What are some of the things you do to nurture Krishna consciousness in your children?
I often read to my two sons from Srila Prabhupada’s books. Then we discuss the subject matter. When they were very young, we used to read mostly stories from the book Krishna: The Supreme Personality of Godhead. Now that they are teenagers, we usually read from the Bhagavad-gita or Srimad-Bhagavatam.
I try to set a good example by chanting the holy names of Krishna, offering our food, reading Prabhupada’s books, and treating all others with respect. Occasionally we visit the Chicago temple, and we always attend Chicago’s Rathayatra festival.
Children try to imitate the elders, so it’s our responsibility to follow Vaishnava etiquette at home, and the children will follow. I try to apply this principle in my life, and my son has already started his devotional service at the age of five by chanting one round, reading Bhagavad-gita, waking up the deities, chanting prayers, talking about Krishna’s pastimes, and watching devotional videos like Ramayana and Mahabharata instead of mundane videos. If we have sincere desire, of course, Krishna will help us and our children advance in Krishna consciousness.
We need to spend time with children; otherwise they do whatever they feel like doing. If we spend even thirty minutes a day to teach them Krishna consciousness in their childhood, they will follow better than us. I’ve seen this practically: My son told me I should not talk while chanting.
Vedavit Krishna Dasa
All children ever want is some quality time. Spending time reading stories to them, chanting together, or playing games in relation to Krishna can help them get attached to the Lord more intimately. Most of all they need heartfelt encouragement. That goes a long way, and time and again they’ll want to go back to those Krishna conscious activities. Getting distracted by mundane things is natural, but instead of telling me “Don’t do that!” my mother would always distract my attention, telling me how beautiful it is to instead try dressing up little Radha-Krishna dolls.
My daughter is six months and has just begun eating solids. I offer her meal to Krishna first, and then when I place it in front of her I say the Sanskrit prayer that begins maha-prasada govinde. During all aratis I make her sit on my lap and do arati. Every morning as soon as she is up I wish her “Hare Krishna” and first take her for darshana or our Jagannatha deities.
While singing ABC to her, I say “A for Adikeshava, B for Balarama, C for Chaitanya Mahaprabhu,” and so on through Z. I sing songs like “The sky is blue; the water is blue. Who else is blue? Krishna is blue.”
So in all things I try to keep Krishna at the center, so that she will be acquainted with Him from the beginning.
Little minds are very “concrete.” Everything is clear-cut or black and white to them. It is so important for little ones to be able to see examples of the Lord and His energy in everything around them. In Bhagavad-gita Lord Krishna tells us who He is. “Of bodies of water, I am the ocean. Of aquatics, I am the shark. Of mountains, I am the Himalayas,” and so forth. Making these examples a part of the children’s daily lives, and reminding them frequently, helps them to see the Lord and all His reflections as vivid and evident. When children are taught to see Krishna and His energy around them, they actually see it.
I will never forget the five-year-old girl who when riding past a shopping mall displaying a fifty-foot-high balloon of Santa Claus immediately exclaimed to me, “Look, it’s Sri Adwaita!”
La Crosse, Florida
As a young devotee I would say that the best thing you can do to nurture Krishna consciousness amongst my generation is to allow us to have fun in this movement. If you start hammering us with shlokas and sixteen rounds a day, etc., being very strict on us right from the beginning, that will really scare us off.
We youngsters have a natural inclination to want to have fun. You can encourage us to play and learn instruments for Krishna, lead bhajanas, etc. My temple has a drama group where children and teenagers can come and act out pastimes of the Lord. When you allow us to have fun like this in a Krishna conscious way, then you will certainly be nurturing our hearts and minds to forever stay in this movement.
Manisha Tribhangi Dev
The best way to introduce children to Sri Krishna is firstly telling them to decorate and take interest in dressing the deities of the Lord. At first they will consider it just a game, but slowly they will develop a relationship with the Lord. The story of Meera Bai is a perfect example.
Secondly, tell them that Krishna is the most true and helping friend in the whole world and that He will protect them from their fears if they remember Him in their hearts.
Thirdly, tell them stories of the Lord and assure them that He is always there with them.
These three measures will help develop a relationship between our children and Lord Krishna. And if He wills, very soon this relationship will develop into love and finally Krishna consciousness.
Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh, India
After cooking, I call my two-and-half-year-old son, Lakshman, to come and offer the meal to the Lord with me, and he happily bows down and starts muttering: “Hare Rama, Hare Rama.” Another one of his favorite things to do is to dance with his arms raised and sing/yell, “Haribol! Haribol! ” We also sing together and play mridanga and harmonium. This, I always feel, is profoundly effective for both him and me.
Reading the kids’ version of Krishna: The Supreme Personality of Godhead is another interesting, thought-provoking activity that we both enjoy. He asks questions and I answer, and as he grows older I am sure this will increase.
Whenever I take him to the temple, I try to make sure he really has a good time and will gladly remember going to see the deities and devotees for years to come. Recently I bought him a Krishna doll during our visit to the temple, and the doll has become a new favorite.
Most importantly, I often pray to Krishna that He may bring Lakshman closer to Him, that He may, out of His endless kindness, bestow on Lakshman the kind of devotee association and experiences that will connect him deeply with Krishna and give him a taste for chanting throughout his life.
Hillsborough, North Carolina
To inspire my children in Krishna consciousness I have to demonstrate my complete dependence on my own Guru Maharaja (Srila Prabhupada) by worshiping him, following his instructions daily, associating with devotees, engaging in temple activities, and reading Krishna’s pastimes in Srimad-Bhagavatam.
I have to demonstrate being generous, tolerant, and kind towards other living beings. I have to teach them the primary instruction: Krishna is all in all. And I have to measure my own progress and theirs periodically and make adjustments accordingly.
Begusarai, Bihar, India
I consistently feed my children prasadam. To ensure that the food offered to the Lord will turn into prasadam, I am careful not to take interest in gossip and I avoid watching television or listening to the radio. I sometimes play a Bhagavad-gita recitation on the CD, but normally I chant the maha-mantra or recite the Braham-samhita.
When my grandson comes into the kitchen to get something to eat, I stop cooking, put the food on Krishna’s plate, and offer it to the deities. My grandson knows he has to wait two minutes after asking for food, because I pick him up and let him hold the plate to offer the food to Krishna first. This he willingly does. Very often he asks me questions about Krishna. At night he loves to listen to Krishna stories until he falls asleep.
Vrajakishori Devi Dasi