What is a Mindful Parent?
I think we need a definition. I think mindful and conscious are becoming buzzwords that are being thrown around and I'm not sure we all mean the same thing. This is my definition.
I want to share with you first of all that you can be a parent of any age, subscribe to any religion and have any parenting style to be a mindful parent. I also want to say that mindful and conscious mean the same thing. They are synonyms for being present and aware in the moment. I also what to be upfront and share that mindful parenting is a practice. It is not something you get and then don't need to try to maintain. Mindfulness is truly a life-long practice, which is why monks usually don't stop being monks. I am writing this because I see a lot of mindfulness for sale and a lot of labels being thrown around. There are Instagram pages filled with "tips" on mindfulness. But mindfulness itself is quite simple, it is the practice that is not.
My definition of mindful parenting is this: to practice presence, compassion and understanding with your child(ren). Presence means living in the present moment as you interact with your child. Putting aside your own worries for the future or from the past, to be in that very moment fully present with your child. Compassion means loving your child with forgiveness in your heart. Forgiving their newness, their tantrums, their mistakes with love and no guilt. This does not mean you do not discipline or correct their behavior but it means you do this from a place of love and forgiveness. Forgiveness is the key to any good relationship (including the one with yourself). Understanding means trying to always understand your child. Understanding means getting into their mindset and seeing things from their perspective.
Mindful parenting is truly a practice. In every moment of every interaction you have the chance to begin again with your child. If you yelled at her or him. Stop. Apologize. Forgive yourself. Then reflect as to what lead you to snap. You cannot change your child. You are here to guide him or her to be their best self but you cannot change anyone but yourself. The way you react to their behavior is key. It is my personal belief that our children are here to teach us as much as we are here to teach them. Each child comes with their own set of challenges and it your job as the parent to navigate these challenges.
Mindfulness appears to be simple but it is not easy. Here are a few tips on how to be mindful parent:
Breathe. All Zen Buddhist (the best guides to mindfulness) will tell you to always return to the breath. If you get lost come back to your breath. Focus on the breathing in and out until you are calm and back in the present moment. This is the best thing to do when your child is pushing you to your limits.
Forgive. Forgive yourself. Forgive your child. Forgive others for judging you. Forgive your parents. Every morning I wake up and pray to continue to forgive myself and others. Forgiveness is a practice. It is a mindset. If you come from a place of forgiveness, you will make better decisions.
Think before you speak. Every parent has said things they are ashamed of. This usually happens when we are upset (not breathing), angry (not forgiving) or not present. Work on being present so that you can speak with love.
Be real. Your kids need to know you are human and that you make mistakes. Apologize to them and lead by example. Be upfront and honest about not being present. "I'm sorry, I was distracted, what were you saying? I really want to know."
Appreciate that this is a temporary state. When things get rough, remind yourself that your child is only this age once. If you are frustrated with them sleeping in your bed, remind yourself that one day they will sleep in another home maybe far away. Appreciate the time you have now, no matter how draining or frustrating.
Share your gratitude. Let your child know you appreciate her or him on a daily basis. Point out behavior that you are thankful for and just let them know you are grateful to have him or her in your life.
I am not a perfect parent. I have my own struggles. Each of my children is very different. I take my job as their parent seriously, which means I work to help guide them the best that I can. Mindfulness is a practice. When I am having a difficult moment, I return to the breath, forgive myself and remind myself that this is a practice. Then I start thinking of things I am grateful for about my life with my children. I left a job as a teacher to help parents because I have seen the result of parents who don't care, parents who are abusive, parents who are absent mentally or physically and I know that we can all do better. Each of us just as to try a litter harder every day. It starts with a single moment of presence.