The other day I was at one of those trampoline parks and saw a dad lose it on his 5-year-old boy in the locker area. Maybe the kid was acting up and not listening, but I wondered if that would be me in a few years. Would I get that angry around my child and lose my temper?
Even though we are in the midst of those “terrible two’s” my boy is pretty manageable. Yes, he wakes up in the morning crying for cookies for 20 minutes. Yes, he never wants me to leave his side and cries if daddy takes over. But he’s loving, good-natured and doesn’t really push my buttons …yet.
I’m definitely no expert when it comes to parenting though, I just make it up as I go along. Although I do find that I give in a lot, which actually works for me. For example, we were in and out of the supermarket the other day, though once we left my boy started crying because he wanted to get into one of those red cars attached to a cart. At first, I was very adamant about leaving and said, “No we have to go!” But he was hysterical and you know what? He wanted to go on a fun ride, so why not? I finally changed my plans and did one quick ride around the supermarket aisles and he was happy afterward. I um, even gave him a cookie around 10am this morning. Ssshh.
Yes, I let my boy have his way a lot and it doesn’t make him more bratty. In my opinion, it empowers him to take charge of his own life and it makes him more confident. Though you might call me crazy.
There’s no doubt parenting can be overwhelming, especially with a difficult or defiant child. As I mentioned in my last post, Mindful Parenting has become a popular technique, helping parents navigate their way through challenging toddler times.
Jon Kabat Zinn describes mindfulness as, “the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment-by-moment.”
Mom and therapist, Jeanette Sawyer Cohen, PhD says, “Mindful parenting is about bringing mindfulness to our parent-child interactions. As parents, when we practice being consciously aware of our own thoughts, feelings, and sensations, we are better equipped to help our children with their developing “emotional intelligence.”
Whether you are a spiritual person or not, she explains that mindfulness is an evidence-based approach to managing all sorts of issues including stress, anxiety, and pain, and mindfulness helps us feel more connected to ourselves and others. Plus, it’s free!
Here are some tips and ideas to consider from Cohen if you would like to use Mindfulness in your parenting:
- A good place to start is with your own mindfulness practice, which can take the form of a guided meditation with the help of a teacher or an app that helps you slow down and become aware of your present moment experience, including your breath.
- Practice mindfulness within your daily routine, like every time you are driving and get to a red light, use that as an opportunity to check in with your self and bring your attention back to the present moment. Or when you’re in the shower, notice whether you are thinking about the past or the future and invite your attention back to the present. The more you practice, the easier this becomes.
- Remembering to breath is an effective way to interrupt the stress response so that we can think clearly in order to work with our child to solve the problem at hand.
- Our intention is to parent mindfully, we are working to minimize the time we spend on “auto-pilot” and maximize the time we spend truly present with our self and our children.
- If you’re practicing using your mindfulness skills in your interactions with your children, pick a reasonable goal. Maybe you will try to catch yourself multi-tasking and instead sit down and play, in a fully present and engaged way, following your child’s lead, for 15 minutes a day. You can work up to that.
- Learning to listen or play with our full attention takes practice, so remember that as you try this out, to do so with a self-compassionate stance. Beating yourself up for not being good at mindfulness does not serve you! Instead, try noticing that self-critical voice and put it back on the shelf and return your attention to the moment.
- We can all use a little zen in our parenting lives, especially if your kid is addicted to Netflix and cookies. Though, can you really blame him? Being present and in the moment with yourself and your child might be difficult but it’s also so simple and effective, and let’s not forget it’s cheaper than therapy! For now, we seem to be on a good track but I’ve heard 4 and 5-year-olds are impossible, so I will start practicing mindful meditation now. And if you see me lose it on my child, please don’t judge and just remind me to breathe!