Ep. 03 – Mindful Parenting

Do you sometimes feel that parenting isn't working the way you wished it would? That although you have all the right intentions, you tend to always get into fights, fall back to yelling, and find yourself depleted from energy?

Or maybe you're constantly on the lookout

Welcome to The Apparently Parent Podcast!

You'll Learn

  • What Does Mindful Parenting Actually Mean
  • How to Practice Mindfulness as a Busy Parent
  • What Does “The Princess Bride” Has to do With Parenting

Click here to listen!

Episode Breakdown

  • [02:34] What is Mindfulness
  • [09:07] Puppy Mind – What Does Our Mind Wander
  • [14:32] The Fire Swamp

Resources Mentioned in The Episode

Free Five Minutes Meditation

Download the recorded Five Minutes Meditation for free and start your mindful parenting journey today

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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Have you ever watched the movie The Princess Bride? If you haven't, then why the hell are you waiting for? It's only the best movie that there ever was and ever will be. But if you have, do you remember that scene in the fire swamp? You know when Wesley and Buttercup learn how to survive all the hurdles of that horrid place. I love that scene.

Did you ever think this scene could be a great example of how to deal with your children's tantrums, emotional tides, and other shenanigans? Stick around and find out how.

Hi and welcome to the third episode of The Apparently Parent Podcast. I am so psyched that you're here and took the time to listen to my show. It means the world to me. And it also tells me something really, really important. It tells me that you find yourself struggling as a parent and that you want things to be better. And that's great because that's why I created this podcast. To help you find the tools, actions and inner strength to lead your family back into calmer waters.

And if you're listening to this in time this episode comes out we're already two months into the new year and the new decade. And is there a better time to start working on those skills?

So this episode is all about working on our parenting skills. And in one of the previous episodes, I talked about the parenting MAP. And I want to give you a quick recap. So the way I look at parenting is that when you became a parent, you got a ship, you were handed down a ship, and that ship holds your family and you're the captain of that ship. And it's up to you to bring that ship into safety and to not let it sink or get lost. And one of the tools that will help you do that is the parenting map, which is an acronym that stands for mindfulness attachment, and purpose.

So today, we're gonna start talking about mindfulness and more precisely about mindful parenting. And you may wonder what it has to do with the fire swamp scene. Don't worry, I will get to that.

But first, what is mindfulness in the first place? So mindfulness is a mental practice. It's something that we do with our minds. And it has to do with how we react to the world. I mean, the outer world around us and also our inner world, our inner world means the thoughts, the emotions we have, the physical sensations, etc.

And in everything we do in life, we can either be more mindful or more mindless. As a quick example, as you're listening to this podcast, whatever you're doing right now, it may be you're driving, maybe you're on a workout - good for you - maybe you're doing the dishes, good for you as well. And you can be more or less mindful of both the act of listening to me and the act of whatever else you're doing, right. So for example, maybe you're hearing me talking but you're preoccupied with other thoughts. Maybe you're on a commute and you're stressed about being late to work. So you are less mindful of my words at the moment because maybe you think about what your boss is gonna tell you when you get there.

It can also be the other way around. Maybe you're taking care of the laundry right now and you're doing it automatically. You're not really noticing and thinking about the movement of your hands as they go about the clothes. And you're more preoccupied with listening to me.

And there is actually nothing wrong with being mindless, it's actually beneficial sometimes, for example, when you're driving or walking you don't want to think about every move your muscles make, right. So as we grow up, your brain must transfer some actions into automatic control so we can clear our minds for other things. However, with time, we tend to use the same automation for other things in our lives. And it does the most damage in our relationships when we lose sight of what's going on. What's authentically going on in our own relationships, in ourselves, in our spouses, in our children, between everybody? We miss so much. And we miss both the good and the bad things. And this is where relationships can deteriorate sometimes.

So let's think about parenting and see how mindfulness or mindlessness is affecting the way you parent your children. And I want you to imagine the following scenario, it may be familiar to you, maybe not - try to imagine it. Let's say that you have a child that is in middle school, and the teacher calls you and she asks to see you and you get there by yourself without your child after school. And she starts to tell you that your child has several behavioral issues. He or she is not listening in class. They come to class with no homework. Sometimes they even skip classes and they even got into some fights. And let's say that none of this is really news to you. You knew some of it, you didn't know the whole scope of it. But as you sit there and you talk to the teacher and she's telling you all those things you feel your mind is racing and it's getting filled with all those thoughts about the future.

