My Best Practices of How to Be a Full-Time Parent with Patience and Love: Mindful Parenting
“Kids will perfect You IF you let them.” This is one of the many tidbits of advice that I collected while learning how to parent, and it is one of my foundational thoughts that I like to remind my Self.
Parenting is rewarding, joyous and downright challenging. I have learned to approach parenting like rock climbing. I expect it to challenge me, push my limits and help me become a better version of Me.
My Man said the other day that he really wants to impart on our LO the importance of please and thank you. He continued insisting that our LO say please. I turned to him and I asked, “Do you know the best way to teach her? It is by us modeling the use of please and thank you?” He paused, thought about, and agreed.
After all, modeling behaviors is far more effective than telling anyone (much less kids) to ‘do’ something.
“Be the change that you want to see in the world”. Or my version, “Be the person that I hope my kid will become in the world.”
Gahndi and ZO
How Parenting Has Improved Me Personally
Constraining my screen-time and increasing my presence.
Further defining my own intake of nutritional focused foods by limiting sugar and flour.
Increasing realized value of simple activities like singing and dancing.
Growing my emotoinal capacity for ‘negative’ emotions by holding space (and her) while she is crying and having outbursts.
Here is the backbone of my parenting approach which I am very proud of and has also helped mold me into a better person through my parenting process.
Each phase, each challenge, they are all temporary.
Parenting, like life, is 50/50. Fifty percent hard/bad, fifty percent easy/good. The resistance to the hard/bad only increases the challenge. Relax and embrace ALL of it.
No Bad Kids
I grew up with this unfornate concept of good girl bad girl.
There is no such thing as a bad kid. There are ‘bad’ actions and behaviours. But every human, every living thing, is innately good if not at least neutral.
I have put in the effort to rewire my thoughts and my parent words when it comes to acknowldeding/judging my LO for positve and for negative.
I have made sure that my comments are on her behavior NOT her as a human. I may say that what she is doing is not acceptable, but I make sure to be clear it is her actions and not Her Self.
The truth is she is a good person/ girl no matter what, EVEN when she acts/ behaves in a way that is not good.
I make sure to guide and teach her that her actions are not acceptable. “I can’t let you hit this cat/ baby.” It is not okay that you kicked the cat.” I disapprove of her actions. Yet I give her love and let her know that she is still totally worthy of love.
I like to do time-ins vs time-outs. Of course this takes more time and attention in the short term, but in the long term I am heavily investing in her brain neurons and her learning of how to be in the world. Connection and attention are the main currency that kids need in order to develope.
Without connectiona and attention kids begin to act out, in a plea to get what they desperatly need.
Again, I see the outburst or acting out as she is having ahard time, not that she is giving me a hard time.
I make sure to watch my self and never punish her with my emotions. SHE CANNOT MAKE ME FEEL SOMETHING. It is my thoughts about abour her actions that cause me to FEEL mad or sad.
To emotionally punish her is confusing and not helpful for her learning.
I do have emotions and I share with her when i have an outburst of emotions WHY I had them. I take full responsitbily, I do not blame her for my emotions, nor do I blame anyone else.
I act as an emotinal adult, which clarifys responisbiyt at the same time as modeling emotional maturity.
Screen Time and Brain Developement
Research that I have read is questioning the use of screens in our lives as well as connecting the dots between a kid’s developeing brain and screen exposure.
Under four years old the human brain is absorbing an insane amount of information as well as building neural pathways that will be used for life.
We big humans struggle with our own screen regulation. Children have no chance of regulating them self.
Screens are highly addictive, lead to less physcal movement and is being linked to the inability to focus (or the lack of focus being developed).
In my personal life, and as an example to her, I use screens as a tool, an extremly useful and amazing technoogy we have today. And I intend to teach my LO how to use a screen.
I aim to regulate her screen time until she has the ability to regulate her own.
I also think that movies and tv are used to pass time. My life is not somehting that I want to pass by. That said, long plane rides and sick-in-bed days are my screen exceptions.
“Kids are not giving you a hard time, they are HAVING a hard time”.
Whenever I notice my Self start to giet frustrated with her bc she is being annoying/fussy/cranky/needy instead of getting frustrated with her and wanting her to be different I switch my thoughts to, “She is having a hard time and needing some attention/food/sleep/support”.
When I switch my perspeicitve to this then I am in an open hearted and curious place with her.
I also am applying this to big people in my life. My perpsecitve shift ahs been that people do not actually mena to be difficutl or mean… they are just having a hard time and do not know how to ask for help. So I take big peopels actions/harsh words as a flag to myself to be compassionate and curious about what is going on wiht them instead of reacting defensively towards them and only heightneing the tension.
Should and Have-to
We culturally have a lot of beliefs about how people/kids/ourselves SHOULD act. MOst of it is BS.
