Mindfulness: Parenting & self care
If we wish our children to develop mindfulness then we must develop mindfulness.
Modeling is the most powerful and subtle form of teaching/parenting. The “powerful” part refers to things like: “Here, let me show you. To swing a bat, you hold it this way, stand this way, and swing it this way. Now, you try it.” The “subtle” (but at least as powerful) part is how we treat ourselves. Though our children are not privy to those lovely (not), mean, strongly judgmental, and painful conversations we have with ourselves, they pick up on that (and everything, in case you hadn’t noticed). The “ace up my sleeve” when I observe parents giving themselves a hard time (being mean, self-deprecating, and/or very judgmental to self), I simply ask them, “How do you wish your children to treat themselves?” I rarely need to explain why I just asked that question.
Recognizing “How do you wish your children to treat themselves?” as much as a guide regarding your parenting as a guide regarding your self care.
What follows are powerful principles to guide your efforts towards mindful self care and parenting:
- Identify mindfulness as a goal in your parenting and self care. Identifying a goal (or goals) allows us to measure our efforts towards achieving our goal(s). Goal achievement is not on/off. It’s a process.
- Construct some agreements with yourself that reflect the exercises, actions, feelings you believe will enhance the quality of mindfulness in your parenting and your personal experience.
- When you keep those agreements, notice and praise yourself [Principle involved- praising self for all good work (stuff you’re supposed to do and having a good time count as good work) feels good, so you’ve just generated a pay-off (and everything we do is for the pay-offs), and praising yourself will help you notice and remember the piece of good work you have just praised. And the stuff you notice is the stuff you can remember. The stuff you remember is the stuff you can repeat. [See earlier article, “1, 2, 3! Self-care & Parenting are just that Simple”]
- When you don’t keep one (or more) of these agreements, you are NOT being bad! You simply have not kept an agreement with yourself and/or with your child. We all have a “you can’t tell me what to do reflex.” When we feel like someone is “wagging her finger at us” (regardless of whether or not she is, in fact, “wagging her finger at us”), that stimulates our “you can’t tell me what to do reflex.” We can stimulate that in ourselves. Being mean to ourselves (i.e., strong negative self-judgments and the associated self-talk and horrible feelings evoked by these negative self-judgment) stimulates it. If you break an agreement with yourself, own it and forgive yourself. If you break an agreement with your child (or anybody, for that matter), own it, apologize, and ask for forgiveness.
- And most importantly of all: THE PLATINUM RULE– Treat yourself the way you wish others to treat you. Be an example/model for us as to how you wish to be treated. You wish to be treated with kindness? Be kind to yourself. You wish to be treated with respect? Respect yourself. Or more directly: YOU deserve to be treated well. That includes how you treat YOURSELF!! [See earlier article, “Self care & Family care: 3 Rules apply to both“]
- This and everything found in Dr. Neal’s Corner are for educational purposes only. Professional advice specific to your situation should only be given in the context of a professional relationship with a licensed health care professional.
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