Parental Compassion-2

The same goes for a parent-child bond as well. “Giving them whatever they want” does not necessarily make one a good parent. Kids want a lot of things. Everyone does. But that doesn’t mean that everything they desire is right for them. I’m not suggesting, even for a moment, that you become a harsh parent. It is, however, important to know where to be firm. If you keep children in touch with reality, it’ll be much easier for them to adjust in the real world when they step out.

Being god-fearing, moral, genuine etc. means you are a good person. If you are successful at work, that means you are a competent worker. If you love and care for your partner it shows you are a good husband or wife. Your competency in any area will bring you corresponding rewards. None of this implies that you are a good parent though. No doubt these factors contribute to the well-being of a family. When it comes to sound parenting, however, there’s certainly more to it than providing your children with whatever they want.

As in the anecdote above, a good parent must know when and where to be firm. To love is not to do whatever they want you to do. That has never made anyone happy in the longer term anyway. Instead, to love is to stand your ground where needed for the betterment of your children. They will express their displeasure and it requires a stone heart to see a sad child, but they’ll thank you later. Once again, I say, you don’t have to be harsh. There’s no need to shout, argue violently, or be mad at them. You can be gentle and still be firm.

Be compassionate, be firm, but do so mindfully. Just remember that no one wants to fail, no one wants to be angry or sad, or a loser. Kids have just as much pressure and stress in their lives as their parents. So go a little easy, but do so mindfully. While growing up, I don’t have even one recollection of my mother ever shouting or getting angry, and yet there were many instances when she was firm. One rule was that our report cards that required a parent’s signature would be signed by our father, for example. At times, like when score in maths or physics was the same as my dog’s age, we whined and complained but mother wouldn’t relent. It was non-negotiable. Father would sign. Eventually, we understood and aligned ourselves to score better.

“I got my report card, Dad,” 14-year-old Johnny said.

He had scored rather poorly and feared a severe reprimand. His father grabbed his specs to read the report card.

“And look what else I found, Dad!” Johnny handed him a soiled paper. “In the attic, I also chanced upon your report card when you were fourteen. We have scored at par!”

“Hmmm…” the father said comparing his own report card with his son’s. “You are absolutely right, Johnny. They almost look identical.”

Johnny beamed triumphantly.

“Therefore, son,” his father said reaching out to his slipper, “it’s only reasonable that I give you what my father gave me.”

No, Johnny didn’t get a candy or an Xbox. And no, this is not an example of parental compassion. Humor aside, the truth is, an unexpected punishment damages the relationship because the quantum of such penalty is always debatable. The terms of non-performance must be negotiated beforehand so both kids and parents know exactly what is expected from each other. It sounds obvious but you’ll be surprised to see how many parents rather than simply and gently stating their expectations start lecturing instead. I call it OLD – Obsessive Lecture Disorder. It has never helped anyone. Generally, more old a parent, more serious the OLD. A while back I wrote, pain is inevitable but suffering is optional. In the same vein: old is inevitable but OLD is optional. Be gentle.

If you tackle OLD with mindfulness, understanding and practicing parental compassion, the quality of your relationship will improve immensely. They will grow up to be more fulfilled adults, more together, making our world a better place. Mindful compassion or soft discipline is not enough on its own though. (No one said it was easy.)

Om Namah Shivay

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Parental Compassion-1

 “I’ve always been a good parent and supported my children at every step,” a somewhat distressed parent said to me a few weeks back, “and yet, they don’t really respect me. They are struggling in their lives and tell me that I’ve been a terrible father. I don’t get it, I always loved them, allowed them to do whatever they wanted. They got the best clothes, gadgets and so on. I don’t think I cheated anyone, I’ve been god-fearing. I never thought my kids would end up like this. Where did I go wrong?”

