Our kids drive us crazy.
Even for those of us who strive towards peaceful parenting get irritated and frustrated with our kids. They're so immature! It's as if it's their job to push our buttons (it is).
The key to any kind of successful parenting is keeping our cool -- self-regulation. We have to model the behavior that we want to see in our kids. This means that our adult-tantrums (a.k.a. yelling fits) are not helping us folks.
In this generation we want our relationship with our kids to be one of the closest and most meaningful in our lives.
But how do we do this when they are driving us crazy?
Here are five tools from mindfulness traditions that can help us:
1. Pause and breathe. Yes, it's been said a million times for good reason! When we stop and take a deep breath, it brings our body out of "fight or flight" and into the "rest and relax" response. Take a deep breathe into your belly. Exhale very slowly. Repeat two more times. Now how do you feel?
2. Notice your thoughts. We think and think all day long usually without pausing to decide if we even agree with those thoughts! This is just how the human brain works for everyone. Start to notice the thoughts. You can even label them "thinking." Don't try to stop your thinking (good luck with that!). Just notice the quality of your thinking. Are you judging yourself or your child? Are you comparing to others? Are your thoughts friendly towards yourself? Simply starting to notice what you are thinking gives you a great deal of freedom and clarity.
3. See the feelings behind the behavior. Children act badly when they are feeling badly. Their behavior can be totally frustrating, but it stems from immaturity. When they are feeling/acting badly you can put words to that for them."You are frustrated with your sister when she doesn't play with you!" "You are angry because he stole your truck!" Respond to the feelings, not the irritating behavior.
4. Practice self-compassion. We mamas are so hard on ourselves! Due to evolution, culture and conditioning, we tend to be very severe on ourselves when we mess up. This doesn't make us better or more peaceful parents. In fact, it does the reverse. If we want our children to have self-compassion, we must model it. And it is the foundation for our compassion for others. Try this: Close your eyes and breathe deep. Put a hand on your heart and say "I forgive you" to yourself. Notice critical thoughts and label them "thinking." Try saying this five times to yourself to start the process of self-compassion.
Also, kids inadvertently push our buttons from childhood. They show us what we still need to work on. When you see that you are getting frustrated, take a break. Better to leave and calm down than to explode in anger. This is a practice of self-compassion too (and good modeling!).
5. Stay in the present moment. Most of the time we are in a trance of obsessive thinking about the past or the future. The trick to staying present is practicing to focus our attention. What do you feel right now below your feet? What is the temperature? What sounds do you notice? Bring your attention into your five senses rather than getting swept away into the past or future with thinking. When you are with your child, focus on his or her face, voice and actions. They'll love it! You'll bolster your connection while practicing mindfulness. When we are present, we naturally respond with less irritability and more peace.
Not easy, but do-able.
I find that I am much more able to practice these when I am consistent with at least a short meditation practice.
Although we don't normally think of busy moms and meditation together, there are a lot of reasons why meditation is exactly what we need. Meditation lowers stress, busts anxiety, and shortens the symptoms of a cold! Not only that, but it helps us with better emotional processing... giving us exactly what we need to be able to respond rather than react.
Making the time for mindfulness meditation has made all the difference in the way I live and parent. I'm not perfect, but I can see real, valuable improvement. I yell less. I get frustrated less. I can more often choose my response rather than habitually react.
It's the greatest thing I've done for my family and myself.
I want to help you start a mindfulness practice too. That's why I'm doing a free 14-day virtual mindfulness retreat from May 4-17. It's specifically for busy mamas, and it might be just what you need that you never expected.
Now it's your turn.
What do you do to find your calm? Start the conversation in the comments below!
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