Buddhist Parenting

Theravāda in the 21st century - modern applications of ancient wisdom

Buddhist Parenting

Postby Colly » Wed Jun 29, 2011 10:39 pm

Not sure if there are any posts of this nature already on the boards... not really sure if I am going about this in the right way...But...

I am Interested in sharing a discussion about the many challenges of being a parent, a person and a Buddhist - and how all these identities sit together.

Would love to hear how others communicate the dhamma message to children (of any age), how you resolve the challenges and rewards of dealing with children from a Buddhist perspective.

Hope this sparks some interest, would dearly love to hear from others on this topic.

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Re: Buddhist Parenting

Postby Reductor » Wed Jun 29, 2011 11:37 pm

A difficult topic. Or so I have found.

I guess that as a buddhist father I spend a great deal of time explaining cause and effect relationships. An obvious one would be the relationship between food and good health: food causes the body to function, and largely determines its size. The body is the result of what they have eaten. Not enough and it becomes weak and sick; to much and it becomes to large and sick. But the right amount allows it to be healthy and the right size for their age. The attitude I encourage in them is to treat food as a functional necessity rather than an amusment (within reason - don't want to sap all the fun out of their little tastebuds).

I expand this cause-effect discussion to as many areas of life as possible, including the inevitable behaviour trouble. Very rarely do I speak solely from authority. That is, punishments are always cast in terms of how their actions may/have caused harm to others or to themselves; they are not simply an expresion of my own preferences.

For example, when the kids are being very loud in the evening, I ask them "if you were trying to sleep, but someone kept banging on your ceiling, would you have trouble faling asleep?" natually they say yes, because it has happened before. Then I ask "when you can't sleep at night, will you be tired in the morning?" they say yes, because they know what that is like. "Are you happy then?" "No" they answer. Then I explain that when they are loud, other people hear them banging on the wall, cannot sleep and so they become tired and are unhappy.

Then I give them time to adjust their behaviour before metering out any kind of punishment.

Of course they do not always appreciate my point, being young. But they are usually aware of why they are getting their time out, or are losing a priviledge; although they are not ever happy about it, as you may imagine.

Anyway, those are a couple thoughts.
Michael

The thoughts I've expressed in the above post are carefully considered and offered in good faith.

And friendliness towards the world is happiness for him who is forbearing with living beings. -- Ud. 2:1
To his own ruin the fool gains knowledge, for it cleaves his head and destroys his innate goodness. -- Dhp 72

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Re: Buddhist Parenting

Postby chownah » Thu Jun 30, 2011 2:21 am

I think that it is important to try to learn good parenting skills from whatever sources you can find. The Buddha only taught the end of suffering...he did not teach child rearing. I'm saying that it is good to keep the Buddha's teachings in mind and to offer them to your children when appropriate but I am also saying that there is much to be learned outside of the Buddha's teachings and frankly I see alot or useful information that might not be discovered if focus is kept too narrowly on Buddhism. For example...parents should remember that children are learning machines....they are constantly learning and it is pracatically impossible to stop it!!!...so remember that everything a parent does is teaching the child something whether the parent knows it or wants it or not....if you are grumpy when you get up in the morning the child learns something from this...if you drink beer and then have a good time then the child learns from this...if you speak in a gruff voice regularly then the child learns from this.....and very importantly it is important to understand that one of the main ways that a child learns is by imitation...and the people they imitate the most is the people they spend the most time with.....you probably think that I'm talkilng about you the parent and it might be you the parent...but it might be Flakey Bear or Princess Poofyhair on the television or video....
chownah
P.S. I guess what I'm trying to say is put some effort into learning about good parenting skills in general and then see how you can apply Buddhism to augment those skills.
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Re: Buddhist Parenting

Postby Colly » Fri Jul 01, 2011 12:57 pm

Thanks guys - some very sage advice there!

I have struggled with idea of relating some of the beneficial concepts that I feel would be valuable to my boys. They are young so I don't want to bury them in suttas and weighty philosophical ideas, so I appreciate your approaches from a day-to-day common sense point of view.
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Re: Buddhist Parenting

Postby Ben » Fri Jul 01, 2011 1:40 pm

Colly wrote:Thanks guys - some very sage advice there!

I have struggled with idea of relating some of the beneficial concepts that I feel would be valuable to my boys. They are young so I don't want to bury them in suttas and weighty philosophical ideas,

No, don't do that. It would be counter-productive.
Just maintain your practice and it will influence everything in your life including your relationships. You don't need to use the "B-word" or develop the "Buddhist parent" persona. Practicing Dhamma has as its foundation the development of yourself as a decent human being (sila), to develop self-mastery (samadhi) via samatha and the getting of wisdom from, predominantly, insight exercises or vipassana.

