve Him. Teachers should, therefore, develop the mood that teaching is their devotional offering to Krsna.
Being freed from attachment, fear, and anger, being fully absorbed in Me and taking refuge in Me, many, many persons in the past became purified by knowledge of Me – and thus they all attained transcendental love for Me.
– Bg. 4.10
2. Teachers should be deeply involved in their service.
3. Teachers should become expert and knowledgeable both in the content areas and in the methods of teaching.
4. Teachers should be detached.
Know and respect the students
1. Teachers should know that if they expect their students to be rascals, they will be influencing their students to act as rascals. If the students know that devotion is expected of them, the students will tend to fulfill those expectations.
2. Teachers should be aware of the two ways of looking at children: “Children are basically bad,” and “children are basically good.”
Anyone who is chanting regularly these names has already in his previous life performed all tapasya. He is already finished with all kinds of austerities and all sacrifices – he is sryan. sryan means advanced in spiritual knowledge, well-versed in Vedic knowledge.
– Conversation with gurukula teachers, Vrndavana, April, 1976
Know that it is usually one person who will make the difference for each child’s survival
One must fix his faith staunchly in the bona fide guru. If one accepts and follows a bona fide guru, his life is successful. Gurukula teaches one to become very, very faithful, one hundred percent faithful, to the bona fide guru.
– Conversation with disciples, New Mayapura, July, 1976
Be bold in your attempts to enliven your students in Krsna consciousness
The proof of your teaching method will be the spiritual improvement and fresh enthusiasm exhibited by the children.
– Letter to Stoka Krsna dasa, June 13, 1972
Teachers should be bold, but should know the difference between those things in Krsna conscious teaching that are contravenable and those that are incontravenable.
Separating Principles and Techniques
Once, on the Hyderabad farm during a morning walk, Srila Prabhupada was asked whether a particular mantra could be chanted within the temple. Srila Prabhupada’s reply was that there was nothing wrong with the mantra, but our principle should be to not change anything. Yet, on another occasion, while he was taking his massage in Melbourne during 1975, I heard Srila Prabhupada explain the reason for his success in preaching in the West as allowing women to live within the temples of the Krsna consciousness movement. He then laughed and said that his Godbrothers criticized him for the change, but that they were unsuccessful. “And the only time they have some attendance is during parikramas on Gaura Purnima in Mayapura. And who attends? Women. Old widows in white.” He laughed. “And because I made this adjustment,” Srila Prabhupada continued, “I was successful.”
Srila Prabhupada’s servant then asked an intelligent question. “Prabhupada,” he inquired, “how do we know the difference between making an adjustment and changing the principles?” On hearing this, Prabhupada closed his eyes in concentration for several moments. When his eyes opened, Prabhupada gravely answered, “That requires a little intelligence.”
Principles of Krsna consciousness cannot be changed, regardless of the theoretically positive effect that such a change will bring. On the other hand, techniques – specific actions based on principles – are adjustable according to time and place. Devotees should be cautious when making changes. It is too easy to mistake a technique for a principle. Consult both sides, those who are for the change and those who are against it. Here are some guidelines for discerning teaching principles from techniques:
1. Study the guidelines that Srila Prabhupada has given.
2. Don’t contravene or minimize the guidelines used by ISKCON, our institution. The rules of the institution are necessary. They:
a. allow us to harmoniously work together.
b. protect the institution, the students, and the teachers.
3. Don’t contravene or minimize the standard etiquette of dealings between adults and children.
A teacher should maintain and increase his relationship with his students without transgressing the standard rules of Vaisnava etiquette. Although we understand the need for teachers and students to have deep relationships, we differ from many modern educators on how this should be accomplished. We don’t see social structure and etiquette as inhibiting that relationship. Intimacy – for many within modern, Western culture – means exhibiting neither etiquette nor respect. But gurukula teachers as well as parents must allow their dealings with children to reflect the relative superior/inferior positions within their relationships. This will make their relationships strong.
Here are some examples of my ideas about specific gurukula contravenables and incontravenables:
Students must show respect to their teachers. If teachers are properly performing their service, they will naturally command respect from students. Students naturally respect those from whom they receive something worthwhile.
focusing on the goal
The goal of life is clear: to detach ourselves from the body, to develop necessary character and scriptural knowledge, and ultimately to go back home, back to Godhead.
teaching the Krsna conscious philosophy
Teachers should explain the philosophy in such a way that the children achieve true Krsna conscious realizations. An expert teacher mixes his individual personality, teaching techniques, realizations, and prayerful dependence on Krsna to help his students realize the Krsna conscious philosophical conclusions. Lecturing is essential, but activities that foster realization should be included.
following standard temple room behavior
Following the rules and regulations of sadhana-bhakti, in accordance with Srila Prabhupada’s instructions in the association of older devotees, is essential for gurukula students. Their behavior, especially in the temple room, must be respectful.
