Patience – Simple ways to cultivate it

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Patience is the ability to apply self-control in compelling situations. Imagine you are travelling as family for a vacation and along the way you hit a lot of traffic, now instead of constantly cutting lanes, honking, huffing and puffing (hopefully not cursing) trying to get ahead by a couple feet, what if you turned your “patience” app on. Not only will you relieve yourself from the constant mental battle of getting “there” faster, but also give yourself a chance to have some meaningful conversation with family. And by doing this you would demonstrate to them, how important it is to “not lose your cool!”

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So how can we develop this virtue of patience, without being complacent? Here are some tips that will help both parents and children cultivate patience.

FOR PARENTS:

  1. Re-evaluate your expectations: Often times we have unrealistic expectations from our children. Most of the times this stems from comparing them to other kids. For e.g. STOP immediately, when you find yourself remarking how quickly a friend’s child eats her meal when asking your child to finish hers quickly. Embrace the differences, reminding yourself of the things your child does well and the things you may be too slow at.
  2. Check your language: Do you often unnecessarily use terms such as “hurry up,” “quick”, “right now”, “fast”? A confession, I do! Hari once told me “mommy, for everything thing you keep saying fast, fast, fast, I am small, I cannot do things as fast as you.” Have you noticed that saying these really means nothing to them. It just tries your patience even more! Instead try substantiating these words with reasons, allowing children to understand why certain situations require them to be swift. So now, instead of just saying hurry up, I add, if you hurry then we can go and play in park before it gets dark.
  3. Listen with full attention: Give them a listening ear. Pay attention to what they have to say or show without distraction. By modelling such behavior they also learn to listen to you patiently.
  4. Identify triggers: Identify triggers that make you impatient towards your kids and try and work on them. For me it is making her do homework. It would get me really irritated because she would take FOREVER to finish one page. But the underlying cause of my impatience was a laundry list of things that I had to finish in the course of the day. So now, when I have to make her do homework, I remind myself to forget about that list and give her my time and patient attention.

Our practice for patience will act as a springboard from which the attitude of our children will take off.

FOR CHILDREN:

  1. Slow down response time: No more “at the drop of a hat.” When they need or demand something, evaluate the need and then respond. For e.g. when you go to the mall and they want a toy or something, ask how important is it for them to have it? Can it wait till an occasion, like Diwali, Christmas, birthday? Making wish lists is also a great way of allowing their “I want it and I want it now” tantrum to subside.
  2. Make waiting fun: Children are intuitively impatient, so teaching them how to cope with waiting is important. When waiting in line at the mall, grocery store, bank etc play games or tell short stories. This works really well with little ones. Hari and I often play the game where we take turns to pick a color wherever we are waiting and either one has to point to or say the name of the object matching that color.
  3. Activities for Patience: Engage children in activities that require time like solving puzzles, art, planting/gardening, learning an instrument. Chess is a great game for cultivating patience. Taking nature walks (without any gadgets) is a great way to slow down and observe the pace of nature.
  4. Taking Turns: This is a big problem for little kids who have to wait their turn. Taking them to fairs, public parks, and kids events, where they have to wait their turn reinforces this behavior and helps them become more patient with others.
  5. Patience in small doses: Test their patience in small doses periodically to see where they stand. I do this by sometimes purposefully pretending to not hear what Hari may have said or sometimes even make myself look busy if she needs help with a puzzle, just to see how she gets my attention again, whether she gets angry or tries to solve it on her own.

And remember, cultivating patience is a process. So be patient and work towards it.

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Patience – The Waiting Game

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Now-a-days, we live in an “Instant” world- instant messaging, instant replay, instant booking. So much so that even our hunger pangs find solace in instant Ramen/Maggi noodles! Long gone are the days where one patiently waited in queues at the movies, banks, shows, railway stations- well……OK we may still see that one. It’s amazing how the internet has simplified our lives. Move over 2G and 3G, all thanks to 4G and the smart phones everything happens at the tap of our fingers in a flash of a second even from one continent to another. Incredible!

patience, tap

And while our life runs smoothly by the bits and bytes of internet power, our patience hangs lose on bits and pieces.

