How Yogic Philosophy Makes You a Better Parent

My elder son who is almost 6 years old happens to be quite different from me 😊 He’s a great guy and I’ve always known it but for a long time I had what’s called tapa duhka: he was just not the way I expected him to be. For example, I’d give him my most favorite dessert and he would respond “that’s yucky” demanding something that seems yucky for me. We’d go to the zoo and instead of listening to different stories about animals he would ask me about electricity layout and why this streetlamp has two bulbs while that one has three. Etc etc etc. It used to drive me crazy until I finally realized: the problem is not him, the problem is ME and MY expectations. And that’s when I saw how important it is to apply Yamas and Niyamas to our relationships with kids. Here’s how I do it in my parenting process:

Yamas

  • It’s evident that any kind of abuse is totally inappropriate in the family. But while it’s clear on the physical level it’s so easy to ignore it in our thoughts. Kids are like our mirrors –once you’re angry they will feel it even if you’re pretending to be nice. And once they feel your bad thoughts, they will act them out through their own behavior. So, no bad feelings. If you’re out of your inner resources, go and work on yourself until you love the world again and only then go back to your kids.
  • Satya – truthfulness. Be sincere. If you want your little ones to stop eating chocolate because it’s bad for their health, don’t eat it yourself. If you feel angry at them – tell them directly. Once I feel I’m boiling I always confess honestly – “Mummy is very angry now, once I cool down, we’ll talk”. And they do respect my feelings at this moment.
  • Asteya – non-stealing. For me it means respect and giving them the right to choose. Don’t make kids share if they don’t want to. For example, “This is your toy, and you have a right not to share with your sister”. “It’s your right to decide whether you want to help me with cleaning or not”. And what surprised me when I first started practicing this kind of approach is that they are taken aback and express their will to share or help at once.
  • Brahmacharya – moderation, redirecting the feelings from outside to inside. Young children are very extraverted by their nature and so becomes an adult who takes care of them. They constantly demand new impressions, things, games, etc. For this reason, it’s very important to remind them that all that external staff is just external. To pay their attention that happiness is always within and it’s silly to associate it with wealth. As my little ones grow older I dream of having family meditations so that they feel it themselves.
  • Aparigraha – non-possessiveness. This principle is crucial in the modern world of material things and abundance. In my family we always sort out rubbish to recycle and reuse whatever we can. I teach kids always to think “Do I really need it?” before buying something. Do I really need a straw? After one usage it will go to a trash can and very probably will end up somewhere in the sea. Do I really need a 10th toy? If yes, do I remember I will have to spend my precious time to put it to box and clean weekly? Aparigraha is also applied in other sense: don’t interrupt others while they’re talking and talk only when you have something important to say. Respect private space. Respect the boundaries. Little sister wants to solve the puzzle herself? Respect her right.

 

Niyamas

  • Saucha – purity. The hardest principle for all young kids: keep clean! It all starts from us, adults who should always wash up in time before the kitchen is piled up with dirty dishes. And later the same habit passes to kids: you played with puzzles – put them back. You got up – wash your face. You pooped – wash you-know-what. While we are physically clean surrounded by cleanliness it’s much easier to have our mind clean as well.
  • Santosha – contentment and gratitude. When I got my second child in a foreign country without any help, this principle is the first thing I discovered as a lifebuoy. When you’re swamped with work it’s very tempting to fall into hopelessness and blame the whole world for everything. Practicing Santosha means to be able to welcome whatever we have and express gratitude to the Universe for every trifle it gives. We should never compare our life to the lives of others and our kids with other kids. I remember how painful it was for me as a child when my mother said “Everyone’s kids help their parents unlike you” or “My friend’s daughter has better marks than you”. Santosha means never to do or think things like that neither about your life nor about your kids.
  • Tapas – self-discipline. For me as a parent it means to be a good example of the discipline coping with the laziness. Discipline means being loyal to what you believe to be good for your body and your soul. If you know physical exercises are necessary for your body – just do them without excuses. If you hate to brush your teeth (and no doubt the kids hate it too) but you don’t want to visit dentist – just do it despite “I hate” and gradually you’ll teach yourself to love it. The kids will see it in incorporate in their own lives.
  • Swadhaya – self studying. In application to bringing up process Swadhaya can mean continuous education. The older the kids get the more we need to know. There’re many psychological issues and educational approaches in the world and the more we read the more gimmicks we can acquire. Moreover, to understand our kids needs it’s crucial to understand our own ones, so we should never stop improve ourselves through education.
  • Ishwara-pranidhana – surrounding to the Highest. Whatever misunderstanding with kids you have just remember it’s given to you because you need it for something. Our kids are our little teachers and motivators so every lesson they give is meant to make us better. So just surrender and enjoy the moment!

Once you deeply understand all this and incorporate in your life, the relationship even with the most demanding kids will reach a level of harmony, as well as your inner ocean will stay calm and nice 😊