A simple introduction to parenting mindfully
I've met parents from many different walks of life and I can confidently report that they all had one thing in common.
They wanted to raise happy children.
They also wanted to raise children who were resilient and confident.
Children who could make friends and succeed in the world.
But happy was the big one. The top dollar.
Which sounds simple but actually isn't.
Because no-one can be happy all the time. It's normal for our human experience to be coloured by other emotions such as sadness, anger or loneliness. As parents, we wish to protect our children from these feelings but we're doing our children a disservice when we don't allow them to experience the fullness of being human.
One of the principles of mindful parenting is being able to 'stay with' your child when they have feelings that are challenging.
Not becoming entangled with your own personal baggage but trusting that your child can weather the storm with your support.
Being a mindful parent isn't easy - it doesn't just mean skipping the time-out step.
It means having the ability to consciously reflect on what you hope to offer your child.
It means being able to see the big picture when they can't.
It means being aware of the hurts in you that can be triggered when you parent.
It means focussing on the relationship you have with your child and prioritising your connection over a quick win.
It involves having an understanding of child development and psychology.
It sometimes means going against the commonly accepted wisdom.
It means having empathy even when it's really difficult.
It means understanding that behaviour is a child's way of communicating.
Crucially, it isn't a set of strategies but a way of thinking or being.
You might have read that list and thought that anyone who parents in this way is a saint but I can assure you otherwise. I spent my whole career supporting families, before having my own daughter and I'm still learning every day. Mindful parents are just normal people doing the best they can for their family.
That's not to say that it's easy; that you'll never lose your temper or get frustrated. Or that your child will behave like an angel all the time (because that's developmentally impossible).
But it does mean that you won't feel as stressed when behaviour is challenging because you'll be able to understand what's going on.
It does mean that you are likely to raise an emotionally healthy child who can tolerate all of their emotions and grow into an amazing adult.
And it does mean that you'll have a great relationship with your child.
Which is really what we're all hoping to do.