About the spiritual training of young, my view is a bit of the same. How you behave in your home is their spiritual upbringing. I think we have to be careful with all forms of ideological indoctrination, and that is what spiritual training is in children: the imposition of a set of abstract beliefs and ideals. Children will take these from of us, but I don’t think dogma serves anyone for long. After all, I was a very good Sunday School student, the star of my confirmation class, and yet I had my own spiritual crisis to resolve later in life. We all do.
I always remind myself that I’m not trying to raise a Buddhist child. I’m trying to raise a Buddhist mother, and it’s taking all my time! Not only my family, but also everyone everywhere will be served by my devoted discipline in my own training. Not because I’m self-important, but in recognition of the one true reality: no self. We are all interdependent, which means we are all one. ~ Not Teaching a Child to Meditate by Karen Maezen Miller
Children seem so in touch with the innate spirit of wonder and exploration that it seems a distinct shame to ruin it through active coersion and indoctrination. Despite your best intentions for your children, attempts to indoctrinate or place a spritiual framework upon them only leads to containment of what we, as adults, wish to achieve. It does not mean you don’t love them; it just means that in an attempt to set them early on the spiritual highway, you are inadvertently cutting off their legs. Hobbling them to support your ego and your expectations.
In the end, we ruin magic with dogma and pepper joy with guilt. Instruction takes the place of exploration. We place children in gilded (or not so gilded) cages for years through this.
Samsara toddler loves Christmas carols and Buddha statues and we let her explore. She watches me meditate and go through yoga postures in the morning. Without me realizing it, she sneaks up and imitates me. She calls it “exercising” and in many ways she is so correct. Eventually the time will come when she realizes that not everyone does what dad does. Not everyone (or perhaps no-one) has a meditation cushion and does prostrations. As Ms. Miller states above and in the rest of her wonderful post, we are working on ourselves to benefit our child and by manifesting compassion, exhibiting wisdom and exuding metta we provide a child with the most important tool of all…a role-model. We raise a child with the self-awareness not to be a Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, Jew or atheist because it makes them somehow better; we raise a child that brings benefit to each of those religions by their very nature.
To teach a child mediation, allow them to tap into your storehouse of experience while you attempt to see the world through new eyes. Eyes without Buddha or Christ; without materialism or metaphysics; without apologetics and dogma. In the long run, you can’t teach children shit. You should be sitting and watching them and try to unlearn all that shit that got stuffed behind your ears. Drop the labels and play. Watch a caterpiller without the expectation of what it turns into. Pick up a leaf without identifying it.
So here are your steps:
Let your child reflect your practice by allowing them to benefit from your meditation.
Take time to reflect their joy without labels or expectations.
Don’t apply adult labels to a child’s mind.
Let them be.
That way your child is the focus of your meditation and you are the best spiritual guide they will ever have.