Duties of parents
A Buddhist perspective
- By Dr. D. P. Atukorale
It is the duty of parents to see to the welfare of their
children. In fact the dutiful and loving parents
shoulder the responsibilities with pleasure. To lead the
children on the right path, the parents should first set
the example and lead ideal lives. It is almost
impossible to expect worthy children from unworthy
parents. Apart from Karmic tendencies, the children
inherit from previous births, they invariably inherit
the defects and virtues of parents too. Responsible
parents should take every precaution not to transmit
undesirable tendencies to their progeny.
According to the Singalovada Sutta, there are five
duties that should be performed by parents.
The first duty is to dissuade children from evil
Home is the first school, and parents are the first
teachers. Children usually take elementary lessons in
good and evil from their parents. Careless parents
directly or indirectly impart an elementary knowledge of
lying, cheating, dishonesty, slandering, revenge,
shamelessness and fearlessness for evil and immoral
activities to their children during childhood days.
The second duty is to persuade them to do good
Parents are the teachers at home; teachers are the
parents at school. Both parents and teachers are
responsible for the future well-being of the children,
who become what they are made into. They are and they
will be, what the adults are. They sit at the feet of
the adults during their impressionable age. They imbibe
what they impart. They follow in their footsteps. They
are influenced by their thoughts, words and deeds. As
such it is the duty of the parents to create the most
congenial atmosphere both at home and in the school.
Simplicity, obedience, cooperation, unity, courage,
self-sacrifice, honesty straight-forwardness, service,
self-reliance, kindness, thrift, contentment, good
manners, religious zeal, and other kindred virtues
should be inculcated in their juvenile minds by degrees.
Seeds so planted will eventually grow into fruit - laden
The third duty is to give the children a good education
A decent education is the best legacy that the parents
can give their children. There is no more valuable
treasure. It is the best blessing that parents could
confer on their children.
Education should be imparted to them, preferably from
youth in a religious atmosphere. This has far reaching
effects on their lives.
The fourth duty is to see that they are married to
Marriage is a solemn act that pertains to the whole
lifetimes; this union should be one that cannot be
dissolved easily. Hence, marriage has to be viewed from
every angle and in all its aspects to the satisfaction
of all parties before the wedding.
According to Buddhist culture, duty supercedes rights.
Let both parties be not adamant, but use their wise
discretion and come to an amicable settlement.
Otherwise, there will be mutual cursing and other
repercussions. More often than not the infection is
transmitted to progeny as well.
Last duty is to hand over the children their inheritance
at the proper time
Parents not only love and tend their children as long as
they are still in their custody, but also make
preparation for their future comfort and happiness. They
hoard up treasures at personal discomfort and
ungrudgingly give them as a legacy to their children.
The religion of compassion
Buddhism is the religion of compassion and the parents
should never forget to present it to the children as
The parents should practice the four sublime states of
the mind taught by the Buddha in raising their children.
They are Metta (loving kindness) Karuna (compassion)
Muditha (sympathetic joy) and Upekkha (even mindedness).
These four states well practised will help parents
remain calm throughout the difficult period of child
Perhaps the greatest challenge that parents have to face
is the proper upbringing of a child. This is another
aspect which distinguishes us from animals. While an
animal does care for the offspring with great devotion,
a human parent has a greater responsibility which is the
nurturing of the mind. The Buddha has said that the
greatest challenge a man faces is to tame the mind. The
parents are responsible for the development of a child’s
Whether a person becomes a useful citizen or not depends
mainly on the extent to which its mind has been
When a child is yet a toddler, unable to express its
needs, it is quite prone to indulge in tantrums and
crying. A parent who practices the first virtue of
loving kindness can maintain within himself or herself
to continue to love the child.
As the child becomes more mature as an adolescent,
parents should practice Karuna (Compassion) towards him.
Adolescence is a very difficult time for children, and
they are rebellious and great deal of their anger and
frustration is directed at their parents and this is a
natural part of growing up and children don’t mean to
hurt their parents wilfully.
Just before he becomes an adult a child will probably
meet with success in examinations and other activities.
This is the time for parents to practice Muditha
When a child had reached adulthood and has a career and
a family of his own, his parents should practice the
great virtue of equanimity (Upekkha) and parents should
not interfere with the affairs of their children. If
parents practice equanimity they will remain serene in
their old age and thereby earn the respect of the
younger generation. A home where there is loving
kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity
will be a happy home.
1. A happy married life
by Dr. Sri Dhammananda
2. Singalowada Sutta