How to bring some mindfulness into your parenting

mindful parenting

Mindful and Respectful Parenting is gaining popularity in Singapore, but it’s more than a trend: this approach to parenting has benefits such as encouraging your child’s creativity, independence and love of learning. Yearning to slow down and build your relationship with your child? Here are some of the most meaningful principles from mindful parenting you can try at home…

Be present for your child
Especially during care-giving activities such as diaper change, feeding, dressing and bathing. Put away any distractions and focus. Other children can join you and assist in the care-giving, but your focus is entirely on the child in need of care. Don’t rush through the process. Ask for cooperation.

Ask for cooperation and participation
Again, especially during care-giving duties, tell your child what you expect of them and talk them through the process. Your child becomes an active participant in their own care when you ask for cooperation and offer choices. Example: “In five minutes it will be bed time. You need to brush your teeth. Would you like to use the yellow tooth brush or the blue one?”

Be patient, wait, and let your child be
When possible, slow everything down. As an example, offer your child a choice of outfits and give them the time to choose. Ask them to dress themselves, if they’re struggling, help them, but ask them to participate, for example: “Can you help me by pushing your arm through the sleeve?”.

Don’t interfere with your child’s play. If your child is engrossed in play, let them be. Resist showing them how a toy works. The greatest way to foster a love of learning and creativity comes from the satisfaction felt when a child discovers something themselves.

Try ‘sportscasting’
Talk through what you are doing and what your child is doing. Talk, talk, talk and do it as though you were a sportscaster on TV. Why do we do this? It helps our children to develop language skills and it’s a way of acknowledging what they’re doing without passing judgement.

Remember there’s no right or wrong
There is no good nor bad in mindful parenting. As an example, “You are throwing the ball in the house. I have asked you not to throw the ball in the house.” Sportscast. There’s no judgement. You’re stating the facts. “I’d like you to take the ball outside otherwise I’ll put it away until tomorrow.” Set an expectation and offer a choice. Follow through consistently with a consequence for choices that the child makes themselves.

Praise the effort, not the outcome
Another example: “You tied your shoe laces all by yourself.” Again, no judgement, you’re simply acknowledging the achievement. Now, if your child has been practising this for months you might say, “Wow! You practised so hard, and it was worth it!” Don’t bribe, reward or punish for outcomes, praise effort and let the ‘consequences for the behaviour’ do the talking.  

All emotions are created equally
Again, no right nor wrongs. If your child is happy, sad, anxious, mad, it’s all good (if you are, however, concerned about your child’s behaviour or happiness, see our counselling recommendations). It’s how our children act on these emotions that we can help with.

Don’t tell the kids they’re okay
Typically we say when our child falls, “You’re okay! Get up and off you go!” Mindful parenting asks us to wait for our child’s reaction and sportscast: “You fell over.” They may run off like nothing happened, or they may cry and look for your support. If that’s the case, we say, “You’re upset. I can see that. Would you like a hug?” Try to avoid making a big deal or say, “You poor thing!”  Mindfulness avoids creating victims and victors, but also supports children in expressing, rather than suppressing, their emotions.

Want to know more? Here’s some reading we recommend:
Elevating Childcare and No Bad Kids by Janet Lansbury (who also has a supporting website)
Your Self-Confident Baby by Magda Gerber
No Drama Discipline by Daniel J. Siegel

Or join Singapore’s Respectful and Mindful parenting group on Facebook to be part of a like-minded community.

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