Be the Buddha: Zen Parenting

We worry about what a child will become tomorrow, yet we forget that he is someone today. -Stacia Tauscher

Be present. Just be.

They come through you but not from you. -Gibran

Implicit obedience scares me. “Because I said so,” parenting grosses me out. But I do it. I’ve even said that horrible phrase, although I had the decency to cringe as I uttered the words. The justification for this sort of thinking often sounds like this: The child is three; he’s not owed an explanation. I call bullshit. Why should his age or lack of understanding exempt him from a basic courtesy? What does authoritarian parenting teach except that if someone’s bigger than you, more powerful than you, then you must obey? Yahtzee.

Alright, so how does this parenting relate to Buddhism? Simple: The singular goal of Buddhism is to alleviate suffering. Where better to start than with my own child? And how better to teach him compassion than by acting compassionately? My primary concern as the Kaiser’s mother is to lighten his suffering, to inform and guide him without causing pain. I don’t talk to him about Buddhism; I try to be the Buddha. It’s less annoying that way.

Karen Miller, Zen Priest, articulates this far better than I can in an interview with BellaOnline:

Either we deceive ourselves by rationalizing being too punitive and harsh or rationalizing being too lax and indulgent. I never want to hit my child, because it doesn’t take too much sense to realize that violence creates more violence. But every situation requires that I examine what I as the parent can do differently: using different words, different rules, a different tone, a different setting, or a different tactic in order to see a different outcome. In sum, when I take on discipline as one of my responsibilities, I am being self-disciplined. And a self-disciplined parent produces a self-disciplined child.

And honestly, I screw up. Sometimes I yell. Sometimes I’m sarcastic (yes, to a three-year old. I KNOW.) Sometimes I’m just not there, in the moment, involved. When I fail, I try to recognize it and acknowledge it. I apologize to him, sometimes three times in a day. I don’t know if I’m right on this, and I’m certainly no expert on anything motherhood or anything Buddhist. But here is my best advice:

  • Turn off the TV.
  • Turn off the cell phone (If I don’t, I text and parent – No good.)
  • Puzzles are glorious. So are books.
  • Take a walk. Talk. Or don’t.
  • Leave work at work.
  • Listen – the tiniest mouths say some really cool shit.
  • Just be. Be present. Be attentive. Be involved. Be consumed.

Peace, Love, and Mindfulness



Filed under Buddhism, Raising Kids

10 responses to “Be the Buddha: Zen Parenting

  1. ken

    Fair enough! It is ok to set the rule’s and be tough and set down the law, as a parent you should. You have a responsibility and the right to be a strong mommy and daddy. A child depends on that, they need that. It is the mature parents responsibility to understand this and not compromise on what they know as right. Hold on! wait! it’s innate. We as parents already know. No one needs to tell us how to raise our children. thank god an epiphany. Ok so heres the deal. take no shit when your to set a standard for child rearing, as long as you know right from wrong and most parents that are loving do. Do what is in you heart and don’t be afraid of the flaws, after all the child has to be prepared for the bull shit thats out there and there’s fucking plenty. It ain’t a perfect world so do your best and love your best and hold and comfort your child and handle with kid gloves for the most part, but if they need an ass beating, give it to them they will thank you later. and even if they don’t they probably fuckin needed it anyway at least thats what me pappy said to me, and look! i turned out ok. Well maybe not but you get the drift. love ken jermon.

  2. Bill

    You should meditate with your 3 year old child. They can get in the meditation pose much easier than you, but they are fun to watch. I think parenting is like religion. Everyone has their idea as to what is right, but we never really knows what is right until the end when it is too late to change it. So just like with religion do what feels right. Funny, again like in religion the primary rule seems to be treat others as you would like to be treated. Maybe parenting IS a religion. Maybe the Supreme Devine Being (substitute appropriate name here) is like our parent. We were created, shaped and molded as that being saw fit. Wait, I have heard this story before. There I did it. I have converted to Parentism. I am a Parentist. I feel too many words in my head, wanting to leak to my fingers, so I am going to stop my fingers so as to not take up even more of your blog space with my rambling.

    Making butter is simpler.

    • sarafraser

      He couldn’t shut up long enough to meditate. Maybe someday? Maybe not.

      I like your Parenting-as-Religion concept here. I like it a lot. And yeah, we do the best we can, the best way we know how, and hope for the best.

      • Hi Sara! I just wanted to say.. my 5 year old CANNOT sit still for more than 2 min, so we do 1 min meditations. Also, before he could do THAT, I just modelled breathing in and out. I took it from thich nhat hanh “I breath in, I am here. I breath out, I am calm”. I started doing it myself, and soon enough he was following along. i jsut say this cause I too thought he has too “fidgety” to be able to meditate. We only started like a month a go, so not sure what the effects will be. 😀

      • sarafraser

        Hi Victoria,
        Somehow I missed this comment! I’ll Google this — sounds amazing. I hope you’ll let me know how it works for y’all.

    • ken

      Again, don’t talk when drinking…..

  3. ken

    Don’t talk when drinking……

  4. Denise

    Great parenting advice. Do it all. Collect bugs and dead frogs.

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