Parenting can get tough – especially with everyone else trying to tell you the right thing. Obviously, we want to provide the best to our kids. Sometimes, that translates into not making the mistakes our parents did or perhaps theirs. At other times, to ensure a perfect upbringing, it means going an extra thousand miles. The benchmark of successful parenting keeps moving north, tripping us off-balance. Avoid the trap. Get these tips on how to be a mindful parent.
The parenting paranoia
Sometimes, how we wish there was a standard operating procedure, a DIY-manual, a how-to guide to successful parenting. Alas, there are no such props in the real world and we all must rely on our skills and abilities and learn on the job. Indeed, this can be a lonely place to be. One that might become a source of constant worry, making us seek constant validations.
Parental worries are often coupled with doubts and/or guilt. We wonder if everything is okay with the child’s emotional, mental or physical health, will our decisions affect their future negatively, and should we be doing something different as caregivers? At Unakriti, we often get such questions from concerned parents.
Am I a good parent?
Our urban competitive lifestyles have made us anxious about our kid’s well-being and future, even more so for single parents. We worry about a child’s ability to make friends, the ability to focus on academics, difficulty in expressing themselves, or getting bullied. The question is what impact does all the anxiety, the worry on your face or even the vibes have on the kiddo? Is it helping or harming a future?
Kids do as we do and not necessarily what we tell them to do. Put differently, they learn, among other things, how-to-be from adults. When kids bring their problems to you, they not only pick up the solutions you offer as a parent but also your mannerisms. Would you want them to get anxious and insecure, or would you rather want them to stay calm and creative in the face of adversities and life transformations? Good parenting focuses on practicing mindfulness with kids.
How to be a mindful parent?
We coach parents and have also worked with kids, including kids with special needs. What follows is not something theoretical but based on solid real-world cases and experiences. We cannot emphasize enough the importance of incorporating mindfulness in parenting for the emotional and mental well-being of youngsters. So, how can you be a mindful parent? You can start with these tips.
1. Enable sibling bond
Positive sibling relationships can teach sharing, compassion, and care at an early age. While sibling rivalry can be real in formative years, siblings and/or cousins can become close friends too.
When parents instigate one sibling against the other, compare them, reward one to let out the other’s secrets, then it could indicate parents need to control siblings’ interactions. This does not allow for an independent relationship to be formed between them.
As parents, let your kids sort their matters while you provide nurturing guidance. Find ways to make them supportive of each other, tease them for their shared secrets, while creating an open sharing environment. Recognize their bond. Good sibling relationships have the potential to be the biggest support system for life.
2. Refrain from comparison
Comparing your child with someone else, such as a sibling, cousin, friend or even your younger or current self is not helpful. They are likely to take away a message of “I am not good enough”. The same can become a pattern in their future lives where they are constantly working hard to please teachers, superiors, and friends and may get discouraged easily when they do not succeed.
Consider your children as unique, with their individualized circumstances and capacities. Encourage them to do better and work hard. Be a friend and a teacher along with being a parent. Your kids will anyways be exposed to a harsh reality of comparison and competition in the world outside. Enable them to deal with such stressful situations and how to develop a positive self-belief.
3. Avoid negative remarks
We empathize that despite your best efforts, it can sometimes be hard to understand why the child is unable to get it. Hence, utterances such as “you are so stupid”, “if you don’t listen, we will send you away to..” or “you will never get it”, may slip out inadvertently. Moreover, kids keenly observe, often retain and imitate swearing or curse words. Remember, a child learns through modeling. Such remarks from caregivers, their first models to follow, subconsciously instills stereotypes, fears, and negative self-belief.
So while disciplining is one of the major parenting tasks in the formative years of children, it is important to be mindful of your language and choice of words. Learn about children’s developmental stages and what to expect from them. Make your child feel wanted, secured, loved, and cared for while setting the right standards.
4. Beware of the blame-game
It can get frustrating when, despite your diligent efforts, kids do not seem to value it. You may feel moved to share with them how hard you work or how you had to quit your job to be a good parent. But. Be careful starting any conversation with a qualifier such as “Because of you….”
Blame can become guilt. As parents, you are always making a choice, including the sacrifices you make. These choices are defined by your decisions to support your family. Try and own them and deal with it at your level. Find other ways to help your child see the value in what you are doing for them.
