Don’t steal your Children’s Childhood! – 30 Sep 16

I yesterday wrote a little about the way parents try to influence their children to do what they want – obviously because they only want the best for them! There are instances however when this kind of behavior goes too far. You can see that in children talent shows a lot and you can see it in beauty pageants. When children are pressurized to practice and perform. When they have to spend hours in a day rehearsing and preparing for such an event. Or when they lose and break down crying.

I believe this kind of issues start when parents want their children to fulfill their own dreams. When they want their children to go places they always wanted to go but never could. They dream of fame and being known, of prices and recognition – and want to achieve this through their children!

A child would never, by himself, spend four or five hours rehearsing one and the same thing every day so that it gets perfect! These little girls whom you train to be princesses with doll-like appearance and behavior, would just like to play in the dirt sometimes, too! They want to get their hands full of paint and they want to climb on trees.

Instead, they learn a behavior which is completely unnatural for them and they have to train and train and train. They lose a part of their childhood, a certain innocence and freedom which only children have, only those who are little and don’t have any such burden yet! But you put that burden on them!

I once saw a video clip in which participants in a girls’ beauty pageant answered the question what they would like to do if they had a free day. ‘Go to the playground’ and ‘Just watch TV and play’ were followed by ‘I want to eat without having to stop!’ I felt these girls were not only stopped from playing like kids should but also already forced to keep a diet so that they fit certain beauty standards!

It is this kind of situations when I wonder how sick our society has become! That this is not only acceptable but that people wish for this. That parents don’t see how this ruins their children’s childhood!

No, again, I will not go for fame or money – but for fun and happiness! Don’t do this to your children! Let them play and be kids!

Klau deinen Kindern nicht die Kindheit! – 30 Sep 16

Gestern habe ich ein wenig darüber geschrieben, wie Eltern versuchen, ihre Kinder dazu bringen zu tun, was sie wollen – natürlich weil sie nur das Beste für sie wollen! Es gibt jedoch Augenblicke, in denen diese Art von Verhalten zu weit geht. Das sieht man oft in Talentshows für Kinder und auch in Schönheitswettbewerben. Wenn Kinder dazu gedrängt werden, zu üben und Leistung zu erbringen. Wenn sie Stunden mit dem Üben und der Vorbereitung auf eine solche Veranstaltung verbringen. Oder wenn sie verlieren und dann weinend zusammenbrechen.

Ich glaube diese Art von Problemen beginnen, wenn Eltern wollen, dass Kinder ihre eigenen Träume leben. Wenn sie wollen, dass ihre Kinder dorthin kommen, wo sie immer sein wollten, was sie jedoch nie geschafft haben. Sie träumen von Ruhm und davon, bekannt zu sein, von Preisen und Anerkennung – und sie wollen das durch ihre Kinder erreichen!

Ein Kind würde nie selbst jeden Tag vier oder fünf Stunden damit verbringen, ein und das Gleiche zu üben, um es zu perfektionieren! Diese kleinen Mädchen, die ihr zu Prinzessinnen mit puppenhaftem Aussehen und Verhalten macht, würden auch gerne manchmal einfach im Dreck spielen! Sie wollen ihre Hände voller Farbe bekommen und würden gerne auf Bäume klettern.

Stattdessen lernen sie ein Verhalten, das für sie komplett unnatürlich ist und sie müssen trainieren und trainieren und trainieren. Sie verlieren einen Teil ihrer Kindheit, eine gewisse Unschuld und eine Freiheit, die nur Kinder haben, nur diejenigen, die noch klein sind und keine solche Last tragen! Doch du bürdest ihnen das auf!

Ich habe einmal ein Video-Clip gesehen, in denen Teilnehmerinnen eines Schönheitswettbewerbs für Mädchen die Frage beantworteten, was sie tun würden, wenn sie einen freien Tag hätten. Auf die Antworten ‚Auf den Spielplatz gehen‘ und ‚Nur fernsehen und spielen‘ folgte ‚Ich will Essen, ohne aufhören zu müssen!‘ Ich hatte das Gefühl, dass diese Mädchen nicht nur davon abgehalten wurden, wie Kinder zu spielen, sondern auch bereits dazu gezwungen werden, eine Diät zu halten, so dass sie gewissen Schönheitsidealen entsprechen können!

