Writer: Rajni Ghai Malhotra
During a recent mindfulness session an exhausted parent remarked, “By dinner time most nights, I feel I’m two seconds away from completely losing it!” She was referring to coping with the tantrums of her two-year-old, sulking of her seven-year-old and door slamming of her 12-year-old.
She is not the first nor will she be the last to voice such sentiments. If you are a parent, caregiver or anyone who has lived closely with a young family, you will probably understand her utter frustration.
When it comes to children, especially the gorgeous, little, over-energetic, super-enthusiastic, independence-assertive, supremely inquisitive toddlers and young ones, a normal day can easily be broken into ‘tantrum’ times and ‘peaceful’ times, with the former making up for more than half the day. Parents often face some (on a good day) or all (on a bad day) of these challenging moments in a day – tantrums at wake-up time, meal-time, play-time, bath-time, sleep-time and of course, the official daily cranky-time tantrum.
Of course, as the child grows, these tantrums evolve into more sophisticated acts of sulking, silent but very obvious suffering, eye rolls and simply zoning out.
Fortunately, parents, not to be out done, have multiple techniques at their disposal to navigate such situations. Most of these outbursts are easily conquered by adopting a prudent mix of basic parenting principles such as ignoring, controlled crying, tough love, distracting and rewarding (often crudely referred to as bribing).
However, even while using these artful ways to deal with the determined little souls, parents often find themselves getting caught in the emotion.
As a parent conscious of the responsibility that good parenting places on you, what do you do? You could engage in arguments, stern silence, completely losing it,
You could try mindfulness.
Parenting is a fine balance between being mindful and completely losing it!
Mindfulness in parenting allows you to pause and step back before you feel hijacked by your emotions, the situation, or before you end up throwing a tantrum of your own! It helps you to feel centred and to come back to the centre whenever you feel you have strayed.
Here are a few mindful parenting tips for you to try.
I cannot emphasise enough, the importance of conscious breathing. It is the first, most fundamental element in enabling you to connect with the present moment and allowing yourself a few seconds to take stock of the chaos around you. It provides you the time to pause, reflect and reconnect in a calmer manner.
2.Breathe with your child
Breathe together. If you haven’t tried this before, you will be amazed at the change a few deep breaths can bring in a child’s mood. Smell the flower, blow out the candle are both easy techniques for children to understand and try. A few deep breaths with your little one can help your child to disconnect from their state of agitation and connect with you. As you find your centre, you will start to feel emotionally generous and your child will learn to draw their calm from you.
Try and engage your child in mindful breathing just before or during a chaotic situation. For example, if bath time is a stressful time for your toddler, begin with a breathing connect between the two of you. As you and your child breathe together feel yourself and your child calm down and prepare for bath time. Train your child to understand breathing time as a time to reconnect with each other and to re-establish a better mood.
3.Identify Mindfulness triggers
It helps if you can teach your child a trigger or two to remind them and yourself that you both need a moment to step back and just be.
It could be a particular time of the day, a particular sound or something visual. I often use the red signal at the traffic lights as a trigger to take mindful breaths. After three months of regularly watching me engaging in conscious breathing in the car, my two year old daughter now joins in. It isn’t surprising that to her, the traffic light colours translate to Green for Go, Yellow for Pause and Red for Stop and Breathe!
4.Let it be
YES, she must bathe right now. YES, he must eat his lunch now or he’ll be late for his sleep, but just for this moment and a few seconds more, LET IT BE! Allow yourself the freedom to step away, breathe and come back into a state of calm before you plunge into the chaos, this time with a more peaceful and mindful attitude.
5.You’ll be kissing them soon enough
As though the day hasn’t already been challenging enough, late evenings, especially bedtime can often be THE most challenging time for parents. But it’s not you alone who’s finding it hard, the crankiness and tantrums of your child are an expression of their own hard day and their emotional need to stay a little bit longer in their safe place which is you. There is no denying it can get frustrating when they want just one more story, just one more cuddle, just one more lullaby when all you want is that they sleep.
Remind yourself, they will be asleep soon enough. There will be peace and quiet soon enough. You will be kissing them softly, tiptoeing out of their room and making a dash to your free time and the glass of bubbly SOON ENOUGH!
You have begun your journey as a mindful parent. Be warned that it will not be easy to choose patience over impatience, reason over ‘because I say so’, loving cuddles over your own temper tantrum. It takes persistence, patience and a lot of discipline to give up your feeling of upset in that moment, however, each time when you do, you will form a deeper connect with your child.
Wish you plenty of peaceful parenting moments.
Follow Rajni on Facebook @YogaWithRajni