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Daily Life

Raising Children to be Capable Leaders of the Twenty-First Century

Ikeda Sensei’s speech from an SGI Representatives Conference in Miami, Florida, Feb. 3, 1993. This guidance can be found in My Dear Friends in America, revised edition, pp. 24450.

I am sure that the just-announced decision to found the SGI-USA future division will shine with increasing significance as time goes by. My most heartfelt congratulations.

Nearly thirty years ago in Japan I founded the senior high school division [1964], the junior high school division [1965] and the boys and girls division [1965], and I devoted my full energies to the cultivation of these young members.

Today, the former members of these divisions are active in Japan and around the world. They are diplomats, government officials and leading figures in industry. They are scholars, doctors and lawyers, and they are leaders of our esteemed Soka Gakkai. Friends committed to kosen-rufu work in every field.

I also believe that in the same way, or to an even greater extent, humanistic leaders will emerge like a glittering galaxy of stars from the future division of the SGI-USA in the twenty-first century. I firmly believe this.

The Joy and Good Fortune Derived From Raising Successors

The other day (January 30), I met Rosa Parks, the highly respected civil rights activist, at Soka University’s Calabasas campus. Mrs. Parks said that she derives her greatest pleasure from working with and for youth. Let us, too, joyfully and wholeheartedly exert ourselves in the task of nurturing the messengers of the future, our precious youth.

Those who will be responsible for the new divisions will have much work to do, but the law of causality guarantees that all your efforts will definitely adorn your own future with blessings and good fortune. Please also be assured that your benefits will be passed down generation after generation to your descendants.

Let me now say a few things that are on my mind concerning what we should teach our children in the home. I have observed many families and experienced many situations, and what I offer are my own conclusions. I will be most gratified if they are of some use to you.

Study First

First, the members of the future division should make study their first priority. It goes without saying that faith is important, but faith is something we practice throughout our entire lives. There is a certain period and age when we should study. If we do not work hard during that period, we may fail to acquire important knowledge and skills, and we may come to regret it deeply later.

Faith manifests itself in daily life. For the members of the future division, faith manifests itself in their studies. During this period, to devote themselves to study represents an important part of their practice of faith.

It is certainly not right for them to use faith as an excuse to neglect their studies, saying they are too busy doing gongyo or attending meetings.

Sometimes your children may not be able to do gongyo, but there is no reason for parents to become overconcerned or agitated about this. There are times when chanting only three daimoku is sufficient.

To continue practicing is far more important. What matters is that the children maintain their connection to the Gohonzon and the SGI for their entire lives. They can make gradual improvements in their practice. Parents should be broad-minded on this matter. They might even sometimes reassure a child who is busy with studies by saying, “Don’t worry, I’ll do gongyo for you today.”

In fact, putting too much pressure on children to practice may only alienate them from faith. I hope you will lead them wisely so that they will mature in the best direction and in a relaxed and natural manner.

Communicate With Your Children

Next, I would like to request that, no matter how busy you may be, you find the time to get together and talk with your children. The length of time is not important. What matters is that parents use their wisdom.

When you have to be away from home for some reason, try to leave a note for your children or call them on the phone when you have a chance. The important thing is to make sure that you stay in communication with them in some form.

Say your children come home, and there is no one there. They do not know where their parents are. No message is waiting for them. Naturally, they are bound to feel lonely, to feel emotionally insecure. This is a heartless way to treat children. You must not subject them to such loneliness.

Even if it is only a brief meeting, give your children a hug when you see them. Touch them, talk to them. Try to make time to listen to what they have to say. As long as you have love and compassion, you will find the wisdom to make this work.

Faith manifests itself as wisdom. The purpose of our faith is to become wise so that we can live wisely. The desire to save others becomes merely an abstract goal if those who practice faith cannot communicate with their own children or build strong and happy families.

The good fortune that accrues to parents who apply themselves diligently to SGI activities will protect their children without fail. Nonetheless, you must still make positive efforts to open and sustain dialogue with your children, not allowing yourselves to neglect them, claiming that you are too busy or it cannot be helped or telling yourselves that somehow things will be taken care of. Unless you exert yourselves in this way, you are irresponsible parents who lack compassion.

Outward appearance is not important — what counts is what is inside our hearts. Are there heart-to-heart bonds? Some families may always be together physically but be estranged at heart. Other families can only get together for brief periods but manage to enjoy concentrated and lively heart-to-heart communication at such times.