A few days ago, I took Haripriya to the play area. As usual, both swings were taken. She whispered to me that she would like to swing and that I should go ask one of the boys to get off. I obliged. Instantly I went up to him and asked him to give Hari a chance to swing. And I felt like a winner, Hari was happy and so was I. In about 5 minutes, another kid came by and asked Hari for the swing. As I watched the tables turn, the scene turned into an eye opener for me. I realized that perhaps the other kid who gave Hari her turn also might have just gotten his turn. How impatient was I to let my child have her way instantly! She came back “bawling.” I will be honest, I tried to pacify her, but the damage was done. I had fed her impatience and now it was testing my patience.

We often come across numerous situations like these in our lives where we are forced to play “the waiting game.” Our attitude, both, in behavior/action and words, during such situations determines our levels of patience and those that our children will inherit.

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Patience is a very important virtue in character building and the best way to teach patience is, well, to practice it! Easier said than done right?  Some people have an inbuilt app called patience. They can breeze through the most stressful situations whereas some may struggle to get by. Children are no different. However, it is important to cultivate this important character trait in them right from childhood. Some of the benefits of practicing patience are:

  1. Children are able to avoid impulsive behavior
  2. They allow themselves a chance to reflect and think over problems and hence
  3. They are better able to solve problems
  4. It leads to inner calmness and emotional strength
  5. Keeps temper tantrums at check
  6. They begin to have realistic expectations from life (as they get older)
  7. Begin to value the nature of time
  8. It helps them become emotionally mature adults

I wouldn’t want to test your patience by putting up a loooong post :). So stay tuned for the next post where I will elaborate on ways in which we can practice patience and perhaps transform ourselves and our children from being “IMPATIENT” to “I M PATIENT.”

 

 

Pray together, stay together

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Many years ago, while in Atlanta, I was watching one of those reality TV shows on TLC. It is called 19 Kids and counting, and this while I was counting my days into the 3rd trimester. The most AMAZING thing about watching the show was that, in spite of their busy………..wait did I say busy? Let me rephrase that, in spite of their CRAZY BUSY schedules, the entire family of 21 (19 kids and parents) diligently sat together every night for prayer time and bible study. Right from a toddler to a teenager, they were all there, “ears and hearts wide open.”

That scene (which is still so vivid) inspired me to resolve that I will give myself no excuse for following the same. With the birth of Haripriya, my husband made it a daily routine to read from scriptures (a shloka) for 10-15 minutes daily, which we practice till date every morning before she leaves for school. Sometimes it’s in between combing her hair, getting her to have breakfast and so on, but we never miss the hearing session. Yes, she may not understand anything at this point, but she is learning the important aspect of setting aside time for God and reading from scripture no matter what.

The evening routine comprises of our daily evening prayers for which many a times her friends join in too. I am blessed to be able to follow a routine like this because I am home and my husband also has a flexible work schedule. But I can see more and more, how hard it has become to imbibe this simple principle of “families that pray together, stay together.” Isn’t it?

We all have our individual spiritual practices that we routinely follow and the various ways in which we spend time with our families. Play time, story time, TV time, movie nights, and so on and that is all good. But, of all the important things we may do in a day with our family, prayer is perhaps the most important.

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Praying together is a practical demonstration of our faith. It also helps children understand that prayer is a way in which we can communicate with God. By the simple act of sincere prayer, we can raise our consciousness to the platform of divinity and in reciprocation the divine power acts like a compass helping us navigate our lives in the right direction.

Prayer when offered without selfish motives cultivates humility and gratitude because it reminds us of our dependence on God and all that He has bestowed upon us. These two are important virtues on which thrives the principle of respect, which is like a glue that binds a family together.

Many religious texts are full of wonderful prayers that one can try and recite regularly. Even if we may not know how to recite them perfectly or present personal rendition of poetic prayers, we can still attempt to pray together with our sincere hearts.

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Perhaps we need to slow down our busy and grossly distracted lives just enough so that we can set aside some family prayer time daily. If not daily, a few times a week, if not few times a week, at least once a week?

