Bahá'í family life is based upon Bahá'í marriage. Both are based on a spiritual attitude and values.
"The true marriage of Bahá'ís is this, that husband and wife should be united both physically and spiritually, that they may ever improve the spiritual life of each other, and may enjoy everlasting unity throughout all the worlds of God."
The first purpose of marriage is this spiritual companionship. The second purpose is the rearing of children in the spiritual and loving atmosphere of this kind of marriage.
Bahá'í parents seek to do everything they can to bring up their children in the love of God, to be of good character and to acquire knowledge which is useful, so that they can become healthy, happy and useful members of society. The raising of children is a very important and difficult task and a great responsibility. They will need to devote considerable time to the children's upbringing and some other activities will probably need to be sacrificed.
"... know ye in God's sight, the best of all ways to worship Him is to educate the children and train them in all the perfections of humankind..."
Due to the laws of nature, the mother generally has had a particular responsibility for the rearing of the children in the early part of their lives, during which time the father has financial responsibility for his family, but there is no reason why roles cannot be reversed or responsibilities shared. It is up to the couple to arrange their lives as they think best. The important thing is that the children receive the love and attention they need to develop happily in mind, body and spirit.
Children are encouraged to associate with people of all races and religions and learn to appreciate the different cultures and the contributions different people have to make. They should learn to respect the ideas of others and to have open minds.
The children are taught to regard themselves as citizens of the world.
Above all parents try to show their children what is right and how to behave by the example of their own lives.
"A real son is such a one as hath branched from the spiritual part of man."
"The integrity of the family bond must be constantly considered and the rights of the individual members must not be transgressed. The rights of the son, the father, the mother, none of them must be transgressed, none of them must be arbitrary."
Just as: "...it is the duty of parents to perfectly and thoroughly train their children", so it is the duty of children to respect their parents:
"Say, O My people! Show honour to your parents...Beware lest ye commit that which would sadden the hearts of your fathers and mothers."
As they grow older, children should begin to appreciate the time and trouble which has been spent on them. One way in which they can repay that love and care is by remembering their parents in their prayers:
"It is seemly that the servant should, after each prayer, supplicate God to bestow mercy and forgiveness upon his parents."
The members of the family should also consult together in order to solve their problems or make their decisions. This includes young children who should be taught from an early age the value of consultation.
"Family consultation, employing full and frank discussion, and animated by awareness of the need for moderation and balance, can be the panacea for domestic conflict."
If we look carefully at the scriptures of each religion, we will find that the essence of their teachings is the same. The followers of each religion wish to serve God and humanity, so really they should have a common aim.
"The religion of God is for love and unity; make it not the cause of enmity and dissension."
For instance, if one member of a family is a Bahá'í and others are not, this may cause problems. If a parent is a Bahá'í, he or she should remember: "service to the Cause should not produce neglect of the family."
And if a son or daughter is a Bahá'í and the parents are not, this is the advice:
"Should anyone give you a choice between the opportunity to render a service to Me and a service to them, choose ye to serve them, and let such service be a path leading you to Me."
Bahá'ís believe that everyone has the right to their own beliefs. They also have the right to practise their religion, but not to the extent that it causes disunity and unhappiness to others. Some sacrifices may have to be made, even if only temporarily:
"It is one of the essential teachings of the Faith that unity should be maintained in the home."
"Note ye how easily, where unity existeth in a given family, the affairs of that family are conducted; what progress the members of that family make, how they prosper in the world, their concerns are in order, they enjoy comfort and tranquillity, they are secure, their position is assured, they come to be envied by all."
"Consider the harmful effect of discord and dissension in a family; then reflect upon the favours and blessings which descend upon the family when unity exists among its various members. What incalculable benefits and blessings would descend upon the great human family if unity and brotherhood were established!"
Approved by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United Kingdom,
27 Rutland Gate, LONDON SW7 1PD.
All quotations are from the Bahá'í writings.