6 things that parents can do to ensure a brighter 2017 for their children

1st

There are many things that we plan for our children but in the everyday rush of doing our daily chores, sometimes those things just remain at the back of our mind. This 2017, let your kids learn something new and experiment with various things in this world.

Here are some things that parents can do to help their kids have an amazing year ahead:

  • Encourage them to participate in extra-curricular activities at school

Encourage your kids to register for as many extra-curricular activities as possible in school. Let them explore and see what suits them and what does not. Extra-curricular activities will help in developing the all-round personality of your kids. They will learn to interact with new people and they will also know as to how they can socialize once they step out into the competitive world.

[Read more…]

This Christmas – Let your children experience the satisfaction of giving

19th

What with all the festival mood around, there’s no bigger present than the satisfaction of giving. Teaching your kids to give is one of the biggest learnings that you can inculcate in them during their childhood.
Here are some ideas that you can utilize this holiday season to involve your children in the activity of giving:

– Involve them along with you in your giving activities

Whenever you are doing a good deed, make sure to talk about it with your kids. Your kids will always idealize you as their role models and hence, your actions will always have a direct impact on them.

Make sure that you share with them, your experiences of giving in the past and stories that can motivate them to donate. Choose a cause and let your children know as to why you are passionate about that cause and what have you done to contribute towards it. [Read more…]

Stay at Home or Work Full Time? A Human Perspective

Stay at Home or Work Full Time? A Human Perspective

By Jayaram Rajaram

I am sure women are wondering what I (being a man) am going to say about a debate that is always highly polarized and one that has been done to death. Here I am digging into ancient Indian roots & wisdom and am going to offer a perspective for all human beings, in a gender-neutral manner.

Parents and Child

Ambition and competitive education with little or no introspection or self-awareness have harmed the human race and its peace of mind, irrespective of gender. It’s really time to move to a self-awareness, inward looking, duty-bound education system that nurtures creative thinking and collaboration while taking mental health very seriously (With an emphasis on yoga and meditation). A system that asks children what problem in the world they wish to solve and what their primary duties as sons/daughters/fathers/mothers/citizens of the world are, rather than what they want to be, with material gains, power, social recognition and bank balance being the primary objective.  Seriously, material gains and ambition are no benchmarks to judge people and it’s time society (every mother, father, grandfather and grandmother) understands this, as the damage that consumerism and materialism over the last 2-3 generations have done are already showing up in several nasty ways in most countries. Spiritually looking at things, we have to nurture a generation that is grateful and contented, but not lazy, while acting to make the world a better place. Delving into the Nishkama Karma approach, we as parents have to lead by example. As parents if we prioritize staying away from kids emphasizing the importance of earning a living and making money, that’s what our children will feel is socially rewarding and emulate us later in life. If every father and mother prioritize needs from wants and look beyond their small ego-centric lives (that depend largely on social validation) to nurture the future generation with the right values, we might have a chance of nurturing balanced, happy, confident and emotionally stable citizens of the future who are sensitive to others’ needs also.

So all this sounds good but where to start?