And as for parenting - I agree with Chownah that there are resources that are going to be more appropriate to your needs as a parent. I'm sure you would find those at your bookshop or local library and get a recommendation from your local family therapist. Depending of course on what particular issues you might be struggling with (as a parent).

I introduced the Dhamma to my kids. With both my boys they did a one-day's kids course, where they learn anapana-sati and sila, when they were nine and 10 years old respectively. And after the course I've left it up to them. My youngest son sometimes meditates with me and is interested in Dhamma but my older son thinks its as boring as can be. Having grown up in a staunch roman catholic family and had gone through the catholic education system the last thing I was goign to do is force-feed my children my religious 'preferences'.
kind regards

Ben
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725


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Re: Buddhist Parenting

Postby rowyourboat » Fri Jul 01, 2011 3:02 pm

Establish kids in Right view, teach them right and wrong, get them used to meditation, temples and monks. Do your own practice - they will copy you. Be a good kind human being - they will value those qualities. The parents are considered 'brahma'- 'gods' of the home. Try and live upto and practice in that way!

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Re: Buddhist Parenting

Postby Colly » Sat Jul 02, 2011 7:51 am

I am from a Catholic background too, the church was already loosing it's grasp on society as I was growing up - so my upbringing was moderate and quite happy within this scope. Most Irish people of my generation would acknowledge that we are more "culturally Catholic" than practicing. This heritage has left us with the paraphernalia of religion (marked by events such as first communions and confirmations) –in short our children are taught something very few practice or believe.

I came across this quote “The problem is if man does not believe in god, he will not believe in something, he will believe in anything" - and much as I don't want to drown my boys in weight of my beliefs as a Buddhist, I fear what they are left with if I don't provide something.

I agree that setting an example as parent is vital irrespective of beliefs, but there is a nurturing side of their spiritual growth I feel responsibility for... or maybe that is just the catholic hangover!
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Re: Buddhist Parenting

Postby William » Sat Jul 02, 2011 9:32 am

My son is still an infant so there is very little I do that could be considered "Buddhist parenting". I have no intention of raising him with any set of religious or moral beliefs, I feel (as does my wife) that it is better for him to find these things out on his own. I've found children to be naturally curious and so they will seek out answers on their own. When he comes to me, he will get a Buddhist perspective on life, if he were to go to his mother, he would get an irreligious one. He will have his own inclinations based on who he is.

I believe by following the Dhamma, the questions and problems that arise within parenting will work themselves out. Thereductor's post was very insightful in that regard in that there is no real "style" to parenting, just raising children through right and wrong. No book or TV personality can show you or teach you that, you only have that ability by being a good person.
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Re: Buddhist Parenting

Postby Ben » Sat Jul 02, 2011 10:51 am

Hi Colly
“The problem is if man does not believe in god, he will not believe in something, he will believe in anything"

Just one of those things that sound profound but are actually quite meaningless. The other thing is that its not that far removed from Believe in god or you will go to hell!

Check this out: http://www.samharris.org/site/full_text ... landscape/
kind regards

Ben
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725


Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global ReliefUNHCR
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Re: Buddhist Parenting

Postby Claudia » Sat Jul 02, 2011 1:51 pm

Thank you for that interesting topic.

I am raising two children - our elder daughter is 13 years old now, our foster daughter is 10 years and parenting both of them is very challenging.
When we adopted our eldest daughter in 1999, when I still dealt with the catholic religion in my mind. Our eldest daughter grew up in a Mother-Theresas-home in the slums of Nairobi and I absolutely admired the Mother-Theresa-sisters for their unconditional love they gave to all the children.
So we decided that our eldest daughter should be raised catholic (my husband is catholic, too - and I also was baptized catholic, but at that time, deep inside my heart I did not feel catholic, then), also to keep some of her roots.

We put her into a catholic kindergarten and a catholic elementary school. Although I appreciate the catholic religion: the school was horror for our daughter. But the roots of the horror was not the catholic religion but the teachers who "taught" it.
At that time I already decided to confess to Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha.
When I took refuge (the tibetan way), my eldest daughter was with me. Just a few years later, she left the catholic church with our permission.

At the moment she wants to be "free of any religion", but she is interested in the values of buddhism. I do not force her to learn about buddhism. At the moment, she is going through a very challenging stadium of her puberty and she has to decline a lot (especially what "mum" likes ). Nevertheless sometimes it happens that she shows a little interest, for example she wants to fast at fasting time. Recently she started to read the book "I give you my life" by Ayya Khema and from time to time she thinks a little about reincarnation and the buddhistic precepts.

