My journey began one rainy July. I was an average Mumbai city girl, newly married, working with an NGO, when I was invited to join a study group under the Chinmaya Mission. Around this time, I also realised that I was pregnant...with twins! Being from a conservative school of thought, my doctor put me straight on bed rest and I spent a large part of my pregnancy, flat on my back studying the Vedanta. As a result, when I finally delivered my twins—a boy and a girl—I was calm and collected, armed with knowledge from the world's most influential text—the Bhagwad Geeta.
My book, Spiritual Parenting was born two years after the birth of my children when a friend suggested that I write about how the knowledge contained in the Vedantic texts that helped me raise my children in a stress-free and spiritual manner.
The need for spiritual parenting
We live in evil times. There's no denying it. The events of the last decade only confirm that our world is getting more and more turbulent, aggressive and angry. And yet, all around us are instances of goodness, of honesty, of values and of principles that are eternal.
The bottom line is this: only a strong spiritual base can help our children thrive through these turbulent times. It is only when we imbibe in them a strong sense of eternal values and principles that we can help them make sense of their lives in the times we live in.
What is spiritual parenting?
To me, spiritual parenting is not about following a technique or a rule book to raise children or about tested theories or proven methodologies. Nor is it a fool-proof way to raise the perfect child. It is about loving, cherishing, accepting, respecting and being grateful.
Not surprisingly, all the spiritual texts and works of great masters I have read and researched say the same things: live in the present, start each day with gratitude, recognise that the important things in life are the non-material ones. The Geeta contains a wealth of knowledge that can be applied to practically every aspect of one's life, especially parenting.
What the texts recommend
Following are some of the gems that I've discovered.
Children are really a blessing. We sometimes forget this and start taking them for granted. Some have been given to us after years of waiting and heartbreak. We need to feel gratitude for them every single day; doing so, our attitude towards them—even in the middle of a tantrum—will change. More so, this attitude of gratitude is bound to rub off on our children as well.
Laugh it off
Kids are kids—they will get into scrapes, make a mess and blurt out a family secret in front of guests. But that's their job! Developing a sense of humour and not taking things too seriously will help you retain your sanity and enjoy your kids, trouble and all.
Be easy on yourself
I am not a Super Mom/Dad—say this five times a day and learn to be easy on yourself. As parents we're doing the toughest job on earth and we need to learn to value ourselves. Even if your day is packed, make some time just for yourself, and don't feel guilty about it. Think of it as investment in yourself—it'll make you a calmer person and a better parent.
Have BWF—Birthdays Without Fuss
Please scale down birthdays. Your kids don't know the difference between the graphic designer you've hired to paint tattoos and the regular guy. Same goes with serving dosas over fondue. Opt for return gifts made by NGOs—at least that way you know you're giving a bit back to society. A lot of people have started celebrating their kid's birthdays in orphanages, old people's homes or municipal schools. This is a great trend; it will teach your kids lessons for life.
Stay calm during a tantrum
You child's tantrum will get worse if you too start shouting. Chant, repeat a mantra, or even say a multiplication table—just ensure that you don't lose your cool. When the tantrum is over, talk about it and make sure your child understands that this behaviour is not acceptable. I also believe that kids need to be told how to effectively channel their anger. Show them how, whether by jumping, singing or visualising themselves in a peaceful place.
When disciplining, try assuming the goodness of your child. Replace threats with assurances of goodness; then she can't help but live up to your expectations. Positive discipline works over punishment any day.
You are your child's best role model. She will behave as you do. So watch your actions and your words lest she picks up something you don't want her to.
Protecting your kids too much will incapacitate them in the real world. You need to learn to let them go; allow them to take risks, make mistakes, fall and stand up again. This is the toughest part of being a parent, but the part that will ensure a great relationship with your kids.
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