Es ist diese Art von Situationen, in denen ich mich frage, wie krank unsere Gesellschaft eigentlich ist! Dass das nicht nur akzeptabel ist, sondern dass die Menschen sich das sogar wünschen. Dass Eltern nicht sehen, wie das die Kindheit ihrer Kindheit ruiniert!

Nein, ich strebe nicht nach Ruhm oder Geld – sondern nach Freude und Glück! Tue das deinen Kindern nicht an! Lass sie spielen und Kinder sein!

Let your Children make their own Mistakes – it helps them develop their potential! – 29 Sep 16

I mentioned yesterday that all parents want the best for their child. It is natural and normal to think in this way. There is however a certain struggle, too: a lot of parents keep their children too safe in the belief only they know what will be best for their child. Sometimes they forget that you have to make mistakes to find out what you want and that kids may go another way than they think!

This is a phenomenon which I have seen in many different countries and cultures, which is why I can confidently say that it is a parental issue. We all act according to our own experiences. That is simply normal. If we have faced difficulties in life, we try to prevent our children from getting into those same situations. We want to share our experience so that they have benefit from it.

That is the reason why for example Indian parents want their children to become doctors and engineers: they see in their surrounding that people with these jobs had the most success. This is why parents in the west take their children to dancing and singing competitions and push them to practice more and more – because they see how much fame and success those have who start early and work hard.

It is fully normal and of course also right to teach your children from your experiences. What we have to take care of however is one simple thing: we still have to give our children the freedom to develop their own wishes and let them explore who they want to be and what they want to do.

In this process, every child will make his own mistakes. It is natural and even necessary. Children who grow up in a bubble of security, whose parents protect them from each and every mistake, will not learn that in life there are situations of disappointment and also failure. You will not always be safe of mistakes, pain and negative experiences! This all is a part of creating your personality, finding out what you want and need.

At the same time, you should not push your children to do something they would not want to do just because you think it is what is good. It may be good for you but not for your children! It may just be the wrong thing for them or absolutely nothing that they would be happy with!

With these words I reach the point which I believe we really need to focus on: the happiness of our children. Let them do mistakes while guiding them gently, with love and in a way that they know they are free to do what they wish while you are providing the support of your experience! Let them find their own happiness, even if it goes against what you think would have been the best for them.

Should it go wrong at some point, be there for them. Just a shoulder, a helping hand. Without judgement or a ‘told-you-so’ attitude. I know, you will say ‘easier said than done’ and you are right, my daughter is only four-and-a-half years old but you know, I have every intention to keep it this way and know that I will be successful with this, too.

Lass deine Kinder ihre eigenen Fehler machen – es hilft ihnen, ihr Potential zu entwickeln! – 29 Sep 16

Ich habe gestern erwähnt, dass alle Eltern das Beste für ihr Kind wollen. Es ist ganz natürlich und normal, so zu denken. Es gibt jedoch auch einen gewissen Zwiespalt: viele Eltern behüten ihre Kinder zu sehr, in dem Glauben nur sie wüssten, was für ihr Kind am Besten ist. Manchmal vergessen sie, dass man seine eigenen Fehler machen muss, um herauszufinden, was man machen will und dass Kinder vielleicht einen anderen Weg gehen, als man denkt!

Das ist ein Phänomen, das ich schon in vielen verschiedenen Ländern und Kulturen gesehen habe, weshalb ich zuversichtlich sagen kann, dass es ein Thema von Eltern ist. Wir alle handeln nach unseren eigenen Erfahrungen. Das ist einfach nur normal. Wenn wir im Leben Schwierigkeiten hatten, versuchen wir, unsere Kinder davon abzuhalten, in die gleichen Situationen zu kommen. Wir wollen unsere Erfahrungen Teilen, so dass sie daraus Nutzen ziehen können.

Das ist der Grund, warum zum Beispiel indische Eltern wollen, dass ihre Kinder Ärzte und Ingenieure werden: sie sehen in ihrer Umgebung, dass Menschen mit dieser Arbeit den größten Erfolg haben. Deshalb bringen Eltern im Westen ihre Kinder zu Gesangs- und Tanz-Wettbewerben und bringen sie dazu, immer noch mehr und mehr zu üben – weil sie sehen, wie viel Ruhm und Erfolg diejenigen haben, die früh begonnen und hart gearbeitet haben.

Es ist völlig normal und natürlich auch richtig, seinen Kindern von seiner Erfahrung zu berichten und demnach Dinge beizubringen. Worauf wir jedoch achten müssen ist eines: wir müssen unseren Kindern trotzdem die Freiheit geben, ihre eigenen Wünsche zu entwickeln und sie erforschen zu lassen, wer sie sein wollen und was sie tun möchten.

