3 Secrets You Need to Master for Mindful Parenting

This is part 2 of two posts about the power of mindful parenting and how it can change the way you think and act with your children. In this part, you'll learn how to actually be a more mindful parent by using several simple techniques. You will also learn about the importance of taking a step back from your mind and how to do so.

I have a cool bonus for you this time, a guide to jump-start your mindfulness exercise, so be sure to grab it, it's free.

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Quick recap: in the previous post, about mindful parenting, we talking about the power of Acceptance and Commitment for parents. I described what are Parenting Values and how to take a committed action with your parenting skills. If you haven't read that post, be sure to check it out.

Contact with The Present Moment – Being a Mindful Parent

When was the last time you did something and felt you were totally there at that moment? These days we tend to be so preoccupied and we try to multitask that we lost the ability to be fully immersed with what we are doing.

As I’m writing these words right now, in the late hours of Monday morning, I’m having a hard time being fully present in the writing task. My mind wanders. I’m thinking that in an hour I need to pick my baby girl from her kindergarten; I’m having a hard time ignoring the hunger that is building up in my stomach, and in the last five minutes I stopped a dozen times to check social media. You know that feeling?

We do this all the time. Our mind goes to all these different places. It thinks of the past, or the future, or everything that isn’t here-and-now. There’s no need to judge ourselves for doing that. This is just how our minds work. But it can cause problems. When we are not present at the moment, we miss a lot.

When we are with our kids, if we are not mindful to what is going on with us and with them, we tend to miss important information about what’s going on. Our child may show signs of his or her inner feelings with their body language, or we may react in ways we don’t like because we are not mindful of what’s going on in us.

That’s why I teach about mindful parenting. The art of being more present in the moment is a key feature of positive parenting. Although mindfulness is a concept with roots deep in Eastern philosophy and religion, we are using it in a non-religious way as a construct of our mind. Modern research has shown that being more mindful helps parents feel less stressful in their interactions and their children tend to have fewer behavioral problems.

mindful parenting exercises
Mindful Parenting Helps you Feel More Connected with Your Family

What is Mindfulness Anyway?

Mindful parenting is – more than anything – a skill. And that’s great news because it means we can learn to cultivate more mindfulness through purposeful practice. I’ll use Kabat-Zinn’s definition of mindfulness, which goes like this:

Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.

Notice the parts that I emphasized – they say it all. In order to practice mindful parenting, all you need to do is decide to target your attention, at that moment, and remember to be non-judgmental.

That last point is SO important. Say that you’re sitting in the car with your child on the way to school and she’s talking but your mind wanders. You have this meeting coming up later today and this awful driver just cut you and you’re angry. When you practice mindfulness you catch yourself as the mind wanders and you divert the attention back to the here-and-now – the conversation with your daughter. But don’t tell yourself “Damn what a bad parent I am for not listening to her!”, that will not help you be more mindful in the long run. Cut yourself some slack, you're only human.

How to Become a Mindful Parenting Master

As I’ve said before, mindful parenting is a skill. You need to practice it so you can use it more and more easily. When you practice mindfulness regularly, your brain actually rewires parts of itself and new pathways are born.

There are many, many exercises that you can use to practice mindfulness, and they don’t have anything special to do with parenting. I believe that you need to practice mindfulness as a whole and then you will feel how being more mindful affects your parenting.

What can you do right now?

I suggest that you commit to take 5 to 10 minutes every day and practice mindfulness in the most basic form of simple meditation. I know, you are very busy, but if you think about it I’m sure you can find time in your day to sit quietly with yourself for several minutes.

You don’t need anything special, like a meditation pillow or incense. And actually, you can do it outside your home or office, like in a park or on your commute (as long as you’re not driving, of course).

Get the free Mindfulness Exercises Guide

Download the free guide with 5 different mindfulness exercises that you can try right now

Acceptance – Open Yourself Up to Experience

Now that we discussed the concepts of Values, Committed Action and Mindfulness – it’s time to talk about a huge concept that for me was a significant breakthrough – Acceptance.

As you can guess from it being the first word in the name of the model, acceptance is a major part of acceptance and commitment therapy. When we’re talking about acceptance we are talking about cultivating a mindset where we don’t try to push the demons away, but rather we learn to accept them and let them be.

You may think that accepting your bad thoughts and feelings is evidence of a weak, submissive nature, but I would argue the opposite. You see, when we are trying to get rid of bad emotions by treating them as unwelcome guests, they will only rise to the occasion and return with new strength. Watch the following video that illustrates that:

Now, acceptance doesn’t mean that you should allow people and situations to walk all over you. Nope. That would be against your values, wouldn’t it?

But when it comes to our inner demons – our thoughts and feelings – being able to accept them is the way to take the sting out of the way. By opening up to the pain we are moving towards ending the struggles, which frees us to work on what matters most – connecting with our children.

Now, I’m gonna let you in on a little secret: moving into an accepting stance is tough! I won’t lie to you and I will never tell you how enlightened and accepting I am, how I’m able to breeze through all my self-derogating emotions like the wind. I will, however, tell you that with intentional work you can make your way there.