I’ve been asked similar questions many a time. What’s truly remarkable is that most kids and parents actually only mean well. They try too hard. Kids want their parents to be proud of them and vice-versa. So where is the mismatch? I hear it all the time that such-and-such person is a bad father or mother, they are irreligious, immoral etc. and yet their families are flourishing and their kids are doing great. Where’s the justice in that?

It’s the wrong way to look at life, in my view. Having personally met a few thousand parents and children in the last few years, however, I’m happy to share some thoughts based on my observations and diagnosis of life. Let me begin with a story from Stephen Hodge’s Zen Master Class.

Several of the monks at Dogen’s monastery had noticed a deer grazing nearby. They began to feed it scraps of food. After a while the deer became trusting and would eat out of their hands. Having taken to heart Dogen’s teachings about compassion and all, the monks were pleased with themselves. However, Dogen was less happy when he heard about the deer. When a suitable opportunity arose, he threw sticks and stones at the deer, which ran away frightened.

The monks were scandalized by Dogen’s actions and confronted him demanding an explanation. “We were kindly feeding the deer, but you have cruelly thrown stones at it so it no longer visits.”

“So you think you were being compassionate, do you?” Dogen replied. “It is dangerous for a deer to become accustomed to people.”

The monks protested, “We would never do anything to hurt it. We were just feeding it.”

“No, you didn’t intend to hurt the deer, but what if the next person your tame deer met was a hunter?”

Om Namah Shivay

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Four Aspects of Mindful Parenting-3

Here’s the secret of joy in a relationship: don’t take yourself too seriously.

Freedom (Upeksha)

Many such scholars as Thich Nhat Hanh define upeksha as equanimity or freedom. Perhaps, the true test of trust in a relationship is how much freedom it grants, and also how such privilege is used. There’s another meaning of upeksha though: patience. And, patience is something that most parents possess and lose in abundance — strangely, at the same time sometimes.

“Do you know when Abraham Lincoln was of your age he studied under the street lamps?” This was what a father said to his 14-year-old every time he scolded him, which was nearly everyday. He thought it would inspire his child. For months, the boy listened to the same argument over and over again.

One day he couldn’t take it any more and shot back. “Dad,” he said, “do you know when Abraham Lincoln was of your age, he was the president of the United States of America!”

Be patient. Understand that when you were 15 or 20, you were going through very similar challenges too as they are facing now. You also loved lazing around, getting up late perhaps, feeding on junk food and so on. Maybe there were times when you told lies, bunked classes and fooled around. This is all part of growing up.

As parents, or in love, you only mean well but you can’t teach them everything. And you shouldn’t try to. For there are certain lessons only life can impart. And, life never transmits a lesson alone. It does so with time. We can do the best we can and the rest must be left to time. The flower of life only unfolds with time. Rushing it is wrecking it.

Be patient. Be gentle. Be kind. Take it easy.

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Reading is a way for me to expand my mind, open my eyes, and fill up my heart.

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Try to disconnect from technology and sit down with a good book on a regular basis.

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Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.

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Volunteer with a local reading program.

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The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.

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A room without books is like a body without a soul.

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Start a collection of your favorite books, and loan them out to friends and family.

Om Namah Shivay

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Four Aspects of Mindful Parenting-2

Time (Samaya)

The most important question is do you have time for parenting? Luxuries, best education, gadgets do not make up for time. Good parenting requires that you give your children time. I know it’s demanding at work and you come home tired and have no energy to even utter a word, but to make a “good parent” you have to give “good time”.

This may mean cutting down on your TV or other activities and spending more time with your child(ren). Or it could be that you curtail your professional ambitions and put your family higher on the priority list. A family doesn’t need to be in a million-dollar home to be happy. You don’t have to take out that big mortgage or have a premium car. Millions of people communicate comfortably without an iPhone. You get the idea.

It’s not just true for parenting but everything. Whatever you want to nurture, you have to devote it time. Give time to angry thoughts and anger grows. Give your time to loving thoughts and love grows and so on. Want to learn anything, give it time.

