Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Mindful Parenting - Jon Kabat-Zinn's

I was just going through the Spring newsletter from the HypnoBirthing Organisation (I know a bit late - no time for reading, busy, busy, busy) and came across an article which listed the following twelve exercises for 'Mindful Parenting'. I wondered just before I began reading it whether it was going to be my thing or a bit 'right on' as one of my friends would say or 'airy fairy, tree hugger nonsense' would be a description another friend might use. But I was pleasantly surprised to find that on the whole it is good sensible down to earth advice. So much so that I've decide to share it with my readers with some extra little thoughts from me - of course!

Twelve Exercises for Mindful Parenting - Jon Kabat-Zinn's

1. Try to imagine the world from your child's point of view, purposefully letting go of your own. Do this every day for at least a few moments to remind you of who this child is and what he or she faces in the world.

Evan's eyes - a fabulous magical place full of wonderful objects to climb and jump on. Oh and bump into and fall off of - wah! Where's my mummy? "Cuddle mummy, cuddle mummy" - ah! happy again just as long as mummy is ALWAYS there. Sometimes mummy can't be there that makes me sad but I'm okay as long as I'm with someone I know. Yay! mummy is back - she went FOREVER.

2. Imagine how you appear and sound from your child's point of view; imagine having you as a parent today, in this moment. How might this modify how you carry yourself in your body and in space, how you speak, what you say? How do you want to relate to your child in this moment?

Evan's eyes - Most days mummy is an angel. Some days mummy's grumpy. I don't like those days I'm glad they don't happen very often.

3. Practice seeing your children as perfect just the way they are. Work at accepting them as they are when it is hardest for you to do so.

Evan's eyes - I'm perfect just the way I am. Mummy doesn't like it when I push or scratch though but at least it takes her attention away from her laptop.

4. Be mindful of your expectations of your children, and consider whether they are truly in your children's best interests. Also, be aware of how you communicate those expectations and how they affect your children.

Evan is so going to be a great musician just like her daddy. Although I don't mind as long as she achieves greatness in something. Are my expectations too high? Okay, okay as long as she gives things a go and does her best I'm happy. Her happiness means the world to me. She does love her music though and she's just reinforced my expectations that she will want to be an entertainer as she has performed the alphabet song perfectly and is demanding applause. "Clap mummy clap".

5. Practice altruism, putting the needs of your children above your own whenever possible. Then see if there isn't some common ground where your needs can also be met. You may be surprised at how much overlap is possible, especially if you are patient and strive for balance.

Evan's eyes - why does mummy look so exhausted today. She's been muttering on about something to do with balance.

6. When you feel lost, or at a loss, remember to stand still. Meditate on the whole by bringing your full attention to the situation, to your child, to yourself, to the family. In doing so, you may go beyond thinking and perceive intuitively, with the whole of your being, what really needs to be done.

Okay so this could sound a bit 'airy fairy' but actually it makes sense. Running around like a headless chicken helps no-one. By taking some time to take in some relaxing breaths and putting things into perspective you really do have a clearer head. I know, I'm having to put this into practise quite a lot at the moment.

7. Try embodying silent presence. Listen carefully.

We all have our own agenda and it can cause us to jump to conclusions or to not notice someone else's pain. The BT ad that tells us it's 'good to talk' should also point out that it is 'good to listen'.

8. Learn to live with tension without losing your own balance. Practice moving into any moment, however difficult, without trying to change anything and without having to have a particular outcome occur. See what is "workable" if you are willing to trust your intuition and best instincts.

Okay then in my words - relax, go with the flow, trust your gut instinct - if it feels right it is right.

9. Apologize to your child when you have betrayed a trust in even a little way. Apologies are healing, and they demonstrate that you see a situation more clearly, or more from your child's point of view. But "I'm sorry" loses its meaning if we are always saying it, or if we make regret a habit.

This is actually one of the exercises that speaks the loudest to me about 'Mindful Parenting'. I remember reading once that when we get angry at our children it often isn't really about them but more our own frustrations. What are we not able to get on with, can't have that lie in, veg out on the sofa, read that book, etc. because they are demanding something else. Today was a good example. Evan woke a half an hour early from her nap taking away my precious time that I catch up on work. My heart sank as I heard her cry out and then I thought to myself, as I so often do, "it's not like I didn't think she was going to change my life" so I went upstairs with a good heart and was rewarded with the most beautiful smile.

10. Every child is special, and every child has special needs. Each sees in an entirely unique way. Hold an image of each child in your heart. Drink in their being, wishing them well.

Evan is the most demanding, full on, in your face little monkey but I wouldn't have her any other way. She is brimming with confidence that comes out in over-exuberance in some good and some not so good ways but I'd rather that than the timid, shy little girl that I was.

11. There are very important times when we need to practice being clear and strong and unequivocal with our children. Let this come as much as possible out of awareness and generosity and discernment, rather than out of fear, self-righteousness, or the desire to control. Mindful parenting does not mean being overindulgent, neglectful, or weak; nor does it mean being rigid and controlling.

I'm learning, there is so much to learn and no time to read the bloody rule books. Best thing I've found is to listen to what other mums are doing and use the bits I like. It is interesting though that when I'm coming from a place of strength for example because I need her to be safe, have manners over dinner, get ready for bed, behave appropriately, etc. she listens. If there is another agenda of mine going on I must betray myself in my tone of voice because she doesn't take a bit of notice.

12. The greatest gift you can give your child is yourself. This means that part of your work as a parent is to keep growing in self-knowledge and in awareness. We have to be grounded in the present moment to share what is deepest and best in ourselves.

With this one I have to say I stopped reading at the first full stop (I don't mean after the number 12) because this is what actually makes me want to be a Mindful Parent. The joy in Evan's eyes when I sit and read, draw, paint, pretend to be a tiger, just lie back on the floor or hide with her is magnificent. When she comes up to me and shuts my laptop lid because it has encroached on her time just a little bit to much I think "good for you!" (well sort of) if I've been on it long enough for that to have happened mummy needs to be told.

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