Buddhist Philosophy

Advice for Buddhist Parents

Buddhist parents sometimes ask how best to apply the teachings when relating to their family life. In this short audio teaching, Phakchok Rinpoche shares some practical advice for Buddhist parents.

Buddhist Parents

Buddhist Parents Teach by Example

First and foremost, Rinpoche repeats a common theme — be kind! Then, we can help children by modeling good behavior.  When we engage in practice — meditation, pujas, rituals — let the kids come into the meditation or shrine area. Welcome them into this part of the home and try to talk very simply and gently about compassion, kindness, and goodness.

Encourage children to be generous, and show them how to give to those who are less fortunate. This is important. We shouldn’t hide the truth of poverty and suffering from children. Instead, we can take them to homeless shelters or soup kitchens and teach them how to give correctly with great respect. We can demonstrate how to treat everybody with kindness and with love.

Younger Children

Also, we can tell some simple stories about buddhas, bodhisattvas, and Guru Rinpoche.

As we put the kids to bed, we can teach them to ask Guru Rinpoche for blessings. When children are 6-10 years old, we can share a lot of advice and stories. We can also share short, easily understandable tips without making it too heavy or like a lecture. For example, we can suggest that when they feel upset or frustrated, they can learn how to handle that by focusing gently on the breath.

As the children mature, we can share more so when they are teenagers, we can give them simple booklets to read. But we need to be wise. We can’t push too much with teenagers or they may rebel.


When children reach their teens, they often put up resistance or rebellion. So, at that time, we learn to be careful not to bombard them with information. Be delicate and just use hints at this stage!

Young Adults

Once children end their teens and enter their twenties, we can give them the opportunity to go to Dharma centers or to attend meditation retreats. Again, we shouldn’t push them too hard — but allow them the opportunity to explore. Often if they spend just one or two days at a center it is enough to give them a taste. And encourage them to go to centers where there are other young people around. It is much more welcoming if they meet people their own age who are interested in the dharma and in following a spiritual path.

Buddhist parents

We can learn how to be skillful in this way. It is also good to give them some responsibility because we only grow when we take on responsibility. In the beginning, start with little things, like helping to light incense or cleaning the shrine area.

But we also can encourage our children to grow by giving them responsibilities in daily life, like helping to care for their brothers and sisters. When we apply such methods skillfully, we can instill kindness and compassion.

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Suggested Reading

Dudjom Rinpoche, The Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism, trans. and ed. by Gyurme Dorje and Matthew Kapstein (Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1991), vol. 1, pages 468–474.

Ngawang Zangpo, Guru Rinpoche: His Life and Times, Ithaca: Snow Lion, 2002.

Nyoshul Khenpo, A Marvelous Garland of Rare Gems: Biographies of Masters of Awareness in the Dzogchen Lineage, trans. Richard Barron (Junction City: Padma Publishing, 2005), pages 41–48.

Padmasambhava, Legend of the Great Stupa, Berkeley: Dharma Publishing, 1973

Padmasambhava & Jamgön Kongtrul, The Light of Wisdom, trans. by Erik Pema Kunsang (Boudhanath: Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 1986-1999), pages 43-47 & Appendix 5.

Taranatha, The Life of Padmasambhava, Shang Shung Edizioni, 2005

Tulku Thondup, Masters of Meditation and Miracles, Shambhala, 1996.

Yeshe Tsogyal, Life and Liberation of Padmasambhava, translated by Kenneth Douglas and Gwendolyn Bays (Emeryville: Dharma Publishing, 1978, republished 2008).

Yeshe Tsogyal, Lotus Born: The Life Story of Padmasambhava, Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 2004.

‘The Life of Guru Padmasambhava’ in A Great Treasure of Blessings, The Tertön Sogyal Trust, 2004.