Families that share bonds of closeness based on day-to-day efforts are ones in which the members feel comfortable and at ease with one another, no matter where they are or what they are doing.

I ask that parents continually strive to improve themselves together with their children, in the way that best suits their individual families.

A Child Is a Person

A child is a person, an individual with his or her distinct personality. Sometimes children can be even more keenly perceptive than adults. That is why we must be careful how we behave in front of them. For example, couples should never argue in front of their children. If you must fight, go off where they cannot see you! Children are saddened when their parents fight. They go off to school with heavy hearts, and they will not forget the incident for a long time.

According to one psychologist, in many cases when children witness their parents fighting, they are shaken to the core of their being and experience fear and anxiety as if the ground had given way beneath them. Tall trees grow from secure and solid ground.

Please give your children a home where they can enjoy tranquility and peace of mind.

Fathers Should Not Scold

Sons tend to rebel when scolded by their fathers, while they are more likely to listen to their mother’s scolding. The worst thing is for the father and the mother to gang up on and together scold the child. This leaves the child with no one to whom he or she can turn.

Fathers tend to have a soft spot for daughters and, consequently, are too easy on them. Mothers and daughters, meanwhile, often share a deep, natural understanding as women. That is why it is often better for mothers to discipline their daughters as well.

President Toda said: “When fathers grow angry, they alienate their children. But even when a mother gets angry, her children stay close to her.” This wisdom is based on the laws of human behavior, the laws of life and psychology. Of course, there are always differences among cultures and among households, but I hope these remarks provide some sort of guidelines for you.

Discover and Praise a Childs Strengths

Parents must be fair. They must never favor one child over another because one is smart or good-looking or whatever. A parent’s single thoughtless remark can often deeply wound a child and give him or her a sense of inferiority. How much worse the damage will be if children are always being compared to their siblings and treated unfairly! They will be starved for affection and feel lonely and hurt. Under these circumstances, they cannot mature in a healthy fashion. This is not good for either child or parent. It is a senseless way to behave.

Children who may be suffering a disadvantage compared to their peers need our encouragement all the more. Watch over these children with affection and encourage them. Discover their strengths and praise them for those, building their confidence. Become their unfailing ally, support them, shower them with love and believe utterly in their potential. Respect each child’s individuality. That is a parent’s role.

Our society and our schools may operate on a cold, unemotional principle of competition, judging and selecting people by their abilities and appearance. That is precisely why it is important for the family to be a fair and equitable place where each member is valued for being the unique individual he or she is.

Telling Our Children About the Joy of Faith

One of the most essential ingredients in raising children to become fine adults is that parents get firmly in tune with their children and grow together with them, marching forward as one.

We SGI members devote ourselves to serving the Law, serving humanity. Ours is not an egocentric life. That is why we are busier than others and perhaps do not have as much opportunity for relaxation with our families. Nevertheless, we continue to devote ourselves to others.

Ours is the most noble way of life. We must make sure our children can understand and respect our beliefs, our way of life and our dedication. It is a mistake to assume that they will somehow come to know we love them or to understand our commitment to kosen-rufu on their own, without us having to say anything. We must make conscious efforts to verbalize and communicate our thoughts and feelings to them — and to do so wisely, in a relaxed and open manner, without undue haste. Finding the wisdom for this task is an expression of our faith.

Men and women are completely equal. Working from that assumption, we can still identify certain tendencies exhibited by members of each sex. I would like our men to be brave and upright individuals, capable people who can protect others. I would like our women to be blessed above all with happiness and good fortune. To achieve that, they must have pure hearts. “A pure-hearted woman is an angel; a foul-hearted woman is a witch,” goes a saying. The only difference between these two extremes is a person’s heart.

I have heard that the breakdown of the family has become a major social problem in the United States. The same tendencies are emerging in Japan. In light of this situation, and also prompted by the announcement of the upcoming establishment of the SGI-USA future division, I have shared with you several points that came to mind on this topic.

One of the SGI’s eternal guidelines is for its members to create happy and harmonious families through faith. Visualizing the day when the youngsters produced by your warm and delightful families grow to become outstanding leaders of the twenty-first century, who will illuminate America and the entire world like a brilliant constellation of stars or the dazzling sun, I conclude my speech.

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