Parenting: A Negative discipline

Osho on Children and Parenting



The moment you start thinking how to help children to grow without any competitive spirit you are already on the wrong track, because whatever you are going to do is going to give the children a certain program. It may be different from the one that you received, but you are conditioning the children — with all the best intentions in the world.

The trees go on growing without anybody teaching them how to grow. The animals, the birds, the whole existence, needs no programming. The very idea of programming is basically creating slavery — and man has been creating slaves for thousands of years in different names. When people become fed up with one name, another name immediately replaces it. A few modified programs, a few changes here and there in the conditioning, but the fundamental thing remains the same — that the parents, the older generation, want their children to be in a certain way. That’s why you are asking “How?”

According to me, the function of the parents is not how to help the children grow — they will grow without you. Your function is to support, to nourish, to help what is already growing. Don’t give directions and don’t give ideals. Don’t tell them what is right and what is wrong: let them find it by their own experience. Only one thing you can do, and that is share your own life.

Tell them that you have been conditioned by your parents, that you have lived within certain limits, according to certain ideals, and because of these limits and ideals you have missed life completely, and you don’t want to destroy your children’s life. You want them to be totally free — free of you, because to them you represent the whole past.

It needs guts and it needs immense love in a father, in a mother, to tell the children, “You need to be free of us. Don’t obey us — depend on your own intelligence. Even if you go astray it is far better than to remain a slave and always remain right. It is better to commit mistakes on your own and learn from them, rather than follow somebody else and not commit mistakes. But then you are never going to learn anything except following — and that is poison, pure poison.” It is very easy if you love. Don’t ask “how”, because “how” means you are asking for a method, a methodology, a technique — and love is not a technique.

Love your children, enjoy their freedom. Let them commit mistakes, help them to see where they have committed a mistake. Tell them, “To commit mistakes is not wrong — commit as many mistakes as possible, because that is the way you will be learning more. But don’t commit the same mistake again and again, because that makes you stupid.”

So it is not going to be a simple answer from me. You will have to figure it out living with your children moment to moment, allowing them every possible freedom in small things. For example, in my childhood… and it has been the same for centuries, the children are being taught, “Go to bed early, and get up early in the morning. That makes you wise.”

I told my father, “It seems to be strange: when I am not feeling sleepy, you force me to sleep early in the evening.” And in Jaina houses early in the evening is really early, because supper is at five o’clock, at the most six. And then there is nothing else to do — the children should go to sleep.

I said to him, “When my energy is not ready to go to sleep, you force me to go to sleep. And when, in the morning, I am feeling sleepy, you drag me out of the bed. This seems to be a strange way of making me wise! And I don’t see the connection — how am I going to become wise by being forced to sleep when I am not feeling sleepy? And for hours I lie down in the bed, in the darkness… time which would have in some way been used, would have been creative, and you force me to sleep. But sleep is not something in your hands. You cannot just close your eyes and go to sleep. Sleep comes when it comes; it does not follow your order or my order, so for hours I am wasting my time.

“And then in the morning when I am really feeling sleepy, you force me to wake up — five o’clock, early in the morning — and you drag me out for a morning walk towards the forest. I am feeling sleepy and you are dragging me. And I don’t see how all this is going to make me wise. You please explain it to me!

“And how many people have become wise through this process? You just show me a few wise people — I don’t see anybody around. And I have been talking to my grandfather, and he said that it is all nonsense. Of the whole household, that old man is the only sincere man. He does not care what others will say, but he has told me that it is all nonsense: `Wisdom does not come by going early to bed. I have been going early to bed my whole life — seventy years — and wisdom has not come yet, and I don’t think it is going to come! Now it is time for death to come, not for wisdom. So don’t be befooled by these proverbs.'”

I told my father, “You think it over, and please be authentic and true. Give me this much freedom — that I can go to sleep when I feel sleep is coming, and I can get up when I feel that it is time, and sleep is no longer there.”

He thought for one day, and the next day he said, “Okay, perhaps you are right. You do it according to yourself. Listen to your body rather than listening to me.”

This should be the principle: children should be helped to listen to their bodies, to listen to their own needs. The basic thing for parents is to guard the children from falling into a ditch. The function of their discipline is negative. Remember the word “negative”… no positive programming but only a negative guarding — because children are children, and they can get into something which will harm them, cripple them. Then too don’t order them not to go, but explain to them. Don’t make it a point of obedience; still let them choose. You simply explain the whole situation. Children are very receptive, and if you are respectful towards them they are ready to listen, ready to understand; then leave them with their understanding. And it is a question only of a few years in the beginning; soon they will be getting settled in their intelligence, and your guarding will not be needed at all. Soon they will be able to move on their own.

