A child who wanted to be perceived as the strongest of all would speak loudly, look angry, and hit everyone to prove his strength. When his grandfather came to visit, he behaved in the same way. However, his grandpa was never agitated and just smiled at his actions. The child was bewildered as he was only used to getting yelled at for what he did. He thought that the more he was yelled at, the stronger he would become!
Grandpa shares the Buddha story
The grandfather asked him if he would like to hear a story and the boy agreed. “Once upon a time, there was an enlightened master called Buddha. He traveled across the country teaching people how to be peaceful. Once, while he was going through a forest, a tribesman called Angulimala came to him. He was a frightening man. He wore a garland of fingers of people whom he had sacrificed so he would be the strongest and the most feared. He wanted to have Buddha’s finger as the hundredth, to complete his sacrificing ritual.
Buddha smiled at him and said, ‘I’m happy to be of use to you.’ There was no trace of fear in him. Nobody had ever smiled at Angulimala. No one had ever spoken to him so kindly. The very presence of Buddha did something to him. Angulimala felt very weak for the first time in his life. He felt like a feather in front of a mountain. He realized that real strength is in having unshakeable calmness, peace, and compassion. He fell at Buddha’s feet. He was changed completely.”
The child listened to every word from his grandpa with rapt attention.
1. Look out for the media children are exposed to
When you feel helpless or weak, the need to assert your strength comes out as violence. Where do children get the idea of violence? They see their parents, neighbors, friends, and so many programs on TV, or movies — all this exposure leaves impressions and has a strong impact on the minds of children, more than we know. In the olden days, parents would control what a child could see. Today, it’s a common occurrence that elders are all engrossed in watching programs on TV and are oblivious to children who are also watching.
It’s very important to be sensitive to everything their tender senses are exposed to. They shouldn’t be bombarded with heavy impressions.
2. Handling aggression
Children get angry or show aggression for seemingly silly reasons. But the real reason is something else, a sense of insecurity that has crept in somehow. That’s why in the olden days, parents would never show anger in front of a child. Public display of anger was considered a weakness.
Today, anger and aggression come up easily. If your child is aggressive, look into your own lifestyle. What are you doing? Are you yelling at your spouse, or anyone else, in front of the child? Are you sad? What is your reaction?
It doesn’t matter that out of the 365 days, you have acted in aggression only a couple of times. Those few days are equally important for the child. Children are even sensitive to suppressed violence. If you’re angry inside but still act as if everything is okay, they will know it.
This is why we need to meditate and practice pranayama or deep breathing techniques. Heyum dukham anagatam — stopping the misery before it comes — that’s the benefit of yoga because, in life, prevention is better than cure.
3. Engaging children in meaningful activities
The other important thing is to engage them in meaningful activities and sports that allow them to channel their energy constructively. Playing video games or watching TV increases restlessness and makes them prone to aggression. Encourage them to go out and play. Enroll them in activities that develop their creativity as well as their physical bodies, and help them find something they’re interested in.
4. What kinds of stories are we telling children?
To develop a sound value system, tell them stories. For very small children, perhaps around three or four years old, stories should be pleasant, free of fighting and violence, about animals and nature, sharing and caring. When they’re five or six it’s okay to introduce stories with good people and ‘bad’ people. Every culture has its stories of heroes who protected the innocent and fought villains who were up to no good. Through these stories, they understand that the purpose of strength is to protect and not to hurt. They learn that the hero, the stronger one, is calm and collected.
While it’s important to reprimand anger, it’s equally important to recognize when they’re gentle and appreciate them. When I was a child and would sometimes get angry, my grandmother would ask me to go to a certain corner of the house and leave my anger there. She would say that the angel in that corner would take the anger from me and go far, far away. I would believe her, go stand there and in a minute, come back smiling!
So, you can teach them by ignoring their sulking or shouting, and praising them and giving extra attention when they’re well-mannered.
6. Food is important
The food we give to our children also has a role to play. Too many sweets, fried foods, and oily foods increase restlessness. Also, their food must be freshly cooked as much as possible, rather than packaged items kept in cold storage.
Encourage them to enjoy fruits as much as chips. Food has a direct impact on the mind, and when consumed over a period of time, it has a definite impact on the nature or attitude of the child.
7. Quality Time
Above all, as parents, you need to spend quality time doing ‘nothing’ with your child. Just sitting with them without looking at mobile phones, giving complete attention to what they have to say, and just being with them 100% gives a great sense of security to children. An insecure child is more likely to succumb to aggression than one who feels secure and attended to.
This article was originally published by The Indian Express and is re-posted here with the author’s permission.