Want to stop getting angry and reacting to your children’s behavior? Learn how to be a mindful parent with these mindful parenting tips and ideas.
Have you ever held three conversations with your kids at the same time, one for each child? It might go something like this:
To child one: “Ooh, yeah, that’s Ironman. He’s red…”
To child two: “Hmm, I don’t think I’ve seen a circle or square kite, but yeah I’m pretty sure they exist…”
Then to child three, who all this time was reading a book on your lap: “Okay, where were we? Ah yes, A told B and B told C…”
I just described a typical scene at my home. My kids clamor for attention all the time, and I’m spewing words left and right without a pause.
I’m a ping pong ball holding back and forth conversations. Add to this the days when I’m cooking or putting things away while holding said conversations.
Yeah, it gets hectic.
So when I read Dan Harris’ book, 10% Happier (affiliate link) about being in the moment, I thought: “Easy for you to say—you don’t have kids!”
He has a point, though. Living in the moment is more enjoyable. We’re able to be present and can appreciate the little things. We notice how we respond, and can better communicate with our kids (aka not lose our temper).
But if every minute includes voices and thoughts playing out in your head, you’re living in a fog.
Being a mindful parent teaches you to respond, not react. Imagine your child has upset you. You might notice your heart rate increasing and your muscles clenching. You can label the emotions running through you: I feel mad.
This simple observation adds a brief pause between your child upsetting you and how you’ll respond.
How can you practice being a mindful parent?
Still, I wondered how feasible living in the moment can be in the world of a parent, especially those with more than one child. Practicing mindfulness is hard enough for regular folks—what can moms and dads do to be more mindful?
So… I have a confession. I used to check my phone often while my kids are playing or trying to talk to me. I’d even hold a conversation… and check my email when they turned the other way.
Recently, I decided to stash the phone in my bedroom, far away from where I can grab it while I’m with the kids. Even “What if my husband is trying to call me?!” excuses aren’t good enough (he can always reach me on the land line).
Guess what? The days when the phone is far away are the days I’m most mindful and productive.
Maybe your distraction is also the phone, or perhaps the television, or even loud blaring music. Maybe you’re piled with work you had to take home. These activities on their own aren’t terrible, but there’s a time for them, and, as I learned, it’s not when we’re supposed to be engaging with the kids.
Because let’s face it: kids will naturally clamor for your attention—let’s not add unnecessary tasks to the mix. Wait for a quiet time to tackle those tasks so you can focus on one thing at a time.
“Notice” things around you
If you’re like me, you wonder how you got from taking a shower to dressed and in bed, all because your mind had been elsewhere that whole time. Or maybe you don’t know if you’d already added sugar to your tea because you weren’t paying attention.
It’s so easy to overlook details when our thoughts are elsewhere. From replaying scenes in your head to worries and plans, we take multitasking to a whole new level.
For the most part, this is actually normal. For instance, you’re no longer a new driver and can reverse your car out of the driveway without a second’s thought. Imagine if we were scrupulous over every action, as if we were experiencing it for the first time.
But sometimes we take it too far: we overlook details in our days and aren’t attuned to our surroundings. We’re living in our thoughts, rather than in the present moment. And sometimes, it’s our families that take the biggest hit.
Next time, take just 10 minutes to observe and notice things around you. When you hold your child, feel his warm embrace and note it in your head: I’m holding my son. Notice the feel of your feet stepping on the ground or the breeze blowing on your face.
This practice will help make you more attuned to the moment and will heighten your senses in ways you may have been too foggy to notice.
Kids pick the most inconvenient time to show you their craft or tell you the color of a fire truck (over and over). It’s hard to listen when you’re doing something else, so you mumble “uh-huh” while only half-listening and even get upset when they interrupt you from what you were doing.
But imagine a different scenario. You’re in the middle of sorting paperwork when your child shows you her craft. What if, instead of mumbling “uh-huh,” you put the papers down for a minute and truly look at what she has made. You praise her for her hard work and wrap her in a warm hug.
All that took maybe three minutes. That’s three minutes of full attention your child got, leaving her happy and ready to play something else. She won’t get frustrated or whine for your attention now that you’ve given it to her.
And you can go right back to sorting paperwork knowing she’s fine playing on her own.
If it isn’t possible to listen to them, let them know. You might say, “I’m trying to park the car right now, but once we’re done I can respond to you, okay?” Or “Mama has to focus on sorting all these papers. Give me 10 minutes, then I’m all yours right after.”
Notice yourself getting angry
Mindful parenting allows you to notice your emotions, including the negative ones. Because what’s the typical response to a child acting up? We get frustrated, yell or say something we regret, all because we’re so caught up in a reactive emotion.
The next time your child frustrates you, take a breath. That one pause is enough to separate the trigger from the reaction. Then once you’ve paused, label your emotion—either in your head or out loud, say, “I feel mad.”
Notice the physical changes in your body, from a faster heartbeat to tensing muscles. That acknowledgment will offer you a choice of whether you want to remain mad or calm down.
Noticing yourself getting angry means you don’t simply react to your child’s behavior. By being mindful, you give yourself the choice of how to respond next.
Meditation is your mindfulness workout. By training your mind to be aware, you’ll see future situations without judgment. You won’t always react. If your child is whining, meditation will have taught you to notice your temper and not yell.
[Meditation] has countless benefits—from better health to increased focus to a deeper sense of calm—but the biggie is the ability to respond instead of react to your impulses and urges. We live our life propelled by desire and aversion. In meditation, instead of succumbing to these deeply rooted habits of mind, you are simply watching what comes up in your head nonjudgmentally.
How can you meditate? A simple method is to focus on the breath. Notice how the air fills your lungs and passes through your nose. Focus on just one thing, whether your breath or a number.
And when your mind drifts to another thought, acknowledge that thought. (Oh look, there I go thinking about what to cook tomorrow.) Then imagine sending that thought on its way as you focus on your breath once more.
The days I’m mindful are far more peaceful than the days when I’m reactive. I do my best to pause, notice my emotions and find quiet time to practice mindfulness in peace. I limit distractions, and truly listen to my kids without letting other thoughts cloud my mind.
Being a mindful parent is an ongoing process. There will be days when we’ll mumble “uh-huh” just to get our kids to be quiet and check our phones when they’re not looking.
But by practicing mindfulness, we not only feel more attuned to our lives, but we can better respond and be more present with our kids. We’ll appreciate simple pleasures and have clarity during our days.
You don’t need to be an experienced yogi to benefit from mindfulness. Just five minutes, focus, and deep breaths are all it takes.
Get more parenting tips:
- 10% Happier by Dan Harris
- The Surprisingly Simple Question You Should Always Ask Yourself before Disciplining Your Child
- Bad Parenting Habits We Need to Break
- 4 Things to Remember When You Get Angry at Your Child
- The Number One Job of a Parent
Your turn: Do you meditate or practice being a mindful parent? Let me know in the comments!
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