Parenting is one hardest jobs you can ever have. Unlike many other jobs, there is no universally recognized job description. And there is certainly no manual. However, there are many suggestions and guidelines that can help. One more recent approach is to parent mindfully.
Being mindful means being non judgmentally aware of your sensations, thoughts, and emotions. It enables you to be fully aware of these inner experiences while still maintaining a balanced perspective. You can apply mindfulness to any aspect of your life – including parenting – to help bring a calm, engaged, and positive attitude to it. I recently listened to psychologist Dr. John Brailsford lay out several basic principles for parenting mindfully. Here are some essential tenets based on his ideas:
Make room for all that arises. When you’re facing a screaming, crying, arguing, or otherwise resistant child, it can make you feel tense and resistant in reaction. When you identify your own struggles with it, notice how your resistance adds to your distress – preferably stepping back enough to lessen the intensity of your emotions. At this point, you are observing the situation rather than getting caught up in it, giving you the space to think about your situation differently.
Hold your thoughts lightly. Like your children, you are only human. So, all aspects of your inner world – such as your sensations, thoughts, and feelings – are simply your experiences, not some objective, greater truth. When you maintain this perspective, you can learn to sort through your experiences, learning from what is useful and letting go of the rest.
For instance, if your child tantrums about you not buying him a toy, you might quickly become angry with his antics. However, rather than getting caught up in your perceptions of what a spoiled brat your child is being, you might notice that your thoughts are based on your own frustrations. By redirecting your attention to what he is going through, you might recognize that he does not have the skill set to tolerate disappointment and frustration… and that helping him with this is your job.
Choose to let go of your resistance. Accept (but not condone) your child’s actions. When you do, you will discover that you can respond more calmly. For instance, during your child’s tantrum over your refusal to buy him a toy, he might exclaim, “That’s not fair!” You can simply state, “Maybe not, but that’s my decision.”
Find a balance between extremes. Look for ways to say yes even when you are thinking no.
One way to do this is to reframe a question. So, rather than saying, “No, you can’t get a toy”, you might say, “Let’s put that on your list of what you want for your birthday.”
Another way to find a balance is to offer choice, when possible. For instance, if the toy your child wants is too expensive, you might say, “Instead of that toy, you can pick one of these two.”
Live according to your values. You are a role model simply by the way you live your life. So, be reflect on your core values, such as honest, integrity, respect, and caring. Think about how you live those values and how you would like to live them. Then take action to align your life with them.
Even as you follow these basic principles, raising children will be difficult. However, parenting mindfully can help you to maintain your equilibrium as you face the daily challenges of raising children.