Question: As a parent, I don’t want to be too strict, but I also don’t want to be too lenient. How do I find a good balance, and how do I know when I’ve found it?
Nuanprang Snitbhan: In the suttas, the Buddha advises the monk Sona, a former player of the lute, to approach meditation as he did his instrument. Just as he always made sure the strings were not too tight or too loose, he should not strain his body and mind in meditation. Nor should he be too lax.
This is one way the Buddha described the Middle Way, and it also applies to parenting. As a parent, you want to find a balance that allows you to stay true to your values, while maintaining a positive connection with your child. This is a constant process of balancing or tuning.
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
First, take time to think about what values are important to your family when it comes to discipline and behavior. Every family will answer this question differently, and that’s perfectly okay. While it’s natural for us to compare ourselves to others and feel guilty, frustrated, angry, or even embarrassed, it’s unnecessary. Being a parent is hard enough without adding comparing mind. You don’t need to raise your children the same way as your parents, friends, or neighbors. This is your privilege, so embrace it!
Here are some key elements to keep in mind around discipline.
Children need boundaries, limits, and structure to learn about themselves and others and how to effectively navigate the world around them. That will ensure they’re both happy and resilient.
It’s also important to explain the reason for rules and describe clear consequences. Consistency is essential, so make sure you discuss the rules with caregivers to eliminate confusion and make it a team effort.
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes—your kids need to see you’re human, too. Have compassion for yourself. If you tend to be down on yourself or frustrated with your kids, try loving-kindness meditation. While there will always be ups and downs and moments of frustration, when you see your kids’ resilience, understanding, and kindness blossom, you’ll know that you’ve achieved the right balance.