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Thread: Raising my...future kid

  1. #1

    Raising my...future kid

    Possibly one of the most important questions I will ever ask. My wife and I (yup...I am actually a guy) are thinking about having a baby and as a responsible future parent I have been thinking about the types of principles that I would like to instill into my child. I am sure that most of you have kids and so I ask you...how do you start explaining Buddhist concepts to a little-person that will be raised in a non Buddhist society? My parents were not Catholics, but raised me as one just because...well...everyone in my town was Catholic. While the teachings of Jesus surely taught me some discipline (the "do it or else" approach is questionable but very effective ) I always tried to fit in the best I could, forced my way into becoming a good Christian and, when I could not stand it anymore, I had to undo everything on my own and start from scratch. Considering that my kid will be raised in a non Buddhist society, I wonder if I should instill Buddhist principles into him/her from the start (e.g. do any of your kids sit with you?) or should I go for a most "standardized" education until he/she finds his/her own way? It is maybe too early to think about this...but I am still questioning the choice of bringing a new life into this strange, overly-polluted, ultra-competitive, yet beautiful world.

    Thanks,

    Andrea

  2. #2
    Hi Andrea,

    Well, there are Buddhist story books to read, maybe some local children's "Sunday school" at some Buddhist temple in your community (they are rare, but they do exist). But those are, by far, not the most important thing. What is the most important?

    Simply how you and your wife lead your lives each day as an example to your kids as they are growing up. What kind of environment do you create? Someone wise once said to me that we parents do not "raise kids". Simply, we create an environment that is safe and nutritious for the kids to grow ... like soil and flowers.

    How do you react to situations? Are you very materialistic? Quick to anger? How do you react to all the latest fashions and silliness that people are trying to sell in the TV commercials. Is your home loving and non-violent? How do you handle sad times and days of difficulty? Watching you guys is the best Buddhist Teaching ... and it does not hurt to mention the "Buddha" word now and then too!

    Gradually, as they grow older you can explain more to them about "What the Buddha taught", Zazen and such ... but the most important thing they will recall is how you lived it, not what you said in words.

    That is my view on the best ways to raise kids as Buddhists. I want to hear from our other moms and dads in the Sangha on how they handle such things.

    Gassho, J
    Last edited by Jundo; 03-05-2014 at 02:01 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

    #SAT TODAY!

  3. #3
    Senior Member Clark's Avatar
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    Hello Andrea

    My wife is Catholic, and although raised Congregational Protestant I have very much been more bent towards Eastern philosophy, Taoism and Buddhism for most of my adult life. I am studying and learning here what it means to be a Zen Buddhist. In our home we are teaching both. We are very low key about the whole thing and we take the kids to church and I teach them about my Zen Buddhist practice when they ask questions. One of my sons sits with me sometimes. Though my wife and I each have our different perspective, we are trying to teach our children our respective faiths, but also to think for themselves , and that it is ok to question, learn and explore. I live in the Southern US most people around us are VERY "Christian" I have also tried to teach my children it is important to be respectful of others beliefs, and that you don't have to agree with them to do so. Sometimes this is difficult when you are dealing with very adamant and fundamental people. But learning that there are those types of people is part of an education too right? For me it is important to be honest with my children about who I am, and allow them to learn that and grow into who they are. If you ever want to discus this feel free to write to me.
    Gassho
    C

  4. #4
    Hi Andrea

    Both myself and ex-wife (kid's mother) are Buddhist but we have not gone out of our way to teach Buddhist concepts to the kids. As Jundo says, modelling compassion and simplicity are the most important things. And Clark is spot on about respect of other people's beliefs.

    My ex-wife takes the kids to a Theravadin summer camp each year and they love it. They learn far more about dharma there than they do from us. We do have Buddhist story books, though, and a a favourite Zen one is 'Zen Shorts' by Jon Muth which features the adorable panda Clearwater. There is also a good children's book on the Buddha's life which has a supplementary colouring book. Buddhanet has some good resources for children including colouring and I made use of these when teaching Buddhism basics for the local school: http://www.buddhanet.net/ebooks_childrens.htm

    One non-dharma books I have found very useful is 'How To Talk So Children Will Listen and Listen So Children Will Talk' by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish.

