What makes a parent mindful?
How can you incorporate mindfulness in your day to day parenting?
What is Mindful parenting?
Mindful parenting is a framework where parents are conscious of the “here-and-now” moment with their children. This may seem simple, but to do this for a sustained period involves a re-orientation in one’s mind. The level of awareness that mindful parenting describes includes the awareness of how we react as parents to our children due to our past conditioning and life histories.
For example, what is seen as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ is usually automatic judgments due to personal expectation or bias. Mindful parenting seeks to bridge this gap and allows parents to pause and choose how they want to respond to the child instead of automatically due to habit.
What are Mindful Parenting Practices?
#1 Listening with Full Attention
Beyond simple reception of words, attentive listening involves being sensitive to the child and cultivating an inner lens of the child’s perspective. This serves as a protective function for young ones who cannot verbalise words if parents are able to tune in and read their cues. For older children, this involves receptivity to content, tone, expressions, physical language and the like to grasp the underlying meaning or needs. This allows parent-child interactions to be perceived more accurately cognitively and emotionally thus reducing tension and encouraging further self-disclosure.
#2 Nonjudgmental Awareness of Self and Child
Acceptance refers to the recognition that challenges, struggles and mistakes are part of life in parent-child relationships. This does not mean a resigned acceptance and surrender of discipline or guidance. The mindful approach involves the acceptance of the child with clear guidelines for behaviour that are culturally suitable and developmentally appropriate.
#3 Emotional Awareness of Self and Child
All parents have certain trigger buttons that when pressed, activate the execution of certain behaviours. The same can be said of children. Powerful negative emotional displays may even erode what has been built between parent and child. Emotions affect how one thinks, relate and behave and thus cannot be neglected. Mindful parenting calls for the parent’s capacity to be able to recognise such emotions in themselves and the children. Parents can manage strong feelings through viewing them in a larger context and make a more suitable choice in response instead of acting in the heat of the moment or in retaliation.
#4 Self Regulation in the Parenting Relationship
Mindful parenting does not imply that parents are to blunt or deny feelings to their children’s actions, rather it emphasises the pause before the response. The manner with which parents express themselves and respond to the children’s emotions has major impact on the child’s socializing effect. By being tolerant and showing acknowledgment of a child’s display of emotions, not downplaying or disregarding them or matching it with the parent’s own negative display, cultivate youths who are more socially and emotionally competent. Parents can also educate children label and express their feelings which helps them to self-regulate better.
#5 Compassion for Self and Child
Compassion involves empathy and having compassion towards the child allows for the parent’s desire to meet appropriate needs and comfort the distress in the child. This results in children feeling positively supported. Self-compassion of the parent avoids self blame and encourages forgiveness of self for parenting mistakes so as to re-attempt to do better. This does not mean downplaying responsibility, which is distinct from emotions. A mindful approach may nurture a wider acceptance of parenting efforts instead of just focusing on success or outcomes.
Why Mindful Parenting?
Being conscious of parenting interactions provides the opportunity for parents to pause and shift their orientation before making a response. This enables a presenting moment to be viewed in terms of the long term relationship; the child’s needs to be attended to, exercise self-management and choosing a wiser response for the situation.
These result in higher quality relationships between parents and their children and disrupt cycles of maladaptive parenting behaviours and cognitions which may stem from past generations or past life experiences. Being focused and intentional on the parent-child relationship socially and experientially on a daily basis may have considerable impact on parent-child relationship especially in the transition period to adolescence. It is also significant that the mindful approach is suggested to nurture secure attachment relationships.
*Adapted from A Model of Mindful Parenting: Implications for Parent-Child Relationships and Prevention Research, Journal of Clinical Child and Family Psychology.
By Som Yew Ya
This article was first published in The New Age Parents e-magazine
Editor’s book recommendations:
Search Inside Yourself: The Unexpected Path to Achieving Success, Happiness (and World Peace) by Chade-Meng Tan
The Conscious Parent: Transforming Ourselves, Empowering Our Children by Shefali Tsabary