I can understand the fear of the parents that the children may go in a direction which they don’t like — but that is your problem. Your children are not born for your likings and your dislikings. They have to live their life, and you should rejoice that they are living their life — whatever it is. They may become a poor musician….I used to know a very rich man in the town who wanted his son, after matriculation, to become a doctor. But the son was interested only in music. He was already no longer an amateur; he was well known in the area, and wherever there was any function, he was playing the sitar and was becoming more and more famous. He wanted to go to a university which is basically devoted to music. Perhaps it is the only university in the world which is devoted completely to music, and has all the different departments — dance, different instruments — but the whole world of the university is musical.

The father was absolutely against it. He called me — because I was very close to his son — and he said, “He will be a beggar all his life,” because musicians in India cannot earn much. “At the most he can become a music teacher in a school. What will he be earning? That much we pay to many servants in our house. And he will be associating with the wrong people,” because in India, music has remained very deeply connected with the prostitutes. The Indian prostitute is different from any prostitute in the rest of the world. The word “prostitute” does not do justice to the Indian counterpart, because the Indian prostitute is really well versed in music, in dance — and India has so much variety. If you really want to learn the deeper layers of music, of singing, of dancing, you have to be with some famous prostitute.

There are famous families — they are called gharanas. Gharana means family. It is nothing to do with the ordinary family; it is the family of the master-disciple. So there are famous gharanas which have a certain way of their own. Presenting the same instrument, the same dance, different gharanas will produce it in different ways, with subtle nuances. So, if someone really wants to get into the world of music, he has to become part of some gharana — and that is not good company. According to a rich man it is certainly not a good company. But the son was not interested in the company. Not following his father, he went to the music university. And his father disowned him — he was so angry. And because his father disowned him, and because he had no other ways — because the university was in a very remote mountaineous area where you cannot find any job or anything — he came back and had to become exactly what his father was predicting, just a school teacher.

His father called me and told me, “Look, it is just as I have said. My other sons — somebody is an engineer, somebody is a professor, but this idiot did not listen to me. I have disowned him; he will not inherit a single cent from me. And now he will remain in just the poorest profession — a school master.”

But my friend himself was immensely happy… not worried that he had been abandoned by his family, that he was going to live a poor man’s life, that he would not be receiving any inheritance. These things did not bother him; he was happy, “It is good they have done all this — now I can become part of some gharana. I was worried about them, that they would feel humiliated. But now they have abandoned me, and I am no longer part of them, I can become part of some gharana.”

Teaching in a school, he became part of a gharana, and is now one of the best musicians in India. It is not a question of his being one of the best musicians; what is important is that he became what he felt was his potential. And

Whenever you follow your potential, you always become the best. Whenever you go astray from the potential, you remain mediocre. The whole society consists of mediocre people for the simple reason that nobody is what he was destined to be — he is something else. And whatever he will do, he cannot be the best, and he cannot feel a fulfillment; he cannot rejoice.

So the work of the parents is very delicate, and it is precious, because the whole life of the child depends on it. Don’t give any positive program — help him in every possible way that he wants.

For example, I used to climb trees. Now, there are a few trees which are safe to climb; their branches are strong, their trunk is strong. You can go even to the very top, and still there is no need to be afraid that a branch will break. But there are a few trees which are very soft. Because I used to climb on the trees to get mangoes, jamuns — another beautiful fruit — my family was very much worried, and they would always send somebody to prevent me.

I told my father, “Rather than preventing me, please explain to me which trees are dangerous — so that I can avoid them — and which trees are not dangerous, so that I can climb them.

“But if you try to prevent me from climbing, there is a danger: I may climb a wrong tree, and the responsibility will be yours. Climbing I am not going to stop, I love it.” It is really one of the most beautiful experiences to be on the top of the tree in the sun with the high wind, and the whole tree is dancing — a very nourishing experience.

I said, “I am not going to stop it. Your work is to tell me exactly which trees I should not climb — because I can fall from them, can have fractures, can damage my body. But don’t give me a blank order: `Stop climbing.’ That I am not going to do.” And he had to come with me and go around the town to show me which trees are dangerous. Then I asked him the second question, “Do you know any good climber in the city who can teach me even to climb the dangerous trees?”