 

 

 

God as Creator – An engaging hour with my 5 year old

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I recently read an article which studied the “God Concept” in children through various ages. The study revealed that children ages 5-7 have an understanding of God, in which, they see Him as the creator, which He rightfully is, as stated by Lord Krishna himself in the Bhagvad Gita, Chapter 10, verse 8:

ahaṁ sarvasya prabhavo
mattaḥ sarvaṁ pravartate
iti matvā bhajante māṁ
budhā bhāva-samanvitāḥ

Translation: 

I am the source of all spiritual and material worlds. Everything emanates from Me. The wise who perfectly know this engage in My devotional service and worship Me with all their hearts.

The findings of this study were quite amazing and so I decided to implement them and what would have otherwise turned out to be a boring dull afternoon, transformed into an engaging hour with my five year old daughter, Haripriya and her friend Ishani.

To explain the concept of God as the creator, I decided to play a game with them and also make them do homework at the same time. We began with their writing assignment of practicing A-Z. While they wrote each alphabet, we started our “who created” game.

hari-and-ishani

Me: A for?

Them: Apple

Me: Apple grows on?

Them: Trees

Me: Who created the trees?  I was waiting with abated breath for what they would say…

Them: Trees come from the ground and the soil.

Me: Ok, so that is Mother Earth, and who created mother earth?

Them: God? Krishna!

Me: High five!

I was amazed. And then I asked them to try it with A for aeroplane (airplane). And it went something like this,

Me: And who makes the aeroplane

Them: Krishna?

Me: No, the engineers make the aeroplane

Them: Oh, and Krishna makes them fly?

Me: (I couldn’t help but smile) The pilot makes them fly. And, Krishna gives the engineer and the pilot the intelligence (brains) to do so. And guess what, He even made us, you and me, so we can become whoever we want to be.

Them: Oh so we can also become engineers and make aeroplanes?

Me: Yes

We stopped at letter H.

So you get the drill right?  We can pretty much revise the whole alphabet and attribute the ultimate source of everything to God.  This can be a fun game during long drives, train rides, walks or dull afternoons.

Tip: Do the alphabet activity over a few days with few alphabets at a time. Also, you may reverse the roles and let them ask you too.

To enable their impression of God as the creator register in their little minds, I added a finger painting activity like the one in the picture below. Make the outline on a piece of white cardboard, and then let them color away. Finger painting with a purpose!

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Making them learn the above Bhagvad Gita shloka (10:8) would be an added bonus. Learning the shloka and understanding its meaning will become easier after having played the game and finger painting activity.

In trying to teach Haripriya a thing or two about God’s creation, I learnt that, God’s creation is so perfectly designed: all the natural resources, the sun, moon and the stars, the human body which is like a perfect machine and all the different species. Take for instance the cow, it eats grass but gives milk in return. Amazing isn’t it! We crave attention for our “so called” creations; wouldn’t it be thoughtful and gracious to teach our children to attribute the source of every creation to God?

apples

The Value Tree

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So after much thought, here is my version of that tree, the roots of which if nourished well can manifest into a generation of happy individuals with rock solid character. As parents we must remember that children are better able to understand these principles by direct observation than just by mere theory.

Hence, it is imperative to practice what you preach. 

value treeMoral and Ethical Values: Both these principles are quite similar. The difference lies in that morals define personal character where as ethics stress a social system in which these morals are applied. So both work hand in glove and are essential to children’s upbringing.

Culture: The Merriam Webster dictionary defines culture as “the beliefs, customs, arts etc, of a particular society, group, place or time.” Our belief system comes not just from culture but also scriptures. By making children understand the core practices of our culture through scriptures, we can eliminate the speculative forces which give rise to blind faith. Vedic culture is so dynamic that it encompasses not just beliefs and customs but pretty much every aspect of our way of living so much so that it is inclusive of the last principle of spirituality as well.

Association“Bad company corrupts good character.” It would be prudent therefore to safeguard our children’s character and give them positive association. Association is not just about people but also books, multimedia, sports, extracurricular activities etc.

Spirituality: This is the most important principle and the sooner we start with our children the better. Our spiritual practices should not be merely sentimental but based on strong philosophy. Morality, ethics, association and culture help develop sound character, but spirituality nourishes that character. Happiness is our ultimate goal and God is its ultimate reservoir. Through proper spiritual practices we can connect to that ultimate reservoir of happiness. Whatever our children chose to become professionally, after all we just want them to be happy, isn’t it?