- Mindful Family members share compassion and kindness with themselves first. Parents recognize they don’t need to be perfect (and don’t expect kids to be!), and instead practice self compassion — because being hard on yourself makes you hard on your kids, and then no one feels good.
Watch how you talk to or think about yourself, and ask if you would talk to a friend who is a parent that way. Would you berate a friend for being a bad parent because of whatever is happening? Would you tell a friend they aren’t a good parent unless their child _____? Often parent are much harder on themselves than they would every dream of being on a friend. It’s hard to parent well when you are your own worst critic. Share some kindness with yourself, so you can share it with you kids.
- Mindful Families are grateful. It’s easy to focus on problems and what we want to be different. Instead, practice gratitude! Every time you think of some aspect about your family or parenting that you want to change, challenge yourself to think of two things you appreciate or are grateful for.
Start a family gratitude practice. Every night before bed or at dinner, reflect on what you are grateful for that day. Write down your reflections, roll them up, and gather them in a jar. At the end of the month, read them together and reflect on all the wonderful things in your life!
- Mindful Families focus on what they want their family to be like, not what they don’t want their family to be like. Those things you focus on that you want to change? They’re still important! But set yourself up for success. If they’re based in negative language — what you want to stop doing — try to flip them and focus on positive language — what you want to start doing. It’s more challenging for our brain to come up with what to instead when “stop yelling” than it is for our brain to remember to “speak calmly.”
Set some goals for yourself using positive language. What can you do, not stop doing, to be a more compassionate family? Why are these changes important? How will it feel to make them? Write them down and put them somewhere where you will see them often.
- Mindful Families meet challenging emotions with kindness and curiosity, allowing them to be seen as opportunities to learn what to do with experiences we find challenging, not something to escape.
The next time you are becoming frustrated or upset in the presence of your child, imagine your child in your shoes. How do you want them to react? How do you want to teach them to react? Many studies, including the classic “Bobo doll” experiment in the 1960s, show that children respond to situations the way they have seen adults respond to those same situations. It is important that children understand strong and unpleasant emotions are part of the human experience, so they shouldn’t be hidden from children, but children do need models of how to experience “big emotions” in a calm and productive way that does not cause harm.
- Mindful Family members truly want to understand each other, even when someone finds another’s behavior hurtful, disruptive, or confusing.
Everyone has a reason for why they do what they do. It may be a illogical, harmful, or unhelpful, or fear-based reason, but all the same they are making choices that make sense to them and their sense of well-being. Parents who seek to find out why their children are acting the way they do, rather than just attempting to eliminate the behaviors they find undesirable. The next time your child makes a choice you’d rather they not, use empathy to imagine why they might be making that choice. Perhaps even ask them. Direct your support and parenting at the reason, not the behavior itself, and you will be more likely to have your child change their choices authentically and truly.
What does it look like to share and model mindfulness with kids? Here are 5 ways to approach bringing more mindfulness into parent/child relationships.