How can we transmit Krishna consciousness to children? Should they be encouraged to do certain practices, like chanting the rounds or getting up early?
From a very early age, we must accustom our children to a regulated schedule of devotional activities. To begin with, we can read to them even while they are in the womb. Read to them every day and with enthusiasm: read the Bhagavad-gita, Srimad-Bhagavatam and Caitanya-caritamrta. While they are little we can hold them in our arms and hug them while we read to them. We can show them pictures of Krishna’s pastimes and let them “tell” the Lord’s stories from the pictures before they can even read. This will evoke warm feelings and memories. You have to provide Krishna stories, songs and dolls.
Like adults, children are animals of habit, and everything they learn from a young age will tend to be maintained. It is not good to force them, and also the results achieved by force will not last. With love and a good example we will achieve better results. We can say something like “we would like you to sing three rounds before doing this or that thing”, or the family can function in such a way that it is assumed that in the morning it is sung.
We can give you a japa-mala and a nice and attractive japa bag. The best way to foster devotional habits is to get together with other devotees and families who are training their children in a devotional way . Try that the moment of singing becomes a pleasant time and a pleasant memory. When your children see you singing with attention, concentration and enthusiasm, this will inspire them to want to do the same.
Adolescence is a time when there is a strong need for social acceptance. Therefore, sometimes our children can turn away from Krishna consciousness to feel accepted. How should we handle this?
Parents should handle this interesting phase with a lot of patience, prayer, and love.
Make it clear what behavior is acceptable and what is not. Make sure your children have a good understanding of the consequences for unacceptable behavior. Whenever possible, let your children participate in choosing the appropriate consequences. Let your teen have things that they are responsible for (for example, their bedroom or a cell phone with some parental supervision). Review together the rules for visiting friends or friends, “curfew,” television, homework (each teenager should have some regular daily and weekly chores), weekly pay, etc. It is recommended that your child write these rules, and you should avoid being rigid or harsh. Firmness is not the same as stiffness. Negotiate whenever you can and try to be creative and flexible with the demands of your children, giving them more responsibility as they show they can handle the situation. Be a role model for your older children. These can smell like a hypocrite from miles away. If you expect them to be honest, you must first be honest with yourself. If you tell him that smoking is bad, then don’t smoke. If you want him to listen to you, first listen to him.
What should we do when our children engage in drugs or criminal activities?
Turn to your support system: friends, teachers, people in the community who have experience with adolescents or are trained to deal with them. Ask for help when needed. The adolescent stage is something like “walking a tightrope”: there must be a balance between freedom and restriction that we give our children. They must learn that freedom requires responsibility, and that the more responsible and trustworthy they become, the more trust they will gain. Alert: be aware of the friends your child has, what activities he does and what places he frequents, no matter how embarrassed they are to tell you. You have to know how much money he handles and where he gets it from. Firmly displays zero tolerance for drug use or criminal activity. The best fight against drugs is a close and healthy relationship with your children.
How can we transmit sex education to adolescents?
Honestly. Try to start from an early age, beginning with descriptions of the physical anatomy of girls and boys, how babies are conceived, and where life comes from. Try to connect everything with Krishna. A few years ago a devotee wrote a very nice book called “For Girls Only”. Try to get a copy – this is an excellent resource for teaching girls about sexuality in a truthful and Krishna conscious way.
How can we strengthen our relationship with our children?
Be a good example of kindness, compassion, fun, and truthfulness.
Take some time to recreate with your teenager. Do fun things with your children! Parents are often so stressed out with their children that the idea of spending time with them doesn’t appeal to them much. Also, adolescents often want to be away from their parents and prefer the company of their colleagues. Although association with peers is very important and should be allowed (always monitored), parents should gently but firmly insist that, at least once a week, they should play a game, watch a movie, cook, walk, shop or participate in some activity together. Whenever possible, allow your child to choose the activity. Make sure to establish some family rituals that are important, memorable, and fun. Family gatherings once a week are very valuable. Insist on this as if it were sacred time. You can play games, go to museums, watch a family video or just sit down to discuss and share family concerns. Set the rule that during that time, no interruptions like calls etc. will be allowed.
Practice the “respectful speech / reflective listening” technique with your adolescent. This invaluable technique will counteract one of the most common complaints among teens: “My parents ignore me.” Although this technique seems a bit weird at first, it really works. You listen to your children and they listen to you. As parents, we must learn “respectful speech / reflective listening.” (You can order a set of these excellent communication tools from Dasi-Ziyad Family Institute, for a value of $ 5 USD – www.dzfi.org )
You can also go to a communication workshop or buy a DVD course that teaches you how to put this technique into practice. In this way parents learn to “speak so that the children listen and listen so that the children can speak.”
In the Bhagavad-gita (13.8-12) Srila Prabhupada says that “As for being detached from children, wife and home, that does not mean that one has no feelings for them. They are natural objects of affection, but if they are not conducive to spiritual progress, then one should not be attached to them. How should we act when our children are not interested in Krishna consciousness?
We must realize that our children are in their own process of surrendering to Krishna, so they can sometimes act in ways that make you dismayed or alarmed. Always keep your children covered in many prayers.
This quote from Srila Prabhupada refers to the case of “hate the sin, not the sinner.” Don’t get attached to your kids’ unfavorable activities or their bodies. Love means always wishing them well, despite their apparent disinterest. One more time: be an example. Let it be clear that in your house Krishna is worshiped and Guru and Gauranga are obeyed. Be optimistic about your return to loving service to Krishna. If they are over the age of 18 and continue to show ongoing disrespect, it is recommended that they relocate.
Could you talk a bit about the importance of being careful and showing affection to children?
I was once at Srila Prabhupada’s darshan at the Gurukula in Dallas, Texas, in 1972. He instructed teachers that the most important thing to teach children was that they loved them. That day he said many things, but that statement is the one I remember the most. Hug your children, laugh with them, honor prasadam with them, play with them.
When Narada Muni visited the Pandavas, they told him that the Yadavas were better devotees. Then Narada Muni went to visit the Yadavas, and saw the love between them and their love for Krishna, and how this love illuminated the entire royal hall with an intense light.
Remember that your children are actually children of Krishna, and we take care of them on His behalf. Krishna is watching how we treat his children. Krishna, God, is the Supreme Personality of love. Children who grow up with love and affection are much more likely to see themselves as lovable and capable of showing love and affection towards others.
What consequences can be a religious fanatic education? What kind of education would be considered as such?
Fanatically religious activities inevitably alienate people from God. Srila Prabhupada said that religion without science or philosophy was sentimentality or fanaticism, and that science (or education) without religion is mental speculation.
We must teach our children to be tolerant, humble, and attentive. And involve them, from an early age, in the study of the scriptures, so that they gain a proper understanding about Krishna. Part of this understanding is knowing that Krishna is the parent who brings the seed of all living beings and that He loves each and every one of them, and therefore the purpose of life is to cooperate together to please Him.
We must establish a healthy family life in a careful and systematic way, including games and recreational activities: taking prasadam together, kirtana, cooking for Krishna, serving the Deity, walking a bicycle, walking … In this way we must strive for harmony and harmony. balance in our sadhana, our service and our family responsibilities.
Thank you very much, Krsnanandini!