Knowledge is Key
It's funny how we prepare so thoroughly for college entrance exams and job interviews, but when it comes to having kids, we are so ill prepared. For many parents, having a child comes as a surprise. Prior to their own kids, many mum and dads have never even held a child, much less changed a diaper. To prevent ourselves from being caught off guard, we should start reading up on parenthood and start practicing where possible.
Understand the Stages of a child
It is also important to understand the various stages of a child. In Sanskrit there is a short verse that explains the various stages:
"lalayet panca-varsani, dasa-varsani tadayet
prapte tu sodase varse, putram mitravad acaret".
Fondle a son until he is five years of age and then use the stick for another ten years. When he turns 16, however, treat him as a friend. Stick here refers to being strict and disciplining your child, and not literally beating or caning him.
The sad part is that in today's generation we follow this sloka's advise in reverse. Swami Tejomayananda, head of the Chinmaya mission, shares "We just allow them, in earlier years, to do whatever they want. When they become 16-years -old, we treat them like a five-year-old. When they are older and you treat them like a child, they will naturally say, I am not a child!"
Understand your role as a parent
In chapter 1 of the Gita, Arjuna says "Bhagavan, I am not going to fight. If I do so, my relatives and teachers will be killed. "Krishna replies, "Do you mean to say that if you do not kill them, they will not die? Are they going to remain immortal? Arjuna, you are just an instrument. Whether you are there or not, whatever is going to happen will happen. ..Nobody is indispensable in this world anyway."
The same applies to parenting. We are not the doer; we are just an instrument of doing. The doer is the Lord. Our roles as parents are gardeners. We do not create the seed; we do not create the soil. We are just the gardener who prepares the soil, sows the seed at the right time and ensures a conducive environment for growth.
If the seeds are inherently good, it will grow to sprout a beautiful tree, but if the seeds are roasted, or the soil is poor, there is nothing that the gardener can do to ensure its growth. Our duty is to provide the right atmosphere in a given situation. If the seed has potential, it will grow!
Establish a Good Rapport
Our kids must be able to trust and confide in us. When this sort of rapport is built up everything else becomes relatively simple. Our children should have so much confidence in us that he should be able to tell you even if he has murdered someone!
Take an Interest in their Interest
One way of building good rapport is by taking an interest in your child's interest. Join activities that they like, watch movies that they enjoy and pretty much try to spend as much time as possible doing things that they enjoy.
Be a Facilitator
Instead of lecturing and ordering your kids around, try to conduct brainstorming sessions, so that your kids can come up with various suggestions and also be involved in household matters. You can brainstorm discipline methods, house rules and a bunch of other things. This way, everyone gets what they want and your kids will feel important.
It is human tendency to impose our own ideas on to others. Sometimes if we have failed to achieve something in our life, we want to experience and enjoy that achievement indirectly through our children. This can be very dangerous. Ask yourself if you are trying to fulfill your selfish ambition/dreams through them. If you are, STOP!
Having too many expectations of your kids can also cause a lot of problems. It is imperative to let kids grow at their own pace and do things that they want to do.
Cause and Effect
When you have problems with your kids, look for the cause of the problems. Sometimes we get so carried away looking at the symptoms of a child's problems that we end up ignoring the root cause. If your child is usually good and then suddenly starts acting out, try not to focus too much on the fact that he is acting out, but question why he is doing it.
Has there been a sudden change in his life? Is he having problems in school? Look at the big picture and try to find the cause.
Culture cannot be taught, it must be caught
In the Bhagavad Gita it is clearly stated that "yad yad acarati srestha: tat tat eva itaro janah." Translated, it means "people, follow the leader." If we want children to follow a particular way of life, we must ourselves live that way. Doing otherwise is hypocrisy.
The Power of Prayer
In whatever problems you face, always remember that you belong to God. Invoke His blessings and you will see how things automatically start changing. Whenever you feel troubled, close your eyes and say "oh Lord, I cannot change this person directly. I don't know what is happening to him. You are the inspirer of thoughts. So please inspire his mind."