It seems for every generation there is a parenting trend or approach that is new. In 2009, Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, released a revised edition of his book Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting, which was co-written with his wife. It was originally released in 1997. However it wasn’t until 2009 that the mindfulness approach began to take hold. To understand what mindful parenting is, it’s important to first understand what it means to be mindful.
What Does it Mean to Be Mindful?
Mindful living or the mindful approach attempts to live and be in the moment. To experience each moment as it is happening. The tendency is for people to constantly have chatter in their heads. You might be talking to your boss but you’re thinking about what you have to do when you get home. To be mindful means that instead of thinking about what has happened or what’s going to happen, you’re completely focused on what is happening right now.
To be mindful means to slow down and become aware of your thoughts and feelings. It’s a difficult practice, and many people meditate to train themselves to become more mindful.
Mindfulness As It Relates to Parenting
Mindful parenting strives to improve the moments you’re with your child. When you’re interacting with your child, the goal is to be 100 percent focused on them rather than thinking about what you’re making for dinner, how you’re going to find time for a shower, or the fact that your child hasn’t had any vegetables in the past 12 hours.
Mindful parenting also teaches parents to become less reactive to the trials and tribulations of parenting. Instead of allowing your emotions to dictate your response to a situation, for example your child took a rock to your car’s exterior, you’re able to be aware of your thoughts and emotions and respond in an appropriate manner. You’re able to approach each of your child’s mistakes as a calm and in-control parent.
Is It Realistic?
Mindfulness and becoming more aware of your emotions and your thoughts is a powerful ability. And yes, when you’re able to be completely present with your child, your interactions will be joyous and rewarding, even when they’re misbehaving. However, practicing mindfulness 100 percent of the time is unrealistic. No one is perfect and being a parent is an emotional job.
According to Kabat-Zinn, “Mindful parenting is not about being a yogi or practicing Buddhism; it’s about being human and realizing that we have more options than we may think in any moment, no matter what is happening.”
You can begin to practice more mindful parenting right now. When you’re experiencing an emotional reaction to your child, count to ten and take deep breaths. As you interact with your child, enjoy the experiences. Don’t allow outside influences, including thoughts and fears, to interrupt your time together.