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As parents, we are busy.  We are busy working, busy taking care of our families, busy with our kid’s activities, busy caring for our home/cooking/cleaning, busy with the endless to-do list…whew!  Just thinking about all of the things we do and are responsible for is exhausting.

With all the stress and stressors (those things or situations that cause us to become stressed) and our reactions to stressors and work-life demands, how are we being mindful parents?  How can we use practical mindfulness to help us be better parents? Here are a few tips:

First, let’s take a look at mindlessness.  We’ve heard this term and it’s often associated with other terms such as: autopilot, zombie, and zoning out. When have we been in this type of state? When and how are we and have we been mindless?

Mindless ranges from autopilot examples such as not hearing the kids (tuning them out) to over scheduling activities (yeah, keeping up with who again?) to emotionally and physically abandoning our kids (this is an unfortunate reality for many children). So, how do we overcome mindlessness? 

  • Be honest with yourself and identify how often we ignore our kids?  Are there certain triggers or activities that we tend to do this more often?  Less often?
  • How many activities are scheduled?  How do our choices support the well-being of everyone in the family…this includes parents too!
  • How often do I walk away or just leave them alone? Is this to collect my thoughts or is it something more?

Second, let’s take a look at patterns.  As the saying goes, history will repeat itself. Do we treat our kids the way that our parents treated us?  Do we yell?  Do we use criticize?  Did we like being treated “that” way as a kid?  Chances are you didn’t – and yet, we often repeat what we’ve learned and what was done to us. But we are adults, and can pave a new path for us and our kids.

So, how can we overcome these patterns?

  • Use the Golden Rule and identify how we would want to be treated and do that instead of what we “know.”
  • Instead of reacting, take a pause (count to 10) and rethink a reaction into a response.
  • Listen with full attention and talk. Yeah, talk it out. Share with your kids.  Tell them what’s going on. Kids are really smart and you just might be really surprised by the outcome and closeness of what happens when we get real with our kids. For example, share with them that you didn’t like getting yelled at as a kid and that we can do differently. Also, get kids on board with solutions! Ask them what they want, share what you want and have a discussion and come to a joint-decision of how to come to a solution.

Third, be positive!  Turn negative statements and comments around. For example, instead of saying “Johnnie, don’t forget your backpack” replace it with “Johnnie, remember your backpack.” One statement supports “forgetting” and the other statement supports “remembering.” Here are a few Instead Of Phrases (Left Side)…Use Phrases (Right Side):

Don’t run.                                           Please walk.

Don’t use your fingers.                       Please use your table manners.

Stop yelling.                                        Please talk in a calm voice.

Don’t let it fall out.                                I hope it stays in.

Don’t dirty your clothes.                      Keep your clothes clean.

By mindfully turning a negative statement into a positive statement, we are communicating, sharing, and encouraging our kids the behaviors we want and not putting the spotlight on the ones we do not.  Also, focusing on the appreciative and gratitude goes a long way – we all crave and love praise!

Try out these uses of practical mindfulness.  Try out one for a day and notice the changes; no matter how small – a change is a change.  Then continue doing it for another day….and then try adding another practical mindfulness tip to use.

Make using practical mindfulness into something fun (a game) for everyone in the family to participate! Keep track and tally up at the end of the day the number of noticed changes then celebrate…a pizza, ice cream, movie night, a visit to an arcade…

Finally, be kind to yourself. Parenting is joyous and it’s tough.  Remember to be kind to yourself (say positive things to you too!).  By using some (or all) of these practical mindfulness tips, we can make become mindful parents.

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