  • Every mother and every father currently working or not, have to assess how much time they get to spend with their children. I mean quality and quantity time with your children. We decided to bring our children into this world didn’t we? They are our purpose, duty and joy and not a distraction from our office work.   If a job demands more than 8-10 hours per day at work, start looking for a better job. Always remember that we work to live and do not live to work – no matter how fulfilling one’s job, business or career is (To put things in perspective, even a doctor has to take care of himself/herself to provide optimum patient care.).
  • Avoid taking up jobs that require late night phone calls, if you can avoid it, or work out flexi timings that let you spend time with your kids in the evening before your calls. A globalized-world is great for economics but disastrous for families. If it is a necessary evil, the least you can do is work around it without being a parent who is sleeping when your kids leave for school, and whose kids are asleep when you get back home. You will not be thinking about your American or Brit client (Or Indian or Chinese client if you are from the western hemisphere) who you never skipped a late night call with, on your death bed – I promise. 🙂
  • Schedule maximum number of days so your child gets time with his / her mother and father.
  • Ensure weekends or at least Sunday is 100% family time
  • Dedicate time for family meditation / quiet time everyday before bed time or first thing in the morning. Time for prayer / puja / God is also recommended for the parent if you wish to bring up a child who understands that there is a higher force within all of us and external rituals/routines help calm stressed minds and bring about one-pointedness of mind. The benefits of meditation and rituals include clarity of thought, focus, intuition and creativity and are today being recognized even by the so-called modern-scientific fraternity.
  • If you have all your needs and lifestyle requirements met, allow one partner to stay-at-home full time. I am not even entering the gender debate but putting kids’ needs ahead of parent-needs which is the beauty of the Indian parenting system has gotten horribly diluted along the way. This is a tough one as most of us have forgotten to be grateful for what we have and confuse needs from wants and justify all our wrong actions by looking outside for validation rather than looking inside and listening to that inner voice.
  • Reduce travel for work as much as possible. Both in terms of proximity to work place and work-related travel out of town.
  • When you attend your next work interview (whether you are a mother or father), keep your children’s needs ahead of your own. This might sound tough initially but this is where contentment begins and you will not regret the decision in the long run. Some parents say I am doing this to give my children a better life. The truth is children need us to be present more than the money (beyond basic needs and saving for their future along the way, which we must do as a duty too). Never forget that once they enter the teenage zone they won’t need you much anymore. No point having regrets at that point.
  • Travel as a family at least once a year. If possible, do short weekend breaks. None of your breaks have to be expensive and over the top for you to have a great time with your children.
  • Try to start your own lifestyle business, if your situation permits it so you have control over your time and how much you wish to earn (If your business works out well ). One partner can do this while the other brings in a steady income at first.
  • Stop trying to keep up with the Jones’, Jagans, Janes or Janakis as they might be looking at you and trying to keep up with you in some aspects of life. So stop! This gets people nowhere. Use Facebook only for entertainment and don’t worry if you can’t do an international holiday every year like some of your friends. They probably have hardly anytime with their families. Even if they do- STOP thinking about others except when you can do something to help a fellow human being. Even when you help someone do not expect quid-pro-quo and give for the sake of giving like it is your blessing from God that you have been given an opportunity to help someone.
  • Stop hoarding things and buying unnecessary stuff. Minimalistic living helps using resources (time and money) in experiences with your loved ones. Order of priority (Most important left to Least Important right) that we should aim for, work on, live daily and teach our kids is :

(Most Important) People–>Food, Shelter, Clothing–> Simple Experiences –>Money to impact ones family and world positively (even if it is in a small way like educating one underprivileged child)–>Bigger Experiences–>Things (Least Important)

 

  • Take care of your and your spouse’s ageing parents and show your kids that this is how India works and that’s why the whole world looks to India for its solid family support system. You should not ask the kids to take care of you, but do your duty towards your parents (the child’s grandparents) and allow your child to watch it happening day in and day out. Nishkama Karma at every stage- where we do our duty without expecting anything in return. Very tough but this attitude has to be work in progress on a daily basis for all of us.
  • Last but not least, nobody can have it all and nobody is 100% right or 100% wrong so stop comparing yourselves with others and do what works for you. Whether you choose to stay at home or work full time, always remember to find a job that helps you to spend more time with family. Indra Nooyi said women can’t have it all. I say nobody can have it all (Not men, not women because what does all mean? One has to sacrifice something to gain something else. Isn’t this the law of nature?). If we are to nurture a better future generation and really cherish the process, we have to spend more time with our children (This applies to mothers and fathers).  If you don’t like what someone else is doing, or it irritates you, it probably means you haven’t come to terms with some aspect of your own personality and are allowing another’s actions or lifestyle to affect your mental peace.  Introspect, meditate and course correct.

So what’s the essence of this entire article from an ancient Indian Wisdom and Sanatana Dharma standpoint? In two words – Reduce Desire!

Unfulfilled desire leads to anger and then disillusionment and depression (Kama – desire, Krodha-Anger, Moha – Maya/Disillusionment). Desire fulfilled leads to more desire or greed (Lobha).