There are prohibitions against certain activities that are highly contaminated by maya. Association with the opposite sex is one example. Television is another. Reading mundane fiction is still another.
how academic subjects are taught
Individual teachers and schools will choose their own systems of instruction.
There is no one correct way, and different individual teachers will discover success on different discipline paths. The proof of the method will be the rectification, respect, and increased enthusiasm of the child.
Balancing Structure and Freedom
Contemporary teaching theory is often split into two groups: progressive and traditional. These two parties often debate whether teaching should be student-centered or teacher-centered. Here, in a somewhat oversimplified form, are some major differences between the two schools of thought.
We propose a Krsna-centered educational system based on the gurukula model given by Srila Prabhupada. This system unifies the truths on both sides of the progressive-traditionalist debate: the respect for the individual and emphasis on relationship from the progressive side, and the establishment of the goal of Krsna consciousness and respect for pure authority from the traditional side.
In Krsna-centered teaching, the teacher is not forced to act on one side of the spectrum or the other. He feels himself a servant of both Krsna and his students. By his teaching he creates an atmosphere in which the students are most likely to choose Krsna.
A Krsna-centered teacher is not a slave to a teaching system. He does what works in helping children become Krsna conscious. As a child, regardless of his age, properly exercises his free will and voluntarily obeys, authority is slackened. Thus the child gains more freedom. A Krsna-centered teacher will not keep a student fully controlled by authority until he is sixteen, and then at sixteen, when freedom is demanded, expect him to properly and freely choose Krsna. He knows his students need freedom to learn to act responsibly.
A Krsna-centered teacher acknowledges the need for a consistently applied, basic structure within the classroom. He recognizes that his students need and depend on such a structure. Yet he knows that freedom is also required within the imposed rules and regulations. In balancing the two – structure and freedom – he keeps rules basic and minimum, just enough to maintain a sane and orderly learning environment.
A Krsna-centered teacher understands that he cannot force his students to become Krsna conscious, and yet he knows that Krsna consciousness is the only worthwhile achievement for his students. He is, therefore, neither sentimentally soft nor overly strict.
“So-called compassion. Arjuna was thinking that by showing compassion he will be eulogized by Krsna. But Krsna condemned it. Yes. Just the opposite. In other words, Krsna is very strict also. That is the qualification of Krsna and His associates. Softer than the flower and harder than the thunderbolt. Two sides. When Krsna is strict, He is harder than the thunderbolt, and when He is soft, He is softer than the flower. These two examples are given. So Krsna is not lenient to His friends or His devotees because that leniency will not help them. Sometimes He appears to be very hard to the devotee, but He’s not hard. Just like a father becomes very strict. That is good. That will be proved how Krsna’s hardness will prove the salvation of Arjuna. In the end Arjuna will admit, “By Your mercy my illusion is now over.” This sort of stricture from God on the devotee is sometimes misunderstood because we are accustomed to accept what is immediately very pleasing. But if sometimes we find that we are not getting what is immediately pleasing, we should not be disappointed. We should stick to Krsna. That is Arjuna’s position.”
– Lecture, Los Angeles, November, 1968
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A Krsna-Centered Perspective on Discipline
The hawks and the doves. For as long as I can remember, teachers have taken opposite sides of the great discipline debate. As we have explained, some teachers claim the pre-eminent need for relationship, understanding, respect, tolerance, and patience, stressing that a teacher must wait for the natural, inner growth of a child’s Krsna consciousness. Others see the value of austerity, obedience, stricture, character-training, and force – not in a heartless sense – but with the compassionate knowledge that the children, even if unwilling and unappreciative at present, will receive real training. Later, as the children look back upon their school days, they will understand the affection of their teachers.
From one end of the scale to the other, individual teachers “choose” their stance and attempt to train their dependents. Is one attitude and it’s attendant activities correct and the other incorrect? Is there one way?
To better understand the answer to this question, let us examine the most commonly used discipline techniques.
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Techniques for Handling Disruptive Behavior
1. Visually looking on
a. look – “I see what you’re doing, You should correct yourself.”
b. observing before acting
c. gazing penetratingly
2. Non-directive statements
a. “Krsna dasa, I saw you hit him.”
b. “You must be angry.”
a. “What do you think you’re doing?”
b. “Are you doing what you’re supposed to be doing?”
c. “Why are you doing that?”