In Germany we say "I catch the ball she is shooting to me", but the most important thing seems to be: not to force anything.


The parenting of our foster daughter is much more challenging. Our foster daughter has a severe mentally disability and we are not allowed by law to educate a religion her biological mother does not agree with.
The "problem": her mother is severely mentally sick and it is very, very challenging sometimes. If she has a good day, she accepts almost everything, if she has a bad day she goes to the court and wants her child back (I can understand that a mother wants her children back and I feel with her. Her life is a big tragedy and I feel grateful every day that I am healthy enough to raise the children that were entrusted to us).
When our foster daughter came to us, her mother wanted us to baptize her girl the lutheran way and so we did.

The other "problem": although the disabilities of our foster daughter, she loves to be in the Wat, she loves when we visit the monks. She always is happy when I take her to a buddhistic event and she signalized she wants to meditate. It is so touching.
In Germany we have another phrase: I walk on thin ice by law, when I practice with her.

On the one hand, I am not permitted - on the other hand, my foster daughter seems to feel very, very well whenever she is in the Wat or with the monks.

What I can do (without breaking the law and without forcing my daughters): I try to be a role model. The precepts are an integral part of my life, the Dhamma is an integral part of my life and I do not hide it.
I try to teach them patience and compassion by exemplify it by myself (a challenge, too).

I hava a wonderful husband on my side, who supports me in practicing the Dhamma, although he is not buddhistic - and so he agrees with the kind of education in this matter.

I wonder how everything will develop......
Many greetings from

Claudia
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Re: Buddhist Parenting

Postby manas » Sat Jul 02, 2011 9:40 pm

It's interesting to observe for me, how the aspects of dhamma that have become 'second nature' to me, are also those that come easily to my kids (for example, kindness to all animals, even the tiniest insect). Similarly, the defilements that I struggle with (and am trying to remedy) are the ones they also struggle with (sometimes overreacting with anger). So far I consistently notice how what I do matters so much more than anything I say (or which dhamma concepts I quote).

I'm not expert at parenting, and am still learning on the job here, as I have had to since my eldest daughter was born 12 years ago. Regarding her in particular, I'm reading a book about raising adolescent girls. Today's 'socialization by popular media' is a force to be reckoned with. We parents must hold our own as a positive influence against 'the culture of celebrity' in which being known matters more than what you are known for. It's not easy. Especially when you consider that a teen's peers have an increasing influence over a child as they pass through these challenging years.

Now that my eldest has finally hit puberty, I understand why people who don't know any better might end up having a strong one (drink) at the end of the day. It can be emotionally exhausting. Thank goodness I've got meditation for that (and a hot cup of Ovaltine). :thumbsup:
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Re: Buddhist Parenting

Postby rowyourboat » Sat Jul 02, 2011 11:18 pm

Buddhism for Mothers: A Calm Approach to Caring for Yourself and Your Children by Sarah Napthali (Paperback - 1 May 2003)

http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/?ie=UTF8&keyw ... mgx9m9r7_e
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Re: Buddhist Parenting

Postby retrofuturist » Sun Jul 03, 2011 1:02 am

Greetings,

Related topic...

Buddhism for the 21st Century Parent
viewtopic.php?f=14&t=3301

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Buddhist Parenting

Postby Colly » Mon Jul 04, 2011 7:13 pm

Again thank you all for your generous responses, there is a great deal of food for thought here.

I have a copy of the Sarah Napthali book, thought I was crossing some line buying a book for mothers! - but there is some really good stuff in there for both parents, odd that they would market it just to women?

Ben - the Sam Harris book is right up my street, will be getting a copy as soon as my pay check catches up with me and my mortgage! Thanks a very much for that. I don't feel that Chesterton quote is quite so vacuous, I think it expresses the need for spiritual substance in life - and that is a need that will be satisfied...the god shaped hole as it were (sorry I know that's cliched).

Claudia - I hope that you and your family are doing well. It strikes me as a great act of human kindness to open your home to foster a child. Obviously there are elements of bureaucracy in this process that complicate issues even further, you seem to have the measure of things there, I wish you all the best - you sound like a fantastic mother.

Thanks again guys.
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Re: Buddhist Parenting

Postby retrofuturist » Tue Jul 05, 2011 1:06 am

Greetings,
Colly wrote:I have a copy of the Sarah Napthali book, thought I was crossing some line buying a book for mothers! - but there is some really good stuff in there for both parents, odd that they would market it just to women?

I've read that, and whilst it was quite some time ago, I remember thinking it was pretty good... and is now part of an extended series from Sarah Napthali.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)
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