It seems more important than ever to acquire and apply mindful parenting practices to our everyday lives.
In a world crowded with noise, deadlines, and technology our children are swamped with these same pollutants.
With the only difference that they depend on us and our coping techniques to show them the way.
We must be diligent and ensure we are doing everything in our power to be mindful and present.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is simply a state of self-awareness. It is best described as the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis (source).
As a result, mindfulness allows you to focus on the here and now versus “what might have been” or “what you’re worried could be”?
It allows you to slow-down, pace yourself, reflect and refocus.
How does mindfulness apply to mindful parenting?
Interestingly enough, being mindful doesn’t necessary lead to mindful parenting.
Not unless you are intentional about it.
Unlike personal mindfulness where you internalize your own thoughts and emotions to benefit yourself, mindful parenting requires the active involvement (action or attitude) towards another person (your child).
What are the benefits of mindful parenting?
There has been a recent interest in mindfulness in the last decade.
As a result, new studies are undergoing as to how mindful parenting can impact a child-parent relationship.
Preliminary research suggests that mindfulness-based parent intervention therapy may:
- reduce stress
- enhance parenting satisfaction
- decrease child aggression
- increase children’s pro-social behaviors
Practical examples of mindful parenting include:
- Being present and in the moment when spending time with your children
- Listening carefully and acknowledging your child’s opinion (even if you disagree)
- Putting ourselves in their shoes
- Being aware and taking a hold of your own feelings when there is a child-parent conflict
- Learning to pause before responding in anger
- “Just being” instead of “doing”
It is no secret that the better off mentally a parent is, the better off that child will most likely be as well.
So, stepping away from this scientific mumbo-jumbo:
- How can we apply mindful parenting to our daily routines and ensure a happier and healthier parent-child relationship?
- And how does this in turn enable us to raise emotional and mentally stable children?
Next, we will look into 9 ways to put mindful parenting to the tests and improve not your outlook on life, but on parenting.
9 ways to apply mindful parenting
1. Phone-free Zone
Oh, the dreaded cellphone!
If one thing is standing in the way of you working towards mindful parenting, is your cellphone.
No judgement here. I am also guilty as charged.
However, ever since embracing and putting to practice these mindful parenting concepts myself, putting the phone down has been instrumental.
Because I do a lot of work from my phone, I find it challenging sometimes to set it aside for long periods of time.
So, here is what has worked:
- Set a phone-free time. Completely, phone-free. I don’t mean next to you while you play with your children, I mean AWAY. Ideally off, but if not possible at least out of reach.
Last year when my iPhone crashed, I was phone-less for 3 days as I waited for my replacement to arrive in the mail.
At first, I thought it would be torture. But as the days went by, I was at a complete awe as to how positive my phone-less experience had been.
In the tree days I was without my phone, I:
- Started reading a book I had in my bucket list for a while
- Played and interacted more with my children
- Was less anxious and expectant of an emails I hadn’t answer or social media posts I had to interact with (work related).
It was as if I had a free pass to just “be” instead of “do”.
Question is, why don’t we purposely give ourselves that free pass more often?
2. Involve them
Involving your children in daily activities gives them a sense of importance.
Acknowledging them gives them a sense of belonging and acceptance which helps with their self-worth and self-esteem.
Why is it that our children are always more willing to help, that we are willing to ask them for help?
They love to help us! In anything…
Here are a few ideas of what you can get your kids to help you do:
- Mix ingredients in a recipe
- Fold the laundry (trickier with younger children)
- Planning a surprise (for a sibling, or your spouse)
3. Slow things down
We always live in such a rush!
- “Hurry up you are going to be late for school”
- “Hurry, the store is about to close”
- “Come on brush your teeth, hurry, you have wake up early for school”
Do these sound familiar?
Mindful parenting urges you to slow things down.
To be present in that moment. As a result, you will be able to focus on the “here and now”, in turn having an equal or similar effect on your child.
Mindful parenting urges you to put present parenting to practice and be here and now with your child.
Children perceive our energy as we act and react to our daily environment.
It is no secret that how we handle life, will most likely leave an impact on the way our children handle theirs.
Additionally, there is a direct correlation between anxious parents and anxious children. Children of anxious parents are over five times more likely than those of non-anxious parents to have an anxiety disorder (source).
Opting to slow down allows us to be mindful of their time and not make them feel rushed all the time.
Here are some of the positive impacts of a mindful routine:
- Decreases levels of anxiety and prevent anxiety later in life
- Avoid anger buildup or resentment
- Ability to create a healthy sense of time management
- Stability and predictability
I know from experience this isn’t always easy to achieve, specially on school routine mornings.
Related article: 7 Stress-Free Morning Routine Hacks for Parents
4. Mindful Listening
Part of mindful parenting involves making your child feel important and understood.
I am sure it has happened to you when your child has wanted to tell you something and you have shushed them off.
We are always so busy that we subconsciously appoint daily tasks at a higher priority that stopping for a minute to allow our 5-year-old to tell us about “how he put his shoes on his own”.
Mindful listening isn’t just staying quiet while your child tells you a story.
It means being an active listener. Taking in what he is saying and formulating questions you can ask him that will stimulate his mind and imagination.
- Creates healthy child-parent relationship
- Builds trust
- Decreases frustration and anxiety
- Increases self-esteem and self-worth
- Decreases acting out and school trouble
It is amazing the things that we can learn about our own children when we just… listen.
5. What’s your opinion?
Imagine your boss is working on a new product campaign and is holding a meeting in the office’s conference room. Attending are the top CEO’s of partnering companies and you (the boss’s assistant).
