“Mindful parenting is a continual process of deepening and refining our awareness and our ability to be present and act wisely. It is not an attempt to attain a fixed goal or outcome, however worthy. An important part of this process is seeing ourselves with some degree of kindness and compassion. This includes seeing and accepting our limitation, our blindnesses, our humanness and fallibility, and working with them mindfully as best we can.” – Jon and Myla Kabat-Zinn
The term mindful parenting is generally used to describe a “style” of parenting involving parental self-awareness and attunement to the child.
Although we can teach and learn ways to parent mindfully, I struggle every time I use the term “mindful parenting”, because appropriate parenting IS mindful. The issue is that for many years parents and educators have bought into the idea that control combined with positive/negative reinforcement methods are the only options to raise children.
When we deconstruct our own conception of parenting and open ourselves to new possibilities, we learn that there is a different way to parent, a more mindful way. Suddenly, we see that there is nothing special about mindful parenting, because we can’t seem to choose to do it any other way. Mindful parenting = parenting.
The truth is, parenting is an art. We can choose to paint with one color and have greater control, or we can practice mixing and matching different colors and techniques with flexibility and patience.
Mindful parenting is about having the patience to be present as much as we can as each moment unfolds so we can respond appropriately. This kind of parenting leaves little room for preset lists. There’s no agenda or desperation for control in mindful parenting, our only goal is our children’s well-being at EACH individual moment (regardless of our expectations).Therefore, mindful parenting does not include:
How successful they are
How well behaved they are
How ahead they are of other kids
How they always eat what’s on their plate
How quickly they fall asleep
How they rarely have tantrums
The points in the list above are all part of OUR agenda as parents and educators. They lead us to get lost in wanting to control our children’s behaviors in order to achieve the outcome that WE are interested in- it makes OUR lives easier, anyway. We get to be proud of how:
WE made a “nice” and “pretty” kid
Intelligent WE made them
They always follow OUR rules and expectations
Great WE are as parents
They will be successful because WE are making sure of it
Much better WE are than other parents
Okay, so I am asking that we get rid of our agendas and our lists as parents. Now what? How do we keep things peaceful and sane? How do we raise happy and responsible children?
The short answer would be to parent mindfully. The longer answer would be to describe mindful parenting in detail (which would not fit in one blog post).
Below I offer a list of mindful parenting characteristics that help us begin to deconstruct our own ideas and expectations of what parenting is. Once we start to questions ourselves, we begin making room for change and expansion. No one can give us a set recipe for a more mindful way of parenting without us first looking at where WE are at with our own views of parenting.
THE ART OF MINDFUL PARENTING
To parent mindfully is not to live by cultural expectations, but to follow our own wisdom.
It is not to let culture pave the way, but to be guided by our own path.
To parent mindfully is not to repeat old patterns, but to create new ways.
It is not to fear, but to lean into the discomfort.
To parent mindfully is not to control, but only to tune in.
It is not to avoid, but to accept what is.
To parent mindfully is not to be confused, but to be curious.
It is not to get lost, but to find more of ourself.
To parent mindfully is not to judge, but to empathize.
It is not to dismiss, but to connect.
To parent mindfully is not to regret, but to welcome learning.
It is not to rush, but to savor.
To parent mindfully is not to impose our dreams onto our children, but to let them flourish with their own.
It is not to buy things mindlessly, but to create.
To parent mindfully is not to zone out, but to stay present.
It is not self-serving, it is about learning selflessness.
Author’s note: Stay tuned for future posts expanding on the ideas presented here.