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Parenting: Education or Indoctrination?

I think that any parent knows deep down that there is really only one way to profoundly influence and ultimately educate children. Much as we might not like to admit it.

Yes, as parents, we have the power to coerce our children for a certain number of years. But this isn’t really education, it’s more indoctrination. For whatever that reason, a parent wants their child to be a certain way and so insists that they are so. Either they follow along, which most end up doing, or they rebel and go in a very different direction.

In my mind, however, true education starts with sharing an idea that makes sense to us in a thoughtful and humble manner; then we respect, trust and encourage a child to consider, reflect and try to understand – and then, most importantly, make his or her own decision to agree or not agree; all the while remaining available as a sounding board, should they choose to use us. It’s sometimes frustrating – because we genuinely believe we know what is right for our children. But if we are to educate, we must let them find their own way.

However, there is one silver bullet in our armoury as parents; the most powerful proactive tool in education: example. There is simply nothing like being a role model for our children to learn from. Children learn their most important lessons in life by emulation. They see us walking and they try to do so themselves – nobody teaches them. They hear us speaking and they figure out how to do the same. (Good luck trying to teach a child to speak!) They see what makes us happy and look for the same. Hopefully, they see what a good marriage looks like and learn how to create their own. I strongly believe that the most important part we play in the lives of our children is as role models. To paraphrase Ghandi: live the life you want your children to live; be the person you would like to see your children become. There is no, ‘do as I say, not as I do’, in parenting. It simply doesn’t work. Children lose respect for such parents and from a place of little respect, our children will learn very little from us.

'The future depends on what you do today. '

Mahatma Ghandi

But this is actually what I love about parenting. If we want our children to learn from us, all we need to do is live a life of integrity; to do our best to live with what we know. How cool is it that all I have to do to give my kids the best possible education is to live honestly, humbly and truthfully – things that I want to do anyway!

But this is the really cool bit. A very big part of what I want to teach my kids is that we are all human, human and fallible. So, I get to make loads of mistakes along the way – and those mistakes are educating my kids also!! Because, as long as I’m not trying to hide my mistakes, my kids will see I am human and learn that it’s okay for them to be human also.

So, said simply, living as good a life as possible, whilst making lots of mistakes along the way is the essence of educating our kids. In a way, that’s difficult because we must live with integrity consistently. But on the other hand, in a certain way, it’s easy as pie. Live the best life you can live and, in so doing, you’ll also give your kids the best education possible.


If you enjoyed reading this post and something resonated with you, read more about our upcoming Parenting with Ease virtual series. The programme has been designed to help you raise your children to be emotionally healthy, responsible and grateful adults. We are honoured to be joined by renowned first-generation students of Sydney Banks, who have been sharing this insight for over 40 years.

Virtual Series

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