I intentioanlly breing awareness to any sentance that runs through my mind withthe words ‘should’ or a ‘have to’ in it.
I methodically question them.
“No”, when to use it and when to question it.
I have never had so many crazy fear thoughts of so many random things that I had never thought of before I became a parent. Luckily I understood that this was simply my brain doing its primal brain thing of producing all the worst-case scenarios it could think of in order to help my LO survive.
Because I know how to talk to my primal brain I engaged with it and talked back. I considered the fear-based thoughts it came up with and decided if they were something to regard or disregard.
As our LO became mobile the increase of potential harms and the increase of ‘Nos’ was enormous.
I adopted a soft-line / hard-line decision-making process.
Under my hard-line rules (which are non-negotiable) are toilet/poop/harmful bacteria, falling on or near sharp/puncturing objects OR falling off an edge that would create a trip to the hospital.
When I noticed my Self about to say no, I ran it through this set of questions?
Is it one of my hard lines? If so, I enforced the hard line.
If the no was not under the hard-line category then, “Why do I want to say no?”or “Why not?”
And, “Do I like my reason?”
Often, it was because I did not want to clean up a mess, or I did not want her to damage furniture. In these instances, I shared with her my perspective and offered her an alternative.
But many times my no was un-necessary, aka a soft-no. One of the best questions in my parenting became “Why not?” My Man and I caught each other many times in the midst of a “No” with an open-ended and open-hearted “Why not?”
So many times neither of us had a good reason to say no.
I discovered that my auto-pilot no’s were because:
Kids are supposed to be seen and not heard.
No messes are to be made.
She might fall.
She might break something.
People might be disturbed.
People might think something.
We found that so often our knee-jerk reaction was to say no to things that she was simply exploring, her vocal chords, a new texture, a new person.
We choose to invest our time in spotting her, spotting a fragile object and be okay if people had thoughts and opinions about us and her.
If it feels like everyone is watching you and yoru kid, they mostly likely are; I, too, love to watch kids, everyone does. So if you feel like the center of attention it is likely true.
I had moments where I wanted to be smaller and less noticable, what up-side does that have?
Some times it is ok to be loud, make a mess, and explore the world.
Kids are on the necessary mission of their growth process: to explore, learn, grow, fall and fail.
Dropping down into her world and seeing the world through her eyes not only helped us to question and soften our ‘nos’ but also opened our minds to a kid-perspective of the world.
Authority vs Agency
The more I practice dropping into her world and being less of an authority (like when I enforce the hard nos) the more agency she is able to grow into. The more I become her guide rather than her authority figure.
I do believe it is my responsibility to safeguard her safety. And I also believe that the more agency I encourage and allow, the better well-equipped she will be for becoming an adult and navigating her life.
Having a “Yes” space is a brilliant concept that I adopted from Janet Landsbury. Every time we settle into a new temporary home I always set up a physical play space for her that she can explore without me looking over her shoulder and saying no every few seconds.
Bonus: The Yes-Space also gives me a few minutes to focus on something other than my LO, like going to the bathroom or making tea.
Our Theory on Falling and Failing
Even though our brain has our survival in mind, often times we let it scare us away from trying new things and failing our way to success.
I believe that in addition to our brains being wired to surveive our current parent-culture enhances this mentality. Being people who believe that facing challenges, failing and falling is fundamental to a meaningful life; we have decided to thought-check our own emotional reactions to her falls and allow her to fall. Believe me when I say this was not easy, especially in the beginning. ANd she has taken some big falls. But we beleive that her learning that falling (sub-meaning failing) is a normal and important part of figuring out life.
As rock climbers this is something that we conscioulsy work on in our climbing and in our life.
SOme of my biggest persaonl breakthrough work is around facing failure; even to the point of normalizing it and embracing it.
We watch so many other parents gasp and try to prevent every fall, scrape and bump. But the underlying message (neuron wiring) these kids are getting is, “its not okay to fall” “I should not try IF i cannot succeed/not fall”.”Falling should be avoided and prevented.”
What we have done is normalize falling, encouraged her to try new things and that it is totally ok to fail. We always have a giant hug and a healing kiss to offer her when she wants it.
Allowing LO Expression’s of Emotions
Emotions are simply physical vibrations, they cannot harm anyone. It is only when we avoid or suppress emotions that we react to our emotions. It is in the reaction, the behavior of our emotions, that we act aggressively, act mean, act passive and essentially do harm to others as well as self-sabotaging actions. Pure negative emotion is something to feel, process and let go. This is what small kids and babies are doing. Especially at night before bed, small humans have pent up emotions that need to be expressed.
Knowing this allowed me to relax into the moment of her outbursts, to be in a space of loving her and stopping my Self from going down a rabbit hole of ‘something is wrong’. And sure enough, after a couple of minutes, the outburst and crying and frustration were gone. Sometimes I would even talk to her and tell her I hear her and that it is okay to let it all out.