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My son will be four soon. I would like to introduce him to Buddhist philosophy, and some meditation practices.

However, stillness is, at this point, completely foreign to his personality :)

My wife is Christian, and has taken him to church a few times, but not regularly, or recently. She and I are okay with sharing our differing beliefs with our son.

I'm not active (or aware of, really) any local Buddhist groups, and, unfortunately don't even meditate regularly anymore.

Still, I think meditation, and an understanding of the philosophies, would be very helpful to my son, and I'd like to get him involved as soon as is practical.

How do I best introduce him, both to meditation and Buddhist philosophy? At what age is he likely be ready for either?

  • Sir, The least age of an Arahant (e.g. Revata, Sankicca, Pandita, and Sopāka) and a Stream-winner (e.g. Visākhā) mentioned in Pali canon is the age of seven. So we can assume a child in that age can understand this Dhamma. – Damith Feb 26 at 4:06

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I have a daughter who is nearly 4 now. I first took her to the local Buddhist Centre when she was about a year old on a family day that we organised. The Buddhist practice involved running around the shrine room and shrieking. Someone said at the time though that bring her at such a young age was auspicious and I'm enought of a romantic to lap this up. I took here again a few months ago and her Buddhist practice is much the same - running and shrieking. But we all enjoyed it and she's had a positive experience.

As far as meditation goes. Mmmmmmmm, She decided to have her first meditation a week ago. I think I timed 5 seconds. Better than I thought it would be. I have to say my local centre doesn't really teach meditation to people younger than 16 but I think that more of a guardianship issue rather than the impossiblity of younger children meditating. I've been in meditation sessions in festivals with 12 year old and they seem to get on fine.

I don't really have much more advice - just my own experience. I have to say though I agree with Richard Dawkins (though i have to say not in such strident terms) in that children should be old enough to chose the religion they belong to - not just inducted into it. However I believe that Buddhist ethics, Buddhist stories and a little bit of an understanding that's its OK just to be a little be quiet now and then, would be good for any child.

Generally being kind to yourself and kind to others is what I want my daughter to know and if that's in a Buddhist framework then fantastic. We are going to go on a Buddhist family retreat in North Yorkshire (UK) so we'll see how it all goes there. Wish us luck!

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The typical cut off for meditation class at a meditation center is about 4 (just checked google).

Traditional Buddhists said a child could become a monk if he was old enough to scare crows away, which worked out to be about 7. I don't advocate that, ordination so young has lots of problems. And you weren't considering anything like that. But it is a vivid example how young kids have been asked to rise to the occasion.

That's it for fact. Now on to my opinions.

My son is 18 months. We do altar maintenance-- recite a repentance phrase, a vow, do a mudra, a mantra and feed the Bodhisattva statues. I'm a secular Buddhist, so as a practice, this doesn't do much for me. I do mental gymnastics to reassign meaning to the action to keep from feeling silly.** But my toddler thinks it's great.

I plan to try to take advantage of teachable moments, like when he's angry, to get him to be introspective and pay attention to the breathing and tension in his muscles when he's upset and misbehaving, rather than what I would have done previously-- rewards and punishments and explanations about why this or that isn't a good thing to do.

I plan to teach meditation through chanting first. I first learned to meditate by counting breaths, which is sort of a mantra (1,2,4...10,..repeat). Mantra based meditation is simple and teaches concentration. This provides the foundation for other types of mediation, like metta, koan, or analytic meditation. (Or depending on your sect, mantra practice is the sole practice)

Regarding meditation-- I decided to put my meditation cushion in the most visible place possible, right in the entry way. I wanted my religion to be obvious. My kid can't see the thoughts in my head, so the physical symbols of religion will have to help him gauge that there is a religion and it's important.

Regarding what texts, I plan to use those books that summarize world religions for kids, and pay special attention to the Buddhist chapter. The Jataka tales, for me, often seem more fairy tale than Buddhist.

** From a secular standpoint, the daily review of what we did wrong (repentance) and making heroic goals (vows), is a potentially good practice. The statues are personifications of ideas I believe in, but by no means do I feel like I'm sacrificing as a quid pro quo with celestial super beings, or expressing my devotion or gratitude to super beings who are taking care of my liberation for me. I worry that my toddler will go through a phase of thinking just that.

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    As per your comment of "Mental Gymnastics" I invite you to see it as a mindfulness practice. I once had the same view as you but with time I learned to appreciate the aesthetics and the presence that this simple things evoke on me. Metta – Luis Jul 29 '16 at 12:00
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You can introduce by reading the Jathaka stories to him. I think there's a kid's version of it. You can also start teaching about the 5 precepts. At least the 1st, 2nd and the 4th. I would also recommend you to go through the videos under the 'children' section at http://video.sirimangalo.org/

"Angels east; Angels west. North and South. Just/please do your best, to guard and watch her while she rests.... Amen". Replace that or similar prayers with taking refuge in the Triple Gem.

Replace saying grace at the food table with offering Buddha puja or chanting the virtues of the Buddha.

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I started practicing meditation and Buddhism since 7. I am now just past 30. I am not sure what the best ways for introducing Buddhism to a child is. But my own experience has taught me that the parents' support is the most important. My interest in Buddhism did go through lots of ups and downs. I've always come back to it, but it think my parents' support has been very important, in addition to Buddhism's own attractiveness.

