In my last post, I offered some ideas for how to set effective New Years Resolutions. Although there are many folks out there who question the value of setting resolutions at all, I couldn’t help myself. I love the idea of a fresh start and a new opportunity to do a little bit better for myself and my family.
I did make some resolutions this year, and much to my great surprise, I’m still committed to them a week later. I know, this may not sound like much, but in the past I haven’t lasted much longer than a couple of weeks. (According to unsubstantiated statistics I have read in numerous online articles, only about 8% of Americans keep their resolutions.)
Several things have helped me stay focused on the changes I want to make, including some of the ideas I shared in my previous post. But there is one other thing I’m doing differently this year that helps me stay focused more than anything else: I’m tracking my resolutions with my daughters.
We each created a chart with four practices we want to work on. Each morning we review our charts as a reminder of what we want to try to accomplish during the day, and each night we talk about how the day went and give ourselves stickers and stars as appropriate.
As I think about it, there are several reasons why this seems to be working so well:
Less than two weeks. We have less than two weeks until the new year, and we all know what that means.
New Years Resolutions.
I love resolutions. I love a fresh start, a new opportunity to begin again.
And, like the vast majority of Americans, it’s not long before I lapse into old habits again.
The thing is, change is hard. It’s especially hard when we’re tired and busy and overwhelmed by the demands of work and home and children. We tend to put ourselves at the bottom of the list. When that happens, it can be hard, if not impossible, to summon the energy, self-discipline, and willpower to make meaningful changes.
I’d like this year to be different. I’ve done some research and put together a few ideas about how to make my resolutions stick this year:
Start small. REALLY small. For example, if you want to start a meditation practice, make it a point to sit and breathe for two minutes a day. Yes, I mean two minutes. If you can do that for a few weeks, then try five minutes. But start with two.
Sorry I disappeared for a while, folks. I’ve been busy with book talks for Parenting in the Present Moment, working on my next book about teaching mindfulness to children (New Harbinger, 2015), helping my big girl transition to kindergarten, my little girl transition to not being in the same school as her big sister (The tears! Oh, the tears!), and obsessing about Serial.
Anyway, one of the most common questions I get at my book talks is about how to start a mindfulness practice and how to become a more mindful parent. There are many different ways to learn to focus your attention and bring yourself back into the present moment with kindness and curiosity, and the trick is to find the style that works for you. The good news is that there are a lot of people doing this work from very different perspectives, and they’ve been kind enough to share their wisdom with us.
So, just in time for the new year and new resolutions, here is my top ten list of parenting resources that will help you simplify, slow down, and be more present for yourself and your children:
Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids by Kim John Payne and Lisa Ross
I’ve read a lot of parenting books, and this is one of my favorites. It’s all about simplifying your life so you and your kids can get a little headspace to calm down and reconnect. The ideas in this book are logical, pragmatic, effective, and totally do-able.
Scary Mommy: A Parenting Website for Imperfect Parents (Jill Smokler)
This might not seem like an obvious choice for a mindful parenting website, but bear with me. One of the most important ways we can take care of ourselves in the work of parenting is to remind ourselves, on a regular basis, that we aren’t alone in the craziness of life with little ones. Jill Smokler (aka Scary Mommy) has created an online community where parents tell it like it is. It’s honest and hilarious …
The babysitter called in sick yesterday.
Actually, she texted in sick.
(For the record, I have come to dread any texts that come in before 8 AM.)
I had spent my shower planning out the work I was going to get done once she showed up (so much for mindful awareness, which, as it turns out, I really could have used that day); the list included revising two book chapters, outlining two more, writing a blog post, preparing two presentations, and getting ready for a class I’m teaching next week.
Needless to say, I freaked out just a little bit when I found out the babysitter wasn’t coming.
The work just wasn’t going to happen. I came to that conclusion fairly quickly, and I regrouped fairly quickly and set up a play date at the local spray park. We had a good time, but all the while my unfinished (and, to be honest, unstarted) work was rumbling in the back of my mind. By the time we left the park to head to the grocery store before lunch, it was more than rumbling. It was almost exploding.
In my latest mindful parenting guest post, Lisa McCrohan of The Barefoot Barn shares her observations about our culture of hurry, as well as a useful exercise for slowing down and getting grounded.
We are a culture of hurry, worry and busy. Many of us walk around with amped up nervous systems, multi-tasking as we sit at a stoplight handing breakfast to our kiddos in the backseat, checking our email in line at a coffee shop, or sitting down for a half hour “mama time” with a friend while getting distracted at least three times by an incoming text. And e wonder why we don’t sleep well or have energy, and we react to our kiddos and partner.