5. Talk about disappointments too
How often do you discuss your failures and disappointments with your children? Many times, parents talk about their achievements and successes and how it makes them feel. But teaching your children how to handle disappointments is also part of the package. Being human, they too will experience mismatched expectations, lost opportunities, setbacks, and heartbreaks.
Talk to them about how you overcome challenges and failures in life, how they make you feel and what you learn from them. Acknowledge that everyone’s threshold for disappointments could be different and it’s okay. Reassure them that if they fail in anything, they will still have your love and support. Make them believe that you can be a winner even in a loss.
6. Be a companion, not competition
Have you ever noticed parents compete with their children? Like, seriously? They will start to wear similar clothes, pick the same hobbies, send friend requests to children’s friends on social media and even alter their interests. It may start as something cool in the early years, but be mindful if it continues after it has served its purpose.
While parents may continue to see these as bonding opportunities, its good to ask how your child feels about it. Are they feeling pressured to redefine their identity constantly? Are they avoiding some places? Do they have a space to express and when they do express, is it taken with openness?
Along with being an authority, be a companion and a mentor to your children. Participate with them, ask them to teach you and let them take the lead and give them credit too.
7. Respect a child’s maturity
Even a 3-4-year-old child can sense when something is not okay, feel disappointment, and understand emotions. If you speak with them, as you would with an adult, you might be surprised that they may, in their way, can express an opinion.
When it comes to making decisions, involve children from an early age. For example, a decision about which restaurant to go to, how to plan a holiday, or which movie to watch. Similarly, encourage them to make their own choices from small things like what to wear to bigger ones such as what career they might want. Guide them for sure, but also acknowledge that they do have the capacity to think and choose for themselves.
8. Never scold in public
For children, even negative attention is valid and they may indulge in certain actions that serve a purpose. For instance, they can and do throw tantrums to seek attention. The next time it happens, ask yourself, what should be your response – ignoring or paying attention? Observe and reflect if, as a parent, you might be reinforcing such behaviors.
Just as grown-ups, kids feel insulted and embarrassed when scolded or shouted at, especially at a social event or a public place. Silence sometimes is more powerful than words. Learn to stay calm. Set the boundaries and conditions in a healthy way and wait to talk to them at an opportune time. Feed into only those behaviors that you want to encourage.
9. Encourage expression of feelings
It is important to ask children how they feel. How do they feel when they do well, when they do not, when they have a fight, or when mommy-daddy have a fight? It will offer you a view of what’s going on in their head and why they act or react in certain ways.
Thoughts and beliefs, associated with emotions and feelings, often guide our actions and behaviors. The more you help your children with being aware of their feelings, the more you would help them to develop an ability to reflect on their thoughts and act responsibly.
10. Keep away from stereotypes
Ever heard statements such as – “don’t cry like a baby”, “be a man”, “failure is not an option” or “you are my son” (to a daughter)? We may have been stereotyped in our early years. We may or may not like them.
As parents, know your power. Stereotypical statements feed into belief systems and may impact a child’s self-assessment and acceptance in a negative way. Be aware, when you use them with your kids. Choose mindfully what legacies you want to pass on.
11. Demonstrate authentic appreciation
Appreciation is fuel for the soul. Everybody wants to be appreciated – irrespective of their age, culture, profession or life role. Appreciation brings smiles, boosts confidence, and gives strength. Appreciation is acceptance, care, and love. People may feel appreciated in different ways but, everyone needs appreciation.
As parents, your words of encouragement and display of affection can double it all up for your kids. Find out what makes them tick (which could be different from what ticks you). Don’t shy away from appreciating your child’s efforts, small wins, and minor improvements as well. Little things matter more than the big ones sometimes. Be rhetoric in saying that you love them.
You know it best
You are doing all that you can to give your child a conducive environment for growth and development. You are possibly creating an atmosphere of openness and love to instill compassion, a high self-worth, and positive beliefs. When you embrace mindful parenting, you multiply your wins.
How Unakriti can help?
Go beyond identifying and avoiding pitfalls. Choose to work with a Life Transformation Coach. Coping with stressful and dynamic parenting situations can be easier when you get a safe and non-judgemental space to express, explore, assess and create options for yourself. All this while retaining your location flexibility and confidentiality.
We also design bespoke interventions and workshops for parents and children that blend holistic well-being techniques while facilitating open communication for a stronger bond. Write to us to for a free consultation.
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