Updated: May 6
When we parent mindfully, that means that we are present with our kids when we are with them. Being mindful of our kids means paying them our full attention. One of kids' love languages is Quality Time. That means, not just being with someone, but having a quality interaction with them.
Put Away Your Phone.
I know a lot of moms complain about kids who are constantly on their phones and not paying attention to them. However, it can be just as big of a deal when we are on our phones all the time and not paying close attention to our kids. This can have many negative consequences.
A couple years ago, I had my toddler yell at me, "Mom, put down your phone!" I had been playing an online game instead of playing with her. It really made me realize that this tiny person was feeling like she was in second place to my phone, and she was hurt by it.
According to Very Well Family, "When you are with someone and he is constantly checking, scrolling, texting, or engaged with the cell phone in his hand, it can feel like you are not really fully with that person. "When you have a conversation, it sends a clear message that you are playing second fiddle," says Dr. Roberts. Not only is this behavior rude, but it can damage the quality of that relationship."
We really do want to make our kids feel loved and prioritized, and it is hurtful to realize that you have been damaging our relationship with our kids. From the point that my daughter yelled at my phone, I make sure to be off my phone when I am spending time with them. If one of them comes to ask me something, I put my phone down and give them my full attention.
In addition to damaging your relationship with your child, being on the phone all the time can also hurt their development. According to the University of Nebraska, "before parents should be concerned about their children’s smartphone usage, they should first consider their own. As the ultimate examples of their children, parents need to be mindful of their smartphone consumption since that kind of behavior will set the stage for how children will interact with technology. Parents must consider what image they express to their children and how they communicate responsible smartphone consumption."
When kids are on smartphones too much as babies and toddlers, it can lead to aggressive behaviors in school, as well as physical health issues. Kids mirror us. When we are on phones too much, they are likely to do the same. Similarly, when we have kids begging us to put the phone down and listen, we really need to be sure we are doing that.
Learning to practice mindfulness, with life itself, and with our parenting in particular, can counteract our busy culture of being on the phone all the time.
Basics of mindfulness are outlined in Mindful Adventure, "[there are] seven specific attitudes that form a foundation for mindfulness. They apply directly, moment by moment and day by day, as you cultivate and deepen mindfulness. Theses attitudes are non-judging, patience, beginner’s mind, trust, non-striving, acceptance and letting go. The attitudes support each other and are deeply interconnected. Practicing one will lead to the others. Your ability to bring these attitudes forward in your mindfulness practice will have a great deal to do with your long-term success and ability to calm your anxious mind."
Today, I am going to focus on the idea of Beginners Mind, which can also be referred to as being mindfully present. It is being in the moment and paying attention only to what is actually going on around you, without worrying about the future or the past.
According to Mindful Adventure, "When you begin to observe what is here in the present moment, the thinking mind tends to believe it knows all about what is happening, or it tries to control what is happening by desperately seeking more information. The activity of thinking forms as a kind of filter between you and the direct experience and true richness of life as it unfolds moment by moment. To practice beginner’s mind means to open to the experience in each moment as if meeting it for the first time. Imagine the wonder of a child as she encounters something for the first time. The first smell of a flower, the first drop of rain, the first taste of an orange; all are experienced without the intermediate layer of thought or comparison to the past. These moments are experienced just as they are, in the now, directly, as smell or touch or taste, as sound or sight. In truth, each moment is unique."
To practice Beginner's Mind, is to see the world as a child sees it. How much better to connect with them when you can look at the world with wonder as they do, instead of thinking in the back of your mind about your to-do list!
Last year I took a class with work that dealt heavily with Transformational Listening, and I learned how much it can truly transform your life when you listen with an open heart. Since I was on work from home when I took the class, I tried practicing all the new listening skills that I learned with my kids. It was really helpful for me to learn to listen to my kids attentively, without any divices in front of me.
Even though transformational listening itself is not an aspect of mindfulness, per se, I believe that it has helped me to be mindfully present with my kids, which is incredibl helpful for my relationship with them.
According to Dr. Robin Johnson, "Transformational Listening demonstrates respect behaviorally, helps you collaborate, builds trust, balances extraversion-introversion and direct-indirect communication styles, and is one of the most powerful competencies in the multicultural leader’s toolkit.
It is different from active listening since the listener refrains from asking questions or talking while listening to others. The intent of the listener is to connect, demonstrate respect, and learn from the other while the listener provides the speaker(s) with their undivided caring attention. It is one way of listening that can be used in addition to (or instead of) active listening."
Dr. Robin has several videos and podcasts available on her website that explain transformational listening in more detail.
I believe the important thing for parents to keep in mind is that listening to our children is important. When we listen with an open heart, it allows our kids to have a feeling of trust, and helps them to open up. Although this is important at every age, it can be especially important with teens who often shut their parents out. Building a foundation of trust with our kids from a young age allows them to come to us when they are struggling, and to know we will help without judgement.
Being a mindful parent is basically the opposite of being a parent who is distracted or uninvolved. It is using your Mindful Presence to be with your kids, and be fully immersed in your experience with them. This allows you to make the time that you spend with them into Quality Time.
When you parent mindfully, it allows your children to feel more connected to you. They feel heard and they feel special. They feel like they are a priority for you, because you are willing to put down what you are doing to pay your full attention to them.
According to the Child Mind Institute, the main things that are important for mindful parenting are slowing down, and paying attention to your children's needs. This can benefit your children greatly. It also benefits you by creating a calm and less stressed environment in your home.
The Child Mind Institute says that, "Your calm response helps kids calm down, too, he notes. “They say, ‘Okay, I can trust my parent to be in control, this is a safe environment.’ And they feel more secure and they thrive. So that’s another benefit of parents practicing it on their own.”
It seems there’s no one right way to parent mindfully. Happily, there are many right ways. Sometimes the smallest adjustment in a child’s schedule can change a whole family’s day-to-day life. And sometimes, Dr. Bertin says, “It’s as simple as practicing paying full attention to our kids, with openness and compassion, and maybe that’s enough at any moment.”"
There are huge benefits to our children's health and self esteem when we parent them with mindful attention. Also, it should not be too hard for us to do. Mindfulness can reduce stress. When we parent mindfully and take ourselves away from screens and immerse ourselves in being with our kids, this allows us to be more playful and have more fun too. Children are happy and creative by nature, and taking some of that for ourselves can really help us in addition to them.
Becoming more mindful as parents has many benefits for both us and our children. Mindfulness allows us to focus on the present moment, and stop worrying about the past or the future. Being present in the moment allows our kids to feel important and special. It opens the door for them to welcome learning from us.
In addition, we can also learn from our kids through mindfulness. When we are fully immersed in the present moment, we can experience more joy and playfulness, the way that small children already do. Playing with our kids and enjoying the time we spend with them can do so much to enrich our lives through fun.
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Let me know in the comments what you think, and which strategies work for you! Also, let me know if there are other topics that you would like me to cover in future articles. I always love to hear from you!
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