Treat a child as though he already is the person he’s capable of becoming
~ Haim Ginott
Now that we have the tools to practice mindfulness and apply it to our inner experiences, why not try to employ this method with parenting? Link from recent post: http://mindfulmotherland.blogspot.com/2015/03/practicing-mindfulness.html. Using mindfulness as a means of relating to a child may not be the ultimate answer to overcome all challenges in parenthood, however it is an ideal jumping off point for trying to raise a child with support, love and acceptance.
There are many types of parenting styles available for people to choose from today such as attachment parenting which is used in infanthood and focuses on nurturing early attachment and bonding. Attachment parenting includes techniques like, co-sleeping, breastfeeding, baby wearing, being attentive to your baby’s cries and balancing your child’s needs with your own. As children grow older, there are styles such as authoritarian parenting, in which parents set strict rules and involves punishment, authoritative parenting, where parents have rules, though they are flexible and more open to their child's opinions, permissive parenting where parents are extremely accepting and lenient with their child's behavior and uninvolved parenting, where parents are non-communicative and detached from their child's life.
While comparing different parenting styles, I realized much like anything in life, nothing is black or white. Tailoring and understanding what fits best with your child’s disposition and the dynamic of your family is most important. On my search of the various parenting approaches and while considering the vast dichotomy in each, I asked myself, what do children crave the most in life? In observing my son and the children around me, I came up with this assessment. Children need play, physical release, artistic expression, emotional support and acceptance. Adults have pretty similar needs so with children being little humans; it is no surprise that they would mirror our desires. Emotional attention requires being able to understand what your child’s needs are even in infancy before they are able to articulate them. This phase can be extremely frustrating for children and parents since there is no verbal communication, therefore it is essential to observe your child and try to recognize specific cues. During this period, there are times you will have no idea what your baby needs, though by age two, communication with your child greatly increases as their language development thrives.
Multiple studies have shown the positive effect that thoughtful awareness has had on people. Mindfulness and meditation techniques have been known to greatly alleviate stress, anxiety, and depression and have helped people with eating disorders. Since mindfulness in general has a lot to do with how we react to situations, applying it to parenting is a magnificent tool. Parents who are under stress are likely to act rejecting, inflexible, reactive and less affectionate towards their kids. Mindful parenting focuses on developing a non-judgmental mindset in a here-and-now environment with your child. A study where parents were asked to focus on deep breathing methods, body awareness and meditation and apply these techniques in moments of distress showed an increase in parental satisfaction and child-parent relations over time.
Here are some steps you can take to practice mindfulness in parenting.
Pause – Being aware of your body in moments of reaction are vital in practicing mindfulness. Ask yourself where you are feeling tension in your body. Do not blurt out the first thing that comes to mind. Just pause and breathe deeply.
Be Present – Do not be stuck in the past or worrying about the future. Focus on what is happening with your child when it’s happening, without resentment or apprehension.
Listen – Truly listen to what your child is saying, do not make assumptions based on the past.
Reserve Judgment – In mindfulness, having compassion for your experience is a huge part of success. Having unconditional support when interacting with your child is just as important.
These steps may take time and practice. Patience in this process and in your journey as a mother will allow you to thrive as a parent. Your positive attributes and flaws are what make you special and human. I hope this post brings you some inspiration.
Baumrind, D. (1967). Child-care practices anteceding three patterns of preschool behavior. Genetic Psychology Monographs, 75, 43-88.
Bogles, S., Lehtonen, A. and Restifo, K. (2010). Mindful parenting in mental health care. Springerlink.com, 1:107-120.