How to Teach Your Child Buddhism

DharmaChildren are amazing creatures.  They learn quickly and adapt to their surroundings to create their own calm and peace.  Their ability to see the world through innocent eyes is a lesson many adults could learn to incorporate in their daily living.  However, children do grow up and become teenagers.  Sometimes, we need to teach those valuable lessons they once taught us and some lessons that they seem to have forgotten along the way.

Lately, we have been suffering through our 12 year old daughter’s ego.  It has gotten to the point where she can hurt others without realizing that she is doing so.  She is also testing all of her boundaries; especially slacking off in the area of obedience and respect.  We discovered that a lot of this negative behavior stems from her need to be the center of attention.  We give both our girls equal attention and have found a way to give them one-on-one attention with Daddy/Daughter and Mother/Daughter days.  However, this need to be center of attention has outweighed many of her positive traits and has become somewhat unbearable for the rest of the family.

A couple of weeks ago, this very child asked to attend a youth group meeting with her friend.  I was so enthusiastic about her desire to go to church that I practically pushed her out the door.  She was giddy, happy, and excited that she finally got to do something fun with one of her friends on a school day.  When she returned home about two hours later, her mood had shifted and she tried to distract me with other things that did not involve her visit to the missionary church.  When we finally sat down at the table, she continued rambling on as to what girl liked what boy and so on.

“So, did you have fun at youth group tonight?”  I interrupted her, trying to veer her back to that night’s activities.

She immediately quieted down and said, “Yes.”

“And, did you learn anything?”

“Yes.”  She quietly said while she wrapped her arms around her chest and looked down.

“What did you learn?”

“Obedience.”

It was barely a whisper but I caught it anyways, and I could no longer suppress my giggle as she scowled at me.  God truly does work in mysterious ways!

Compassion-Dalai-Lama-9781442340596This very same girl had also expressed to me that she is unsure of which religion to choose.  My husband and I have always been opened to various forms of religion, and we have taught our daughters to do the same.  Acceptance of other’s religion is highly important to our family.  It is a form of discrimination if we judge others for what we believe, and therefore we do not judge people based on their belief system.  So far, the girls have learned about the Mormon, Catholic, Methodist and Baptist churches.

Now that they are of the age to understand the more complex religions out in the world, my husband and I have started with Buddhism.  We thought that our quest to teach the girls this form of religion will help them with lessons of compassion and respect to other living beings along this journey that we call life.  Richard found a book called How to Be Compassionate by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.  It was just what we were looking for to start our four months of lessons in Buddhism.

220px-Seven_Years_in_Tibet_coverLast week, our family sat down to watch Seven Years in Tibet.  It gave our girls a greater understanding of the Buddhist way prior to our lesson plans.  We explained the way of the Buddha.  They asked questions and we answered which left our study sessions free to focus on certain issues without spending too much time on the history.

We have a Sangha that meets regularly at our local art studio.  However, children can tend to be restless and disturb the group’s meditations.  They are allowed to join only if they can maintain a sense of calm and quietness for a couple of hours.  Therefore, we have planed to increase the meditation time so that the girls will be able to experience the Sangha at the end of our studies.  We have worked on brief five minute sessions with them for a while, and now we decided that a full 10 minute session was a great starting point.  With each session we will increase the meditation time to include a walking meditation.  When they are able to be still and quiet for long periods of time we will be able to attend a Sangha meeting.  At which time, we will take them to a Half Day of Mindfulness where they will meet others, experience a Sangha meditation, learn about mindful eating during the potluck afterwards, and eventually decide for themselves if this is the path that is right for them.

On Sunday morning, we prepared the altar with Buddha and explained the four elements as we placed them on the altar.  Then, we got comfortable with our pillows and blankets for the meditation.  We informed the girls of what our plan was for that day’s session, and we showed them the forms of respect we use during our Dharma discussions.  Richard rang his bell and we began our 10 minutes of meditation.

After our meditation, Richard rang his bell and we read The Five Mindfulness Trainings.  Then, we opened with our Dharma discussion, using the time to read from How to Be Compassionate, and opened the floor for questions and answers on the lesson we just learned – including anything else we wanted to discuss.  After we finished, I had to point out to our youngest her lack of respect by slacking off and not bowing with hands in prayer position during Dharma discussion.  I hated to do that, but it was valuable lesson that she needed to learn.  In turn, she informed me that she struggled with unpleasant thoughts during her meditation.  In which, I told her to recognize the thoughts and release them from her mind; explaining that meditation was therapeutic for those seeking refuge from their thoughts.  I even suggested using a mantra with prayer beads to get beyond those bad thoughts.

It was a very simple session that did not last more than an hour, but I felt positive with the outcome.  As far as the lesson was concerned, it wasn’t much.  I just read the forward of the book and asked a few questions to test their attention skills.  They felt uncomfortable, because they could not answer the questions.  But, they learned the importance of paying attention in the future, and would you know it?  They remained quiet and still during the entire ritual!

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