I will leave you with a lovely piece on Maturity by Adi Sankaracharya:

*What is maturity? – by Adi Shankara*

1. Maturity is when you stop trying to change others, …instead focus on changing yourself.

2. Maturity is when you accept people as they are.

3. Maturity is when you understand everyone is right in their own perspective.

4. Maturity is when you learn to “let go.

5. Maturity is when you are able to drop “expectations” from a relationship and give for the sake of giving.

6. Maturity is when you understand whatever you do, you do for your own peace.

7. Maturity is when you stop proving to the world, how intelligent you are.

8. Maturity is when you don’t seek approval from others.

9. Maturity is when you stop comparing with others.

10. Maturity is when you are at peace with yourself.

11. Maturity is when you are able to differentiate between “need” and “want” and are able to let go of your wants.

and last but most meaningful,

12. You gain Maturity when you stop attaching “happiness” to material things !!

Writing for other parents helps me introspect and course correct as a parent myself. I learn by writing and am in no way perfect. Let us all cherish every moment of the journey rather than hanker after some fictitious destination.

Image Credits: http://www.stockphotosforfree.com/

Making our homes nature-friendly

25thjune

 

The most striking feature of old traditional houses such as Chettinad mansion in Tamil Nadu, Tharavadu home in Kerala, and Guttina Mane in Karnataka is their non-dependence on modern technology and their use of nature to meet most of their basic needs.

[Read more…]

Surya Namaskar for a healthy and happy life

4th

 

Technology has played an important role in raising income levels substantially in India and the rest of the world. But it has also brought with it a new set of challenges.

Economic prosperity is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it helps us to fight diseases better, it generates better incomes, and it provides access to better education. On the other, [Read more…]

Education Abroad: Some important issues

27thmay

 

The number of Indian students choosing to pursue higher education abroad has seen an upward trend in recent years. Our student community is beginning to gravitate more and more towards foreign universities than our own.

The decision does not come entirely as a surprise when you consider not one Indian university ranks among the top 200 universities in the world. What ails Indian education system and in which areas do foreign universities score over their Indian counterparts?

Our education system mainly suffers from:

[Read more…]

Introducing Your Child to Karma Yoga and the Concept of Nishkama Karma

Introducing Your Child to Karma Yoga and the Concept of Nishkama Karma:

By Jayaram Rajaram

This post is for the parent only and must be used to guide children so they lead contented, healthy and happy lives.

The Bhagavad Gita has inspired millions of people for thousands of years and its teachings are timeless and relevant even today. A primary teaching by Lord Krishna to Arjuna on the battle field is the importance of Karma Yoga and Nishkama Karma.  The meaning of Nishkama Karma is to do ones duty without worrying about the results. Arjuna (Representing the Pandavas) had to fight the Kauravas who were his own cousins. While he felt emotional, Krishna who was Arjuna’s charioteer cleared his doubts by saying, fighting bad people had to be done to protect good people.  So, Arjuna felt relieved that fighting was his duty at that point and he had to do it to protect Dharma or righteousness.

krishna-arjuna

Now several children are committing suicide because they do not get good marks. This is very sad and parents and teachers are sometimes largely to blame for this sad state of affairs. As parents it is our duty to tell our children that it is their duty to study to learn. We have to reassure them that no matter what the outcome or results are, we will love our children. Whenever children study, emphasize the importance of learning rather than focussing on the outcome. If the child is merely by hearting things, step in and help him/ her understand concepts logically wherever possible.

Similarly ask your children what problem in the world they wish to solve when they grow up? Two or three generations have been spoilt and have become unhappy because they have been asked what they want to become and the narrative has been ambition based rather than duty based. Ambition and desire are the root causes of unhappiness as per Sanatana Dharma. Many people believe lack of ambition is laziness. Nishkama Karma and Karma Yoga is all about action for the benefit and well-being of the world (All benefit that comes to an individual is merely a by-product of action that is done without hankering after rewards and recognition). Today even many doctors and hospitals focus more on how much they can earn rather than patient care. At least the next generation should start focusing on how they can help others by acting in the right way and spirit.

Tell children that duty for the sake of duty, no matter what job they take up, will keep them happy. Giving everything in life their best shot and not worrying about the outcome is the best way to nurture a stable, happy, peaceful and contented future generation.

This is a tough task, but this is must be the highest priority among parents if we are not to repeat the mistakes made by the west.  Modern examples of Karma Yogis are Dr. A.P.J Abdul Kalam and E Sreedharan (Delhi Metro).

You could ask your children the following questions:

What problem will you solve when you grow up?

If your child is younger, just ask them what they will do when they grow up and accept all answers while guiding them without putting too much emphasis on duty as their level of understanding may be limited till the age of 8. But use the word duty when they mess a room and make them put back their toys after they play etc.

