Monday, April 24, 2006

Raising Sikh Children in a World of Illusion

sikh, life: I got carried away commenting on a blog I read (SinghsRus). I was responding to this:

Oh yeah!, one of the thoughts was to post something about Sikh parents as to how challenging the job of Sikh parents is to raise kids in a non-Sikh environment, teach them Sikhi and Punjabi. Sometimes I get amazed as to how are some of the parents are able to instill Sikh values in their children keeping in mind the social pressure of TV, media, non-Sikh cultural environment, peer pressures, their own insecurities etc.

Here's my comment after a bit more editing:

It is hard to raise a Sikh child in a world of mass maya. I think it is doable though. My wife and I, on the birth of our first child, decided this was very important. We eliminated the television from our house (after being scared silly by the synergistic marketing section of Fast Food Nation), and began learning Punjabi in earnest (we were both raised in the west and neither of us was fluent by any means).

Since our children were born, we have only spoken Punjabi with them in the house. To this day it feels very strange for me to speak english with my son. In addition we always translate the kids' books into Punjabi while reading them. This has proven quite a challenge for us given our limited language skills, and the ever increasing complexity of the texts as our eldest ages. In addition, we continue to buy many Sikh children books, and spend a lot of time reading them, discussing them, saying prayers with the kids, etc. We have also made a point of spending atleast 6 weeks every few years in Punjab. This was really important as prior to our trip, my son began refusing to speak in Punjabi -- after 6 weeks playing with his cousins, he realized it was not just his parents who speak this language. Now he complains his Paji's aren't here to tell him any Punjabi jokes. Spending time in Punjab also helped develop his view of Sikhism and bring historical events alive; he was thrilled to go to Anandhpursahib where the Guru of his books had fought and prayed.

I have also thought about making this task for parents like ourselves easier. When we started, most people in our community thought it was funny that two kids raised here could attempt to raise their kids speaking Punjabi when their own skills were so terrible. They often teased us -- saying even if we could manage to teach them, the kids would forget it all before their 5th birthday. While we have yet to reach our fifth birthday, the teasing just made us all the more determined. Now the "Aunties" and "Uncles" all get a kick out of speaking w/ our son and hearing his authentic kid-slang; the elder generation gets glassy eyed while waxing about teaching their grand kids, and some of the younger generation have also chosen to "keep it real."

Having age appropriate books, videos, etc. would help quite a bit. We have had to go to Jallundar and comb the bazaars just to find good books, movies, etc. I often think about a start up company catering to people like us; then I always shelve it since it isn't technically interesting enough (I'm a bit of a techy type).


Anonymous said...

Just came across your blog through Sikhrus links. Really like pictures form India and story about your village.
I agree it is difficult to raise Sikh children in a world of Illusion. However, it is not impossible.

Pritam Singh Khalsa said...

A very true point.I have only been Sikh for about 2 years and have a child, but Jessica isnt Sikh and I dont plan on forcing this on her. I ask her to teach her what she wants so that Im not forcing my daughter things that even her mother doesnt want. I was in an arguement about 20 min ago about this. I wish I could do what you have done or are doing. I hope my daughter can grow up to learn the teachings of the Guru from her heart and not from the mind. The heart is the only thing worth following, for the mind is easily munipulated. I give you props for figuring out the true meaning of life. I was told that I put Sikhi over evrything in my life. She says it like its bad and I plan on keeping it the most important thing in my life. She said Im not happy cause shes not Sikh but she isnt happy because I am. I will die Sikh at any cost. She gets mad about me being a Sikh so I went and bought an Amritsar picture with all the Gurus exept SGGS{Iwish the 11th Guru was on the pic} But anyway I hung it up in the living room as the main picture up in the house. Now Im satistfied but shes at the store so Ill find out when she gets home. Im going to leave it up at all costs. Waheguru ji ka Khalsa Waheguru ji ki fateh!

TechPen said...

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