Mindful practice, such as learning to be more present, helps us in our parenting and our relationships with our kids, partners, and families.
Mindful parenting is also a mindfulness practice in itself that you can use to remain calm and consciously parent in a way that is aligned with your values. Mindful parenting techniques allow us to be more intentional in how we communicate with, discipline, and parent our children.
Here’s 3 mindful parenting techniques to get you started:
When we are feeling frustrated, stressed, or tired, it is easy to lose control and slip into undesirable behaviours like yelling, screaming, and threatening.
Unfortunately, when we shout at our kids to get them to do as they are told, we are teaching them that this is an acceptable way to communicate if things don’t go your way. Our children copy what we do, they learn from watching and experiencing the world around them.
That’s why it’s important to stay centered and in control, so that we can parent with love and understanding.
If you feel yourself getting frustrated or reactive to a situation with your kids and you feel like you are starting to lose control, try the STOP acronym.
Stop. Stop and step back.
Take a breath. Take a few moments to focus on your breath. When you breathe more fully, your body will begin to release physical tension. With each conscious inhalation and exhalation you will begin to change the chemical imbalance in your brain. By deepening each exhale and slowing down each inhalation, you can lower your heart rate, lower your blood pressure, and get your brain back to the pre-frontal cortex where the voice of reason, love, and logic are at their best and most loving state.
Observe. Observe your thoughts and feelings. What are you saying to yourself? What are you saying out loud? Change the dialogue from “They are doing…” to “I am feeling…” Even though they are probably doing something, this simple shift empowers you to take responsibility for your feelings and subsequent actions, enabling you to demonstrate the behaviour that you want your children to have.
Proceed mindfully. Proceed in a conscious and considered way. Ask yourself, “What kind of attitude do I want my children to have?” If the answer is, “I want my children to be calm, loving, and patient”, then attempt to demonstrate what you want from them. If needs be, remove yourself from your children for a few moments until you are confident that you can demonstrate that you are calm, loving, and patient.
2. Accept and Validate their Emotions
Emotions are probably the biggest challenge for parents – both our children’s and our own. Emotions are often inconvenient, badly timed, and seemingly out of proportion.
Encourage children to pay attention to and express their emotions rather than suppress them. Validate how they are feeling, rather than trying to solve their problem. Let them know that it is OK to feel angry, sad, or frustrated. When their emotions are validated, for example by saying, ‘that must have really hurt’, their brains calm down and creative problem solving comes naturally.
Try following these to mindfully manage emotions:
Reassure. Communicate comfort so your child feels safe to open up. Get down to your child’s eye level, reassure them with a hand on the arm or a hug. You can also tell him, “It’s hard, isn’t it? Can you tell me about it?”
Validate: Say something like, “If I were in your shoes, at the same age, I might feel the same way.”
Listen: Rather than lecture, breathe.
Reflect: Say back what you hear, “I understand that you’re upset because you don’t want to go to bed right now.”
Redirect: After you understand what was happening internally to your child, you can determine what you want to teach and how best to do it. For example, you may want to say, “If you get your rest now you won’t feel tired at school tomorrow. Would you like to read one more book and then we can tuck you in so you can go to bed?”
3. Think What’s Most Important Now
Regret letting the baby have a late nap? Or letting your kids on the iPad all afternoon? Is the evening unraveling and not turning out as you planned? When we find ourselves in a challenging situation, the kids are being really needy and you have a thousand things to do, it can be helpful to take a step back and ask ourselves, “What is Most Important Now?”
Let go of questioning what you did (the past) and worrying how this might affect what you will get done (forecasting the future) and focus on the task at hand. Take a few deep breaths and focus on what is important right NOW. You might realise that what is important right now is that for whatever reason your kids need your attention at this moment. Not folding the washing, cooking, or sending that email. By accepting your reality in this way you will instantly feel less stress, because you will be able to focus solely on what needs doing right now.