Who will the work you do when you grow up help?

What is your duty as a kid?

Answer to this should be: Learn to the best of your ability (and don’t worry about marks), Be Good, Do Good, Be Happy

Do you know who the greatest and best people are?

Allow your child to answer and then emphasize that the best and greatest people in the world are those who help others by doing their duties wholeheartedly. So explain that even their grandmother / great grandmother are great for their selfless service to their families even if they never worked outside the home (This will remove money from the equation and recognize service and duty as something that is recognized and important). This way as parents we have to get it into the child’s subconscious that duty-bound action is better than ambition-based action and people with big bank balances, famous people and actors aren’t the real role models, unless of course they are good people who help others (Then they are worth emulating, provided they have all-round values worth emulating). Basically this will help your child treat everyone equally and understand that duties and rights are two sides of the same coin while slowly realizing that making money and becoming famous as a by-product is better than gunning only for riches and fame at any cost. They will also start understanding that an entitlement mindset* and fighting for rights without doing their duty is a sure-shot way to self-destruction and unhappiness.

*Children who grow up thinking the whole world owes it to them have very difficult lives.

Note: This has to be done carefully, as we should not paint a picture that money and rich people are bad, because this is not true at all. Nishkama Karma is about doing your duty well and not hankering after rewards. If you are an IT professional, by virtue of being in a job one must give it his / her 100% during office hours, go back home and play the role of a father/mother, husband/wife 100%. If a person is an entrepreneur he/she must work towards solving their customers’ problems and helping their employees and shareholders improve their lives (As a byproduct of this dedication to his / her duty the entrepreneur’s life improves, but that should not be the primary goal if one wants contentment and peace of mind). So Nishkama Karma and Karma Yoga is a shift in attitude and thought process which will definitely help anyone no matter what their background, ethnicity, nationality is, live a more balanced, happy, healthy, peaceful and fulfilled life.

Bring in the importance of dignity of labour by asking them to thank the bus driver / auto driver / maid for the service and help they render.

Build on this and as a parent keep course correcting based on the situation so your child knows what is expected of him / her.

Most importantly start practicing Karma Yoga and live the Nishkama Karma philosophy yourself (It is a liberating experience and definitely worth the effort). Also, our kids learn by watching us, so we have no choice but to live the life we want our children to learn and emulate!

Image Credits: www.blog.onlineprasad.com

4 Activities Children Can Do Until School Re-opens

19thmay

 

Summer holidays are drawing to a close. All good things in life must come to an end and so must this. Come June and it is time to go back to school.

Hope you enjoyed every moment of your holidays. What is left of your summer holidays can be put to good use by taking a moment to reflect on the highlights of the summer holidays and also by planning for the year ahead.

Moment for reflection: Were you able to do all the activities you had planned during the vacation? What was the best moment of your holidays and what was the not so good moment? You have been probably lazing about quite a bit in the summer holidays, which is perfectly fine because you have earned it by working hard all year.

[Read more…]

Kindness, Love and Humility Always Beat Pride and Arrogance

Kindness and Humility Always Beat Pride and Arrogance

By Jayaram Rajaram

Narrate the following story to your child:

Kubera, the God of wealth went to to Lord Shiva and Parvati in Mt Kailash to show off his wealth to them. He invited Shiva and Parvati for a meal so he could show off all that he had. Since Shiva and Parvati were busy, they offered to send Ganesha for the meal. Shiva warned Kubera that Ganesha ate a lot. But Kubera haughtily and in an arrogant tone said “Let him eat as much as he wants!”.

Lord-Ganesha-Eating-Sweets

When Ganesha started eating, he ate and ate and ate till he ate up all the food. He then ate the furniture and Kubera’s palace and was still hungry. Kubera realized his foolishness and ran to Shiva and begged for his forgiveness. Kubera promised never to be so haughty and arrogant again. Pleased with Kubera’s realization, Shiva gave him a fistful of rice and asked him to give it to Ganesha. When Kubera gavve Ganesha the fistful of rice with love and humility Ganesha was satisfied and returned all his wealth to Kubera.

Ask your child: Are people important or things/toys?

If your child says “Toys”, ask him /her “Who gives you the toys?”

Your child will invariably say people. Then ask again -“So are people important or toys?”