He said, “You are too much! Now this is going too far. You had told me, I understood it…”

I said, “I will follow it, because I have myself proposed it. But the trees that you are saying are dangerous are irresistible, because JAMUN” — an Indian fruit — “grows on them. It is really delicious, and when it is ripe I may not be able to resist the temptation. You are my father, it is your duty… you must know somebody who can help me.”

He said, “If I had known that to be a father was going to be so difficult, I would have never been a father — at least of you! Yes, I know one man” — and he introduced me to an old man who was a rare climber, the best. He was a woodcutter, and he was so old that you could not believe that he could do woodcutting. He did only rare jobs, which nobody else was ready to do… big trees which were spreading on the houses — he would cut off the branches. He was just an expert, and he did it without damaging their roots or the houses. First he would tie the branches to other branches with ropes. Then he would cut these branches and then with the ropes pull the other branches away from the house and let them fall on the ground. And he was so old! But whenever there was some situation like that, when no other woodcutter was ready, he was ready. So my father told him, “Teach him something, particularly about trees which are dangerous, which can break.” Branches can break… and I had fallen already two, three times — I still carry the marks on my legs.

That old man looked at me and he said, “Nobody has ever come, particularly a father bringing a boy…! It is a dangerous thing, but if he loves it, I would love to teach him.” And he was teaching me how to manage to climb trees which were dangerous. He showed me all kinds of strategies of how to protect yourself: If you want to go high up the tree and you don’t want to fall onto the ground, then first tie yourself with a rope to a point where you feel the tree is strong enough, and then go up. If you fall, you will be hanging from the rope, but you will not fall to the ground. And that really helped me; since then I have not fallen!

The function of a father or a mother is great, because they are bringing a new guest into the world — who knows nothing, but who brings some potential in him. And unless his potential grows, he will remain unhappy. No parents like to think of their children remaining unhappy; they want them to be happy. It is just that their thinking is wrong. They think if they become doctors, if they become professors, engineers, scientists, then they will be happy. They don’t know! They can only be happy if they become what they have come to become. They can only become the seed that they are carrying within themselves. So help in every possible way to give freedom, to give opportunities.

 Ordinarily, if a child asks a mother anything, without even listening to the child, to what he is asking, the mother simply says no. “No” is an authoritative word; “yes” is not. So neither father nor mother or anybody else who is in authority wants to say yes — to any ordinary thing. The child wants to play outside the house: “No!” The child wants to go out while it is raining and wants to dance in the rain: “No! You will get a cold.” A cold is not a cancer, but a child who has been prevented from dancing in the rain, and has never been able again to dance, has missed something great, something really beautiful. A cold would have been worthwhile — and it is not that he will necessarily have a cold. In fact the more you protect him, the more he becomes vulnerable. The more you allow him, the more he becomes immune.

Parents have to learn to say yes. In ninety-nine times when they ordinarily say no, it is for no other reason than simply to show authority. Everybody cannot become the president of the country, cannot have authority over millions of people. But everybody can become a husband, can have authority over his wife; every wife can become a mother, can have authority over the child;

every child can have a teddy bear, and have authority over the teddy bear… kick him from this corner to the other corner, give him good slaps, slaps that he really wanted to give to the mother or to father. And the poor teddy bear has nobody below him.

This is an authoritarian society. What I am saying is in creating children who have freedom, who have heard “yes” and have rarely heard “no”, the authoritarian society will disappear. We will have a more human society. So it is not only a question of the children. Those children are going to become tomorrow’s society: the child is the father of man.


This is an excerpt from the transcript of a public discourse by Osho in Buddha Hall, Shree Rajneesh Ashram, Pune. 

Discourse Series: Beyond Psychology

Chapter #23

Chapter title: Trees grow without being taught

23 April 1986 pm in


Osho has spoken on Children, parents, parenting, love, freedomin many of His discourses. More on the subject can be referred to in the following books/discourses:

  1. From Death to Deathlessness
  2. From Bondage to Freedom
  3. From Personality to Individuality
  4. The Last Testament, Vol 1, 2, 3, 4 , 5
  5. Philosophia Ultima
  6. Socrates Poisoned Again After 25 Centuries
  7. The Sword and the Lotus
  8. The Transmission of the Lamp
  9. Zarathustra: The Laughing Prophet
  10. Zen: Zest, Zip, Zap and Zing
  11. The Messiah, Vol 1, 2
  12. The Dhammapada: The Way of the Buddha, Vol 5, 6
  13. The Golden Future
  14. The Razor’s Edge
  15. Tao: The Pathless Path, Vol 1, 2
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