Picture the scene: you’re trying to get all the kids fed and out the door for school on time. One has plowed through two bowls of cereal and is screaming for a third. Another is still in their room doing God-knows-what while their cereal gets soggy. The third has dumped their breakfast down their clothes, because they were eating it while running in circles pretending to be an airplane.
Having more than one child virtually guarantees conflicting personalities and traits; even having an only child that’s different from you can be a challenge. But, what if there was a way to better understand your children and tailor daily life to meet their unique needs without losing your mind in the process? This is the subject of a book by neuroscientist Dr. Keith Wallace, Dharma Parenting, which offers a personalized approach to raising happy and successful children based on the wisdom of Ayurveda, and it could revolutionize your home life.
Dharma is a Sanskrit word meaning a way of living that upholds evolution by promoting balance, prosperity and spiritual freedom. Ayurveda is a traditional, holistic system of medicine from India. Together, the two can help you to overcome frustration and develop compassion for your children.
“It helps parents become more empathetic to their kids,” says Wallace, who developed the technique after parenting his two sons, thanks to his schooling in Ayurveda which outlines three distinct brain-body types, called doshas. The doshas teach you how to view your child’s behavior and tendencies through the lens of the five elements.
THE KAPHA CHILD
The kapha child is governed by earth and water and has a grounded disposition and an easygoing attitude to life. They sleep deeply and find it difficult to wake up in the morning. From the moment the alarm sounds until bedtime, the kapha child takes twice as long to do anything as everyone else. They’re always late for school, slower to pick up new information and slow to forget. They don’t often have meltdowns, but may be prone to melancholy. Rather than trying to get your kapha child to move faster, which will make them impatient and stubborn, Wallace explains that you need to give them more time — for everything.
“They need more time for getting up in the morning; they need more time for eating breakfast; they need more time for putting on their clothes, even getting out the door,” he adds.
View your kapha child like a slow-moving river, and let them flow at their own magnificent pace. But, you’ll want to start setting the alarm earlier.
THE PITTA CHILD
The pitta child is governed by fire. This child may be organized, efficient and top of the class. They run hot and sharp in every way;
good luck getting them to wear a coat in winter. Fire also rules in their appetite, and if they have to wait for food you can expect fireworks. The biggest thing you can do to avoid a meltdown is to make sure meals are on time, and never get caught out of the house without emergency snacks on hand.
“If they’re super pitta, and they have a big temper, you’re in serious trouble at that moment,” says Wallace. “The only thing you can do is try to get them some food as quickly as possible, knowing that if you can get them some food, you can at least begin to calm them down.”
Tend to your pitta child’s fire, and don’t let the flames die down due to lack of fuel.
THE VATA CHILD
The vata child is governed by air and space and is slender and like a whippet in nature — always moving. They’re creative, imaginative and pick up new information quickly but are easily distracted. Everything is unpredictable with vata children, including their appetites, and they tend to be light sleepers from birth. Vata children are highly sensitive, so sensory overload can be stressful for them and a nourishing routine is like a tonic.
“They’re much more sensitive, so you take them to a shopping mall and suddenly they’re overwhelmed by everything. And, they’re out of focus; they’re not going to do what they’re told. They’re just in another universe. So, you have to protect them more when they’re younger,” Wallace explains.
Your vata child is like the wind and can’t be tamed, but you can build a shelter for them.
Shield them from overwhelm and distraction with a to-do list on the wall, so they always have a reference for what they need to be doing.
“They don’t like it, but they absolutely need it. They need to be grounded,” says Wallace.
Having more than one child is a challenge, Wallace acknowledges, but it can be done. The key lies in recognizing each child for who they are and not who you want them to be.
Originally published in Summer + Fall 2023 issue of Colorado YOGA + life.