How Do I Chant with Children?

Chanting around and with children can add a challenge to your daily practice.

Mothers have asked me, “I have a baby. How do I chant if they are up?” Another mother might say, “My kids act up when I sit down to chant? What should I do?”

Since these questions come up with regularity I asked three mothers what they would say. In this post I’ll share with you what we discussed.

Chanting Around a Baby

Be Flexible

One mother who had a baby soon after starting her practice advised, “Just do what you can and don’t feel at all guilty, if you can’t do the full practice. Chant whenever, wherever, whatever.

Whenever:

Chant whenever you can, for example, while the baby is napping, when you have small bits of time. She held the baby on her lap while chanting.

Wherever:

Do it wherever you can. You don’t have to sit in front of your Gohonzon, since your Gohonzon is in your heart. Sometimes she chanted in the shower or in the car.

Whatever:

If you can do the full practice, good, but if you can only chant Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo three times, do that. Just do something every day.

Chanting Around a Child with a Mental Health Problem

This mother said, “My child has a mental health problem. He is very demanding and interrupts constantly. When I get angry the whole situation goes downhill. It’s ugly.”

Initially, she expected her child to change. One day she realized that this wasn’t going to happen. She determined that the change was going to have to come from her.

When she chanted about the situation, she realized that her child’s function was to help her by forging her, strengthening her through the struggle. The child’s role was to be himself; hers was to challenge the difficulties this created. She did what she could. Frequently this was not a full practice, but she made sure she did something every day.

Even though the situation remained the same, seeing it this way changed her feelings about it. Instead of being in mud up to her eyebrows, she had room to breathe again.

Possible Ways to Chant

If you are dealing with a difficult situation such as this one, here are some things you might chant about.

  • Am I taking care of myself? What are some other things I might do?
  • Chant to connect with your child’s Buddha Nature.
  • Chant for your child’s happiness
  • Chant for your happiness
  • Chant for patience and forbearance
  • Ask, are there ways I can make my chanting special for my child?

Chanting with Four School Age Children

This experienced mother acknowledged that chanting around four children can be a big challenge. Getting everyone off in the morning didn’t work when she tried to do her practice first thing. So she changed her schedule. Instead she made sure the children chanted Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo three times and did the first prayer for their protection, before they left the house.

While they were at school, she chanted about how to work her chanting into her schedule. She realized that she didn’t want to yell at the kids as she didn’t want them to see chanting as a negative. So, after they left she did her full practice and again before they came home from school. In the evenings she would do short stretches of daimoku as she wanted them to see her chant.

She reflected on how she had seen President Daisaku Ikeda handle a crying child in a meeting. The mother was going to take the child out when President Ikeda stopped her. He said, “That child is doing what he should be doing, his work. Be patient with your child.”

Recognize Their Positive Behavior

This mother, a Head Start teacher, figured out a positive way to handle difficult behaviors.

  • Try to see what your child needs.
  • Reward her when she does something positive, like let you chant for five minutes.
  • Be specific.  Recognize and describe what she did, that you wish she would do again.”When you read your book while I chanted, it helped me to chant.”
  • Have some special toys your child can use only when you are chanting

This way you give your child what she needs emotionally, some recognition. She won’t feel shut out.

Ignore Negative Attention Getting Behavior

She found if she pushed her children away or got angry, the behavior would tend to escalate, so she ignored negative attention getting behavior.

Chant for a Resolution to the Problem

She chanted for the resolution of the problem. When she did this, the children tended to settle down as their Buddha Nature responded.

Be Inclusive

With a young child, teach them how to ding the bell. Let them sit on your lap or play with special toys that are only available during the time you chant.

You can teach your children to chant at any age. Show them how to set a goal for themselves as they become old enough to be able to understand what you are doing. Some really love to chant with their parents, others would prefer not to. Whatever happens remember that it only takes one person chanting in a family to move the whole family in a progressive direction.

Comments

If you have other experiences where you have worked out a successful way to chant with children, please share them with me or by commenting.

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