Auf diesem Weg macht jedes Kind seine eigenen Fehler. Das ist natürlich und sogar notwendig. Kinder, die in einer Blase der Sicherheit aufwachsen, deren Eltern sie vor jedem Fehler bewahren, lernen nicht, dass es im Leben Situationen der Enttäuschung und auch des Misserfolges gibt. Man kann sich nicht immer vor Fehlern, Schmerzen und negativen Erfahrungen bewahren! Das ist alles Teil der Persönlichkeitsfindung, herauszufinden, was man will und braucht.

Gleichzeitig sollte man seine Kinder nicht mit Druck dazu bringen, etwas zu tun, was sie nicht tun wollen, nur weil du meinst, dass das das einzig Gute ist. Das mag für dich gut sein, aber nicht für deine Kinder! Für sie mag es das Falsche sein oder absolut nichts, womit sie glücklich wären!

Mit diesen Worten komme ich an den Punkt, auf den wir uns meiner Meinung nach wirklich konzentrieren müssen: das Glück unserer Kinder. Lass sie Fehler machen, während du sie sanft leitest, mit Liebe und auf eine Weise, dass sie wissen, dass sie frei das tun können, was sie wollen, während du sie mit deiner Erfahrung unterstützt! Lass sie ihr eigenes Glück finden, selbst wenn es gegen das geht, was du für sie für das Beste gehalten hättest.

Sollte irgendwann etwas schief laufen, sei für sie da. Einfach eine Schulter, eine helfende Hand. Ohne zu urteilen oder eine ‚ich-hab’s-dir-doch-gesagt‘-Einstellung. Ich weiß, ihr könnt jetzt sagen, das ist einfach gesagt als getan und ja, meine Tochter ist erst viereinhalb Jahre alt, aber wisst ihr, ich habe fest vor, diese Einstellung beizubehalten und ich weiß, dass ich auch hierbei erfolgreich sein werde.

How constant Guidance can hinder the Development of your Child – 11 Aug 15

While Ramona and I were watching Apra playing, our talk came, as so often when we are with her, to the topic of parenting and how what you are doing now has such a big effect on your child’s future. This time, we thought about the difference in giving your child instructions on what to do and giving your child freedom to do what he or she wants.

I believe you need a balance of both but with a small comparison of our two countries and cultures we noticed that many people often go extreme in either one or the other way!

If you visit families here in India, a lot of times you will notice that there are adults at home but they don’t actively interact with the children. The mother is doing household chores, other family members may be talking and the children are playing on their own. They find their games on their own, their toys on their own and practically fill their time without instructions, fixed games or an adult who plays with them.

Sometimes and especially in uneducated families, this can lead to big dangers! Children explore their surrounding – which is definitely not child-proof – and often get serious injuries. Had an adult been there with them or simply paying more attention, accidents could have been avoided. Even in joint families, where there would be enough adults for one to be looking after the kids, such things happen.

In the west children are, as I have seen in many families, really constantly under supervision and mostly also actively engaged with one adult. While this prevents bad accidents from happening, it also gives adults the possibility to get to know and further develop any talents in the children.

From a very young age, there is structured play time. Adults prepare the toys that children should play with and they play with them, giving constant input and teaching them. Then children go to Kindergarten and school, where it is anyway structured. After school time, there are classes for learning instruments or for doing sports and of course homework needs to be done as well. There are instructions for what should be done and in which sequence. Even on play dates with friends I have seen parents who feel the need to tell their children exactly what to play.

The problem I see with too much of this guidance is that the children get so used to doing what others tell them to, they don’t even know anymore what they want to do themselves! Especially with traditional schooling methods and strict parenting, they are not encouraged to try and find out! They cannot fall and realize it hurts. They never had to decide what to do. And then they don’t know what they really want to do either!

We end up with a whole lot of young adults who don’t actually know what to do with their time. They get out of school and still wait for their parents to tell them where to apply for a job or a teacher to tell them how to go on with their lives. They follow only what they are being told because they feel comfortable with that.

I believe we need to give children free space to develop their own wishes. We should softly guide them to learn but at the same time have to give them enough space to find out what they would like to learn! We should keep them safe without preventing them from making their own experiences.

