As Buddhism continues to increase in popularity in Western culture, certain principles have entered the discourse of how to be a better parent. The ideas of being “Zen” and “compassionate,” and, of course, “mindful” come most readily to mind. But what do these concepts really mean in practice?
As the author of a Buddhist-inspired parenting book entitled Brave Parenting, I’m extremely interested in integrating the powerful philosophies of Buddhism into everyday parenting. One of the principle goals of my method is to enable children’s emotional maturation and emotional resilience, while also making the everyday life of being a parent a whole lot easier.
Let me say that this does not mean being peaceful and calm all the time. It’s about changing our relationship to the challenges parenting presents. It’s about experiencing all emotions without reactivity.
Here are five essential Buddhist-inspired principles that will help you in your parenting journey.
1. Recognize that a stable mind is a powerful mind.
According to Buddhism, life is constantly in flux. And for that reason, stability doesn’t come from external circumstances, but from the way we relate to constantly-changing circumstances: we can choose to cultivate a stable mind.
Most of us have mental states that rise and fall based on daily events that we perceive as “good” or “bad”: a hug and smile from your daughter is good, while getting stuck in traffic and being late for a meeting is bad. Buddhism encourages you to meet all events with equanimity. Things just are, and you give yourself a profound sense of power in accepting that. You can teach this to kids by modeling it yourself. A meditation practice is a great way to develop a stable mind.
2. Invite the concept of impermanence into your life.
In our culture, most of us shy away from the idea that things are constantly changing. We like routine, habit, consistency. But there’s great wisdom in the Buddhist notion that all things are in constant motion, and by extension, impermanent.
Not to get morbid, but death is part of this. All living things die; it’s simply the natural cycle of life. We can teach this to kids not as something scary, but by acknowledging the natural process of life — whether it is flowers wilting, a pumpkin rotting or leaves falling in autumn.
On a more everyday level, we can learn to accept, rather than fear, change at large. We can teach our kids that change is natural and that the best way to work with impermanence is to be grateful for everyday because every day is different and unique. Gratitude can be thought of as the opposite of entitlement.