Unhappy children at dhamma schools

I was listening to some friends talk about children who aren’t happy that they have to attend dhamma classes. Some friends of mine were discussing what they had seen while teaching, children forced to spend time on the weekend learning a curriculum begrudgingly.

Obviously this sort of thing is counter-productive. If the Buddha was alive today, would he be teaching children under 12 the seven enlightenment factors, the four noble truths, the eightfold path, the three charictaristics (ordinary children)? Most children in the first world can’t comprehend suffering, so I’m throwing it out there- what should be taught in dhamma schools for kids today?


Hi Vattha,

I suppose it all depends on what the children are unhappy about.

I had to attend another language school every weekend. It wasn’t the content that was being taught that made me, and all the other children, unhappy, but rather the fact that other kids we knew didn’t have to. So our parents bribed us with lollies as compensation, and the teachers always did their best to make it fun. As such, it formed a solid base for further study down the track as one got a bit older :slight_smile:
In the end all the kids loved ‘saturday’ school, as it gave more options and activities than the ‘regular’ kids didn’t have.

I don’t know of any child who has gone through this ‘right of passage’ who regrets it. And I have watched 3 generations do it now :smiley:


OK so, my friend was saying she took the Sunday dhamma class perhaps 4 times and there was stuff in the curriculum that she didn’t know and she was born and raised a Buddhist and is an astute disciple of some top notch monastics. She said as soon as she walked out of there she forgot everything she had taught and she was pretty sure the kids did the same.
An Ajahn who is about to be 15 rains said he wasn’t going to teach kids dhamma classes at a different place any more because their parents were sort of standing over the kids at the same time.

No one said anything about lollies.

My friend said a child told her that she wanted to hear more jatakas.

“See neither near nor far hidden Prince in disguise in the crowd.” :sob:, no seriously, that one made me cry.


Also, you learned a skill, not dogma.

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And, my question was, what should we teach kids under 12 in dhamma classes. Because we can’t shut them down.

Or can we?

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Yes of course.

I was only replying in general terms, as this is often discussed among parents of kids who have extra ‘school’. :slight_smile:

I’m sorry, I don’t know in what country you live, if this is something that is a general topic or, as it sounds, it is part of a wider problem. I’ll leave it to people more knowledgeable to reply :slight_smile:

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OK, look I’m sorry, I live in Australia. I live in Perth.

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What I’m saying is you don’t have to gracefully withdraw, I’m not a troll. You said you have watched 3 generations. so that means you are an older person, which would make you a lot smarter and wiser than me and I should respect you. So seriously, like, OK, clearly the environments need work if there aren’t lollies. And as for curriculums, I’m sure you can think of something.
Ajahn sujato said something about kids hitting a crab with a stick and the buddha gave an age appropriate teaching response. He then said he couldn’t find the sutta, but I believe that was prior to sutta central, and he may or may not have returned having found the sutta.


The monastery near my town in NSW has Dhamma groups for younger and older children. The kids go there with their parents on Sunday morning’s and start by sharing in the chanting. Then they go in two groups for their activities while the adults meditate and listen to a Dhamma talk. Then the families rejoin for Dana and lunch. (The lay supporters say it is the best Sunday buffet in town!). After lunch at Vesak they put on performances they had prepared. One was a song for Mother’s Day, that was charming and taught good Buddhist values. The other was a short play that presented a Jakata Tale about the Buddha showing great compassion in a previous incarnation. Everyone enjoyed themselves very much. They didn’t appear to have been forced to memorise lists of concepts: which sounds like a very old fashioned curriculum if it can’t be adapted in various ways.

As someone who once taught elementary school it all looked really good to me. They were having fun, learning about Buddhist values and observing how their parents practiced meditation and supported the sangha. If your question is just for discussion that’s my bit. :smile:. If you are wondering about making a contribution or starting a weekend class send me a pm and I can perhaps find a way to put you in touch with the group.


I went to weekend Dhamma school when I was 10 years old.
They mostly taught Jataka tales.
I am glad I went to Dhamma school when I was young.


Thank you Vattha, for your confidence, but age alone isn’t worth respect. Just like the Buddha said, it is good to question things that people (including me) say and to see if they make sense and align with the Noble 8 fold path :slight_smile:

And sometimes we just make mistakes (like I did last time) :slight_smile: It’s all ok as long as we have good will, kindness and continue to learn

I hope that things turn out ok



Great! Where did you go to dhamma school? What was your experience at the time and did they give you sweets? Plus any ideas what, besides jatikas is good for kids in dhamma class? Is there anything you feel they should have taught you and how do you think you would have felt about it at the time?

Done, coming up.

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I went to Sunday Dhamma school in Sri Lanka.
No. We basically nothing to eat from 7.30AM TO 2.00 pm until come home. I still remember once monk gave all of a wood apple each.
We just went to Sunday Dhamma school or my main scholl because my partents forced me do so.
I tried many time s to avoid school.
Only thing I felt was that the teachers do not know what they teach. They also come to work because it was another job for them.


We have a lot of faith schools in the UK, and in general I’m quite dubious about the idea.

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Yeah me too. I went to a primary and high school of a certain denomination. My parent aren’t religious. My father thinks he’s nostic or a Zoroastrian but honestly they sent me to those schools because they wanted religion out of my system before I had some kind of late revelation or some such.

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I went to a Roman Catholic boarding school, which turned me into an atheist. :laughing:


Unfortunately, it is the same in Sri Lanka. More you closely associate monks you lose the respect for the monk as well as the faith in the Dhamma.
However, I got back to Buddhism also due to a good monk. (Ven. Narada) and I increase my faith also due to the wonderful translation worked done by many monks not to mentions the names here.


I’ve heard stories about bad monks and I know things aren’t ideal across the globe. I googled Venerable Narada, out of curiosity was it the venerable Narada who died in 1983? Your friend, the good monk Venerable Narada?

Here is the link to his book which got back me to Buddhism.