Buddhism for kids

I’m not sure if this really pertains to the EBTs directly, but I have a feeling most of you won’t mind. My sister just had her first child, she named him Noah (I’m an uncle now!), and she is also a practicing buddhist and plans to raise him as such. I was wondering if any of you had any advice on how to do this in the best way for him. What concepts to teach, and when. When to introduce the EBTs, meditation, and other aspects of the practice. It seems some of the more deeper teachings like anatta should probably be held off for a little while. I can’t imagine it would be good to teach a 5 year old that he has no self, or even a 10 or 13 year old, I don’t know. She’s going to start sitting with him as early as possible, probably around 3-5 just to get him used to it and the concepts within it, even if he may not be able to be totally mindful or gain any kind of samadhi at that age (who knows though). She’s also going to teach him the 5 precepts for lay followers, metta and compassion of course. Any thoughts on all this, suggestions that I can pass along to her? I’m obviously also going to be involved as much as I can being his uncle.

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Bhante Dhammajiva Has developed a kids program which is available on his website. If you can’t find it I have it somewhere on my laptop and I can dig it out next time I turn my computer on.

Edit: I think this is it:

I believe there will be a kids mini-retreat held in Adelaide at the beginning of next year which he might be doing elsewhere in Australia too. You nephew might be a bit young at this stage though!

Amaravati used to (and maybe still does) run a kids program. Maybe they have recordings. Spirit Rock in association with Abhiyagiri do a kids/teens program too.

Many of the ethnic temples run ‘Sunday schools’. As do BSV (Victoria). We are looking at organising a regular kids program in Adelaide, but it’s a lot of work for our limited community.

This was developed for a program called MindfulKids by a Melbourne temple, Dhamma Sarana.

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Thank you for the advice, unfortunately I live in Los Angeles at the moment, but I wish I lived near you all! I’m definitely going to check those out though.

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Dhammajiva Thero often visits the US, and as I mentioned Spirit Rock have a program which might also run in other parts of Cali.

Sorry for being Aussie-centric.

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Haha don’t apologize! I really do wish I could be out there instead of here.

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Hi Jimi,

nice that you wish to be a good uncle for your newborn nephew!

What I’m thinking of, next to all these programs already mentioned, is just to teach children by example. I think this is even more important than teaching by words or programs. Living the 5 precepts will probably have more impact than just explaining them! Therefore you might probably not worry too much about how and when to teach or explain this or that. If the boy reaches a certain age you might see what he is interested in.

I have some experience from observing how my Buddhist friends’ daughter grew up. I encountered the family when she was 3 (now she’s 35).

The Dhamma was always present in this family, and I used to be there for a weekend once a month when we would practise together and discuss the Dhamma. From time to time there would be Tibetan monks visiting too, and she was just playing with them with her teddy-bears… :bear: So Buddhism was something very natural for her.

When she started going to school she was supposed to attend a religious class also. But there was of course no teacher who taught Buddhism. Then her mother agreed with the school that she would do this. They had a separate classroom for the two of them for these lessons. And the mother made an exercise book with drawings of stories from the Buddha’s life or so, and the teaching was mainly on qualities like compassion, friendliness and so on. The daughter loved these lessons!

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"And, the mother and father so respected reciprocate with compassion in five ways:

  1. by restraining you from wrongdoing,
  2. guiding you towards good actions,
  3. training you in a profession,
  4. supporting the choice of a suitable spouse,
  5. and in due time, handing over the inheritance.
    DN31

Age matters a lot in how kids absorb things. I’m not fully certain about this and my children are quite young so anything below 12-13 years they will benefit from:

-The parents practicing (living) the Dhamma. A child is often a projection of what the family unit is like, internally. Putting children to sunday Dhamma class while the parents don’t live by those same teachings is likely to send the wrong message to those children.

-No one likes to acknowledge this but children come with unrestrained defilements. It is up to the parents to put in rules. Parents who are not good at laying down boundaries will need to ‘skill up’, else society will end up ‘parenting’ those children. Of course, this depends on the child and they have different temperaments. Children with milder temperament- encouraged to express and gradual exposure to more social situations.

-Exposure to temples, meditation, chanting, etc. normalises these situations. They will learn a lot from being in that environment.

-Youtube clips on the Buddha’s life and teachings. The visual medium is very helpful for kids. Story telling is a good medium as well. Jataka stories can be used a jataka fairy tales (if you like, with all their talking animals etc) and there are some illustrated books out there to emphasis virtuous behaviour, importance of wholesome friends etc.

-Kids can meditate. My 6 year old does some walking meditation. She will also sit for guided meditation (with music- ie non Buddhist) as well, as it is enjoyable. She will sit in a group of meditating kids for longer, with mindfulness of breath etc. Make meditation fun. Anything in the format of a game, kids love. There are various mindfulness exercises for children.

-https://mindfulnessinschools.org/ -try to get this going at the school your child is going to!

12-13 and above:
-Sunday Dhamma school
-quizzes are fun to do (on Dhamma facts -who is Prince Siddhartha’s father)!
-more analytical, reflective learning of the Dhamma is possible
-getting them to identify positive/negative attributes- teaching them how to diffuse negativity
-other topics- resilience, confidence, dealing with drugs/alcohol, dealing with bullies, critical thinking etc.

with metta

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Thank you. He’s still a newborn, but I already bought him a few children’s books about the buddha’s life and buddhism in general for when he gets a little older. But for now, I also bought him this:

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How cute. Try playing him some meditation music - sends them to sleep straight away! Chanting gently could work as well!

With metta

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I think it is a good idea to gradually introduce children to Buddhism as you are doing. There are so many unhealthy things that our modern society does to manipulate young children (social media, likes, gamification, etc.) that it is a wonder that they can be functioning people at all. I think Buddhism offers very practical advice to deal with much of this and I think Noah will thank you and your family for this in the future. In regards to specific advice from the EBTs, I recently learned that MN61 Ambalatthika-rahulovada Sutta: Instructions to Rahula at Mango Stone was told to Rahula by the Buddha when Rahula was only 7 years old.

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.061.than.html

I think the advice in that sutta, with its emphasis on asking whether an action is helpful to oneself, to others and to both, is very useful because it is a simple framework that a 7 year old can understand. Frankly, it is a helpful framework even for an adult.

There are a growing number of books on the topic. When I was raising my kids 20 years ago, it was hard to find any helpful material. I would recommend, for example, the works of Sumi Loundon Kim.