As they start the meeting and the brainstorming commences your boss acknowledged you publicly and says, “What do you think? What’s your opinion on changing our logo”?
Honestly, I probably would have fainted of embarrassment.
But, on the other hand I would have been incredibly honored that she considered my opinion valuable.
As a result, she indirectly boosted my self-esteem and confidence. I am now willing to work even more diligently because I feel acknowledge and validated.
That is exactly how your child feels when you ask her for her opinion.
We are the “bosses”. Constantly making household decision without realizing they also play a crucial role in our family dynamic.
Mindful parenting ensures you are taking into account your child’s feelings on any given subject.
It makes them feel validated and valuable.
Next time you are having dinner try asking them their opinion on something in particular.
It doesn’t matter how young they are, they will be more than willing to give you a piece of their mind.
Here are a few ideas:
- What do you think we should do next weekend?
- What should I make for dinner tomorrow?
- Can you help me pick out an outfit?
- What do you think about rearranging the living room?
These simple ideas go a long way. You can modify them as you see fit depending on your child’s age, interests, and family activities.
6. Mindful Quality Time
Spending quality time with our children is the best way to practice mindful parenting.
I am not talking about the quality time where you sit in the couch watching TV while your child plays Legos by himself on the play-mat.
I am taking about the kind of quality time that requires interaction, active listening and questioning, and emotional connection.
- Build a fortress out of Legos and create story about the fortress
- Go to the movies and have a movie discussion afterwards
- Read a book together
- Go on a nature walk
As you spend quality time with your child think of ways to interact with him and maximize your time together. Acknowledge his feelings and be in the moment.
7. Mindful Activities
It is fascinating to me how mindful kids already are.
They are usually consumed with thoughts about how something makes them feel, their environment and the whole world around them.
Have you noticed how your younger children are easily captivated by a bug on a leave, or a butterfly, or the sound of birds?
We are so caught up in our daily routine that instead of allowing and encouraging that behavior we hurry them along just so that we can get to the next place.
Only to hurry there too, and do it all over again.
What?! That’s insanity.
Maybe we should start taking some notes from our kids and start braking some societal walls down. The same walls that are preventing us from living our best, stress-free life and subsequently enabling our kids to do the same.
Here are some mindful activities you can practice with your children:
- Go on a nature walk
- Go pick out new flowers to plan in the garden together
- Read an inspirational quote and discuss it
Don’t forget to be present, and in the moment. And yes… that included no cellphones.
8. Don’t yell
Parenting is stressful!
There is a lot going on at any given time in the life of a parent.
However, lashing out at our children isn’t the solution to fix anything. As a matter of fact, it worsens the problem.
It is important to note that although your child might be “pushing your buttons” he isn’t causing your response.
It takes mindful parenting to acknowledge what we are feeling (anger) and learn to “turn it off” through self-awareness.
Your calm response helps kids calm down, too.
Controlling your anger through mindful parenting allows your child to feel that you are in control, thus causing them to feel less anxious and overwhelmed.
Lord know we need all the help we can get!
Say you are arguing with your spouse.
Only he happens to be three times your size and he lashes down at you.
She is whom you depend on for love, trust, food, and shelter. Now all of your safety nets have been broken and you feel overwhelmed, alone, scared, and anxious.
Did that feel good? Now multiply that by 10!
That’s what a child feels when we take things to the extreme.
By applying mindful parenting techniques and backing down of your negative feelings through self-awareness, your child will be able feel safe and emotionally balanced.
Disciplining and lashing out are two different things.
But, you can still discipline your child without yelling.
You do so by being mindful about the impact you are leaving behind with your choice of discipline.
In turn, they will be able to see that you are in full and total control of your emotions, where he feels safe, secure, and able to thrive despite of the current circumstance.
Indirectly, you are also teaching them how to react and deal with their own triggers and stressors. So, win-win.
Next, time you find yourself in a chaotic situation, remember:
- Acknowledge what you are feeling (anger/overwhelm), and without judgment of those feelings learn to master the art of training your body not to react to those emotions. That’s why practicing self-awareness in less stressful circumstances is so important. Because it helps you get better and better.
9. Time for you
The road to a achieving a successful mindful parenting mindset begins with being a mindful person.
The way to achieve that is by working on yourself simultaneously as you work on you parent-child relationship.
Because feeling come from within yourself, it is important you take care of you first so that you can take care of them.
Sort of like the airplane stewardess message:
“Put your oxygen mask first before you can help others”.
Similarly, when you work on yourself and reduce stress, emotional burdens, and take care of your body, mindful parenting becomes much easier to achieve.
Here are some self-care ideas:
- Eat healthy
- Set aside time for reading (or any other hobby that interests you)
- Attend church
Parenting doesn’t come with an instruction manual.
There are certainly moments in motherhood that no one cough have prepared me for.
Often time it requires a lot of trial and error and there isn’t such thing as perfection.
Parenting is ever-changing and it requires us to constantly adapt to its evolving phases.
Mindful parenting is a mental state we reach which can feel differently for everyone.
In conclusion, there really isn’t a right or wrong way to achieve mindful parenting, as long as the outcome remains unchanged:
Try your hardest to:
- be present
- be in the moment
- acknowledge your feelings and don’t allow them to trigger negative reactions towards your children
- Listen to them
- Slow it down and cherish each individual moment
- be compassionate and empathetic
Remember, the smallest adjustments can make a world of a difference.
Any step in the right direction, despite how small, is an accomplishment… and over time, before you know it, it might just become a positive and healthy parenting journey all around.
How do you feel about mindful parenting?
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