4. Directive statements
a. “Stop that!”
b. “Don’t do that again!”
a. moving to the disrupter, taking him by the arm, and showing him what he should be doing.
b. pointing to a well-behaved child.
c. exemplifying the appropriate behavior yourself
a. rewarding or praising appropriate behavior.
b. punishing or using negative consequences for inappropriate behavior
7. Physical intervention
b. punitive action
These techniques have been ordered into a spectrum, from light and indirect involvement with the student’s misbehavior, to heavy and direct involvement. How does a teacher choose which technique to use and when to use it? Three schools of educational philosophy (we have already discussed two schools) would answer this question in their own way. All three share the common goal of moving a child toward self-discipline and self-control, but the three differ in their methodology:
Progressive-humanists believe that the inner child develops by the unfolding of his potential. The child needs a supportive environment that encourages his own problem-solving. The followers of this school are generally called humanists.
Interactionalists believe that a person develops by interacting with the world. Students should thus obtain varied opportunities to make rational decisions based on a constant give-and-take with others.
Here are the techniques each school adheres to:
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One can view the differences in stance by examining the degree of power each strategy relegates to the teacher and the student.
Progressive-humanists use minimal teacher power. Such teachers use empathic glances and reflective questions. They emotionally and socially support the child, and are accepting and tolerant of his misbehavior. Thus they attempt to maximize the chances of the child working through his own misbehavior.
Traditionalistic-authoritarian teachers take control of the situation. The student corrects his behavior as a result of commands, explicit teacher behavior, modeling, rewards, and/or being physically restrained or isolated. These teachers intervene to find immediate and tangible ways to correct student misbehavior.
Interactionalist teachers move in boldly and then draw attention to misbehavior through non-directive statements, directive statements, and questions. The interactionalist works with his student to find a solution for the inappropriate behavior. Interactionalists employ some of the techniques of both the humanists and the authoritarians, but they are wary of any complete control of behavior by either student or teacher.
Which Road to Take?
As a general principle, and to be consistent with the “challenge of the hourglass,” we recommend being strict with young students. Then as the students act responsibly, more and more freedom is given to the student to control his own behavior. But aside from this general tendency to move from “strict” to “loose” over the years five to sixteen, how strict should a teacher be? Which discipline techniques should he use on a day-to-day basis? The answers one usually gets to the question, “Which method is best?” are like the answers one gets when he asks the best way to travel to a specific destination. We usually receive a different answer depending upon whom we ask. One individual may suggest a scenic road; another, the fastest and smoothest route; and a third may take us through seldom-traveled holy places. Each route will have strengths and weaknesses.
Be broad-minded. Do not be attached to a specific discipline style or technique. Learn to play the spectrum, and use the techniques which prove the most effective.
Keep in mind that students are individual souls who are situated in a specific place at a specific time in their sojourn through their karma. One technique will not work for all students, nor will the same technique work for one student all the time.
Know your objective and choose a teaching stance and techniques which suit your purpose. An expert teacher is like a master physician who diagnoses his patient’s problem, then prescribes the right medicines and therapies from what he has available.
Keep in mind that teachers are individuals with their own tendency towards a teaching style. Generally, a teacher will lean towards the style by which he himself most easily learns. Thus all teachers will favor one end of the discipline spectrum over another. But, the wider the variety of discipline techniques and stances a teacher can adapt, the wider the variety of individual students he is able to shelter.
A particulary expert teacher – one who has earned genuine respect and affection from his students – will be effective in whatever stance he takes. Do not, however, expect such expertise to develop overnight.
Rather, a teacher should study his students’ needs, prescribe accordingly, and use whichever technique works. Handle every student’s problem individually. Observing the following steps will help when dealing with a discipline problem:
1. Check the available information on the child and the nature of his problem.
2. Check the above results with the three alternative stances of dealing with a child.
3. Match each stance with the problem situation. Attempt to predict the outcome and consequences from adopting a specific stance.
4. Choose the stance that appears most useful in achieving your discipline goals.
5. Apply it and keep track of the results. Think of the particular stance you have chosen as a temporary stage of action. Plan further steps, changing the basic stance if needed, in leading the child to Krsna consciousness.
Here are three suggestions on beginning to apply a discipline stance:
1. Start by offering a student the maximum power and choice. If the student is not properly using his power and free will, change your stance towards the other end of the spectrum.
2. Begin by being strict, with the teacher possessing all the power. As the student surrenders to the training, gradually relinquish power and responsibility to the student. New teachers are generally recommended to adopt this “strict start” stance.
3. Begin in the middle. If the student reacts responsibly and makes proper choices, move toward offering him more freedom and responsibility. If in the beginning he misuses the responsibility that you give him and acts improperly, begin tightening up by removing his power and increasing the strictures that govern him.
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In summary, keep in mind the following when deciding how to discipline a student:
Many approaches and techniques can be helpful in training and educating children.
A teacher will naturally favor a stance and technique that matches his own philosophy, teaching style, and personality.
No one technique will work for all students. A teacher must know his individual students and be flexible.
The effectiveness of a specific stance and its techniques should be judged by whether they are leading students closer to surrendering to Krsna.