Don't force Spirituality on kids

Sister Chinmayi with children in SRF Summer Program

Spirituality needs to he encouraged (not forced as a discipline) from an early age. The example should be set in every home.

Sri Paramahansa Yogananda

From the book “Second Coming of Christ”, Discourse 32

SRF parents want outstanding spiritual training for their children. We are putting too much pressure on children. They begin to think, “I need to excel or else I won’t be loved.”

Brother Anandamoy

From devotee notes of the talk: “Spiritualizing Family Life”

A child, like all of us, must unfold in his own time and very often if you try to force upon a young person a practise or a way of life it does just the opposite- they rebel. Very often we have found in the western world certainly that sometimes the children of a minister are the most misbehaving types because it has been forced upon them. People do not like to feel imposed upon. They want to unfold in their own way; so the best thing is to just expose them to it, but don’t say, as I have heard, “you must meditate, you must go to meditation”, no this isn’t right… Encourage her to meditate, if she feels inclined to. Encourage her above all to commune with God, to get into the habit of talking with God.

Sri Daya Mata

From the talk: “Way to Peace, Humility and Love for God”

The best chance for success in raising children is if the parents themselves set the right standards by their own example. Children need to see that the results of those standards imposed on them are beneficial. When guidance is given by example, and with love and understanding, it will enhance the karmic good already present in the children from their past lives, and provide opportunity for further growth.

Sri Daya Mata

From the Booklet: “The Skilled Profession of Child-Rearing”

Example talks louder than words. Reform yourself and you have reformed thousands.

Sri Paramahansa Yogananda

SRF Magazine, 1949 (Nov-Dec)

…many of us find ourselves wishing from time to time that children would do as we say, not as we do. But that is not how children learn. Children constantly watch their parents and the other adults around them. They imitate what we do, how we think, and how we feel. They pick up our habits. Whether or not we realize it, we constantly teach children by our example. One parent commented, “Although I tried telling my children stories from Autobiography of a Yogi, and discussing spiritual subjects with my children, I didn’t really see any change until my husband and I started meditating regularly ourselves. Once we established the habit, then I began to see them become interested.”

Patricia Evertz (A long time devotee, SRF Sunday school teacher for 30+ yrs, and MA in Educational Psychology)

From a SRF YSS magazine article: “Art of Spiritual Parenting”

Sri Daya Mata has said, “It is a mistake to try to force any child into a particular spiritual mould. First he has to have a desire for and an interest in things spiritual. This inclination will be there if from a very early age he is encouraged in cultivating spiritual attitudes: love for God, faith in God, a feeling of companionship with Him.”
Expose your children to meditation, and see how they respond. Some may enjoy it and perhaps do it often; others may not be ready. Bear in mind that if they don’t show an interest in meditation at this time, they may in the future. They will be more receptive later on if they are not forced to meditate before they are ready.
Think of the example of flowers. Each one unfolds at a different time, yet each one is beautiful. Trying to force open a bud that is not ready will only destroy the flower. Allowing blossoms to open at their own time produces the loveliest flowers. Late bloomers are just as beautiful as early bloomers, so there is no need to push.
If your children don’t want to do it on a daily basis, see if they are interested in having a weekly family meditation. Keep meditations short, and involve the children, allowing them to participate in leading the prayers or playing simple instruments for a family kirtan. If even this seems too much, just quietly set the example. “My children meditate regularly at Sunday school,” commented one mother, “but they don’t seem interested at home. However, they like to see me meditating. Often they ask me to meditate in their room at night after I tuck them in. They want me to say my prayers out loud, and then they fall asleep while I am meditating. It doesn’t always work in my schedule, but I do it whenever I can.”

Patricia Evertz (A long time devotee, SRF Sunday school teacher for 30+ yrs, and MA in Educational Psychology)

From a SRF YSS magazine article: “Meditating with Children”

Unsolicited counsel creates tremendous resentment. One should not try to impose his will or ideas upon those around him unless they have asked for such guidance.
One mistake often made by novices on the spiritual path is that the moment they feel enthusiasm for seeking God, they want to change the whole world. They start a spiritual revolution in the home, with an all-out effort to convert the husband or wife and the children. It is wonderful to have that kind of eagerness, but it almost always arouses antagonism. Paramahansaji used to say to such enthusiasts, “change yourself first; reform yourself and you will reform thousands.” Unless one is seeking guidance, he doesn’t want to be told what to do. No one likes to have advice forced upon him. When he is ready for counsel he will ask for it, and he will want to from one with whom he lives, or whom he loves or admires, if he sees a beneficial change has taken place in that person’s life. But so long as change is shown only in the form on platitudes or lip service, the doubter will resist.
Be an example of what you want others to be. If you are inclined to lose your temper and fight back or speak harshly; if you scold the children unreasonably; if you are nervous and easily upset, shouting and speaking unkindly—change yourself! That is the best way to change those around you. It is hard to do, but it can be done.

Sri Daya Mata

From the book: “Only Love”, Chapter: “How to Change Others”

Selected Parenting Tips

Teach Meditation to your Child Loving Discipline Loving Communication “How to live” education Don’t force Spirituality on kids Spiritual Stories Spiritual Activities SRF YSS Parenting Literature