Many years ago, when I found myself in a not- so- peaceful parenting moment, a wise person advised me to repeat the phrase “Peace begins with Me.” As we all know, parenting is hard. We lose our tempers, raise our voices and give in to a cycle of rewards and punishments. Fortunately, there is an encouraging alternative to “flipping your lid,” which brings us closer to our best selves and to our children: Mindful Parenting. It’s astonishing how we are able to arrive at mutually respectful solutions with our children, when we are calm enough to face our frustrations with a cool and clear mind. It is in those moments of experiencing a calm, rational brain that we begin to move in the direction towards mindful parenting.
The UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center defines mindful awareness as, “Paying attention to present moment experiences with openness, curiosity, and a willingness to be with what is. It is an excellent antidote to the stresses of modern times. It invites us to stop, breathe, observe, and connect with one’s inner experience.” So, a mindful parent validates the child’s state of emotion by allowing him/her to be okay with feelings of discomfort or frustration, and acknowledges and accepts those feelings, rather than rushing in to “fix” the feeling or make it go away.
In our busy states we often forget the value of breathing with intention, which instantly transforms our physiological state. Our bodies respond positively when we slow down long enough to “just breath,” calming our mind, body and spirit. Mindfulness is known to decrease anxiety and stress, enhance insightfulness, improve academic learning and strengthen interpersonal relationships. It is for this reason that students at Irvine Hebrew Day School begin their morning tefillah (prayer) by sitting in a circle, bodies still and focusing on breath, to relax their inner noise preparing themselves for the day ahead.
Most parents can attest to the fact that raising children is one of the most rewarding, but also the most emotionally demanding experience of our lives; building a toolbox of strategies to help us navigate our course allows us to achieve our goals as parents and build the loving relationships with our children that we always hoped for. In those moments, when you feel you may lose your mind, think: Mindfulness. You may find that these simple strategies bring extraordinary reward.
Tammy Keces M.A. is the principle of Irvine Hebrew Day School and a lead Certified Positive Discipline Trainer.