This article was originally posted October 20, 2010, to Happy Parents = Happy Kids (focusedonparenting.wordpress.com) by Susan Guttridge
When I wake up in the morning, I often feel eager to start the day! I want to have a coffee, get showered and dressed, get the kids off to school, and sink in to my office chair. Just in that order. However, my children often have their own agendas. They have not been jaded by the fast pace of today’s society and don’t feel the need to rush everywhere all at once. Their mornings start slowly: they sit down to eat and play and giggle. They lay on the floor while deciding what shoes to wear. They are distracted by our pets, which they have to cuddle every time they see! And all of this typically happens while I stand at the door, coffee in hand and shoes on my feet, trying to herd them out the door. And in that moment of their playful abandon, indecisiveness, or love for animals – my mind is miles away.
Mindfulness is about being in the present moment, with an open heart and a curious mind. It is about focusing away from judgment to just being present. Imagine how different that morning interaction would be if we parents were to slow down, and be present with our kids in the moment.
When I feel rushed in the morning, I risk my thoughts becoming negative. I might fall into the trap of accusing my children of always being slow, of never being ready on time, of never respecting my need to get to work. And the result will only be a spiral of negative thoughts in my own mind. When our thoughts turn negative, it can turn in to angry behaviour (an angry tone, nagging, deep sighs, etc.) – the result of which will be our precious children going off to school discouraged. And inevitably, the result of children going to school feeling discouraged would serve only to exacerbate a parent’s own negative self-talk spiral with more feelings of shame and guilt.
Why not stop all of that before it starts?
As a parent, if you are focused on your own agenda, your own need to get things done, it can be very easy to become angry when a dawdling child slows you down! Before you resort to yelling and nagging, read on!
Take a moment to get present: notice your breath as you breath and out, and the sensation of your feet on the floor. Now, make a list of all the things you love about your child(ren) or teen(s). What are you proud of them for? What are their attributes that you admire? What things do they do that just make you smile? If you sit down to write your list and you can only think of a few, that is okay. Just leave the paper out where you can add to it. It is fine for the list to always be a work in progress. As new ideas come to you, add them to your list. You may want to take a few days to just start noticing things that you admire about your child/teen prior to sitting down and putting pen to paper.
What this list will do is put the things that you love and admire about your child/teen in the forefront of your mind. During moments of frustration, remind yourself of the items on your list. If you and your child/teen constantly argue, make the list together: explain the activity to him or her, share your list as you create it and have your child/teen create his or her own list about you! Understanding the purpose of the activity is very important, so check in with your child to ensure he or she grasps the concept.
Susan Guttridge is a trauma-informed Master level Counsellor with the clinical designation of Canadian Certified Counsellor (CCPA). She has 20+ years experience providing individual and group therapy.