The Art of Parenting: By Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

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Q: It would be wonderful to have our children grow up happily in this sometimes difficult world. What can we give them besides lots of love when they are still too young for meditation?

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Just play with them. Don’t try to be a teacher all the time and start teaching them. In fact learn from them and respect them. And don’t get too serious with kids.
I remember as a child, when my father would come home in the evenings, he would just clap and make us laugh. My mother was very strict but my father would just clap and make everyone laugh before we all went for dinner. Everybody had to sit together and eat. So before that he would just clap and chase everybody around in the house. Everyone had to laugh before we sit for food. So don’t go on teaching them all the time, just celebrate with them, play with them, sing with them. This is the best thing. If you always take a stick and say, ‘Don’t do this, don’t do that’, that is no good.

With kids, I feel you should play with them more and tell them stories sometimes. We used to hear a lot of nice stories when we were kids. Every day one story. It is good to bring up children with values through this way. If you tell them nice interesting stories then they will not glue themselves to the television and sit there all the time.
There are many stories for children; there is Panchatantra. One of our devotees is also making cartoons of the Panchatantra. Soon it will come out.

So it is good for parents to sit with the children and tell them stories that have morals. A story with a moral is good. And that quality time of one hour or half an hour that you spend with your children is good enough.
Also, don’t stifle them sitting with them for five to six hours. Quality time of 45 minutes to one hour is good, and this time should be very interesting. They should look forward to the time to sit with you and listen to stories.

I remember, I had an uncle, who was very fat, fair and had a round face. Every Sunday he would come to our house and tell us stories. We would all sit with him and he would tell us nice stories, and he would leave some suspense towards the end so that the next time we would be very curious to know what happens next.
So we do have such personalities among us. If not, your own kid can go and tell stories to some other kids. Their parents will also be very happy. They will find someone to baby sit, and that can be your service project as well.
So that human touch is needed.

Today children, from the time they wake up in the morning, they sit like a non-participatory witness in front of the television; isn’t it?

Children sit in front of the television and go on surfing channels. The mother comes and says, ‘Hey, come for breakfast’, and they just don’t move. Sometimes, mother has to bring their breakfast in front of the television. This type of culture is no good. What do you think? How many of you agree with me?
Not more than one hour of television should be shown to children. You should limit the time for television, otherwise children will have this Attention Deficiency Syndrome. The brain gets so bombarded with all these images, it fails to register anything else and the kids become so dull later on. They cannot attend to anything. Thank God when we were kids we had no television. How many of you grew up without television? We all grew up without television. So children growing up with more television don’t seem to be as intelligent. You should limit the television to maximum two hours in a day.

Even for adults, one or two hours is enough, not more. It is too much for adults too. You know, all these nerves in the brain get so taxed with watching too much of television. Sometimes people compel me to see television saying, ‘Gurudev, this is very good.’ I can’t watch more than half an hour to one hour. It really taxes the mind.
I wonder how people watch two to three movies a week. Really we are draining the brain cells I tell you.

Just look at the people who come out of the movie theaters, do they look exuberant, energetic and happy? The way they go into the movie theaters, when they come out, how do they look? However nice the movie has been, they look drained; completely exhausted and dull, isn’t it?

If you have not noticed, just stand outside a movie theater. You should watch when the people are going into the theater and when they are coming out. You will see a visible difference. How many of you have noticed this? Even in you. Any entertainment recreation should energize you, but with watching movies, it doesn’t happen that way. Suppose you go for a live show, it is a little better than that, you don’t feel so exhausted. You go for a live music performance, it doesn’t do that much. You do feel exhaustion, but not that much. How many of you notice this? And when you come to satsang, it is just the opposite. When you come in, you feel different, and when you go out you feel energized.

Q: Do you think that little children should be told scary fairy tales, because there are some German tales which are scary and I’ve heard people say they shouldn’t be told them. 

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Scary tales should kept in moderation. Suppose they are not told any scary tales at a young age, then when they grow up and they become aware of them, it will scare them even more. It will make them very weak. At the same time, if you tell them too many scary things, then they can get obsessed with fear. Both extremes should be avoided. A little bit of scary things can be there but not too much; especially video games.
I feel video games should not be violent. Children shoot in the video screen and think it is just a game, and then in the real life they start shooting people because they don’t find the difference between the virtual world and the real world. This is a problem. So I would prefer that children should not have violent video games.

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