We’re addicted to hurry. And I get it. I live it, too. I feel the pressure building the minute I wake up. I feel my mind start to race with the various “to do lists” as I walk to the shower. I feel the prompt to speed up and get out the door. This is often what I hear in therapy with clients and on the playground with other moms. Our morning starts out in a rush and we set ourselves up for another day of running, a whole lot of distractions, and little connection, presence, and peace.
Yet we were not meant to stay in stress mode all day long. Our bodies know what to do to come back in to balance. But we impede this relaxation response from clearing our nervous system of the tsunami of stress hormones that flood our bodies just getting the kiddos out the door when we keep going and going.
We intuitively know that something has to change. We want to slow down. We want to make time for what really matters. We want to feel a deep sense of peace – or maybe just feel like we have time to chew our food and hang out with our kiddos.
I’m so pleased to host this beautiful reflection by Rachel Macy Stafford of Hands Free Mama on the blog today.
When my children were six and nine, I had a life-changing epiphany. As I applied lotion to my younger daughter’s face, I realized maybe I’ve been too hard on myself. Maybe I’ve been too hard on my children. And maybe, just maybe, it doesn’t have to be so hard. And then I wrote this:
What if it is more about lotion to their tender skin and less about applying pressure to succeed?
What if it’s less about extracurricular activities, test results, and flash cards and more about bedtime stories, picnics in the yard, and seeing the world from the top of a swing?
What if it’s less about pursuing perfection and more about embracing flaws?
What if it’s less about the number of goals scored and more about how many affirming words come from our lips?
As I have written before, I am pretty ambivalent about the current mindfulness bandwagon. On the one hand, I am so grateful that a scientifically supported, ancient wisdom is finally making its way into the popular media and American consciousness. On the other hand, I’m afraid it’s going to get lost in a sea of kale and gluten-free bread, destined to be swept away in the next big storm of self-help fads.
I feel similarly about mindful parenting. (I wish I could come up with a better phrase for the application of mindfulness to our interactions with our children, but I haven’t yet.) Mindful parenting sounds like a fad, in the same vein as attachment parenting, tiger parenting, helicopter parenting, and whatever else parenting is coming next. Hot today, gathering dust on an over-tired parent’s bookshelf tomorrow. One of the problems with this sort of passing attention to something like mindfulness or mindful parenting is that people (myself included) write brief blog posts or even briefer status updates or tweets about it, and inevitably, we are misunderstood. The concept is misunderstood.
It’s happened once again, this time by Hanna Rosin, senior editor at The Atlantic, and founder of Slate’s DoubleX Blog. In her most recent piece on the blog, Rosin essentially endorses of the concepts of mindful parenting (including a description of this blog as “often smart and knowing” – thanks, Hanna!) while simultaneously dissing the whole idea. I suspect that she is having a similar reaction to mindful parenting that I have to most parenting theories, something along the lines of “Great. Just great. Another thing I’m not doing, another way in which I am colossally screwing up this whole parenting gig. I’m too tired for this sh*t.”
I am currently re-reading Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting by Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn. It’s a long book, but well worth the time. I came across this quote and wanted to share it:
“In the Zen tradition of meditation, people are fond of saying that the practice is nothing special. The practice is nothing special in the same way that being a mother or giving birth is nothing special, that being a father is nothing special, that being a farmer and bringing things forth from the land is nothing special, even that being alive is nothing special. That is all true in a way, but try telling that to a mother or a father or a farmer. ‘Nothing special’ also means ‘very special’. The utterly ordinary is utterly extraordinary. It all depends on how you see things, and whether you are willing to look deeply, and live by what you see and feel and know.”
Parenting often takes a lot more stamina and skill than first-time parents realize. That’s why some parenting self-help book classics remain popular, even decades after they were first published.
Although the study of and practice of mindfulness are becoming increasingly popular in both scientific research and pop culture, there are relatively few resources online exploring the mindfulness of parenting in a consistent, accessible way.
Mindful Parenting, with Carla Naumburg, PhD, LICSW, will fill that gap. Carla is a clinical social worker, writer, and most importantly, a mother to two young daughters. You can learn more about her here.
The blog will explore mindfulness in the context of parenting, including Carla’s own personal stories, ideas for daily practices, and ways to teach mindfulness to children. The blog will also review relevant research and books. The blog may address broader issues from time to time, but always with a focus on mindfulness and parenting.
Please give Carla a warm Psych Central welcome!