Friendship (Maitri)

Ordinarily, maitri is referred to as loving-kindness. Its literal meaning is friendship. Anything coming from or given by a friend or even belonging to a friend is maitri. With friends, we can pour our heart out without being judged. If your children can come home and share their pains and sorrows without the fear of reprisal or penalties, the tree of friendship will take deep roots.

And, it’s true not just for a parent-child but all relationships. Friendship is the fuel. Lack of maitri, where two people are more focused on keeping things from each other than sharing them, gives rise to permanent undercurrents of tension and discomfort. As I have written many a time earlier that being a friend doesn’t mean you always say yes. On the contrary, it means to be able to say No in a positive way. It is to disagree while maintaining a healthy relationship. It is not as hard as it may sound in a sincere relationship.

Joy (Mudita)

Mudita is a simple word with a straightforward meaning: joy. Even if you have compassion and you are devoting time to parenting and there’s a degree of friendship but your relationship lacks joy, it’ll get very difficult very quickly. The joy of celebrating victories, the joy of having a family, the joy of laughing away at the pranks of life. The heart to live through failures. The courage to forgive and seek forgiveness. A sort of openness and honesty allows you to be comfortable with those around you.

If most conversations with your kids revolve around lecturing them, however soft or positive you may sound, even as friends, joy in your relationship with them will evaporate in no time. They’ll start avoiding you. Most parents have this strong tendency to keep showering advice on their children. Of course, it’s done with the right intention but would you feel joyous being with a “friendly” boss who keeps telling you how to become better? Sometimes, no advice is the best advice.

 

Om Namah Shivay

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Four Aspects of Mindful Parenting-1

There’s a term often used in Vedic writings. They call it brahmachari. It’s frequently, and limitedly, interpreted as celibacy. Its true meaning, however, has little to do with abstinence. Brahmachari means the one who acts (acharna) like a divine being (brahma). To this effect, Buddhist texts call such a person Brahma vihari — the one whose conduct is noble and divine. There are four aspects of such a person. You inculcate these four and any relationship becomes divine. When it comes to love and parenting, in my view, there’s a fifth element as well.

Continuing from last week, where I covered the first one — compassion (karuna) — let me spell out the remaining four beginning with the most important one. As has become our wont, sort of, let me share a quick story first.

A contract worker had to do double shift at work. He came home knackered and irritated (you know that feeling).

“Dad,” his 6-year-old son said, “how much do you make an hour?”

“Not now, son,” he said. “Besides, you should know that it’s a rude question.”

“But, I just wanna know!”

“What the hell!” the man hollered. “Your tired father comes home and rather than giving me a hug you ask me a dumb question.”

“But, I want to buy something urgently,” the boy persisted.

“You selfish little weed!” The father lost it completely. “Get lost!”

“But—”

“No arguments! Get back to your room.”

The boy stood there with his head hung low. His eyes welled up and a tear trickled down.

“Go to your room, I said! Now!”

The son quietly walked back to his room and shut the door behind him.

At night, after the father had had his dinner and calmed down, he went to the little boy.

“I’m sorry, son,” he said. “I was very tired and I don’t know what came over me. What do you want to buy?”

“First tell me how much you make,” the boy said timidly.

“$20 an hour.”

Reaching under his pillow, he pulled out some money. Crumpled $1 bills, some nickels and dimes he had been saving for weeks.

“Here’s $10, Dad,” he said putting the money in his hands. “Will you play with me for 30 minutes?”

The father’s enraged reaction to the first question might seem unreasonable but that’s what anger is: unreasonable. In hindsight, after you’ve calmed down, you see how it was excessive or unjust but while going through the emotion, it feels right. Anyway, I haven’t cited this story to highlight anger but for an entirely different reason which leads me to the first principle of parenting.

