Teach your children four principles: to tell the truth and live truthfully; to be compassionate to all; to have contentment with their provision; and to be humble in all of their affairs.
All of the major religious traditions teach these virtues, from Sanatana Dharma to Islam, Sikhi to Christianity. With these principles taken to heart, your children will navigate all of the challenges they face growing up and transitioning to adult life.
But, perhaps, these alone will not be sufficient for them, for young people can be cruel. Let humility not be confused with timidity; teach your child to stand up for what is right, to assert what is true. Let them develop self-confidence to stand up to bullies and peddlers of lies.
Teach them to be their own person, to believe in themselves. Let them never allow others to speak on their behalf, whether friend or foe. Teach them the confidence to walk their own path. To stand firm on what is right.
Then, when exposed to the lethal concoction of lies, assumptions and misunderstandings they will undoubtedly face in their lives, let them navigate them at peace.
If others slander them, let them respond with the truth. If others tell them the truth, let them respond with humility, acknowledging what has been said.
All of the above, I have learnt in part from the sacred scriptures of many a tradition, but mostly from bitter experience. In my youth, I found myself in the midst of many an acrimonious conflict with others, brought about by a deviation from these mores.
Some of my antagonists’ critiques of me were true. Sometimes I deserved their wrath for my extreme immaturity and naivety. To this day, I still cringe at things I said even thirty years ago. On the other hand, some of their critiques were outright lies; misunderstandings to be charitable, assumptions at best.
I learnt in the hardest possible way — repeatedly, in different times and places — never, ever to let others speak on my behalf. In each case, it led to disaster because what was said on my behalf was nothing like I had intended at all.
In one sense, I regret those dark years bitterly. In another sense, though, I recognise that without them, I would never have been led to this path. At twenty, I knew I had to reform my soul and purify my heart of its myriad of spiritual diseases. Had I not made a humongous fool of myself over and over, who knows where I would be today.
I regret that I learnt of those five thieves — lust, anger, greed, attachment, ego — and their cure through the worst of experiences. It would be better if your children didn’t have to. Save your children a broken heart by teaching them well to live well.