Tips for Moms (and Dads)
What are some of the qualities of a devotee of Krishna? The Caitanya Caritamrita gives a list of 26. As parents, it a great list to work with:
1 kind to everyone, 2 does not quarrel with anyone, 3 fixed in the Absolute Truth, 4 equal to everyone, 5 faultless, 6 charitable, 7 mild, 8 clean, 9 simple, without material possession, 10 benevolent, 11 peaceful, 12 completely attached to Krsna, 13 has no material hankering, 14 meek, 15 steady, 16 self-controlled, 17 does not eat more than required, 18 sane, 19 respectful, 20 humble, 21 grave, 22 compassionate, 23 friendly, 24 poetic, 25 silent, 26 expert
Whether we have all or some or none, it’s a good list to go to regularly as a reminder that living the teachings is more important than just knowing them. And, as parents, our children learn more from what we do and less from what we say. Below are the qualities connected to the important work of parenting:
1. Kind to Everyone
Sometimes we are kind to everyone outside of our home and unkind to those near to us. When we treat our children with kindness they will learn to be kind – a word of appreciation, a pat of encouragement, a hug of affection. Show kindness to others by giving a helping hand, giving charity, a offering a word of thanks. Kindness does not mean giving in to our child – it means never giving up on our child. We also show kindness by setting clear expectations, boundaries and following through on consequences.
2. Does not quarrel with anyone
Never quarrel with your spouse in front of your child. If you feel your temper rising with your children, take a step back, breathe, chant, or go for a walk. Remember, anger is one letter short of danger. Teenagers often like to quarrel with their parents about rules and restrictions. Don’t spend too much time on this. Set the rules and ignore the tantrum.
3. Fixed in the Absolute Truth
If you are a happy practitioner of Krishna Consciousness, you don’t have to say a word! This is the best thing you can do for your child (and yourself).
4. Equal to Everyone
This means that your child is a spirit soul, like you, and all living entities. We are all made of the same spiritual energy. This does not mean that a parent is equal to the child on an external level. Your child needs you to be the adult, a self-assured and guiding adult. But respect the soul and Supersoul within. Your job is to help awaken spiritual consciousness in your child.
To err is human and certainly we cannot claim to be without mistake. However, if we sincerely try to raise our children in a balanced and loving way, connected to Krishna, then we can be said to be faultless.
Charitable means a giving mood. It means being open-hearted and generous – with our time, our words, and our things. Spend generous time with your children – they grow up quickly. Give to those in need in front of your children and with your children. Talk to them about being grateful about what we have in life, and the importance of sharing and giving to others who don’t have. Help them to give others an experience of Krishna Bhakti in fun and interesting ways. Create good memories of giving in charity.
A devotee parent does not overreact to the good or the bad in the world. Your child will sometimes be really good, and sometimes not. Be consistent, and allow time for your child to learn from her mistakes. Guide her towards good habits and away from the bad and tolerate while she is learning. Remember, happiness and distress come and go like winter and summer.
Keep your house clean and organized. This brings a great sense of goodness, peace and security for your child. It also helps you remain calm and in control. Clean with your children – it takes extra time but has lasting benefits. Cleanliness takes work, but the results are powerful!
9. Simple, Without Material Possession
Whether it is your karma to possess a lot or a little, it all belongs to Krishna. Teach your child how to keep it well and use it properly. Avoid indulging your child with too many games and gadgets all too soon. There is a time and place for everything. Let him learn to live with less, and be happy with that. Don’t give in to all his “I wants” or 'It's not fair.'. Let him earn it or receive it on a special day. ‘Things’ are no substitute for relationship, so don’t try to ‘buy’ his love. It never works
Parents are meant to be benevolent to their children. This is your dharma. And the best giving is the deep and rich philosophy and lifestyle of Krishna Consciousness. Care for and appreciate your children and you will learn much from them.
Peaceful means being in the mode of goodness, at peace with yourself as an adult and therefore being able to give your best to your child. Keeping Krishna an active part of your life brings real peace. Peaceful also means balancing out your life and not being too busy all the time. It means that when you spend time with your child or family you are not distracted by other things. They sense that you are happy to be with them and that you value their company.
12. Completely Attached to Krsna
Make this the important goal of your life, but remember it takes time. Don’t be fanatical and sacrifice your family in your efforts to be Krishna Conscious. Helping your children love and serve Krishna will help you develop your attachment to Krishna.