And you imagine your sweet child failing as an adult. He flunks college, he's not able to keep a job. He's being violent. And he has a shitty life. And then guilt swarms all over you and anger catches your throat, and you're angry with yourself and you're angry with your child, maybe even angry with the teacher. And when the conversation ends, you thank the teacher and you tell her something like “I'll take care of it” and you go back home and drive back home. You’re just filled with worries and thoughts about the future and what you did wrong in the past. And you get home and you lash out on your surprised child. He doesn't know what’s going on, he doesn't know where this is coming from. And as you go to bed at the end of the day, you are worried and disappointed and confused.

Now, if you look at it, you can see that all those things were merely thoughts created by your mind. Just thoughts, okay? And let's be honest, these thoughts and feelings are valid, it's okay to worry about those things the teacher has said to you, right? And sometimes you should be worried about those things.

However, I want you to notice how hard those thoughts and feelings were pulling you away from what is really going on. Your mind went way years into the future or back a couple of years ago to the past trying to find the source of this problem. And all this guilt and anger prevented you from acknowledging what is going on right now, which is your child. He's having some trouble in school and you should help him.

So it's like Your mind was kind of hijacked, you're not really in control of what you're thinking, feeling where you want to go. This is the problem when you are mindless.

Now, let's take the same scenario. But this time as you're sitting there with the teacher, you notice your mind racing, you notice the knot in your stomach and the anger that is catching in your chest. But you're able to slow down the thoughts. And you manage to hold on to those feelings and notice them without acting on them.

And again, you thank the teacher and you tell them that you're gonna do something about it, and you drive back home and yeah, you're worried and maybe you're a little bit angry. And you notice those thoughts and those feelings and you walk with them in your mind. And eventually you enter the home and you're more relaxed, still worried, still really wanting to solve this, but more able to talk with your child and listen to your child instead of lashing at him or her and you go to bed and as you put your head on the pillow the worries are not keeping you awake, and you feel confident that things could be better.

So where would you rather be? In the first scenario or the second scenario? I bet, I bet my money that just like me, you'd prefer the second scenario. And I guess that you feel that the first scenario describes your days a little bit better. And I get that because you and me, we are on the same boat. Okay? We're riding those waves together.

Being a mindful parent is not a slam dunk solution. It's not a one time job. It's a working process. And today, you're going to learn how to start doing it.

So why does it happen? Why does the mind do this in the first place? The main goal of your brain is to make sure you survive. The number one job your brain has is to notice danger and prepare you for dealing with it. This is part of the reason why your mind tends to jump all over the place instead of staying focused on one thing. Because it helps you notice the danger and be prepared for it. And this survival mode is also the reason why we tend to latch on the bad things and amplify them. So in our story, as you're listening to the teacher describing your child's behavior, your mind takes those worrisome thoughts and makes them bigger, and all of a sudden you cannot stop thinking about the grim future of delinquency your nine-year-old is going to have.

In the mindfulness literature, there is a really nice way of describing our minds, and it's called puppy mind. Sometimes it's also called monkey mind. But I like puppy mind better because I like puppies. I don't have anything against monkeys. But puppies are so cute, right?

So imagine a cute little puppy and it's playing with you. And it runs around from one corner of the room to another and it brings you a toy to throw and you play catch, but the puppy doesn't sit still for more than, I don't know, 30 seconds. And this is how our minds behave most of the time, and especially when things around us are stressing us up.

They go there, there, there, and they’re in not staying on point. Now, imagine that you try to get that puppy to just sit still for a second, it's really hard, right? Almost impossible. However, luckily, we have a little bit more control over our minds that we have over those imagined puppies.

So how do we train our puppy minds to sit still for a little bit longer? We do it by committing to the practice of mindfulness. Now, you don't have to be a Buddhist, you don't have to join a monastery to be more mindful. You may know that mindfulness comes from the Buddhist tradition or from several different Asian traditions, it doesn't really matter. You don't have to adopt anything, any religion. You just have to train your mind. We regard mindfulness as a mental practice, and the definition of mindful practice is paying attention to whatever is coming up in a particular way which means: on purpose, in the present moment, and non judgmentally.

And I’ll repeat that: we are paying attention to whatever is coming up in the present moment, we do it on purpose and we do it non judgmentally, which is so important to stress out. Because we tend to judge ourselves so much, you can judge yourself a little bit less.

And you don't have to, you know, commit for hours and hours of meditation and I don't really don't expect you to do that. I don't do it. You're a parent, you can’t do it. But as little as five to ten minutes a day of mindful practice can really start to move the needle for you.

Now if you want to learn more about how you can practice mindfulness or mindful parenting at the comfort of your own house, you can go to the show notes of this episode. It's on apparentlyparent.com/3 - there you can download two things. One, you can download my Mindfulness Practice Guide. It's a PDF, which you can download for free. And you have several examples of how to practice different kinds of mindful meditations. And again, five minutes a day, it's all it's all you need.

