Sometimes it feels like it takes more than a village to raise a child—it takes a superhero. On any given day, we have work, commitments, emails and, of course, people (big and little) fighting for our attention.
The problem is, we’re not superheroes. We can’t fly, we don’t have super-speed, nor can we be in several places at once. And unfortunately for us, we don’t have eyes in the back of our heads (what a handy parenting super-power that would be!).
What is mindful parenting?
There is, however, one superpower we can all have, if we develop it: mindfulness, which can easily and usefully be applied to parenting. Simply put, mindful parenting is when we pay attention and listen to what our children are saying, become aware of their emotions, are compassionate toward our children (and ourselves) and accept them for who they are, without judgment.
When we add elements of mindfulness to parenting, our relationships with our children are strengthened by the warmth, trust and sharing. And, as an added bonus, our own stress tends to ease and is replaced by a sense of calmness.
With that in mind, here are three easy ways to implement mindful parenting into our daily lives—no super-human strength required:
When your little one doesn’t clean his room or when the wall becomes the canvas for artwork, “pay attention to what you’re feeling, but don’t act on it,” advises Laura Markham, Ph.D. The Peaceful Parents, Happy Kids author says our first responsibility as parents is to be mindful of our own inner state, particularly during challenges. “Mindfulness is the opposite of losing your temper.”
Instead, imagine the world, and how you appear and sound, from your child’s perspective, say Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D., and his wife, Myla, the authors of Everyday Blessings. Doing this allows you to use self-talk to think about how you carry yourself in your body and the words you use, and modify them as needed.
2. Practice Gratitude
One of the best ways to foster mindfulness in children (and ourselves) is by encouraging them to identify the good thoughts and feelings they experienced throughout in the course of the day, as well as and who or what brought them about.
Kristen Race, Ph.D., author of Mindful Parenting, suggests creating a gratitude jar for family members to write or draw pictures of who or what they’re grateful for and then reviewing the jar together each week. Or, make sharing gratitude a daily event by encouraging family members to acknowledge three things they’re grateful for each night during dinner or before bedtime.
“In order for our children to be grateful, they must first slow down enough to recognize all of the blessings in their lives,” say Jeffrey Froh, PsyD, and Giacomo Bono, Ph.D. “Being mindful does just this.”
3. Disconnect to Connect
To create moments for connection daily, whether it’s snuggling before bedtime, engaging in active listening and conversation, taking a walk together outside or immersing ourselves in child-led playtime, we have to disconnect from technology, tasks and thoughts of other responsibilities.
“The trick here is to notice when our attention has wandered, and then gently bring it back to our child,” says Carla Naumburg, Ph.D., in her book, Parenting in the Present Moment. “Imagine that a specific event is the last time you’ll ever experience it.”
Because while we don’t move as quickly as the Flash, time can feel like it does. Little moments with our children are more significant than all the other things that seem so important. After all, our kids deserve our mindfulness superpower, and so do we.
Dr. Colleen Georges is a nationally certified psychologist, licensed professional counselor, certified positive psychology coach, Rutgers University lecturer and mom who lives her purpose of helping others to see the good in themselves. Colleen authors the positive psychology blog Seeing All The Good, blogs for the Huffington Post, and is a co-author in the award-winning Contagious Optimism, as well as 10 Habits of Truly Optimistic People, 101 Great Ways to Enhance Your Career, and The Book of Success.