What can you do to cultivate acceptance?

Acceptance is learned mostly from experience. For example, in the section about being present in the moment by using mindful parenting techniques, there’s an emphasis on acceptance as you let whatever thoughts, feelings, and sensations come and go. That’s why I think a habit of meditation or other mindfulness practices is great for parents.

 

Defusion – Discover That your Thoughts are Just Thoughts

The last pillar of ACT that I will go into is the part about watching our thoughts and creating some space between us and them. This is what defusion – as the opposite of fusion – means. We all have different thoughts running through our minds all the time and when we are not asking ourselves “is this thought valid? Is it working for me?” we tend to get pushed around by them without noticing.

For example, say that your adolescent child is having a bad time with gym class. He can’t do it right, his friends are laughing at him and the coach gives him a bad time for being a bad jock. And say that sports are important to you. Maybe you were an athlete in college, or you just realize the importance of keeping your body in shape.

When your child expresses his distress over gym class, your mind will probably shoot up thoughts like “He gotta man up and suck it up” or “I must get him to try harder or he’ll gain more weight and get sick” etc. Now, some thoughts may be valid, but if you are too fused with your thoughts you lose sight of what is right in front you – your child is in distress and he needs your connection. Being able to notice (and accept) the thoughts is the first step in pushing them just a little bit to the side (no one is expecting you to get rid of them completely).

There are six main areas of thought we can fuse with:

  • Rules – what are the rules we cling to? Especially those that tell us how to talk and feel. A thought like “It’s not right to think that!” is exactly like that – who said so?
  • Reasons for not being able to change – “I don’t have time to meditate”, for example.
  • Judgments – thoughts like “I can’t do it, I’m too preoccupied to sit with my child for 15 minutes of uninterrupted play”.
  • The Past – what are we clinging too from our past?
  • The Future – are we always thinking about what’s going to happen?
  • Our Self – are we clinging to parts of the story we tell about ourselves? Thoughts like, “I’ve always been strong and I need no help” can be really empowering until they prevent us from moving forward.

How to Defuse from your Thoughts

Creating that space between yourself and your thoughts can be done with different mental exercises, and with time, your thoughts will have a weaker hold on you. The practice of mindful parenting techniques that I taught you in this post will help you get better at letting your thoughts hang around without trying to do anything with them. In future posts, I will go into thought defusion techniques in more detail.

In the meantime, you can get my free Your Parenting Values course via email. This is a 5 part email series that will teach you how to clarify your values, identify your barriers (such as your thoughts) and in the fifth part you will learn more about defusion and get a nice easy technique to start defusing from your thoughts.

Summary

In this post, I drilled into the pillars that hold acceptance and commitment therapy, in the hopes of showing you how this method can help you work on your parenting even without entering a therapeutic process.

I know I skipped the sixth pillar, called “Self-as-Context” because that’s a more advanced issue that I can’t go into here. And to be honest, it’s an important issue but not one you must equip as you start your parenting journey.

I have no expectation that by reading this post you will know exactly what to do and how to use ACT to better your parenting skills. However, I hope you realize some of the benefits and you took some ideas for action.

What can you do now to use these methods in your life?

First, if you haven’t read my free email course Your Parenting Values, I think you should. I go deeper into the concept of values and help you clarify not only your values but also the barriers you have for achieving them. You can get the course by subscribing to my mailing list.

Second, if you find yourself intrigued by the concepts of ACT I laid out for you in this post, I have two book suggestions for you. I’ve read them both and used them in my own personal life and in my work with clients and I think they are just great. (Note: these are affiliate links, so if you buy the books via my link I will get a small commision without any added cost to you).

The Joy of Parenting by Lisa Coyne and Amy Murrell. This is a practical book that will give you a robust understanding of ACT and the ways it can help you as parents. It has many exercises that will guide you through the different concepts of ACT in parenting. If you're looking for working on your parenting with this perspective, look no further. Click here to find “The Joy of Parenting” on Amazon.

The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris is a self-help book that teaches you to use ACT in the broad perspective of your life, not focusing on parenting. However, it is a well-crafted book that helped many people I know and you should definitely consider it. Click here to find “The Happiness Trap” on Amazon. 

And finally, all you need to do now is PRACTICE. Just grab your free guide right here, choose one method and try it out. Let me know in the comments what worked best for you!

Get the free Mindfulness Exercises Guide

Download the free guide with 5 different mindfulness exercises that you can try right now

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2 thoughts on “3 Secrets You Need to Master for Mindful Parenting”

  1. This is a great post! I have heard of mindfulness, my doctor mentioned it to me. I was talking to her about my anxiety and how I am not a yeller, but I can’t seem to stop yelling at my kids. While I yell at them, something in my mind keeps telling me to stop as I’m yelling but I can’t stop. I wasn’t sure how to start the process of being mindful. These are great tips and will definitely be using them!

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