The Spiritual Lessons in Mindful Parenting
Here are four ways you can transform your most trying parenting challenges into spiritual lessons.
It's an evergreen topic at parenting groups everywhere. How do we "discipline" our children without resorting to physical acts of intimidation? Experts are using words commonly associated with yoga and meditation like being conscious, awake and mindful to connect, engage and learn from our children, not just mold them into the people we want them to be. A far cry from past generations that believed “children should be seen and not heard,” comes a revolutionary way of embracing parenthood. Here are four ways you can transform your most trying parenting challenges into spiritual lessons.
Let go of your expectations. You dream of who they will be before they’re born. You imagine what career they’ll have when they’re children. But when their behavior and decisions don’t meet your expectations, it’s easy to get disappointed and even resentful. However, Dr. Shefali Tsabary says in The Conscious Parent, “Children aren’t ours to possess or own in any way. When we know this in the depths of our soul, we tailor our raising of them to their needs, rather than molding them to fit our needs.” When you unconsciously perceive them as a miniature version of yourself, Tsabary says you suffocate their spirit and cause divisiveness in your relationship. Acceptance is the bridge to connection.
Confront your “shadow parent.” Fatigue, rebellion and constant caregiving leaves parents depleted, and vulnerable to anger. But Tsabary says, “In situations which you feel you are coming apart at the seams, it’s tempting to revert to the traditional hierarchal form of the parent-versus-child model of raising children.” Losing your temper comes with the territory but the key is to not give into the anger. Instead patience, observation, and present moment attention can bring light to the darker side of parenting. The next time you’re at your wit’s end, she says ask yourself, “Why am I being triggered right now? Why am I so unhappy with my child? What is my child exposing in my internal state of being?”
Replace time-out with time-in. Time-out is a popular discipline technique, but is it the best way to parent your child? In No-Drama Discipline: The Whole-Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture Your Child's Developing Mind, Daniel Siegel, M.D. and Tina Bryson, M.D. say there is a better option. Instead of sending your children away when he or she is upset, opt for time-in, which allows for connection, empathy and problem-solving. This involves sitting with your child, and teaching him or her how to self-regulate. One way is to create a “calm zone,” a place filled with things to help soothe them. The idea is that when children are upset, they need help calming down. Separating them from others gives the impression that they are only loved when they’re good. Contrary to the belief that time out will allow kids to reflect on what they did wrong, Siegel and Bryson believe it’s only when children are calm and feel loved that they can process and reflect on improving their behavior.
Instill a sense of belonging. Brené Brown offers a powerful exercise called, “You belong here,” in her e-course The Gifts of Imperfect Parenting. Students are asked to draw a house and fill it with things permissible in the family. Brown believes items like, “ask for help, make your own decisions, be silly, and give your input,” creates a sense of belonging, connection and understanding, which together builds healthy families.
A Spiritual Workbook for Children & Families
Someone to Watch Over Me is a sweet little gift for connecting with one's inner spirit, for giving voice to one's inner being, and for connecting one's essence with Guardian Protectors or Guides. Simple and inviting enough for children, lucid enough for adults...a precious offering."
Edward Espe Brown, Zen Priest, Author of The Tassajara Bread Book et al