Who told parenting is easy? It seems easier to beget a child than to bring them up. Each and every day with a child is challenging. Children get influenced by the smallest of the small, trivial behaviours like how they interact and treat each other, how parents interact with them, etc. Parents are the first role model to children. So, literally, parents themselves should be what they want their children to be. With the new generations becoming increasingly arrogant and questioning, mindfulness helps parents to have a peaceful and a matured relationship with their children.
Mindfulness is a method and a path propagated by the Buddha. Mindfulness simply means to live in the present moment and go through it without allowing the emotions to lead us into any irreversible action in a haste. Mindfulness emphasizes on recognising the emotion and letting it go. Buddha taught thus to prophesize mindfulness in everyday life – ” The pastis already gone; the future is not yet here. There’s only one moment for you to live, and that is the presentmoment.”
For example, while brushing in the morning, it is highly possible that we are mechanically moving our hand with our mind somewhere else in the office or thinking of children’s school or thinking of children’s homework, etc. We often are not in that moment brushing teeth, at least not mentally present there right in the bathroom. Buddha meant just this – be in the bathroom both physically and mentally while brushing your teeth thinking which all the teeth you have brushed and which not, if you have rinsed your mouth properly and so on.
There is a reason why Buddha gave this idea of mindfulness. Buddha, while getting enlightenment, found that the greatest enemy of a man is his emotions. He advocated maintaining maximum distance from emotions because they are useless. All they do is to mislead us. Emotions come to us because we connect the present event with some past event. For example, if someone comes and abuses us, the first thought that comes to us is, ” He abused me last week. He is bad. My day is all spoilt. I cannot work properly today. Seeing him makes me angry and frustrated. Huh! This is my fate. Everybody scolds me. Why does this happen to me always? ……….”
The fact here is, we have had food which provides energy to work. We have our hands and brains to work. We get paid for our work. There are so many reasons to work. If you observe, none of the statements of the chain of thoughts is useful and every statement there is connected to a past event. Buddha strikes at the root of all this – association with past or fear of the future. Neither will the association exist, nor will the emotions come, so no pain. Pretty simple and practical, right?
Mindfulness in Parenting
Parenting is that phase of life where we are making pots from clay. For that, we have to have skills as well as concentration to make beautiful, flawless pots. If any of these is missing, the pots may turn up flawed. It is tolerable if the lifeless pots are not made properly, not a big deal. But if children with full of life are brought up with undesired qualities, it means a lot to their lives and ours.
Children are just that – children, who are still growing, still exploring their world. They experiment everything with their parents. This may just be giving back answers, or using abusive words, or even not listening to their parents. They may have seen their peers doing this and may just be experimenting those in their own lives.
Parents will be sensitive to such changes in their children. Their first reaction will be something like this – ” I have observed you now-a-days. You are growing very arrogant. This is not right.” And this statement will be in a tone of dominating. Kids now-a-days do not like to be dominated by anybody, not even by their parents. While it is a good idea to observe changes in your kids, it is not so a good idea to connect the present moment with a past event. Each circumstance is different and need to be carefully analysed. It is here mindfulness comes to the rescue.
Instead of connecting past instances with the present one, a mindful parent is right there – in the living room, at the moment listening to the child patiently and analysing its words. This prevents emotions getting I between the child and the parent, so that the child does not fear the anger of its parent and express freely and openly how it feels and what made it to talk in such a manner. Then the parent may comfort the child and say that this is not a good way of speaking. The parent should be a model teaching the child how to talk to others. If the parent shouts, child also shouts – Newton’s third law – “Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.” is thus proved.
All a parent need to show is that such talking by his/her child does not make things work out with him/her.
How to become a mindful parent?
Buddha says, ” My path is simple but difficult.” This applies to mindfulness as well. Mindfulness is something that even a lay person can easily understand, but it is also difficult to practice. The best piece of advice will be to try to become a mindful person before becoming a mindful parent. Though there are a few advices that and Psychologists offer:
- Recognise what actions of your child trigger you and why – Suppose you are triggered by your child scoring less marks in the exams. The reason you find out is that you were not so academically sound when you were of your child’s age and your parents felt embarrassed by this. This itself should stop you from building the chain of your thoughts. Your childhood was way back in an era completely different from your child’s. Your parents felt embarrassed does not essentially mean that you should too. This itself will prevent your emotions coming in between.
- Be aware of your feelings when having a conflict with your child – Notice what all you feel when you are in a conflict with your child, if you feel angry, embarrassed, frustrated, etc. Now think that all such feelings are just like waves, they come and go. None of them are permanent. This helps your emotion pass on without much disturbance. This awareness itself checks further damage.
- Try to look the same situation through your child’s eye. There will be an entirely new perspective, with all the new facts flashing in your mind. For example, your child may create tantrums which does embarrass any parent. But from the child’s point of view, tantrums are a means of getting what it wants from its parents, because they have taught it, consciously or unconsciously that it is the only thing which works. Maybe you yielded to such tantrums because it was embarrassing sometime before.
- Practice to pause before responding to your child in anger. – Emotions are momentary and pass away in a while, reactivating your ability to judge a circumstance neutrally. So, learn to let that moment pass before reacting. This will result in a calmer mind which can clearly think. You can count backwards from ten before reacting to your child’s words.
Listen carefully to your child’s point of, even while disagreeing to it. – Children are still developing and are learning from adults around them. It is obvious they act like children and they are still learning to control their emotions. So, we, as parents should be models to our kids (a re-emphasis) to control their emotions and be calm and patient. Even children, over a period of time, will learn to be calm and patient.
Is this 100% practical?
While it is difficult to be 100% mindful in all the circumstance, we can always strive for being better ourselves than today. Even we are humans and we do commit mistakes. We may react like a typical authoritative parent shouting at our children or even abusing them at the heat of the moment. But it does not reduce our status to apologize our own children and convey that we really regret our actions done in a haste. After all whom do they learn such lessons from?
One last point
Everybody has only one childhood – even our kids. There is so much to enjoy, experience and learn certain things which come only in that phase of life. Let us not spoil that fun time of their lives which cannot come back with our emotions and authority. Let them play, learn and grow day by day without any pressure or hurry. Let them take their own time.