Buddhist parents sometimes ask how best to apply the teachings when relating in their family life. In this short audio teaching, Phakchok Rinpoche shares some practical advice for 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.
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 need to be careful not to bombard them with information. Be delicate and just use hints at this stage!
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 too hard — just one or two days 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.
We need to be skillful in this way. We also have 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 need to give children some responsibilities in daily life, like helping to care for their brothers and sisters. Such methods, applied skillfully, instill kindness and compassion.