How does an old tradition of Thai society that urges children to prostrate themselves at their parents’ feet before going to bed help develop children’s virtue?

I’d like to ask you about an old tradition of Thai society that urges children to prostrate themselves at their parents’ feet before going to bed. How does this tradition help develop children’s virtue? If the people of the present time would like to reintroduce that tradition, where can they begin? https://dmc.tv/a3523

Dhamma Articles > Question and Answer for Life
[ Nov 5th, 2005 ] - [ read : 13652 ]

 

Question:
Venerable Luang Phaw, I’d like to ask you about an old tradition of Thai society that urges children to prostrate themselves at their parents’ feet before going to bed.  How does this tradition help develop children’s virtue? If the people of the present time would like to reintroduce that tradition, where can they begin?  
 


Answer
by Venerable Dhattajeevo Bhikku 

This question comes at the right time because this beautiful tradition of our ancestors is slowly fading away in Thailand.  If it completely disappears, the process of passing down virtues from one generation to the next generation will end.  We are witnessing that more and more youngsters are engaging in gang fights. What is contributing to this problem?  It is derived from not prostrating themselves at their parents’ feet before going to bed.

 We must understand the purpose in this old tradition of having children prostrate themselves before going to bed. The purpose is to teach children to recognize and value the virtues of their parents. Virtue is something that requires instilling. It does not occur spontaneously. Like rice, fruits and vegetables, it requires planting.  If it is never sown, it will never grow. Weeds and grasses don’t need sowing because they can grow by themselves, and they are also very difficult to eliminate.

 Our ancestors keenly understood these things, so they had an insightful idea to have their children prostrate themselves at their parents’ feet. What good is derived from this?  Wouldn’t that be forcing children to do too much? No, when children prostrate themselves at their parents’ feet, it allows them to be closer.  They can talk to each other and understand one another better. What would happen if they did this every day and every night? Our children will feel closer to their parents and realize their parents’ good intentions. This is a very important point.

 Is there any other advantage? Since the nature of child’s mind is clean like a white cloth, if he ever commits a wrong, his guilty behavior will be obvious to his parents immediately and they can correct him. However, if the child is allowed to repeat the same wrong over and over without ever being corrected, he will assume that it is acceptable. Then, parents will not be able to recognize future mistakes their children make. For example, if they became addicted to drugs or behaved mischievously, their parents would not know because the child would not demonstrate any suspicious behavior. Therefore, asking their child to prostrate in front of their parents’ feet before going to bed can create not only intimacy, but an opportunity to teach and address the problem immediately after it was made.

 This is also a great opportunity for parents to tell their children about the various subjects, so that the children will be well informed. They can take the time to talk about the family and its financial situation, or what plan the parents have for their children’s future. This is the time to talk with their children.

 This is a time when parents can demonstrate kindness, reinforce good behavior, and more importantly, teach their children about good and bad, merit and demerit, and right and wrong. How? They can teach their children easily by telling them about the good deeds that they perform each day. Through these reinforcements, when the children are grown, they will understand deeply the difference between good and bad, right and wrong. Today, parents usually hope that their children will become decent adults just from what their school teachers teach them.  Parents may also assume that they’ve already given their children love by buying them things they desired in hopes that they will be good. Actually, these children will become self-centered because they’ve been spoiled.

 But if children prostrate themselves at their parents’ feet every night, and the parents share with them important ideas such as the factors their parents considered in their family decisions.  Or what they do to advance their professional lives.  This is a way to transfer career and work knowledge. When it comes to merit and demerit, the mother might tell her children about the fish releasing activity in which she participated, or the precepts she observed on the King’s or Queen’s birthdays in order to dedicate this merit to them. These are good things that parents should tell their children.  Follow my advice. This knowledge can be a treasure which will never run out. It is better than the millions of dollars parents have saved for their children.  If they cannot distinguish the good from bad, they may succumb to the paths of ruin.

 However, parents need to consider also these facts:

1. They must be the role models of virtue for their children. If the father who drinks alcohol and the mother who gambles call their children to prostrate themselves at their feet, and the children refuse, don’t be mad at them.

2. In order for the children to agree to prostrate themselves at the parents’ feet, this practice must start when they are very young.  They may not want that closeness once they are grown because they’ve become too attached to their friends.  We can’t blame them anymore.

3. It must be performed regularly every night. The parents should not call their children only when the parents are in a good mood, and brush the children away when they are in a bad mood.

 If the parents can achieve these points, what would happen? Moral conscience will arise in the children. Why? Because the children will know what is good and bad.  Whenever they perform bad deeds, they will be both frightened and ashamed.  More importantly, they will think that they’ve disappointed their parents by their bad deeds. Whenever they commit bad deeds, they will see the faces of their parents and hear them say: “My dear child, do you not love your mom and dad anymore?”  Planting these good virtues in them can help steer them away from evil. Do you see? Just by teaching their children to prostrate themselves at their parents’ feet every night can have positive effects on these children’s future. This is the reason why our ancestors considered it a very important practice.

 However, since this tradition has been lost in today’s society, how can we restore it?

1. The parents need to develop new habits themselves. How? The parents should stop watching TV or soap operas to the point where they fall asleep in front of the television. Quit this habit. Go to bed early, so that you can wake up early and be good examples for the children. This is very important. This will allow you to have time to chant with the children.  After chanting, you can share with them accounts of the good deeds you both have done.

 Also, if the children need to be admonished, light admonishment can be performed. However, punishment should not be assigned at this time. If the children made a severe mistake, we can discuss the course of action the next day. This reduces the children’s anxiety. In the future, no matter what mistakes they’ve made they will come forward to confess. Therefore, if parents, teachers and administrators restore the tradition of having children chant and receive their blessings before going to bed, I guarantee that gang fights will no longer occur, daughters will not need to get abortions, and we will have only wonderful children. When we, the parents, get older we will die peacefully knowing our noble children have preserved the country, its religion and the monarchy.


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