Om Namah Shivay

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Let your children commit mistakes

“Only one thing you can do, and that is share your own life. Tell them that you have been conditioned by your parents, that you have lived within certain limits, according to certain ideals, and because of these limits and ideals you have missed life completely, and you don’t want to destroy your children’s life. You want them to be totally free – free of you, because to them you represent the whole past.”

But I’m a parent, I love my children, how can I let go of them?

“It needs guts and it needs immense love in a father, in a mother, to tell the children, ‘You need to be free of us. Don’t obey us – depend on your own intelligence. Even if you go astray it is far better than to remain a slave and always remain right. It is better to commit mistakes on your own and learn from them, rather than follow somebody else and not commit mistakes. But then you are never going to learn anything except following – and that is poison, pure poison.

‘It is very easy if you love. Don’t ask “how,” because ‘how’ means you are asking for a method, a methodology, a technique – and love is not a technique.’

“Love your children, enjoy their freedom. Let them commit mistakes, help them to see where they have committed a mistake. Tell them, ‘To commit mistakes is not wrong – commit as many mistakes as possible, because that is the way you will be learning more. But don’t commit the same mistake again and again, because that makes you stupid.’”

“What I am saying is in creating children who have freedom, who have heard ‘yes’ and have rarely heard ‘no,’ the authoritarian society will disappear. We will have a more human society.

“So it is not only a question of the children. Those children are going to become tomorrow’s society: the child is the father of man.”

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Leave a little room for imperfections. Imperfections exist at three levels; physical, mental and emotional, i.e., body, thought and emotions. If you don’t accept the imperfections on the physical level, you become more and more imperfect on the mental and emotional level.

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If you have digested the knowledge of ‘who you are and what this universe is all about’, then it is impossible to not be a loving person.

Om Namah Shivay

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Are you proud of your Dad?

Really good one for the generations to come for the well being.

Are you proud of your Dad?????

On the first day, as President Abraham Lincoln entered to give his inaugural address,  just in the middle, one man stood up. He was a rich aristocrat.

He said, “Mr. Lincoln, you should not forget that your father used to make shoes for my family .” And the whole Senate laughed; they thought they had made a fool of Abraham Lincoln.

But Lincoln and that type of people are made of a totally different mettle.

Lincoln looked at the man and said, ” Sir I know that my father used to make shoes in your house for your family, and there will be many others here…. Because the way he made shoes; nobody else can. He was a creator. His shoes were not just shoes; he poured his whole soul in it.

I want to ask you, have you any complaint? Because I know how to make shoes myself.

If you have any complaint, I can make another pair of shoes.

But as far as I know, nobody has ever complained about my father’s shoes. He was a genius, a great creator and I am proud of my father”.

The whole Senate was struck dumb. They could not understand what kind of man Abraham Lincoln was.

He was proud because his father did the job so well that not even a single complaint had ever been heard.

Moral of the story

Are you proud or embarrassed of your dad and what he used to do for a living?

“No one can hurt you without your consent.”

” It is not what happens to us that hurts us. It is our response that hurts us.”

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Kindness

We can understand the pains of others only when we too face the same problems.

Our parents have painfully taken efforts to bring us up in our life. Without realizing this, we are showing anger on them.

Most of the boys and girls realize the greatness of their parents Only when they get married and face the difficulties of bringing up their children

In fact, we have to trust our parents and also support them very well to avoid guilty feeling later.

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Being in Utter Love

A dear person whom you trust lies to you and you catch him. What do you feel?

Sadness
Anger
Cheated
Disappointment
Compassion
Let down
Loss of respect
Wonder
Shock
Embarrassment

Recently when someone lied to me, I felt happy and more love, for they were not a good liar. Had he been a good liar, he would not have been caught. I thought He is so innocent that he could not even lie properly. He lied and got caught! If he had not been caught, how would ever you know he was a liar?

So you can never know a good liar.

The person you call a liar is not a good liar and he is innocent. Isn’t he? And so… (laugh), you need not go through all the above listed mental gymnastics. Instead melt and dissolve in love.

Om Namah Shivay

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