|The Dalai Lama on Parenting|
|Posted on October 24, 2012|
The Dalai Lama recently came to Vermont to speak at Middlebury College about Peace and Education.* I was not able to attend the talk, but I was lucky enough to hear His Holiness speak in Salt Lake City, UT, in April 2000. Although I was not yet a parent, I remember vividly his response to a question on parenting and how to handle children’s behavior. He responded (paraphrasing here),”Well, I am just a monk. No spouse, no children. I imagine so frustrating! If I was a parent I would probably hit them.” Then he chuckled.
I suppose it is not surprising that a reincarnated spiritual leader is compassionate and empathetic; but to hear such empathy and understanding directed towards parents, who often are very hard on themselves (and each other) was surprising. It stuck with me. He described how his struggles are more geopolitical related to his people suffering than interpersonal. However he was able to draw parallels, he kept saying, “I am a human being, you and me, we are the same.”
In his recent talk at Middlebury, there was not a direct question on parenting because he was addressing a college community. However, the first question was about family bonds being destroyed, and the question asked how to reconcile wounds when someone in the family does not want to reconcile?
The Dalai Lama poignantly explained his philosophy on approaching such complicated family struggles. He said that one can be totally dedicated and concerned for another’s long-term wellbeing, no matter what the other’s response. When one has true compassion and love there is no need for reward or response, he says. If one’s action is based on wanting a response from another, then it is not true compassion; one instead has a self-agenda.
His Holiness goes further to separate out the actor from an action. (I have used the language in my work of separating out a person from their behavior). In essence he is saying you can be concerned about one’s problematic action, and still have genuine compassion for the actor’s wellbeing.
Loving our kids is the easy part, but responding to their behaviors and emotions is not so easy. How do we have a deep empathy, a true compassion, while our children test us through their behaviors? How do we hold them accountable? I believe we do this by following the Dalai Lama’s words of actor verses action. We can have genuine love for our children (actor) and still hold them accountable for their behavior (actions), by giving children strong messages of love while also giving appropriate natural and logical consequences for their behavior.
Many parents may think they should innately know how to parent, and if they mess up they are a failure. Likewise blaming a marriage as problematic if there is struggle, rather than realizing that marriage and other relationships require skills and personal growth. I believe parenting children with emotional attunement and behavioral boundaries is a skill. Come and practice this skill at my upcoming parent workshop in Atlanta November 9th! Click here for more information.
*Hear Dede Cumming’s (my new literary agent) VPR Commentary on the Dalai Lama’s visit here.
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