Wisdom phrases for parenting

In several of my previous articles, I have talked about using wisdom phrases again and again as a means of equipping our kids with the wisdom necessary to solve their daily problems.  What follows is a non-comprehensive list that we use with our kids.  Each entry below states the wisdom phrase, the corresponding Dharma concept, and when to use it:

Phrases associated with the Lamrim

  1. You need to assume responsibility for your life, noone else can do it for you. Assuming responsibility.  When they pass responsibility onto others.
  2. First change your mind. Inner peace, emptiness. When they are talking about how the external situation is the problem.
  3. You are responsible for your own experience. Inner peace, karma. When they are blaming others or their external situation for how they feel.
  4. Your life is what you make of it. inner peace, karma, precious human life. When they are bored or unhappy about their life.
  5. I will only help you do things you can’t do yourself. How to rely. When they are asking you to do something that they themselves can do because they are being lazy or not believing in themselves.
  6. We rely on others to learn how to do things ourselves. How to rely. When they are trying to get other people to do things for them, or when they are having a wrong attitude towards their teachers.
  7. If you come to me with something, you will not get in trouble for it. Reliance. When you know they have done something wrong, and in general have this be an understood rule of the house.
  8. In this family, we always…(some good thing, like always tell the truth, do the right thing). Reliance on sangha. Depends on circumstance.
  9. If you won’t be proud of this on your deathbed, don’t do it now. Death awareness. When they are tempted to do something wrong.
  10. What matters (in order) is good heart, hard working, then smart, then athletic. Death awareness, karma. When they are comparing themselves to others and feeling inadequate.
  11. The only thing you take with you from place to place is your mind and the causes you create. Death awareness, karma. When their priorities are not correct.
  12. Do what you need to do, then what you want to do. Precious human life. When they want to play before they have done their chores or homework.
  13. Don’t waste a moment of your life. Precious human life. When a special opportunity arises, NOT when you think they are wasting time (which would be nagging them).
  14. ABC creates the cause for XYZ. Kamra. All the time you want to help them understand cause and effect.
  15. If you want something, create the causes for it. Karma, effort. When they want something
  16. I cannot decide for you, it is your life, you need to decide for yourself. Karma, emptiness, superior intention, wisdom. When they are going to make a wrong choice that you disagree with.
  17. Would you want others to do that to you? Karma, moral discipline. When they are doing something not nice to others.
  18. We are all subject to the same rules. Karma, setting a good example, don’t be a hypocrite. When they try be the exception to something.  Also, you show that you live by the same rules you preach.
  19. Be on good terms with everybody all of the time. Equanimity. When they are fighting with somebody.
  20. Everybody is equally special, just in different ways. Equanimity. When they are comparing themselves to others and feeling inadequate.
  21. It doesn’t matter if they are your friend, you be their friend. Equanimity. When somebody says they are not their friend anymore.
  22. Everything is equally good, just in different ways. Equanimity, emptiness. When they are unhappy with what they have or will have
  23. Always others first. Cherishing others. When they are putting themselves first.
  24. Always treat others with respect. Cherishing others. When they are being disrespectful.
  25. Put yourself in their shoes. Exchanging self with others. When they are talking about how unreasonable somebody else is.
  26. The rule is everyone works until everything is done. Exchanging self with others, not passing your burdens onto others, living in community. When there are still chores left to do and they are playing.
  27. X difficulty is an opportunity to train in Y quality. Transforming adverse conditions into the path. When they are upset about something adverse in their life.
  28. Our job in life is to make ourselves useful to others. Bodhichitta. When the question comes up of what are they going to do in life, or why are they doing certain things (such as studying certain subjects).
  29. Be the change you want to see in the world. Setting a good example, emptiness. When they are complaining that others are acting in particular ways.
  30. Nothing is boring, it only becomes boring if you relate to it with a boring mind. Emptiness. When they say something is boring.
  31. Nothing has the power to bother you, you let things bother you. Emptiness. When they are bothered by something or somebody.
  32. There are no external enemies. Emptiness, equanimity. When they are talking about how somebody else is causing them problems.
  33. The only thing you have control over is how you, yourself respond. Emptiness, karma. When they are anxious about things beyond their control.

