How can we make better parenting decisions?

A person who is not grounded or stable will generally be making split second decisions; they’ll never feel they have the space and time to make wise decisions. But once an individual has gained a sense of what it means to let go and just be in the present, when a moment of uncertainty arises, nine times out of ten, the appropriate answer will come up.  If we’re able to remain relaxed in that moment, if we can listen, the environment will tell us what to do. It will tell us, for instance, when to be strict with a child and to say “Don’t go there because if you do, you’ll hurt yourself,” and when to let the child explore a little further. Naturally, we’ll be making better parenting decisions.

It’s not an intellectual process; it’s intuitive—a kind of emotional intelligence—and I think we all have it. As meditators, we’re able to draw from that because our meditation has given us the ability to just remain present with uncertainty. And we’re always in the midst of uncertainty with our children because kids don’t behave according to the rules and regulations of “normal” adult life. Whatever’s happening is just happening at a certain point in time. We’ll get quite neurotic if we want everything to be packaged and to follow a timetable.

This also ties in to the point of how to simply be present with what is. Who knows what your child is going to do next? One might think I’m just talking about babies, but believe me, it’s the same with teenagers. Whatever you think you know about your children, something new and unexpected is going to come up.

Meditation makes that okay. Because we’re used to the unexpected from the chaos of our own mind—we’ve experienced it so many times on the cushion when sitting—we know that even when things are coming from all different directions we won’t be destroyed. We don’t go crazy. We don’t lose it. In fact, we’ve already found a deep, deep sanity in being present to our own confusion to begin with; we’re working with it. So when things are firing off in our relationships with our children, it’s okay. We can be present to them because we already have that ability thanks to our meditation. For decision making, meditation is invaluable.

What about when my child interrupts my meditation practice?

You’ve got to understand that it’s okay to start your practice and then break it. It’s okay to start your meditation for a while and then have to put it down, whether it’s five minutes or two hours. It’s always there waiting for you when you’re able to come back. You can pick it back up.

I don’t know how moms could do it without allowing themselves this latitude, to be honest—to me it seems inconceivable. Even as a dad, I needed that. I needed to be able to draw on that possibility. With this proviso, it’s okay if the thread is broken five times in a single session. Just go back and sit down again and it will be fine.

How should parents deal with hopes and fears about their children?

For parents, children are absolutely the source of the greatest anxieties and the greatest hopes. There’s no doubt about it. And so it would be foolish to say, “Oh, just be tranquil at all times. It’s okay. Just be tranquil and you will easily overcome your hopes and fears.” Life is not like that. But you can discover that you have the ability to take the long view, the spacious view that this exam they didn’t do so well in or that friendship which isn’t going so well at school is simply a hiccup in your child’s life. You can listen to that. You pay attention to it and if there’s a solution, you can present it—but you’re not defeated if there’s not an immediate remedy. If you estimate that it’s going to be a year or so of your child working on a particular problem before they can figure it out, you can be okay with that.

And by the way, it’s so vital for your children that you be that source of calm sanity and reassurance when they’re going through problems, disappointments or failures in their lives. If you’re tight, if you don’t have any spaciousness, wow, where are they going to find it? They look to you for reassurance. They may not say it openly, but they look to you for a sense that, “I can pick myself up after this problem. You are my strength when my friends aren’t speaking to me, or when I’ve got this problem at school or this job has not worked out.” They need that from you and they’re going to need it for a very long time. So you have to have it. It’s not a kind of fake security blanket, but a deep sense of reassurance that comes from your knowing that you can survive anything once you’re discovered the vastness of mind.

This article is the third in Lama Jampa Thaye’s Meditation and Parenting Series. Read the other articles here:

– Part one is entitled Is Meditation Important for Families

– Part two continues the discussion with creating space for our children.