The act of mindfulness, when applied to our lives, is about focusing our awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting our feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. In being mindful, we can live happier and more fulfilling lives and can minimize stress and anxiety.
This concept of practicing mindfulness can also be applied to the art of parenting, as a positive parenting style, where we are not only are mindful of our own thoughts and feelings in each moment, but where we extend that to understanding how they might affect our children and their way of being in this world.
The famous Buddhist scholar Thich Nhat Hanh, said 'If you love someone, the greatest gift you can give them is your presence'. By practicing mindful parenting you are gifting your child your presence and self-awareness, which can reap deep and meaningful benefits for your kids as well as for yourself.
Parenting with presence
It could be said that being there for your child and parenting them as a fully present person by putting aside distractions, would be to parent in a mindful way. It also means not allowing the many pressures of time, work and busy lifestyles to become an obstacle to the way you communicate with your child. The idea should always be in responding to stressful moments and reacting to your child’s behaviour in a positive way that takes into account how they are reacting to the environment around them.
Often, our own emotions can get in the way of us responding in a way that is most helpful to ourselves and our children. When we react negatively rather than mindfully, it can compound the situation affecting us and our children, whereas when we are being mindful, we are able to remain connected to what our children’s needs in that moment are, and can more effectively respond to them.
Our behaviour and communication with our children has a major, if not the most important part to play in shaping their subconscious minds which is believed to be formed primarily in the golden early years of childhood. Parenting with mindfulness at this ripe stage will help in forming a positive and strong base for their emotional, cognitive and habitual development.
Parenting with respect
However, there is more to mindful parenting than just engaging with your child fully. Mindful parenting means you also respect your child as a unique individual. It can help you to maintain a healthy parent and child relationship by helping you strike a balance between what your children actually needs, which can be many time be at odds with what you think they need. By practicing mindful awareness as a parent, you can learn to acknowledge and address all your child’s needs in each moment with more skill, understanding and grace.
In order to reach a state of mindful awareness and being able to apply that to all situations you might find yourself trying to manage as a parent each day, you need to first go deep within yourself, and cultivate the presence that allows you to experience more kindness, compassion and self-acceptance. As a result of tapping into this mindset, it will also begin to naturally flow to your children.
Not only does this help your child to feel loved, but it also helps them to learn core values for living their own lives. As parents we are our children’s best teachers, and we do that by showing them how we live and how we then expect them to live too.
How to practice mindful parenting?
Every day we are faced with situations that can test our patience and push the boundaries of the love we have for our kids. Implementing mindful parenting can help prevent negative situations from becoming worse. Next time you find yourself in a moment where you could feel yourself shouting at your child or talking to them in a negative way, practice mindful parenting.
To do this, take the time to pause, clear your mind of all thoughts and ask yourself these questions:
What is happening with my child in this moment?
What does my child feel?
What does my child need?
What am I feeling?
What do I need?
This moment of pause gives you a chance to collect your thoughts, evaluate your own feelings and then also assess show your child is also feeling in that given moment. It provides opportunity to more clearly recognise what your child might need from you then and there. This simple act of mindful parenting allows you to react in a place and time that connects you to your children in small and powerful ways rather than reactive and negative ones.
In an atmosphere of acceptance such as this, children can grow, develop, create and learn. In turn, you will become less critical of yourself and how you parent, and will learn how to step back in stressful situations without reacting immediately and in a way that can be more detrimental than good. This in turn creates a stronger relationship between you and your child.
Reap the parenting rewards
To be the parent you want to be for your children takes courage, persistence and a willingness to be reflective about yourself and your children. Mindful approaches to parenting assist you to be more self-aware and attuned to the needs of your child, allowing you to take a step back and to consider what is going on for both yourself and your kids.
Using mindful approaches in your parenting takes practice. Allow yourself and your child to make mistakes. You are both doing the best you can do. Remember that changing behaviours, habits and ways of thinking takes time and repetition. And with that work, you will be rewarded with a closer connection between you and your children and a calmer, more peaceful family life will result.
If you are interested in Mindfulness and Mindfulness Mediation, check out our article about Mindfulness Meditation, Living and Practice Tips