Ma and Pa for the first time without their three-and-a-half year old Daughter – 14 Jul 15

I told you yesterday about Apra’s first big journey without us: two nights and three days, off to Khajuraho with her uncle and great-grandmother! She had such a great time – oh, and what about us, her Ma and Pa?

I already told you that we had talked to Apra before she left about falling asleep without us. We knew that this would be the most difficult time for her. We explained her that we would not be there and she would not be able to come to us – but she insisted that she would not have a problem. While we thought she would not miss us during daytime at all, we wondered whether we could say the same thing about ourselves!

Once they had left, we had a very strange feeling: for the first time in three-and-a-half years, Apra was not with us! Only then we realized in how many little actions we take care of her and involve her! Of course she did not come into our office to distract us from work and of course it was rather quiet at mealtimes. It was however the small things that showed us how much we missed our little one: when you speak in low volume in the morning to avoid waking her up – while she is not even in bed. When you realize you changed the room for a telephone conversation although she was not even there to speak into your other ear while you are listening!

Oh yes, we missed her a lot. I know a lot of parents say it is wonderful to spend a ‘childfree weekend’, time without their children. We did not really feel like this. I think the main reason is that we don’t miss anything while she is here. We do everything we wish to do and we enjoy everything with her! There was nothing that we ‘could finally do’ once she was gone!

While we were obviously sad to see her cry the first night, much more than that we felt happy and tremendously proud that she had gone on this journey, that she had slept without crying or missing us the second night and that she had come back, bubbling over with all the adventures she wanted to tell us about!

She has learned so much on this journey! She can grasp the concept of distance a bit better, understanding that after a long drive in the car, you cannot just be with your Ma and Pa in the evening. She learned that she can ask someone for help when she doesn’t see her uncle around for a moment. She also learned that she should not walk off on her own without telling anybody about it… an invaluable lesson, I am sure every parent will agree! She has learned thousands of other small things, too, which you can just experience when you are not at home.

I believe it is the first step towards the kind of independence I want to give my child. I want her to know that we will always be there, no matter what, a safe haven to return. An anchor for security – but no chain that binds her to what she knows is safe! She should be free to go and explore this world. She should follow this excitement for a journey and new experiences. In this way, I believe, she will learn more about the world than we can ever teach her, just sitting in our Ashram! We will travel with her, of course, but there will be a day when she will not only travel with her uncles but also on her own.

I know I will be proud on that day – and I also know that I will miss her terribly!

Smoking banned in the Ashram but Smokers neither banned nor condemned! – 26 Apr 15

I have made it a habit now to tell you about something current of my life on Sundays. Today, it will be a few thoughts that were sparked by a conversation that I had yesterday. An Ashram guest was very positively surprised when we told her we wouldn’t mind it if she smoked and neither if she drank coffee!

We are a very untraditional, unconventional and unreligious Ashram. We have no rules in place for your behavior and what you do at what time of the day. The only things we forbid is alcohol or drugs in the Ashram and smoking on the room or in the garden. If you are a smoker, no problem, just go outside the Ashram and smoke in front of the gate! Really, many visitors do – and it is no problem for us!

Many times people come here with a certain tension, having decided that they want to go to India and come to the Ashram but then worrying because they have their nicotine addiction! Where would they be able to smoke? You can imagine their relief when they hear our stand – and more than often, they are surprised.

The reason is that there are a lot of Ashrams that have very strict rules and a very narrow idea of what you should be doing. The base of this, of course, is their belief, usually their Hindu religion with the influence of their guru’s views or teachings! If their group or sect preaches that chocolate is harmful, nobody in their Ashrams is allowed to eat chocolate!

The same holds true for coffee and that’s how it always is another huge surprise for many people when we ask them whether they would prefer a coffee to the chai, Indian spiced tea, which they would usually get here.

Why would I judge you about such things? My recommendation would be not to smoke because it is bad for your health. I would not like to stand next to you while you smoke because I don’t want to be harmed and cannot stand the smell. At the same time however, I wouldn’t think you are a bad person because you smoke!

It is your decision and your responsibility what you like to do to your own body. As long as you don’t harm others and behave with love and respect towards the people around you, you are most welcome at the Ashram. Be yourself and enjoy life – I can promise you, I won’t judge you on such habits!

