In parenting, We can’t be peaceful 100% of the time. We can’t be patient 100% of the time.
When we accept this, we can begin to be gentler with ourselves as parents. We can see ourselves as human and give ourselves the same level of forgiveness as we give our child.
One of the most common questions I am asked in my workshops and coaching practice is, “How do I handle myself in the moment?”
Parenting in the moment is just that: in the moment. Having simple strategies, words or phrases to help practice mindfulness and staying connected to your child at any given moment can go a long way in easing overwhelm, stress and pressure. Indeed, it is during the most difficult times that we are able to gain the most benefit from practicing calm, consistent responsiveness. Character strengths begin to emerge, which strengthen our resolve and build our confidence.
Healthy, happy children push boundaries.
As they learn and grow through the years, children need opportunities to investigate, explore and discover their internal and external worlds. When we create space for boundary pushing we gently give children a sense of their own personal freedom, and the knowledge that power is something that is shared with others, not held over them.
Parents sometimes have to think fast in response to challenging situations.
Parenting in the moment can be a skill, yet sometimes we might see it as pot luck on how it will go! Reflecting on what the best response might have been is easy when you have all the time in the world. When you have a second to think, when emotions are running high, when something needs to be urgently completed, or exhaustion and energy levels are running low, staying connected to ourselves and our children can be much more difficult.
So how do we practice calm, patient mindfulness as we interact with our children?
The first and most important step is to Stay Calm. This may be easier said than done, but it begins with a simple pause. Making sure that we pause before we speak or react can create an important window of opportunity for us to steady ourselves before continuing. It is in these brief moments that we get to practice mindfulness. It allows us to compose ourselves even when we are feeling remorseful, fatigued or confused.
When you find yourself in a situation where you have to think quick, practice tuning into your body language and how you are holding yourself. Take time to notice and name the emotions that are flooding your body. Breathe into them as you build an awareness of how those emotions are affecting you. The simple act of recognising how you feel can help to inform any subsequent behavioural choices.
Staying calm is one of the most powerful gentle parenting practices to commit to, and I have heard some parents say that it is also the most difficult!
Another important step involves Modeling, which is always easier when everything is going well. Many holistic and gentle parenting authors endorse the benefits of modeling and the power of being the influence in your child’s life. In our most trying times we get to show our children how we roll. We are given countless opportunities to practice modeling patience, forgiveness and tolerance.
Inevitably you won’t always handle things in your ideal way. In such cases, reflection is imperative. It helps you to be more forgiving and compassionate towards yourself, and serves to inform your future reactions. This in turn presents another opportunity to model to your child how we treat ourselves when we make mistakes.
Then there is Values Talk, which compliments and describes all of the virtues that we recognise in our children. Virtues such as kindness, assertiveness, tenacity, courage, boldness, friendliness, respect, trust, care and so on, are inherent in all children, and sharing what you see within them helps to build upon their understanding of the cause and effect of their choices.
Being aware of your child’s character strengths when your emotions are triggered requires a lot of practice. Guiding and redirecting respectfully while focusing on staying connected is a challenging but worthy goal. It helps your child cultivate self awareness, confidence, self image and esteem. It also helps your child to empathetically acknowledge the emotional needs of other people. Naming a virtue when guiding your child brings that virtue to light, and helps to recognise and appreciate what it means, and what you like and admire most about your child, even in the most trying times.
Adopting the practice of Values Talk helps you to avoid overwhelming guilt, blame and labels. It gives you easy to use phrases and words to gain confidence in choosing a more peaceful, supportive and meaningful approach to discipline.
Below are some meaningful words and phrases to help with values talk.
- “That is not kind to hit your friend. We use our words to solve our problems, not our hands.”
- “Please be helpful. I need you to come and carry some of the groceries from the car.”
- “Be gentle. That will hurt the kitten if you continue to squeeze her that hard. Use your gentle hands and show loving touch towards her as that will make her feel more loved.”
- “I need you to be peaceful. That noise is disturbing the neighbours and it is important to show consideration to them with the volume of the music. If you need loud music you can always put your earphones in.”
- “Thank you for helping with the dishes, I really appreciate your help.”
- “I appreciate your courtesy when you say ‘Thank you’. It makes me feel loved and appreciated.”
- “What a great help you have been to your sister, helping her to pack away her toys. That was a very kind thing to do for her.”
- “I see your joy and enthusiasm playing with your new toys. After you have had a play, do you think it would be fair to let your sister have a turn sometime?
May you find more calm and connection in your parenting as you practice these whole-hearted strategies. Staying connected to yourself and your child in the challenging times and the tough days can provide the most meaningful memories and opportunities for personal growth, and the deepening of your family relationships.
Yours in Harmony,
Latest posts by Kerry Spina (see all)
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- 4 Mindfulness Practices to Move from Surviving to Thriving in Parenting - January 22, 2015