Everything about our lives today distract us from what is really important—connecting with our inner cores so we can better connect with others, especially our children. A less distracted parent is a better model for calmer more focused children. When parents are rushed and anxious, children feel stressed and resistant.
Here are a few thoughts to get you grounded:
1 – Be more, teach less. Don’t try to teach your children lessons all the time. That only leads to franticness and worry. Children learn best from modeling and in those precious moments when they feel connected to their parents, which happens during “just being” time.
2 – Accept the child you have. “If only…”, “Why me?”, and “He never…” can fill your days and keep you disconnected from your children—and your lives. Pay attention to who your child is and what she is attempting to say instead of wishing she were different.
3 – Practice mindfulness. You don’t have to sit and meditate to be in the moment. Simply focus on the dish you are washing, the floor you are vacuuming, each article of clothing you are folding, the words and emotions your child is expressing—right now—without jumping to conclusions.
4 – Pay attention even when what you hear is unpleasant. Your child is always attempting to tell you something but doesn’t have the maturity to say it in a way you can easily understand. His words and actions often need interpreting. Don’t take them literally.
5 – Practice “the pause”. Don’t react to teach your child a lesson. Stop, breathe, wait, and think. Your automatic reaction will be ineffective at best, damaging at worst. Breathe to give yourself a chance to drop back into your body. Then come back to it when you’re both calm.
6 – Establish unplugged zones and times of the day. Make sure the rules are established together and are agreed on by all. For instance, cellphone-free zones in the car, mealtime, family playtime, and at bedtime.
7 – Once you have tech devices in your home, don’t spend time fighting to get your children off them. Set time structures together and allow self-regulation. Encourage family time. Proficiency in the tech world is your children’s future.
8 – Under-schedule your children. Put value on hanging out and being bored. Creativity doesn’t arise when a child is scheduled and adult-directed.
9 – Less toys, more creativity. Stay away from talking toys and get ones that allow invention. When your child wants to buy something, ask what it is she wants to do and how she can make that happen.
10 – Accept yourself. Negative beliefs about yourself, “I’m not good enough,” “I can’t do this”, etc. come from messages you learned from your parents when their buttons got pushed. They are not true. You only thought they were.
11 – Accept your emotions as well as your child’s. Despite what you may have learned, emotions are ALWAYS okay. Don’t be tempted with feel-good-now solutions. Even when depressed and despondent, stay with it. Emotions teach and can be a call to action. Never blame them on your child.
12 – Positive self-talk. Get in the habit of staying present with something like, “I can deal with this”, “This too shall pass”, “It’s not the end of the world” or “I’m having a hard time right now.” The one constant of parenting is that everything changes.
13 – Stop yourself from catastrophizing. It’s easy to soar into the future in a nano-second when your children provoke fear and anger. Check yourself when you have thoughts like, “He’s going to be in jail by the time he’s fifteen.” “She’ll never have any friends.” “He’s never going to finish anything.” We convince ourselves of the worst.
14 – Learn to say no. Many mothers were brought up to believe that doing for others equals being a good person. Parenting is the toughest job there is. Especially for working parents, prioritize the needs of your family and yourself to stay focused and present.
15 – Care for yourself. You cannot be present when you wish you were elsewhere. You can’t fuel your child until you fuel yourself first. Find ways and times to do for you so you feel better when you are being a parent. Don’t buy into the old “selfish” bit.