‘Let’s talk about Sex’ does not mean ‘Let’s watch Porn’! – 7 Aug 14

Yesterday I talked about the guilty feelings religion has installed in many people for having sex – and for enjoying sex, for thinking of sex or talking or thinking about anything that has to do with sex. Actually, for many sex has become so much of an issue that they have lost every sense regarding this topic. Everything is just horrible whatever has to do with it.

I once had a conversation with a close Indian friend about a blog entry of mine in which I said that one needs to be open and talk with children about sex – in an age-appropriate way. I told him that I would talk to my daughter about sex, too. That I would want my daughter to have full freedom to choose her partner and also decide herself with whom she wants to sleep. It should be her choice alone who will come into her bed – I will not interfere in that!

His answer shocked me. He said ‘But I cannot sit and watch porn with my daughter!’

I actually assume that most of you are just baffled and wonder what this has to do with the actual topic. Thinking about it however, I have to say I was taken aback by the implications, by the thought process behind this statement and the realization that people actually think in this direction.

Really, who would do that? Who would sit on the sofa together with his daughter to watch porn? But who was talking about that at all? As if ‘talking about sex’ and watching porn is the same thing! It is miles apart!

It seems to me that people, especially religious ones, are so incredibly restricted about the topic of sex that they cannot even say the word sex without getting hot themselves! All their suppressed sexuality comes up the moment they think of a naked body! Nakedness, sex, talk about sex, that all is just too much for them! They cannot talk normally about sex – so they assume nobody else can, either!

But – surprise! When I say I would talk to my daughter about sex, I am not going to recommend her positions, point out erogenous zones or suggest arousing literature, let alone watch porn with her! It will be a normal father-daughter conversation. About the wishes of our heart, the reaction of our body, how natural this all is and also about her own responsibilities connected with it.

In fact, I hope that we will manage to raise our daughter in a way that we won’t feel ashamed to talk about sex. But the thought that this would mean that I talk dirty with my daughter is the reason that has made society sick.

The narrow-minded suppression of a natural urge. The incredible hesitation to even say words connected with the topic sex. Arousal at the slightest thought and guilt, so much shame for this topic – that is what the sick mentality is based on that we can witness in India nowadays. The suppression converts into sexual violence against women.

Because you hear ‘watch porn’ when I say ‘talk about sex’.

Who is the one with the dirty mind, you or I?

Loving someone doesn’t take away your Freedom! – 3 Jul 14

Yesterday I told you of a woman who came to me for a counselling session with the idea that she might take a break in her relationship. There was another man who thought about leaving his girlfriend. His situation, however, was quite different and it gave me the impression once more that the individualism that is so popular in the west is really cruel to people’s hearts.

This man told me that he had been married for 20 years, had had a wife and children but then left his family and got divorced. The reason? ‘It was just too much for me!’ he tried to explain. He had the impression that he was too involved in his family life which made him lose his freedom. There were so many things he still wanted to do in life, even in every day’s life, and with a family, with children and all this responsibility, it was just not possible! ‘I also wanted to live my spirituality, express the energy of my real self and live in a more yogic way!’ So he left.

After some time on his own, he met another woman. With her, he started an open relationship. They live in separate houses, she does her thing, he lives his life but they also have a relationship. An open one, which means, to say it clearly, they can both have sex with other people as well. That sounds as though he has his full freedom while having someone to enjoy sex with, doesn’t it? Well, no, he didn’t think so. He actually felt the same as in his marriage years ago!

He felt that this woman was becoming too dependent on him and that he had too much responsibility through this, even without children, even with separate flats. She was attached and although they allowed each other to see others, she didn’t. He said ‘I am again in this situation!’ but he hesitated to break up. ‘If I leave her now, she will be fully broken! She will be destroyed and there is nobody who will take care of her! She will break down completely!’

He summarized it for me: ‘I don’t want to hurt her like this – but I want to have my freedom!’

I asked him: do you love her?

There was silence for two minutes during which he sat in front of me with closed eyes before he slowly said ‘Yes, I think I love her!’

I had known this already. It was not a real question but a prompt for realization! I believe it is love when you care for someone and his hesitation to break up, the fear of hurting her and causing her pain, showed me that he loved her. So why, I asked, would you create this pain? Not only she will be in pain, you will be as well! Because no matter how open you are, if you are in a relation with someone, are close to someone from the heart, there will be love. And when you break this bond, it hurts!

Love is the most important thing in your life. Don’t be afraid of attachment – it won’t steal your freedom! You can be free while being in love!

You are also now free to do what you want but if I was in your situation, I would choose love, not fear!