It’s become very popular over the last few years. Mindful parenting. This isn’t quite the same as practicing mindfulness as an individual, and it’s certainly harder. Mindful parenting involves being attentive, observant, non-judging, and non- reactive. The days of screaming and yelling at your kids being seen as the correct way to parent gradually becoming extinct. Now, parents are looking to take a more proactive approach.
Being more attentive and observant – You will understand and know your child better. Giving you a better chance of nipping problems in the bud.
Non-judging – You will gain mutual trust, this is most definitely needed when they reach their teens!
Non-reactive – You child will have fewer temper tantrums and they will know that bad behaviour doesn’t get attention, whereas good behaviour does.
Key Factors in mindful parenting
There are some key factors involved. They may seem obvious to those of you who already practice mindfulness, but to practice mindful parenting takes some getting used to. Most of us were brought up in situations that nowadays would probably be considered borderline or even outright child abuse or neglect. We learned our parenting from our parents and they learned from theirs. You can almost guarantee that there were significant improvements in each generation. However, we still have a long way to go to get out of old, ingrained habits.
The key factors and why they are important:
Noticing – Awareness of your own emotions in a situation with your child. it’s ok to have emotions! Your child also needs to know that emotions are ok. It’s how you deal with them that’s important. For example, it’s ok to be angry, it’s NOT ok to take it out on anyone else.
Learning – to take a moment, before you react out of anger. How many of us have smacked or shouted at our child in a burst of anger then felt terribly guilty for it afterward? I once slapped my son in the face (yes the face) after he trashed his bedroom during an enormous temper tantrum and he’d began screaming in my face how much he hated me… he was 10. I feel terrible to this day that it happened. When you react out of anger, you teach your child to do the same. The question is, do you want your child to react with anger in situations or do you want them to be able to take a moment and be proactive rather than reactive?
Listening – to take in what your child is saying. This is hard when you disagree, but they are still entitled to an opinion. It’s no good teaching a child that their opinion doesn’t count. If you listen to what your child is saying and take a non-judgmental stance, you will gain trust and they will know they are being heard.
So, how do you be a mindful parent?
Well, it’s not easy but it’s far more pleasant an experience that not being mindful. It takes practice. You have to learn where the ‘switch’ is. The switch is the moment you know that you need to step back, take a moment and remember to be compassionate, non-judgmental, calm and collected. That’s the hardest part, realising it’s about to spiral. Most people fall head first into the spiral then before you know it your kid is laid out in the Asda aisle screaming bloody murder.
When you have that moment, you know the one… where you start thinking about all the previous times your child has done this and it is making you madder. That exact moment is where you need to back up. Remind yourself that your child probably doesn’t even remember that they’ve done this so many times before. Kids just want a reaction from you. When you are in this moment, make the choice to ask them (if they are of talking age) what is wrong. They are feeling an emotion but they probably don’t even know what the emotion is called. That’s got to be confusing, right? How will they learn to healthily express their emotions if they get told off just for having them?
Ask them if they can describe how they feel, where they feel it, do they know what it’s called. Usually, this conversation is enough to diffuse a meltdown. If it’s not then you need to talk more.
Explain to them that having these emotions is fine. If they are angry, punch a pillow not a person. If they are sad, have a cry, it’s ok! If it’s any other emotion, it’s ok to have it, it’s ok to feel it. It’s not ok to take it out on anyone else. Make sure the child knows that their emotions are allowed. We all have emotions. If you can teach your child some basic mindfulness techniques you will be giving them an amazing gift. A stress reduction tool which they will have on their person at all times.