Mindfulness Parenting: Reacting vs Responding
Parents juggle to fulfill their different roles at home and at work, and some days can be very chaotic. Imagine your typical day. As you try to rush to tick off items from your to-do list, more tasks seem to keep on piling up. You find spilled drinks on the table, unkempt toys on the floor, a diaper that needs to be changed, or perhaps petty squabbles among young kids.
Let me ask you this. How do you deal with the curveballs thrown at you? Do you instantly react and scold your child for not holding his glass properly or for leaving a mess in your living room for the nth time? Do you let your emotions get the best of you and end up saying hurtful words that you later on regret? Or do you choose to apply mindfulness to your parenting by responding instead of reacting whenever you are facing a difficult situation?
What is Mindful Parenting?
Mindful parenting means being truly present with your child. Frequently, you may find yourself with your child, but you may be distracted by your phone, house chore, or by running thoughts in your mind. Practicing mindfulness in your parenting means not only being physically in the same room with your child, but it means giving them undivided attention.
It is choosing to respond to your child's thoughts and actions with empathy and compassion. It is also moving past through any embarrassment, guilt, or mistakes of the past. It is seeking to understand your child's point-of-view before passing any judgment.
Why Should I Practice Mindful Parenting?
When you start to inculcate mindfulness in your parenting, you reap the following benefits
· You become aware of your child's needs, thoughts, and emotions and your own as well.
· When you recognize the feelings and the triggers, you are also better at regulating those negative feelings.
· When your emotions are in check, you can control any urge to yell, hurt, or embarrass. You can assess the situation and act with more compassion and empathy.
· You establish a better connection and deepen your relationship with your child.
· You reduce the risk of a child suffering from depression and anxiety.
· You teach your child to self-regulate too.
How Can I Practice Mindful Parenting?
1. Stop and Pause
When your child disobeys or breaks the rule, what do you do? Your first impulse might be to call out his/her attention in a very loud and stern voice and start your lecture without even batting an eyelash. Without pausing, you may end up saying words you don't mean, rehashing old faults, or worst end up physically hurting your child.
However, when you pause and allow yourself to breathe and take a break, you allow yourself to calm down and assess the situation. You give yourself time to evaluate and decide the best course of action.
2. Align your expectations on your child's development stage.
There are times you may feel frustrated when your child keeps on throwing everything that he/she can get his/her hands on. You may reason with your child, but he/she keeps to do it anyway. When you try to learn and understand which development stage your child is in, you get a better perspective of what your child can and cannot do. With this knowledge, you can better set your expectation, which is aligned to your child's development stage.
3. Hold on to your judgment and let your child speak and express his/her thoughts and emotions.
Being mindful means not passing judgment immediately. Listen to your child attentively so that you may also understand his/her thoughts and his/her point-of-view. You may help your child put a name to his/her feelings.
By hearing your child out, you can better respond to him/her because you understand the reason behind the behavior or incident. You can educate or discipline accordingly.
4. Show Empathy
Anger does not resolve anything, and so it is crucial to keep your emotions guarded. Before you react, put yourself in your child's shoes so you can better understand his thoughts and emotions. When your child sees that you can empathize with him/her, he/she feels free to open up to you. This leads to the development of trust and security towards you.
Your child will also learn to empathize with you and other people. This will help them to interact and develop relationships with other people within and outside the family.
5. Model Self-Regulation
Children learn best through modeling. When your child sees that you maintain your composure even in stressful situations, your child will follow your example.
6. Be gentle yet firm on your response
Especially during stressful and anxious situations, talk softly to your child. Your tone can elicit a positive or negative response to your child. When you use a gentle tone but a firm tone, you can help your child calm down and converse with you. When a child is ready to listen, he/she can better understand what you are trying to teach or remind him/her.
On the other hand, if you shout angrily, your child may just tune you out or even retaliate and shout back. Shouting can be hurtful and can lead your child to distance himself/herself from you.
7. Don't skip Self Care
Self-care is essential. You also need time for yourself to recharge and take a break from the exhausting tasks. When you have enough sleep, proper nutrition, and sufficient physical activities, you are energized and positive. When you are well, it will be easier to self-regulate during difficult situations.
Also, when your child sees that you take care of yourself, he/she will be encouraged to do the same too.
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