Ask your child: Is showing off good?

Do your friends show off?

Do you like it when they show off?

You show off too sometimes.

Will Umachi / Bhagwan (God) like it if you show off?

Do you want to make the same mistake Kubera made?

What will happen if you show off?

Always share with your friends and be kind, or like Kubera you will lose friends and all your good things/toys.

Tell them: If you do good, you get good. If you do bad, you get bad. This is the rule of the universe and it is called Karma! Ask your child to repeat after you.

Image Credits: www.enjoyfestivals.com

The Importance of Women and How To Teach Your Son to Treat Them Well

The Importance of Women and How To Teach Your Son to Treat Them Well:

By Jayaram Rajaram

This is a very important story to narrate to children, especially to young boys:

A princess Savitri fell in love with a poor man called Satyavan. When Narada Muni (Saint) found out, he warned her that Satyavan had a short life and that he would die at an early age. Savitri said since she loved Satyavan very much, she would still get married to him. They tied the knot and after a few years as predicted by Narada Muni, Satyavan fell ill and died. On the day of Satyavan’s death, Savitri saw Lord Yama (The God of Death) himself and pleaded to him to give her her husband back and not take him away. Yama unmoved said nobody could stop death and carried on.

savitri_satyavan

Savitri, without giving up easily, followed Yama for miles and miles. Yama, impressed with her determination and perseverance gave her two boons. He said, “Ask for any two things other than the life of your husband and I shall grant them to you.”.  Savitri thought for a bit and asked 1. For the well-being of her father-in-law (Satyavan’s father), and 2. 100 sons!  Yama said ‘so be it’ without giving it much thought. No sooner had he done so the clever Savitri said, “how can I have any sons without my husband?”. Yama conceded defeat and returned Savitri’s husband to her.

Ask your child what they understood from this story? Accept all answers as there are no absolute right or wrong answers, but correct them in case they say anything totally wrong by using your discretion.

You Ask: Do you know that women are very strong?

Your son may say, no boys are stronger.

You say: Do you think Savitri was weak? She even helped her husband come back from the God of death! Is that not strength? We call this Shakthi or mental power in India.

Also, boys may be physically stronger than some girls, but really strong boys are the ones who never hit or hurt anyone. Boys who hit and hurt girls are actually the weakest because those who hurt people and especially girls have no friends and are not liked by anyone.

You Ask:

Where did you come from?

How would life be without your mother?

Who prays for your well-being every single day?

Who do you go to when you feel sad?

Wouldn’t it be good if you can be good friends with boys and girls?

Do you know you can pray to Durga Ma to destroy your fear when you are scared? Durga and Kaali are women, but super strong! They protect us.

This story can also be used effectively with your daughters to teach them that strength is not merely physical and that Love and being kind is a woman (girl’s) biggest gift. Teach them that boys and girls are on the same team and can work together to achieve anything they wish for.

Note to Parent: Let’s nurture a generation where women Love for their rights and men fight for women’s rights whenever there is discrimination in mundane material/household matters, but without the compulsion where women feel the need to do everything men do and make men do everything they do, to prove their worth (Neither women nor men need not prove their worth and must be free to pursue anything they wish to for their personal satisfaction but in a manner that impacts their family, society, country and world at large positively rather than negatively). Equality today has become merely for materialistic things, but In India we worship the feminine as it is every man’s duty and responsibility to balance the feminine energy in his body through Yoga, Pranayama and meditation (Crimes against women and rapes can be greatly reduced if only our education system embraces traditional yoga and meditation daily from the age of 8 for all children. Even if your child’s school doesn’t offer it, I recommend all parents to enrol their child -son or daughter in a good yoga program with a proper Guru). All good and beautiful things like creativity, intuition and aesthetics are feminine and yoga and the finer aspects of life nurture this energy. All human beings have masculine and feminine energy within and balancing these energies leads to harmonious coexistence has been the belief in Sanatana Dharma for eons (Masculine and feminine are subtle energies and are very different from male and female in the gross physical sense). Somewhere along the way we forgot the essence of worshipping the feminine and made it just another ritual. One of the most powerful mantras in the world is the Gayatri Mantra and that mantra brings about a feeling of contentment and inner peace as it harmonizes these subtle energies within.

Image Credits: hinduism.about.com