Mindful parenting is a trendy concept these days, and there is a mindfulness practice for just about everything, like Mindful Eating, Mindful Walking, Mindful Leadership, etc. Mindfulness is about paying attention to the present moment without judging it. It sounds simple, but it’s not easy, just like raising children is hard.
Raising children in today’s increasingly complex and stress-filled world can make our jobs as parents feel nearly impossible. There are a lot of misconceptions about what it means to bring mindfulness to parenting. So, here are some of the biggest myths surrounding mindful parenting.
Practicing mindful parenting takes a lot of time.
For all busy parents, the good news is that mindful parenting doesn’t take any additional time out of your already jam-packed day. It’s not another thing you have to add to your to-do list. Practicing mindfulness is the act of bringing non-judgmental attention to what you’re doing in this very moment repeatedly. Still, if you want some tips on getting started, you can always try a five-minute meditation to help center yourself and remind you to be mindful throughout your day.
Mindful parenting is all about your children.
Although your undivided attention will indeed benefit your children in numerous ways, mindful parenting will enrich your life as a parent because you’ll get a front-row seat to the joy and wonder of your children’s experiences. By bringing your full attention and curiosity to reading “Brown Bear, Brown Bear” for the eleventh time, you might notice that it’s strange that the Purple Cat and Blue Horse are the only animals with non-realistic colors. In all seriousness, you’ll be surprised at what you notice when you start to bring a beginner’s mind to everything you do.
Mindful parents are anti-technology.
This isn’t the case, and there are a lot of technological innovations that can help you be more mindful. For example, some apps enable you to track your daily meditation sessions, while some devices track your breathing patterns to keep you calm. Many mindful parents choose to limit technology in their households or set firm boundaries about acceptable use. For example, some parents even create formal “Family Technology Contracts” to stipulate that devices are not allowed at the dinner table or after 9:00 PM.
All mindful parents meditate.
Meditation surely helps, but it’s not an absolute requirement for mindful parenting. Meditation helps train your brain so you can notice when your attention wanders and then bring it back to the present moment. You can think of meditation as mental bicep curls. They will surely make you stronger, but so will picking up the groceries.
Mindful parenting is a Buddhist endeavor.
Anyone can practice mindful parenting, Buddhist or not. Many secular meditation practices can help you create a meditation habit, even in just a few minutes a day. Remember, meditation is not the only path to mindfulness, but it’s something to help train your brain to notice each time your mind has wandered off.
Mindful parents don’t get angry.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could practice mindfulness and live happily ever after in a state of bliss? Sorry to burst your bubble, but it’s not going to happen. Things are still going to bother you, and your 2-year-old daughter will probably still throw an occasional full-blown tantrum, especially when leaving the American Girl store empty-handed. However, instead of dwelling on your anger, try your best to let your anger flow through you and move on.
Mindful parents don’t discipline their children.
This misconception stems from a misunderstanding of what discipline is. So often, people use punishment and discipline interchangeably. However, discipline is simply teaching. We don’t need to harm children or make them afraid to teach them. Children cannot learn when they feel fear, so this is not an optimal teaching method anyway.
Mindful parents understand that kids need boundaries and set them with empathy and respect. Mindful parents don’t punish or reward children for shaping or changing behavior and don’t rely on threats or fear. Mindful parents set limits with kindness and empathy and an understanding of healthy and normal childhood development. They understand that behavior is a communication of a need and strive to meet that need first and foremost.
Mindful parenting doesn’t work in the real world.
The last misconception is that mindful parenting doesn’t work in real life. This one depends on your definition of “working.” It depends on your goals for parenting. If “good behavior” and always compliant and obedient children are your goals, then no, mindful parenting doesn’t work. To meet those goals, you’ll need to rely on threats, punishments, and fear.
However, if your goal is to raise emotionally intelligent, resilient, and authentic children, then setting kind and respectful boundaries, accepting all emotions as valid, and focusing on connecting over coercion and control, will certainly work. That’s how you raise emotionally healthy children, build healthy relationships, and that’s how you raise secure, well-adjusted human beings.
Although there are many myths, mindful parenting is simply about slowing down and noticing what’s going on right here and right now without judging it or trying to change it. Mindful parenting is not another thing to add to your to-do list or another way to compete in the parenting Olympics.
Mindful parents believe everyone is doing the best they can, including themselves. They try to create a safe environment to talk about their feelings and what they’re experiencing. They make a point to develop rituals that foster connection. They also know how challenging it can be when they’re overwhelmed and exhausted. They also know that when their patience is running thin, this too shall pass.
Though such myths can misguide you or scare you away from trying mindfulness, it is a worthy concept to try and implement in your life. It is just about slowing down and enjoying the present while experiencing life with your child in their way, the mindful way. However, don’t feel pressured to implement mindful parenting. If you try it and realize that it’s not the best for you and your family, that’s okay.