Guiding Light: How to deal with a child’s desire

The Mother, Sri Aurobindo Ashram

How can we help a child to come out of this habit of always asking? There are many ways. But first of all, you must know whether you will not just stop him from freely expressing what he thinks and feels. Because this is what people usually do. They scold, even sometimes punish him; and so the child forms the habit of concealing his desires. But he is not cured of them. There is a way which consists in giving him all he wants; and naturally, the next minute he will want something else because that’s the law, the law of desire: never to be satisfied.

In fact, perhaps one should begin by shifting the movement to things which it is better to have from the true point of view, and which is more difficult to obtain. If one could turn this impulsion of desire towards a... For example, when a child is full of desires, if one could give him a desire of a higher kind — instead of its being a desire for purely material objects, you understand, and altogether transitory satisfaction — if one could awaken in him the desire to know, the desire to learn, the desire to become a remarkable person... in this way, begin with that.

As these things are difficult to do, so, gradually, he will develop his will for these things. Or even, from the material point of view, the desire to do something difficult, as for example, construct a toy which is difficult to make — or give him a game of patience which requires a great deal of perseverance. If one can orient them — it requires much discernment, much patience, but it can be done — and if one can orient them towards something like this, to succeed in very difficult games or to work out something which requires much care and attention, and can push them in some line like this so that it exercises a persevering will in them, then this can have results: turn their attention away from certain things and towards others.

This needs constant care and it seems to be a way that’s most — I can’t say the easiest, for it is certainly not easy — but the most effective way. To say “No” does not cure and to say “Yes” does not cure either; and sometimes it becomes extremely difficult also, naturally.

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