How to Practice Mindful Parenting
No matter what age your children are, parenting isn’t easy. As parents, we’re so focused on getting everything done that we forget to be present. We’re going through the motions of daily experiences without actually being there. We may be so stressed that we quickly react to our children’s behavior instead of thoughtfully considering an appropriate response. What can we do to enjoy more moments with our families? We can practice mindful parenting.
When you practice mindful parenting, you can be present in the moment, pay attention without assigning a feeling, and learn to accept your thoughts and feelings without judgement. Over time, you can build awareness of what’s happening around you without letting your emotions take control. Being mindful doesn’t mean that you won’t get angry, feel sad, or be worried—having emotions is a part of being human. Rather, mindfulness practice will help you avoid acting impulsively on emotions and encourage you to make wise-minded, effective decisions.
Mindfulness practice starts with the “What” and “How” skills. Let’s learn about these skills and apply them to common situations parents face…
The “What” Skills:
Observe: Notice your environment. What is going on around you? Consider what thoughts, feelings and sensations you are experiencing. Do not push anything away; simply observe without labels or judgements. For example, when you walk into a messy house after a long day, pause and observe the things around you.
Describe: Use words to describe your experience. Remember to just describe the facts—no judgments. Just notice and vocalize your observations. For example, you might say, “There are jackets covering the couch, many shoes in front of the door, and toys scattered across the floor. I am feeling annoyed and frustrated; my body is tense and my heart rate is speeding up.”
Participate: Stay in the now. Don’t let past experiences flood your mind and body. Integrate your observations and descriptions into what you are doing without letting judging thoughts sit in your mind. Be present and commit to dealing with this one situation.
Non-judgmentally: Focus on just the facts. Bringing in judgments only heightens the intensity of our emotions. For example, a fact is “The house is messy.” A judgment is “The kids are such slobs; they left the house a wreck! Why do I have to keep reminding everyone to clean up? What am I doing wrong as a parent?!” When our emotions are intense, we are more at risk for doing and saying things that we can’t take back.
One-mindfully: Be aware of what you bring to the dynamic and take one things at a time. Don’t let a growing to-do list increase your stress and anxiety. In this example, you’re coming in from work exhausted and irritated. Recognize this within yourself. Take ten minutes to calm down and transition into the situation. All you have to do is ask the kids to clean up after themselves. It won’t take too long. Now, you’ll be ready to show up one-mindfully and deal with the situation.
Effectively: This means doing what works. You want to communicate, react and make decisions that help you meet your goal. In this case, that means getting the house cleaned up without any arguments caused by an emotional reaction. You may you’re your family “Before dinner, can everyone please clean up and put away your stuff? I’ve been looking forward to catching up and having the house less messy will make me more relaxed at dinner. Plus, you can get your phones back sooner if clean up.” Here, you’re communicating the benefit to both yourself and others if they act on your request without blame, shame or judgement.
It’s not easy to be a mindful parent all of the time. However, the more you practice mindfulness, the easier it will be to achieve. Remember to stop and take a step back, observe, and move forward mindfully. You’ll find yourself responding to situations level-headed and enjoying more memories with your family.