And you can also download a recorded guided meditation that I've recorded for you. And you can download it to your phone and listen to it whenever you like to, and practice with it.

Now, why do you even have to care about it? Why should you practice mindful parenting? What are the benefits that it's going to bring you? Well, mindfulness is not a silver bullet. It's not a magic pill. It's not like if you start doing this, everything will be different and you're going to be all the time relaxed and chill, really, it's not about that.

But you will become more aware of your thoughts and your feelings as they come and go. You will become more aware of your child's needs, and what he or she thinks and feels, and what their thoughts and feelings are as they come and go. This will make you more attuned with your child, you will resonate more with whatever is going on with your child. And this will foster a better relationship a secure relationship between you guys.

And on top of that, you could regulate your emotions better. So when you feel angry, or stressed or afraid you will be more able to regulate your own emotions. So you could be there for your child and you will become less judgmental about yourself and your child which really helps the relationship and eventually you will be more able to choose your battles and avoid impulsive reactions by your side.

I like to think about parenting like you're the captain of the ship, so you will be a better navigator. You will notice storms before they arrive, you will know how to avoid them, you will know how to ride through the storm without getting your ship under the water. So it will make you more proficient in this parenting.

Now you may be still wondering why did I start this episode with the Princess Bride and the fire swamp scene? Well, first it's the best movie and I want to talk about it all the time. However, for this matter, being mindful is exactly what helped Wesley and Buttercup survive the fire swamp in the first place because they were the first people that we know of that survived the fire swamp.

There are three dangers in the fire swamp. They are the crackling fires, and the quicksand pits, and the R.U.S.Ss: rodents of unusual size, and they don't know how to avoid them. But they learn how to avoid those dangers because they figure out that before fire bursts from the ground, there's a crackling noise. So they learn how to avoid it by being mindful of it. They learn to recognize how the quicksand looks so they will not step into it.

So in a way, being more mindful and noticing their environment, their outer environment in this example, but we're also talking about our own mental, an inner environment. It helps them survive their fire swamp, and get to the other side. And well, you know, maybe you know what's going on after that.

But this is what can help you survive your own fire swamps, your own storms, your own emotional tantrums, and when I mean you and when I say your own, I mean your own family, the tantrums your children have, etc.

So what are you feeling right now? Can you commit to trying this? I suggest let's do this together and commit to trying the simple mindful practice for just five minutes a day for the next week. If you can go for more than five minutes, that's great, move the needle to 10 minutes if you want to. And remember, this is an ongoing process. This is not a silver bullet. If you commit to it, I do believe that you will soon start feeling that it's easier for you to put a stop on racing thoughts. And you'll be more able to steer your ship because as you notice a mindstorm gathering on the horizon, you’ll know how to navigate around it or you will decide to sail through it without losing control of your ship.

And there are several different ways to practice mindfulness and mindful parenting. So go to the show notes of this episode. Again, apparentlyparent.com/3, you can download the mindful parenting exercises guide and also the pre-recorded mindfulness meditation that I recorded for you. You can again download it or listen and listen to it wherever you want to. And let me know how it's going for you, you can reach out to me on Instagram at @apparentlyparent and you can DM me. And if you share anything regarding this mindful practice, just tag me, I will be really happy to see those.

And thank you so much for listening to this show. As I'm saying every time and I really mean it, it means the world to me that you took the time that you invited me into your earbuds into your lives into your heart. If you haven't done so already, please subscribe to this show wherever you get your podcasts on, so you'll never miss an episode. And if you enjoy this episode, I love it if you could share with whomever you think will find it interesting and useful via email, your social media, whatever. And please go to Apple podcasts and leave an honest review. It really means the world for me because I can learn a lot from whatever you write over there and it will help me get in front of more ears. So that's it. And now I'm going to watch The Princess Bride once again. So Bye.

About The Apparently Parent Podcast

On this show, I share with you my perspectives and experience of parenting and psychology.

Enhance your understanding of the relationship with your child and yourself by learning about attachment, mindful and playful parenting mindset and techniques.

Listen to me sharing my knowledge and experience both as a parent and a therapist, as well as interviews with parenting experts from around the world. 

Eran Katz - Clinical Psychologist and Parenting Counselor

Your Host

Eran Katz

First, I’m a father of two kiddos. But I’m also a Clinical Psychologist and Parenting Counselor specializing in Attachment Theory and Experiential, Emotional Focused Psychotherapy. I believe that parenting is one of the most important things we ever do in our lives. This is why I love talking about it and helping parenting just like you and I find their best-parenting-selves.

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