13. Has No Material Hankering
It’s good to model this for your children. Not that we don’t need material things to live a comfortable life, but we should avoid ‘keeping up with the Jones’ and trying to show off our material acquisitions. Children pick up on this superficiality right away, and lose respect for the parents. We need to help our children lead a more meaningful life, from the inside out.
As devotees we should act like ladies and gentlemen. As parents too. To be meek means less arrogance and less false ego. To control your children does not demand roughness, rudeness or sarcasm. Consistency, keeping your word, and genuinely acting in the interest of your child is where strength lies.
This is an important quality a parent needs. When you are a steady person in your child’s life, she will grow up feeling safe and secure, which leads to self-confidence and healthy relationships with others. Be steady in your spiritual practices, in your reliability, and in your support for and interaction with your child. When you are steady, your child can depend on you. Relationships of love and trust blossom on this foundation
The quality of self-control is especially important when parenting. A parent needs to stand back and let his child ‘fight his own battles’ so to speak. There is nothing worse than a hovering parent, who cannot resist jumping in and helping or rescuing their child from a difficult or challenging situation. This does not refer to imminent danger. Rather, we have to control the impulse to make things easy or solve all our child’s problems. The main message our children receive when we do this is ‘My parents don’t think I am capable.’ When they have to figure it out themselves and stand on their own two feet, that’s where growth and strength develop. Allow them the space to struggle. This is one of your most important parenting tasks.
17. Does not eat more than required
Be a fit and healthy parent and keep your children fit and healthy. Offer everything to Krishna, eat freshly cooked food and avoid junk food. Give your child good eating habits from a young age – on time. This includes learning to take as much as you care to and can eat and not wasting prasadam. Also, eating together as a family is a very good daily ritual. Highly recommended.
Your children may drive you insane at times! But remember, they are just children. You are the adult, the elder and you need to know how to bring things back to balance. Think calm, cool, and in control. Know when they have crossed the line in terms of behavior or attitude and make sure you bring them back to a better place.
Respect is the foundation of all other qualities. Do not speak badly about your child’s school or teachers in front of him. In fact, do not speak badly about anyone in front of your child. Expect your child to be polite and respectful to all adults. Naughty is fine, but there is nothing worse than a spoilt, disrespectful child. Do not make your child the center of attention. Teach him the importance of serving and respecting others.
Humility is the jewel of the vaisnava, and true humility captures Krishna. Always remind your child how ultimately insignificant we are, and it is by Krishna’s mercy alone that we can accomplish anything in this world. Humility also means being able to apologise if you have done something wrong. Don’t be afraid to say “I’m sorry” if you have not acted properly with your children. Teach your child to apologise sincerely - “I am sorry. What can I do to make it better?”
A child needs his parents to be grave at times, so that they are reminded of the serious nature of this world, and the responsibilities of fulfilling the purpose of life. The Gita tells us it is a dangerous world, there is a lot of suffering, and we have to be very careful about the choices we make. Karma is reality, and we map our next life by how we act in this one. Gravity can keep us grounded in doing the right thing as parents.
How important it is to give the quality of empathy to our children. A vaisnava doesn’t like to see an ant suffer. Awareness and compassion for others’ suffering helps us be grateful for what we have. Use every opportunity to help your children be sensitive to the needs of others, including animals and the earth.
Your child needs you as a parent, not as a friend. That doesn’t mean you can’t be friendly! Being jolly, happy, friendly, and encouraging – these are all positive qualities that should be around the home. Being friendly also means being happy in the company of your children and being happy to see them.
Expose your children to the beautiful writings and poetry of the great classics of the Krishna Bhakti practice – the Gita, Bhagavatam, Mahabharata and Ramayana. Encourage the artistic development of your child – music, poetry, theatre, art – all which can be used to their full extent in the service of Krishna.
Silence is powerful, often more powerful than speaking. Choose your battles carefully with your child. Reduce the noise pollution in your home (turn of the media) and allow your child to experience the joy of quietness and calm. Make the holy name a loved part of your family life as that is the true definition of silence.
Become an expert parent. Work on yourself to be a better person, a better vaisnava. Be open to learn from others and be ready to change if there is disharmony in your home. Remember what Gandhi said – ‘Become the change you want to see’. Also, don’t try to change others; change yourself and automatically others will change. Be sincere and pray to Krishna to help you parent to the best of your ability – and be ready to work hard at fulfilling that role.