Buddhist Teachings on Parenting

“ If you will first make your  own conduct correct and then voice your opinions, not only will he naturally correct himself, but his younger brother, Master Naizen, will learn from his conduct and become correct as well. Thus will father and sons become good men. This would be a happy outcome.” (19) –Takuan Soho

It starts with YOU.

Think about it: who taught you values? Traditions? Manners?

To whom to grow close and who to avoid?

It’s not rocket science, but, so often, we forget our own lineage in exchange for goods of the present moment.

And that exchange starts with our own behaviour, especially subconscious action.

Escape from the Low

According to Buddhist thought, one’s mind must be free to move and stay moving without conscious focus. While it’s a life-long journey, to consciously have to rein in one’s mind is basic business from which one must move forward for the ultimate confidence boost.

From The Unfettered Mind:

“Bringing the mind under control is a thing done only in the beginning. If one remains this way all through life, in the end he will never reach the highest level. In fact, he will not rise above the lowest. “ (16)

The truth is, you’re not built for the Low, and your children will recognize that. 

But what matters most is the actions you make to escape the low– and that’s when your children will move from recognition to emulation.

While you might be stuck in the rat-race and never have time to indulge your kids’ interests or consistently break promises and find excuses, your offspring are keen observers and, chances are, will grow away from you because they recognize your actions are that of the Low. They may fear distancing themselves from their parents’ actions, but they’ll most likely take the risk to avoid panic attacks in the future.

Generally, we like to think of ourselves as intentionally good while practically flawed: most parents are apologetic but feel they have no choice. But really, escape from the low doesn’t have much to do with socioeconomic status or opportunity; it revolves around two maxims that should be made unconscious:

  1. Be a person of one’s word.
  1. Perform actions consistent with thought.

Making them unconscious eliminates them from becoming one-off situations. They’ll last a lifetime because they make up who you are.

Really, it should never enter your mind that:

–“I’m agreeing to go even though I promised I would go to a birthday party for the same time. Maybe I can make them both work.”

–“I tell my kids to give to the poor, even though I always walk past beggars in the street without a second thought.”

–“I promised I’d pick her up after school today, but I didn’t have any time so I called a friend to pick her up instead.”

–“Smoking is bad for you, which is why I only vape.”

These can only be thoughts of the Low.

Only Behaviour Matters

How do you ascend? How do you change your thoughts and make yourself a parent your kids will want to emulate? 

Risk behaving yourself:

“A person may be as eloquent as a rushing stream, but if his mind has not been enlightened and if he has not seen into his own true nature, he will not be someone to be relied upon. We should be able to discern this quickly from a person’s behavior.” (26)

We can’t stress it enough: to say one thing and do another is the first thing a child will understand about his/her parent. And, as to those who  constantly say “Learn from me. Don’t be like me”: 

Why would we want to be a negative role model for our children? Don’t they have enough?

Positivity makes us understand our own limits. Of course, it’s not simple matter, and life is full of difficult situations in which the right call isn’t so easy to make. But, if one is of the right character, which, again, should be made unconscious, the best moral choice will be clearer:

“Without looking at right and wrong, he is able to see right and wrong; without attempting to discriminate, he is able to discriminate well. This means that concerning his martial art, he does not look at it to say “correct” or “incorrect”, but he is able to see which it is. He does not attempt to judge matters, but he is able to do so well.” (41)

Without casting any judgement, to be able to know the difference between right and wrong, correct and incorrect at a moment’s glance is the prize of unconscious character. While more ambiguous moral quandries will pop up as we strive to live more decent lives, it starts with the little moments: being on time, making good on your promises, and leaving no room for excuses. 

And, while we can constantly hope future generations learn from our mistakes, there’s no reason that we should keep making them. If we change our actions, we strengthen our good relationships in every aspect of life and become more wholesome.

 So, really, isn’t it much better to act morally ourselves and expect them to emulate those actions?

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