Phrases associated with abandoning delusions

  1. We only buy what we need, not what we want. Abandon attachment. When they are asking you to get them something they do not need.
  2. If you can’t afford it, you don’t need it. Abandon attachment.  When they want to borrow money to buy something now
  3. It doesn’t matter what other people think, form your own opinion. Abandon attachment to what other people think, develop your own wisdom. When they are bothered by what other people think, or when they are following other people’s wrong views.
  4. Never sacrifice your self-respect. Sense of shame. When they are doing something stupid to fit in with others.
  5. You are not your anger (or other delusion). Not identifying with your delusions. When they are identifying with their delusions and are down on themselves.
  6. How are you any different? Don’t look for faults in others, change yourself. When they are finding faults in others.
  7. Don’t blame others for your troubles. Assuming responsibility, blaming only delusions. When they blame others.
  8. Don’t expect anything from anybody, ever.  Nobody owes you anything. Abandon anger from false expectations. When they are upset because somebody hasn’t lived up to their expectations.
  9. Be happy with what you’ve got, not unhappy about what you don’t have. Contentment. When they wish they had something else, newer, better.
  10. There are no bad people, only bad minds. Separate the person from the delusion, blaming delusions. When they are saying somebody else is bad.
  11. That person is not mean, they are just confused. Separating the person from their delusions. When they are saying somebody else is bad.
  12. Don’t make excuses, just get it done. Abandon laziness. When they are complaining about obstacles or how hard things are.

Phrases associated with the six perfections

  1. Giving is the cause of receiving. Giving. When they want something.
  2. Never say anything bad about anyone, ever. Abandon divisive, hurtful speech. When they say something bad or hurtful about somebody else.
  3. If you wouldn’t say it to their face, don’t say it behind their back. Abandon divisive, hurtful speech. When they say something behind somebody’s back.
  4. Never compromise with the truth. Abandon lying. When they are fudging the truth about something.
  5. If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. Abandon negative speech. When they say something not nice.
  6. Always do the right thing. Moral discipline. When they don’t know what to do, or are about to do something wrong.
  7. I will give you as much freedom as you prove you can use responsibly. Moral discipline is the cause of freedom. When they are asking for more freedom to do something.
  8. The price of freedom is responsibility. Moral discipline is the cause of freedom. When they are asking for more freedom to do something.
  9. In your heart, you know what the right thing to do is. Moral discipline, follow your wisdom. When they are unsure about what to do, and are tempted to do the wrong thing.
  10. Treat others as you would want them to treat you. moral discipline, karma. When they are treating others badly.
  11. Patience! Patience. When they are being impatient.
  12. Patience is the cause of beauty. Patience. When they are being impatient or when they are concerned about their looks.
  13. You have to accept… Patience. When something happens beyond their control.
  14. Life is hard, get used to it! Renunciation, patient accepance. When they are whining about things, and need to toughen up.
  15. A job worth doing is a job worth doing right. Effort. When they do something half-heartedly.
  16. You can do anything if you practice it enough (or …if you put your mind to it). Effort. When they are feeling discouraged.
  17. It is better to be hard working than it is smart. Effort. When they are feeling discouraged.
  18. If at first you don’t succeed, try try again. Effort. When they are feeling discouraged.
  19. Full effort is full victory. Effort. When they are being lazy, or doing things half-heartedly.
  20. First plan, then hustle. Things start in the mind, effort. When they have a big project, when they start acting before having developed a plan.
  21. Focus! Concentration. When they are becoming distracted, especially during homework.
  22. Only do one thing at a time. Concentration. When they do more than one thing at a time, such as their homework while listening to music.
  23. It is a bad habit to do two things at once. Concentration. When they do more than one thing at a time, such as when they are entertaining themselves.
  24. We only buy something if we decided to buy it before we entered the store. Follow your wisdom, not your delusions. When they ask to buy something while you are in the store.
  25. In this family, reason governs. Follow your wisdom, not your delusions. When they ask to do something, make them justify why with reasons.  When you want them to do something, justify with reasons – don’t use your power.
  26. Think before you act. Follow your wisdom, not your delusions. When they act impulsively without thinking.
  27. All of your actions should be deliberate. Follow your wisdom, not your delusions. When they act impulsively without thinking.

Your turn:  What wisdom phrases do you have to share that you have picked up in your life?

3 thoughts on “Wisdom phrases for parenting

  1. Phrases associated with heckling the kids:

    You were a mistake, deal with it.
    You get your good looks from me not your mother.
    You get your brains from me not your mother.
    You get punished by your mum, we just love having fun!
    Stay away from all boys! No, he is not hot, he’s spotty and gross.
    Get me another beer, or you’ll get no pocket money.
    We had you so we could claim benefits, that’s all.
    Why are you so ugly, must be from your mother.
    Does this face look interested to you, huh?
    When are you emigrating?
    I’m not a cash-machine, I have feelings, doesn’t anyone see the real me…
    You are adopted. We found you in a bin, you owe me.
    Don’t trust anyone who hasn’t seen the Goonies.
    Take your coat off, you wont feel the benefit when you go outside (my nan’s fav)
    Go play on the motorway

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