I initially became interested in mindfulness practice because I wanted to be a better parent. Specifically, I didn’t want to be so reactive to my daughters’ fits and challenging moments. I found myself snapping at the girls when I wanted to be calm and patient. I was grumpy when I wanted to be kind. I knew I wanted to be a different parent, but I wasn’t sure how to get there. I kept reading websites and books telling me to take a time out or count to ten when I was feeling frustrated, but the problem was that I didn’t even realize I was upset until I was already in the middle of my own little tantrum.
Mindfulness practice, both formal meditation and informal practice, has helped create a pause in which I can become aware. I am able to step out of my own agitation and into the present moment, into how I am feeling and what I am doing. In that space, I can make a better choice.
Research has found that mindfulness meditation can actually change the structure of your brain, including enhancing the areas responsible for regulating our emotions. I’m still trying to wrap my mind around the idea that sitting on a cushion and focusing on my breathing might actually make me a better parent, but I am starting to notice small changes. I’m definitely not the picture of zen parenting, but I am starting to notice when I begin to get agitated, which is the first step to changing behavior.
When I do realize that I’m heading in the wrong direction, I tell myself to STOP:
Take a breath
Observe the situation and Open yourself to the possibilities
To be honest, I don’t always remember to STOP, and there are still times when I find myself reacting to my daughters rather than responding mindfully. But I’m making progress, and doing better than I was. Just tonight, as my tired 2 year old threw herself on the floor and began screaming for the third time because her big orange wallet wouldn’t fit into her tiny puppy purse, I was able to stop and breathe. Rather than getting frustrated with my daughter and snapping at her to stop crying, as I have in the past, I sat with her on the couch and talked to her about how hard it can be when things don’t work out the way we want them to. Then we sat some more, and just breathed. She calmed down, and so did I. It was a better parenting moment, and one that I hope to repeat as often as possible.
I believe that my mindfulness practice made it possible.
What helps you step back from a difficult parenting moment, become aware of the moment, and make a better choice?