Keys to Mindful Parenting
What in your view is the most important gift we can give our children? Some would say it is the gift of time. That certainly- however we also need to be fully present in the moment for them. What typically happens though is that we contend with myriad issues- short attention spans, temptation to peer into our gadgets, worries about the future and regrets from the past. All of these tend to take away a lot from the parent-child relationship. That really is the premise of mindful parenting- being fully present in the moment for the child as also to bring a sense of openness and wisdom to our moments with our children.
When we do practice mindful parenting we can help understand and address the deeper needs of our children instead of responding to them at the surface level alone.
This, however, will typically be achieved when we have done some “inner work” and have developed some amount of self-compassion and acceptance for our own selves.
Here are some handy tips that will help you find an answer to your question of what is mindful parenting:
Establish a mindfulness practice
Mindful parenting begins with your ability to be present in the moment. For this, it is necessary that you establish a practice for your own self, wherein you just live in the moment. Simply sit for 10 to 15 minutes every day and observe your breath. Each time the mind wanders bring your awareness back to your breath. Over time, what this will help you to do is to actively notice any stress that you may be feeling and bring yourself to the present moment. The practice will go a long way in bringing your best self to the child and to parenting.
Recognize your emotional triggers
Managing your own emotions & behavior is really the key to teaching children how to manage theirs. In order to feel a sense of control over your emotions, however, what is important is that you recognize the triggers that bring about an emotional reaction in you. Picture this situation- each time your child goes to the playground you are worried sick that the child will hurt himself. Sure enough, the child comes back with a wounded knee and voila it brings a huge emotional reaction from you, which isn’t just unwarranted but also really scares the child. Delve on it and you will find that the reaction is because you broke your arm while in the playground and that has become a painful memory for you. Mindful parenting demands that we bring more awareness to our unmet needs, hurts, fears else they stand the risk of being projected to our children. A lot of this will be achieved if we are able to set down some healthy boundaries and realize that children are separate and can be quite different from us.
Respond not React
An important aspect of mindful parenting is also to be able to find a calm space in stressful situations. When you find emotions getting the better of you, you need to pause and immediately focus on the changes in your body. By reminding yourself to breathe and bringing your thoughts to the present moment, you can make the conscious decision of responding and not reacting to the situation.
Mindful parenting also requires that you be able to listen to (and not just hear) the child’s point of view, even when you do not agree with it. The idea is to stay mindful through the times that the child ‘s behavior pushes some buttons, to notice your emotions but not to act on them.
Now, this may seem to be contradictory parenting advice to the lesson of hurrying up, hustling and being efficient that we have learnt all our lives. The fact is that we need to step back a little and slow things down. If you observe carefully, you will see how we are teaching kids to hurry up all the time as well. Instead, allow them to choose their own clothes, take time to brush or for other tasks. Sure enough, this will mean additional effort of waking them up early but will be well worth it when you see your mornings being happy instead of the day beginning on a stressful note. What the process of doing things on their own, will do to their self-esteem, will also be incredible!
Encourage talking about feelings
The answer to how to be a more positive parent may also lie in making conversations about how everyone is feeling. Ever so often feelings are repressed and that, in turn, leads to a number of issues. It will help to put together a culture where the family talks about their emotions. It is this communication that will help everyone understand each other better.
In fact, it will help if parents and children can take to a number of mindful practices together such as:
Deep breathing – It will help to teach kids to practice deep breathing. This will also help them to take charge of their emotions.
Keeping a gratitude journal- Not just talking about things that you are grateful for, but also for the family to record things that everyone is grateful for in a gratitude journal, will go a long way in increasing wellbeing.
Permission to fail
This parenting tip may seem counter-intuitive, especially since every waking moment we are doing everything we can do to propel our children towards success. However, failure is a reality and it is only people who aren’t afraid of making mistakes who grow up to do great things. As a parent, therefore, it will help for you to provide a congenial atmosphere where the child isn’t afraid to take risks. Instead of stressing on perfection, therefore, it will help to focus on areas such as creativity or resilience in the child. It is important to support the child and empathize with his or her feelings. So if the child tries something and fails, it will help to acknowledge how hard it is for the child and that you are proud of the child for taking the risk.
Among a set of useful parenting tips for parents, is to have a “ yes…and” mindset. Typically we are trained to look for negatives and to try and fix it. However, if you are mindful towards situations you will realize that not every situation may demand fixing. The child may simply have a “different” perspective, not necessarily a “negative” perspective. It is important, therefore, that the child’s point of view is acknowledged. For example, if the child wants to stay up late, you will need to recognize the child’s perspective and then offer a compromise where they feel validated and not shunned. To the child’s late night idea, therefore, it may help to say that “it is a great idea, let us do it over the weekend”. Implement it and see a lot of your parenting stress fade away!
From perfect to good enough parenting
Despite our best efforts and implementing positive parenting tips, it is okay for the best of us to fail at times and for the child to witness some inevitable moments of imperfection. Positive parenting doesn’t in any way mean to hold up an ideal version of parenting that is hard to live up to. Instead, we need to consciously let go of unrealistic expectations and accept ourselves as we are. That is the only way, we can, in turn, offer unconditional love to the child.
In fact, with some effort, we can turn our fail points into coachable moments to discuss failures, compassion, authenticity and more with the child in an age-appropriate manner. For example, if despite attempts at controlling your anger as a parent, you land up having a meltdown, it will be good to discuss with the child how you could have handled the situation better. This will teach the child a number of life lessons. The first lesson, of course, will be the fact that it is absolutely fine to accept something that you believe should not have been done. Also, that there can be many different ways to handle a situation without letting your emotions getting the better of you. These are lessons that will stand the child in good stead through the many phases and stages of life. Here’s to implementing these mindful parenting strategies and to a journey where we come home to our authentic selves and to our children!