I’m going to suggest something controversial here. As parents we are often looking for ways to help manage our children’s behaviour. Programs such as Magic 1-2-3 and Triple P are fantastic and I’ve even written about ways to manage our children’s behaviour on this blog. However, we rarely look at ourselves and how we as parents fit in the dynamic system that is our family, and how we might impact on how our children react and behave. Let me give you an example: have you ever woke up with a headache, perhaps even overslept your alarm or found it incredibly hard to get going, only to realise you’re running late to drop the kids off at school. Your child is having a ‘go-slow’ day (very similar to you actually, in hindsight) and dragging their feet. In your frustration to wrangle the kids to school and pounding headache moment you give your (usually compliant) child a lecture of what they are doing wrong, why they always do this to you when you need to be somewhere, why can’t they just do what you asked etc etc. Sound familiar? This is just one example where we as parents can be more in-tune with ourselves, and in turn more in-tune with our children to help them manage their behaviour or feelings, or just to have more positive interactions.
Parenting with Purpose
I’ve written about mindfulness in another blog, but now we can discuss how mindfulness can be applied to our parenting, in addition to the other forms of parenting skills that we use (Triple P, Magic 1-2-3 etc). Mindful parenting allows us to increase our awareness of how we are feeling, and how our child might be feeling, and to make more wise decisions in regards to parenting. Mindful parenting can help us to be less critical of ourselves (how we parent) and of our children. Mindful parenting helps us to parent with purpose, to make decisions that are considered rather than emotion driven, and to role model appropriate emotional regulation skills for our children. Mindful parenting helps us to strengthen the relationships we have with our children through more positive interactions. Mindful parenting takes a lot of practice and is a life-long skill. We will make mistakes and not always be mindful. However, a mindful approach to parenting means that we can accept our mistakes, make improvements and strive to be more mindful in the next moment.
How to parent mindfully
Familiarise yourself with mindfulness and practice regularly. See my mindfulness blog for tips on practicing mindfulness.
Have a clear plan of how you would like to manage your child’s behaviour such as Magic 1-2-3 and behaviour reward charts, as well as pre-determined consequences for misbehaviour. This pre-planning helps us as parents not to succumb to emotion driven consequences – I’m sure all of us at some point have banned our children from the ipad for a month – but to utilise pre-determined consequences.
Before any intervention with your child stop for a moment to take a deep breath. Take a moment to think about what you are planning to do. What’s happening for your child at this moment? What do they need? How do they feel? How do you feel? Then calmly interact with your child. The Australian Childhood Foundation refer to this as Stop, Pause, Play.
Take time to play mindfully with your children. Schedule out time in the day that you can spend completely focused on interacting with your child(ren). During this time, make sure there are no other distractions, so pick a time you know you don’t have to do other things (eg making dinner). Put your phone away, turn off the t.v. Notice how your child is interacting with you and the activity they are doing. Make comments on this – “this is fun” “you’ve got a great imagination” etc.
Mindful family activities
Mindfulness is not all about meditating. Once you’ve mastered the basics, you can apply mindfulness to your daily life. Here are a few examples of mindful activities you can do with your children
Cook a meal. Encourage your child to notice the smells of the ingredients. Do they change when you mix them together? How does it feel in your hands? How does it taste?
Draw together – notice what your child comes up with. Make a picture story together
Kick the football/play basketball. Allow your child to try new skills rather than coaching them. See how they go. Make comments afterwards about how much improvement you’ve noticed.
Go to the park and play on the equipment together. Play café’s or pirates on the equipment. Let your imaginations run wild.