I don’t know about you but there are so many parenting methodologies I have trouble keeping track of even of a fraction of them. Not to mention the names are so perplexing that when I hear them I’m unsure if I should be visiting the zoo, an aquarium or planning an airborne sightseeing trip.
There is the Tiger Mom, Helicopter Parent, Elephant Mom and Dolphin Parenting methodologies just to name a few. Are you confused? Join the club. So now that we are both good and confused, let me muddy the waters even further by adding another method to the growing list of parenting methodologies — Mindful Parenting.
If you are anything like me, the words mindful parenting probably conjures an image of a Buddhist Monk in a dimly lit room that is surrounded by candles. I bet if you close your eyes for a moment, you can even hear the soothing sounds of a cascading ocean followed by a monk gently ringing a bell that reminds you to sit still, clear your mind and breathe deeply. I know, I know…mindful parenting seems like an unconventional and mysterious Yoga class for parents.
Yet for as whacky as mindful parenting might appear on the surface, mindful parenting might be just what the doctor ordered. According to Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Professor of Medicine Emeritus and creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University Of Massachusetts Medical School, mindful parenting involves keeping in mind what is truly important as we go about the activities of daily living with our children.
Mindful Parenting stresses the importance for parents to acknowledge and cultivate their interconnectedness to their children. Mindful parenting means that as a parent you must understand that you are in a symbiotic relationship with your child. As such when parents are fully engaged in mindful parenting, our thoughts and actions have but one purpose — to harmoniously continue the mutual dependence which defines the universal parent-child relationship.
I realize to some mindful parenting might seem like gibberish and gobbledygook. However, upon closer inspection, psychobabble and ancient mysticism aside, you might discover that you are already a proponent of mindful parenting.
If after a closer inspection, you remain convinced that you aren’t a proponent of mindful parenting, consider this my plea asking you to give it a try. You can do it. I know you can.
Mindful parenting isn’t a bunch of hot air nor is it as daunting as it sounds. Mindful parenting is a bit like the Circle of Life. To embellish and quote Mufasa, the best movie father ever, I imagine he might say mindful parenting is recognition that “we are all connected in the great Circle of Life”.
Go ahead and give mindful parenting a try. Here are three easy ways to apply mindful parenting to your daily interactions with your children.
1. OPEN YOUR MOUTH — It is common for parents to say nothing when something needs to be said. At times we refrain from making comments or giving suggestions to our children believing that they will “figure it out on their own”. History shows the aforementioned ideology is about as sound as taking your life savings to Las Vegas for a long weekend — not a great life strategy.
While we are on the subject of odds, chances are that when you are thinking of the big picture your child is not. In fact, our children are rarely capable of thinking of the big picture because their life experiences only provide a micro view.
Even when our children insist that their perspective is macro rest assured that their perspective is only micro. In truth, no matter who you are or what your age, when your perspective is based on limited real world encounters, your vantage point is just like a child’s — micro.
Consider your own life for a brief moment when deliberating whether to remain quiet. Think about how many things you wish you could do over or wish someone had warned you about when you were younger. Don’t sentence your child to a potential repeat of your life — a life of “I wish I would have” and “if only someone had told me”. Open your mouth!
2. CLOSE YOUR MOUTH — I know I just encouraged you to open your mouth and now I’m campaigning for you to close your mouth. Trust me I am not being duplicitous. Please forgive me for appearing to act like a politician.
Although I don’t need your votes, I do need you to return your thoughts to our ancient eastern imagery. Mindful parenting like Chinese philosophy has a yin and yang. There is a delicate balance between when a parent’s mouth should be open and when a parent’s mouth should be closed. And knowing the precise time to speak and the exact time to be silent can be tricky.
Here’s a simple rule of thumb. When the foreseeable outcome of your child’s proposed actions MAY result in grave consequences or COULD put in motion undesirable life dominoes this is not the time for a closed mouth.
Don’t worry mindful parenting doesn’t mean that you have to be a Helicopter Parent, it simply means you have to be vigilant about answering the question “what is truly important here?” When “what is truly important here” can be answered with a response far less than something that would result in an injury, an answer that is free from irreconcilable consequences and a reply that has no chance of exposing a child to a similar experience which resulted in our own personal misery, you can keep your mouth closed.
3. CONSIDER THE WORST — If options one and two are too complicated for you, easily the least complicated way of applying mindful parenting is to consider the worst that could possibly happen. Cheer up, I’m not asking you to be a fatalist. I don’t want you to walk around acting as if there is a gray cloud following your child’s every move either. Rather what I’m encouraging you to do is be a practical realist.
For as much as we might like to remove all trials and tribulations from our children’s life doing so is impossible and inefficient. Trials and tribulations are both unavoidable and necessary. Trials and tribulations are requirements for everyone’s personal growth. So rather than raise children who live in fear of what may come, do your best to prepare your children for challenging times.
There is little question that life will present numerous peaks and valleys. Considering the worst means that your child will be equipped with the necessary tools to climb out of the valley when things get low. Considering the worst means that your child not only understands but expects to work harder than possibly imaginable to reach the peak.
Give our child the best opportunity to spend as little time as possible in the valley. Give your child a chance to reach and potentially remain at the peak. You can prepare your child for life’s peaks and valleys by consistently considering the worst-case scenario.
So there you have it. Three ways to practice mindful parenting. Three ways to keep in mind what is truly important as we go about the activities of daily living with our children.
Like an experienced commanding officer directing his troops, when parents remain focused on what is truly important, children have the best chance to succeed in life. When parents practice mindful parenting, children aren’t forced to navigate the dangerous minefield of life without the benefit of an experienced general.
One, Two, Three…open your mouth, close your mouth and consider the worst. Mindful parenting unlike some of the other parenting methodologies is really just that simple.