Mindfulness is the quality of being aware of what is happening in the present moment. That sounds simple, but for most parents life is no less than a roller coaster ride- always running and worrying about what to do next, where to go and fulfil the endless checklist throughout the day. This everyday rush is accompanied by stress, yelling at children and other unhelpful reactions.
Parenting is not about our children and their behaviour but about the parents, their behaviour, awareness of their own actions and being mindful. However, the good news is that parents can train themselves to take a pause more often, give themselves some private time and do whatever it is that may calm and sooth their mind. Unlike a paracetamol which will fix things instantly, investing that time and energy can bring out a huge difference, allowing you to have more fun on the go.
This is not just another preachy article that will tell you how to be a perfect parent or make you feel guilty about not getting things right. Instead it is a suggestion of introspection, understanding yourself and opening up with others about parenting in this age.
1. Oxygen Mask Principal: Put your own mask first before you help the other one out. Children are extremely mindful and observant of how parents behave with each other and with them. Be aware of you stress levels before you react to them. Ask yourself, “Am I stressed?”, “Am I displacing my strain on them?”. As soon as you get an answer to these questions, take a deep breath and recite what you feel. For example: “I am really irritated right now”. You will notice the emotion dissolving.
2. Listen carefully and Value their Presence: Just sit down, take time out of your daily chores- 10 minutes will also do wonders. Sit, look at them and give them a hug. Touch releases stress. Ask about how their day was, what project they are working on, what kind of music they like. DO NOT USE YOUR PHONES AT THIS TIME. Acknowledge their feelings, “Are you sad that you did not do well in your exams?”. This will help the child feel valued and help them approach you when needed.
3. Acceptance is the Key: each child is wired differently: “I accept the way you are. I will not compare you with others as you are your best version and demanding something that you cannot give would be a complete no-no”- this statement can do wonders. Accepting what is there rather than constantly struggling for what we don’t have, will bring the uniqueness of character in the child and a special feeling of love between you and them. Acceptance is the key of happy parenting.
4. Be Mindful of what you Say: There are two kinds of seeds, one is a seed of positivity (love, compassion, gratitude, courage) and another is the seed of negativity (anger, jealousy, hatred, rage). What will blossom depends on which one you water. Sometimes while correcting them you may end up seeing a lot negativity in them and start using narratives such as “you are good for nothing”, “you are lagging behind your peers”, “you did not score well”, “you are just useless” and much more. This leads to focusing all our energy on what they cannot do and after sometime the children start believing that about themselves. It would be great to focus on what they can do and creating more positive narratives for them. For example “he/she is very creative”, “he/she is a smart child”, “and he/she learns things very effectively”.
5. Ask, Don’t Tell: This starts when you honour and respect your child at all times. If they feel valued, they will reciprocate. Being mindful of your actions whenever you plan something for them is extremely important. “What would you to do about this?”, “where would you like to go this summer?”, “do you think you are doing enough?” this would enhance your rapport with your child and help them understand your point of view too.
6. Establishing Boundaries and Rules: It is extremely important to lay down clear rules and make them short. Discuss with your partner and be sure of it before telling the child. Understand and hear their discomfort about these boundaries. It is of prime importance that the rules are laid down very clearly and everyone understands them.
7. Say NO to repeated warnings: Once the rules are discussed and established, be sure to be consistent with it. Repeated warnings will only make the child feel okay about breaking rules or going against. Set up a clear example of our actions are a product of our choices and they have consequences.
8. You like it, tell others, you don’t like it tell them: Appreciation motivates children to go beyond their comfort zone and create something more than valuable. Look at you child, notice those small things, those small developments that they make and appreciate them. Avoid words like, good, best, perfect, excellent instead use words which are more descriptive, hardworking, consistent, courageous, understanding, helpful and creative which brings out the right essence of appreciation and adds meaning to it.
9. Apologize: Yes Apologize! You are your child’s role model. Say Sorry, whenever you feel you did not abide by a promise or act in an expected manner (especially to teenagers). “I am really sorry I could not be there to watch you game”, explain them and reason them out. This would not only make the child feel valued but also help you strengthen the bond with them. Try and discuss out ways to make it up to them.
10. ME TIME: This is the time you need for yourself. Be very clear and specific about your “me time”. Whether that is just sitting with a cup of coffee, listening to music, going for a walk, reading a book, writing a journal etc. It could be anything that you enjoy doing. This will allow you to think, introspect and feel more deeply about your thoughts, actions and help you be more aware about yourself. Take that time! Enjoy it!
11. Be united: You need to discuss with your partner and consult with them. Remember you are a team, give each other time. Take time out for your spouse and notice the little things they do for you. Being thankful to each other helps strengthen the bond on a deeper level. Parenting might be difficult for both of you, help and support each other in every decision you make.
Parenting is not teaching or leading, its learning and growing up with your children.
It’s about learning a new skill, transforming to become better individuals. I don’t promise any quick fixes, it is going to take its own sweet time. Neither is it going to be an easy journey. But will it be worth?……. YES! A lot of parents are concerned about what kind of a parent are they? There are so many categories- authoritarian, authoritative, helicopter, democratic etc. It is okay if you don’t fit in any of them. There is no parenting style which is perfect. So go out there, free yourself from the burden of being the best or perfect parent, feel free to experiment, make mistakes and learn from them. Parenting is no task, it is a beautiful journey. Take time to look, feel and enjoy the road. There will be a lot of hurdles, blocks, twists and turns. But what may feel like the end of the road might just be a bend.
Happy Parenting to you!