Hope this helps.

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Being a buddhist i would like to mention you one thing. Meditation is not only worth for buddhists .It is for anyone who seek inner peace. so i would say your son is more than capable of practicing meditation. Teach him anapanasati meditation and practice it for ten to fifteen minuets daily. So this will pave the way to teach him buddhism.

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I don't think you can just introduce philosophy and expect a 4 year-old to understand. The way of Buddhism is not one that uses indoctrination, but rather uses experience, realization and enlightenment.

A better way to do it is to highlight and/or create the necessary experiences for the child to go through as he grow up in our world, and explain the ways of facing life's adversaries. Enrich the child's experience with love, hate, wealth, poverty, greed, suffering, jealousy, excitement, sickness, separation, death, conflict, war, etc. and through each relate back to the Buddhist philosophy through healthy discourse.

For all you know, your son may be able to derive the philosophy on his own before you have the chance to teach.

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    I don't think that "war" etc. are easier/better/more enriching to introduce/explain/experience than dharma, especially to anyone like a 4-year old. – ChrisW Oct 2 '14 at 15:47
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    Conversely, I think that letting a child be exposed to war and suffering is better than simply telling him "the dharma says.... therefore we follow...". of course, we can't really start a war just for this purpose, but we can show videos, images, news reports etc. of war and suffering. This is my experience anyway. – Jake Oct 2 '14 at 16:55
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    Lots of wisdom here. Familiarization not indoctrination. – Yeshe Tenley Aug 28 '18 at 13:18
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If the child can count, have them count some objects. As they get better have them count their breaths. I have students as young as 7 and at that point they can easily practice cutting off attachments through short fasting from their favorite activities.

At 4 I would use Buddhist chanting such as the om mani padme hum music on YouTube (use it at night with lavender scented oil and maybe use a tuning fork on the calming accupuncture points -- they will likely fall asleep -- even my older teen students fall asleep during such treatments😂).

It really depends on the child's temperament how early they will respond to Buddhist practice. Also, my top progressing students were either monks or exposed to Buddhism in a past life. They range from 7-12 when they began and are 13-18 now.

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In my own opinion and what I adhere to... I just to lead my life in a skillful way and allow that behavior to serve as an example to follow. I would not think about introducing my son to mediation and other practical aspects of Buddhism. I Talk about right action, living etc as a view to hold. If my son becomes an adult and chooses to look into Buddhism further that is great, and if not that's ok too. Either way I would prefer my son to have a lot of "muck" to work with before entering into the practice.... otherwise it would be like trying to grow a lotus in clean fresh water.

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As soon as possible. Stillness isn't all there is to being a Buddhist. Before we can be a good person still, we can work on being a good person in motion. Before serious meditative attainment is to be pursued, we purify ourself through moral observation, the precepts, and mental purification processes.

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All you mothers and fathers there, interested in your childs welfare,

Mother & father, compassionate to their family, are called Brahma, first teachers, those worthy of gifts from their children. So the wise should pay them homage, honor with food & drink clothing & bedding anointing & bathing & washing their feet. Performing these services to their parents, the wise are praised right here and after death rejoice in heaven.

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Patents are the first Gods for their childrens and nothing helps the children more, if having the compassion, as to serve as their further Gods as well, one who gives skills to live in compfort, one who teaches toward heaven, one who lays out the path to liberation.

To serve as a even a higher God, make your child really a blessed one, one needs to have more skills then the first God, skills which are transmitted in a disciple-relationship, for the higherst in serious refuge. Children are fast and climb up the tree which is next, so make your self a good and firm tree.

A topic in this regard: [Q&A] How to develope, learn and maintain gratitude (right view)?.

Others the modern views, certain implimented pseudo-liberalism is nothing but harmful. You may know it your self, having a hard to listen and be really devoted to be able to progress.

So the right time to introduce is actually always, even before giving birth to a guest you gave the possiblility to become in your realm.

Like mostly, my person does not think that this tendency void of gratidute are here serves one to listen and understand, but for the case one is serious about wishing to understand, the starter to such is good if not hidden and accessable. One may ask possible here: The first gods: Parents.

There is a lot to understand and to learn in regard of this and hardly one would find someone leading one not total into the wrong direction making your child at the end the same slave of desire and not-knowing as your self.

So it is possible the right time if desiring your beloved to do face a better and may force you to an effort, an effort you may not have sacrificed toward your self till this days: that's then where your child possible becomes your God, when seeing it's possibility if giving into the right.

Learn your child to sacrifice toward more Sublime by your own sample and to abstain from giving toward the lower. In your degenerated sociaty children hardly would ever be introduced to the basic of grow: Without gratidute no success

Look around, would you like to have your children grown up and assosiate with people, void of respect, veneration, gratitude but nothing but foolish overestimating themselves, putting one transgression after the other into deeds, like here? Would you like a child to grow up with fools? How to avoid that you are not the missguiding "friend". Be listen and follow wise and liberated or alike? Where do you like your child go?

Never introduce the to "Buddhism" of householders but just to that of Noble Ones and guide them to gain to be bond to them, since on the track.

[Note, this is neither given to keep ones child or oneself bound to trade, exchane and desire for gain, but for liberation. So use it for such]

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