    It is, though, most important to show how to live and engage with people as all the dharma in the world will be useless without that. As someone wise once said "Do not fear that your children are not listening to you, fear that they are watching you every move and learning from it."

    Gassho
    Andy (dad to three small Bodhisattvas in training)

  5. #5
    Hi Andrea,

    Buddhism is just a word, another drawer.
    When it comes to my child I don't want to present her with any labels or drawers, i.e. I don't raise her in a "special way".
    I just show her through my behaviour what I personally (i.e. not necessarily as a Buddhist) think is right. When I explain something I hardly mention Buddha or Buddhism - I just keep it on the personal level.
    Later my daughter can decide for herself what she feels most comfortable with. Of course there is some passive influence by me I cannot avoid - she sees me doing zazen every day, wearing a rakusu, etc.
    When she asks me certain things about the world my perspective shows a Buddhist flavour, but I try to leave any religious/philosophical aspects out of it.

    Gassho,

    Daitetsu
    no thing needs to be added

  6. #6
    Senior Member Joyo's Avatar
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    Hello, welcome to Treeleaf. I am Buddhist and my husband is a universalist/liberal Christian. We have agreed to raise them without any pushing of religion on them. So far, they are not interested in any of it. They see me sitting, and their dad going to church on Sundays, but they are not forced to partake. If they want to, they are always welcome, but not pushed at all.

    For me, personally, mostly due to experiences with how I was raised and intolerant family members, what's more important than teaching my children a particular religion is tolerance and respect for all religions and faiths.

    All religions are the same when studied at the core. So what we focus on is not Jesus/Buddhha/God etc. etc. but on the universal principles of love, kindness, respect, and even standing up for oneself if being bullied.

    Gassho,
    Joyo

  7. #7
    Thank you very much for sharing your opinions and personal experiences. I truly appreciate it! I have always imagined that a good parent should propose but not impose a certain view of the world, and guide his kid in the right direction while allowing him to find his own voice; not an easy task and such a great responsibility. Interestingly enough, most of my friends that are fully aware of how difficult it is to be a good parent have no kids (well, one kid at the most), while other people I know that are not too concerned about these important questions have two kids or more. It cannot just be a coincidence. Anyway, thanks again!

    A.

  8. #8
    Treeleaf Unsui Dosho's Avatar
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    Andrea,

    My boys are 4 & 8 and the subject has only come up a handful of times, mostly my oldest asking me about something he saw me doing like zazen, bowing, or chanting. He did run into one classmate who asked him if he went church and, when he said no, proceeded to tell him he would be going to Hell. I once told him that he could follow any religion he wanted and he hugged me and just yesterday said he'd probably be a buddhist too. I don't push it at all and answer any question he has. I teach him to be tolerant of other's beliefs, but in terms of some plan for his religious education? No, that's never been our plan. I just try to model the behavior I would like him to emulate, but I also tell myself I have to accept it if he were to completely reject it. For me, parenting is preparing him for life in the world and the day when he could choose to walk away. I hope he doesn't, but that's my gift to him; the freedom to make that choice.

    Gassho,
    Dosho
    Ordained Priest -In-Training
    Please take what I say with a grain of salt,
    especially in matters of the Dharma!

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Dosho View Post
    I just try to model the behavior I would like him to emulate...
    This in itself has a huge impact! =)

    Gassho
    Shingen
    倫道 真現

    As a trainee priest, please take any commentary by me on matters of the Dharma with a pinch of salt.

  10. #10
    >For me, parenting is preparing him for life in the world and the day when he could choose to walk away. I hope he doesn't, but that's my gift to him; the freedom to make that choice.
    Wow...that is so nice to hear. Possibly, that is the highest form of parental love.

    The topic of religion is an interesting one for sure. I am very tolerant but have experienced first hand the consequences of believing in something out of fear. I do not blame anyone for the sleepless nights I passed trying to force on myself a religion I did not believe in, but because of my experience with Religion I would like to spare my kid from having to figure things out on his own (I keep writing "he/his/him...I guess I'd like to have a boy...just kidding)". As I said in my previous post, I believe in proposing (to a kid, to a friend...or to anyone I care about) and not imposing the way I way I see things.

    Thanks again for listening and for your precious comments. Time to go sit

    A.

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