Thursday, June 18, 2015

Mindful Parenting

In my research on self-compassion, I came across another parenting style, Mindful Parenting. It's a style of parenting that not only has a lot of overlap with other parenting styles, but would be very compatible with other parenting styles. Carla Naumburg writes that the difference between Attachment Parenting and Mindful parenting is that Attachment Parenting "focuses on what to do (breast feed, co-sleep, etc.), while mindful parenting is about how to do it."

So what is Mindful Parenting? Mindful Parenting is a parenting style based on the concept of mindfulness. Mindfulness is about being fully present and in the moment. Jon Kabat-Zinn, a famous mindfulness researcher, describes it as paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment non-judgmentally. Bodhipaska on Wildmind does an excellent job elaborating on this.


How can parents be mindful? To pay attention to something on purpose means we are aware of our own feelings and our child's. It is not just noticing we are angry or that our child is angry, but to stay focused on the experience. We stay in the present moment, not going back to the past (remembering all the other times we yelled or all the other tantrums our child has had) or to the future (thinking that we'll never be able to stop yelling or our child will always be throwing tantrums). It is also non-judgmental (we are not getting upset with ourselves or our child for having that particular feeling). Once we are aware of what's going on, we can choose how we want to proceed rather than our usual knee-jerk reaction.

Obviously, this is a a really tall order. In fact, someone even wrote about a piece entitled "How the mindful parenting movement is setting parents up to fail" (to which a great response was written). I don't believe mindfulness sets us up to fail; I believe that mindfulness gives us tools to work with when we do fail. In fact, I believe that mindfulness is an important tool to learn how not to fail. How else can we change how we do things if we aren't aware of how and why we do them?

Mindfulness is a practice, and the more we practice at it the better we get.

For Further Thought:

1) How does this parenting style compare to compare to how you were raised? In what ways do you wish you had been more or less raised like this?

2) What appeals to you about this parenting style? What obstacles do you face in practicing this?

3) What makes you uncomfortable with this parenting style?

For Further Reading:

New York Times: The Mostly Mindful Parent

PsychCentral: Carla Naumburg blogs regularly about Mindful Parenting. 

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