We’ve all been here before: icy stand-offs, shouting matches, total meltdowns or even a minor disagreement that somehow escalated into something bigger. No matter how hard you try to diffuse the situation, your own emotions take over and before you know it, you’ve lost control too.
As frustrating and difficult as this is can be, this is the perfect moment to break out your mindful parenting skills and put them to use. Bringing a mindful presence allows you and your child to express what they are feeling without judgement and gives both of you the space to work things through in a constructive way. While this is certainly a great learning opportunity for you, it also helps your child to gain a healthy perspective on their own thoughts and feelings and to let them know that we can all make mistakes and still be loved.
Here is my step-by-step guide for bringing mindful parenting into a tough moment.
Brake before you break
Pausing and taking three deep breaths before you speak or act will bring you closer to an appropriate response. When you are about to feel yourself potentially “lose it,” shift your attention to the bottoms of your feet. Feel your contact of the bottom of your feet and the ground. Conscious acknowledgment of this connection with the floor below can keep us a bit more grounded (pun intended). Then, begin to take your 3 deep breaths into your belly. It may even help to place your hand right over your belly button to feel that breath. Ask yourself, What state am I in right now?
You may be used to one or two word replies from your child. However, when she is ready to share, vent, complain, etc. Don’t talk. Don’t interrupt. Be present. Stop what you are doing and really listen. They will only learn to listen to you if you show them how to do that by example. True listening is when your mouth is closed and there’s is open. There have been many times when I literally have had to place my hand over my mouth to prevent a “parental interjection.” Ask yourself What is she saying to me right now?
Apologize. Share your feelings. We often have the best intentions, but sometimes our response and reactions are not appropriate (just like theirs). They may not be accurate or helpful. Sometimes we speak out of fear or frustration and need some space to reflect and calm down. Anytime is a good time to fess up, be honest and apologize for your behavior or your reaction. Teaching our children that we all need a “do-over” every now and again is a good thing.
Connect before you direct
Children need to feel safe before they trust, learn, think rationally and listen to our sage advice. If you are simply directing orders and rules without giving them the sense that they are loved, respected and cared for they will have a harder time listening to you. “I love you but AND, my answer is no.”
Since we have much more life experience than our children, we may tend to use this wisdom as a means of fixing their problems thereby saving them from any pain we may have experienced at their age. Although well intended, it can actually do more harm than good. We can only give advice based on our past. This does not mean that it will necessarily be the right fit solution for them or their situation. When we fix things for them without giving them the opportunity to solve it themself, we are stealing the natural lessons that life has offered them. Rather than fix, guide them to solve the problem. “What do you think you should do?”
Validate their feelings
Feelings are real. They impact our mood, judgement, perspective and rational thinking. We all want our children to be happy, however there are times when we simply are not. Hiding, sweeping away, suppressing, ignoring, or minimizing emotions can actually do more harm than good. Bringing emotions to the surface gives your child the opportunity to know they are being heard and supported. It also helps them acknowledge that emotions come and go. When they feel stuck in the feeling such as anger, overwhelm, or fear, they have the opportunity to notice that these emotions all shift. They are experiencing it now, but it will not be forever. “How do you feel about that?” “I can see that really frustrates you.”
Don’t be blind to what is going on in your child’s life. Observe their behavior with awareness, not judgement. What may initially present as a problem, may actually shift on its own to a resolution. If you immediately judge and question your child may rebel just to push against your resistance to what they are doing.
You may not be able to say this directly to your child but can you say it to yourself about them. “Even though [fill in the blanks here] I still love you.” Sometimes we need to love, even the seemingly “unlovable” things that come up.
See them as their bigger self
Have faith. This means, deep down you know your child will be just fine. It means that you know the lessons you have tried to instill swim deep in their heart and mind so that when they need them they can access them. Faith is also knowing that we as well as our children have an infinite amount of internal wisdom to help guide us through trying times and find the answers that best support our highest good.
At Zensational Kids, we know that learning how to be a more mindful parent takes time, patience and practice — we’re here to support you! Click here for more information on hosting a mindfulness and yoga workshop in your local school. We believe that mindfulness is not only a practice but it is a way of being. When our children are surrounded by mindful adults at home and at school, they tend to become more mindful children. We are here to support you getting mindful practices implemented in your child’s school as well.
Here is a brochure you can share with the principal of your child’s school