Mindfulness is a very popular concept these days, and there is a mindfulness practice for just about everything — Mindful Eating, Mindful Walking, and even Mindful Pooping (seriously, it’s a thing that I learned in my Mindfulness Based Childbirth and Parenting Class).
Mindfulness is about paying attention to the present moment without judging it. Sounds simple, but it’s not easy. You know what else isn’t easy? Raising children. It’s actually hard — really hard.
Raising children in today’s increasingly complex and stress-filled world can make our jobs as parents feel nearly impossible. There are a lot of misconceptions about what it means to bring mindfulness to parenting, so I’d like to dispel some of the biggest myths once and for all.
1. Practicing mindful parenting takes a lot of time.
The good news here for all you busy parents is that mindful parenting doesn’t take any additional time out of your already jam-packed day. It’s not another thing you have to add to your to-do list. Practicing mindfulness is the act of bringing non-judgemental attention to what you’re doing in this very moment, over and over and over again. But if you’re wanting some tips on how to get started, you can always try this five-minute meditation to help center yourself and remind you to be mindful throughout your day.
2. Mindful parenting is all about your children.
Although it’s true that your undivided attention will benefit your children in numerous ways, mindful parenting will actually enrich your life as parent because you’ll get a front row seat to the joy and wonder of your children’s experiences. By bringing your full attention and curiosity to reading Brown Bear, Brown Bear for the eleventh time, you might notice that it’s strange that the Purple Cat and Blue Horse are the only animals with non-realistic colors. But in all seriousness, you’ll be surprised at what you notice when you start to bring a “beginner’s mind” to everything you do.
3. Mindful parents are anti-technology.
This just isn’t the case, and there are actually a lot of technological innovations that can help you be more mindful, such as the free app Insight Timer, which helps you track your daily meditation sessions, and the Spire device, which tracks your breathing patterns to help keep you calm. Many mindful parents do in fact choose to limit technology in their households or at least set firm boundaries about acceptable use. Some parents even choose to create formal “Family Technology Contracts” where they can stipulate that devices are not allowed at the dinner table or after 9 PM, for example.
4. All mindful parents meditate.
Meditation surely helps, but it’s not an absolute requirement for mindful parenting. Meditation helps train your brain so you can notice when your attention wanders and then bring it back to the present moment. I like to think of meditation as mental bicep curls — they will surely make you stronger, but so will picking up the groceries.
5. Mindful parenting is a Buddhist endeavor.
Anyone can practice mindful parenting, Buddhist or not. There are many secular meditation practices that can help you create a meditation habit, even in just a few minutes a day like this one here. Remember, meditation is not the only path to mindfulness, but it’s something to help train your brain to notice each time your mind has wandered off.
6. Mindful parents don’t get angry.
Leaving the best for last, wouldn’t it be great if you could just practice mindfulness and and live happily ever after in a state of bliss? Sorry to burst your bubble but it’s not going to happen. Things are still going to bother you, and your 2-year-old daughter will probably still throw an occasional full-blown tantrum, especially when leaving the American Girl store empty-handed (sore subject for the author).
Although there are many myths, mindful parenting is simply about slowing down and noticing what’s going on right here and right now without judging it or trying to change it.
Mindful parenting is not another thing to add to your to-do list or another way to compete in the parenting Olympics. Mindful parents believe everyone is doing the best they can, including themselves. They try to create a safe environment to talk about their feelings and what they’re experiencing. They make a point to create rituals that foster connection.
They also know how challenging it can be when they’re overwhelmed and exhausted. And they also know that when their patience is running thin, that this too shall pass.