Children are very susceptible to energies, since they do not have a carapace between “the other and the me” which is usually only enforced by ego, the seeking of identity and individuality.
Very young children don’t need asanas upto the age of 7 or 8 years of age. Yet yoga can touch them. If we want yoga and its fruits to touch our children, the work lies first in ourselves, the kind of relationship we have with parenthood, how we perceive children, how we make ourselves available to understand what they are going through. This education can only come through self-knowledge and sustained care and nourishment to all our other relationships that we live in our everyday lives which gives birth to empathy and compassion. Compassion is not about feeling bad for the other. It means to know “why I suffer”.
A bad behaviour is only an expression of a bad feeling. You may very well have the intention of nothing but helping your child, but she or he may not be able to recognise this. If you struggle with your child to help them physically or emotionally (helping them find compassion, love and confidence) and they are reacting in a way that is making the situation very difficult (which happens even with adults) or when you are trying to teach them something and they are not receptive, and if the overall feeling within you is frustration, then there is a high possibility that the child is manifesting a lack of trust (not necessarily towards you, rather they have a difficulty in being trusting, which is letting go and flowing), a lack of communication, and a feeling of not being understood. When we reprimand a “bad behaviour”, it does not address the root of the problem, but can actually increase the problem.
Trying to correct your child when she or he is in a reactive state ( that is being bombarded by thoughts which are nothing but neurological movements) or what I usually call reactions in the form of mental diarrhea, comes at a cost of taking connection and confidence away from them. Nobody likes to feel misunderstood and that is the same for children.
It is not their behaviour that needs changing, it is the feeling that drives behaviour. This is how yoga works on those who practice it too. We are not trying to become “good people” by following certain rules given by some religious authority. When the inside is attended, understood and cared for, it can be at ease. The inner experience of life changes. This changes behaviour.
When we shift our attention to address and understand the feeling that causes a behaviour then something quite magical happens. Your mind becomes calmer, your energies become calmer, your heart rate becomes slower. The child, having no barriers directly perceives this rock solid stable consciousness that you embody, in which there is not an ounce of frustration and violence. But this work is from moment to moment, and nobody is saying it is easy. Watching the breath, feeling the hardness in our brain, letting go of the tightness of our facial muscles, the frowning and letting go of our attachment to our preconceived ideas of what “should be”, are all part of the daily work and this is Yoga. So the child herself and her mind become calmer. They perceive you. They perceive the situation differently too. They trust.
Lowered thinking levels (citta vrtti nirodhah as Sage Patañjali calls it) means more perceptivity and receptivity. This makes living together and learning easier, as a calm mind can learn and absorb better than a confused, frustrated, argumentative, afraid or self-defensive mind. Again, this is not only true for children, but also for adults. Most adults have been through several heartbreaks, have seen deaths of loved ones, or have had traumatic experiences from childhood hidden in their consciousness which in yoga we call samskāras. They have neither been taught what to do with these emotions, nor have they been taught how to deal with them. We learn to deal with emotions usually like our parents dealt with emotions, which is transmitted quite early in life. These samskaras if unattended make a strong hold in our consciousness and alter our vision of the world, making it out to be a place to struggle, fight and survive. As much as the struggle for survival is the reality of many people, this is a consequence of and further cause for more violence and abuse. If we constantly live in fear, we block the flow of life within. We become “half-alive” and hence are obsessed and attached to everything that brings some pleasure or helps us escape this “terrible thing called life” through drugs, alcohol and even relationships.
Yoga has to first help us to tell the child within, that he can let go and trust, be vulnerable and yet be firm and solid at the same time. When we trust, our child will trust.
The delight is when you have dealt with your child in this way, because you have understood yourself, there is naturally a deeper connection and trust within you, and this will help your child and you to navigate all the myriad ups and downs of life and death. This is how yoga has to spread in this world, in the form of self-awareness altering relationships, and not as a propaganda of schools of thoughts and techniques.