Three Jewels of Mindful Parenting
“Life affords no greater responsibility, no greater privilege, than the raising of the next generation.” ~ C. Everett Koop
Parenting is one of the toughest jobs you’ll ever love.
If you have kids, you know what I mean. If you don’t, go out on a limb and trust me.
We have three kids — ages 9, 7 and 3 years. Two boys — on the bookends — and a girl. Each with their own personality and at-the-moment passion. Each with their own idiosyncrasies and authentic individualism. I couldn’t imagine our little family any other way.
Being a parent has been one of my biggest challenges in life. There are lots of ups — and lots of downs. Good days, bad days and everything in-between. It takes lots of hard work to be a good parent. A parent who can approach each and every situation with clarity and the ability create those lasting lessons out of thin air. A parent who can always find silver linings, make lemonade out of lemons and turn tears into laughter.
Still, if the foundation is solid and strong, what you build in your children will forever be a testament to all that effort you put into to making them who they are and what they become.
Since embracing the practice of mindfulness some years ago, I’ve been able to see my role as a parent with new eyes. Eyes that are clearer, deeper and more sensitive to understanding the why’s and how’s of the swings of parenting bliss. I’ve boiled it down to the three things — or ‘jewels’ as I’m calling them — that for me, represent the framework for my approach to parenting. Before I explain, it’s important to note two things: 1) My list is not necessarily your list; these are not THE three jewels of mindful parenting; and 2) I am not successful 100 percent of the time in approaching day-to-day parenting in this way. It is something that I aspire to and as such, work hard at.
Ah, yes, patience. How could so much be wrapped up into a single word? Each day as a parent is full of opportunities to practice (and practice and practice) patience. For me, this first jewel is the key to all others and as such, tends to be the hardest to master. As time goes on though, the more I feel it’s a matter of setting the right expectations for what your kids do and when they do it. Case in point: I cannot expect my three-year-old son to follow his older brother and sister’s lead on things like following through on a task (e.g., picking up after themselves) all on his own. Or on the flip-side of that, expecting my oldest son to always make the right decision regarding X or Y — simply because he has not faced X or Y yet. Instead of coming down hard on his wrong decision, it needs to be approached as an opportunity to teach a lesson so that the right decision can be made in the future.
During a meditation session some time ago — likely after some difficult parenting moment — I had the epiphany of perspective. It was like a vision of looking back at the mirror at myself — while in the midst of some scolding incident. What I saw was eye-opening: What must I look like to my kids when I’m talking — or having to raise my voice — to them? This stopped me in my tracks. The simple act of trying to envision life through my kids’ eyes gave me such insight into how better to approach certain situations: Getting at their eye-level when talking (as opposed to looking down on them), the tone and volume of my voice, my selection of words, and my physical presence (open and inviting versus closed and threatening). Being successful with this second ‘jewel’ is deeply reliant on being successful with the first. Without patience, it is difficult (in my opinion, at least) to have the right perspective. The two must go hand-in-hand.
This third ‘jewel’ is part end to the means and part means to the end. Fostering a peaceful environment ensures that the peaceful environment endures. For me, ‘peace’ is all encompassing — an umbrella term for everything from love to compassion to support. We create peace by practicing patience and perspective with each other; by treating each other with care and respect — even in the midst of a trying parent-child moment. When those situations occur (and they always will), I try to get to resolution quickly and move on, avoiding unnecessary dwelling on the negative and re-embracing the moment. Allowing them to witness first hand what peace looks and feels like — letting them create a deep emotional bond with that feeling — is extremely important. It’s one of those things you hope you’ve shown them how to pay forward at some point in their lives.
Much More Learning Ahead
As I mentioned, these are my — not THE — three ‘jewels’. At this moment, they help me each day be the best parent I can be. You might have something else as your cornerstones. What ever works for you is what is most important at the end of the day. Parents need all the help we can get. Each day presents new opportunities for learning — about our kids, our selves, and our ability to put it all together.
What are your parenting ‘jewels’? What do you do to keep the right perspective when it comes to helping the children in your life grow and prosper?
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