1. Stop yelling. Yelling at our kids accomplishes nothing positive, but sometimes we can slip into a habit of yelling when we are at our wit's end. According to a 2003 study published in The Journal of Marriage and Family, 88 percent of the 991 families interviewed admitted shouting, yelling or screaming at their children in the previous year.
The good news is that it is that there is help. Check out the Orange Rhino Project and take the challenge to become a more peaceful parent.
2. Connect. Adults play an important role in the development of a child's self-concept. It takes very young children a lot of growing up before they are able to picture themselves as separate persons capable of thinking and acting for themselves. During the time that they are "painting" this picture of themselves, the relationships they have with those most important to them, particularly their parents, influence the picture they are developing of themselves. Do they feel loved and wanted? Are they able to count on their parents to meet their needs and take care of them? These are important components of a young child's self-concept development.
Another way adults can influence children's self-concept is by the way they apply labels to children. If adults continually label children as "bad" or "dumb," children will begin to believe these assessments, feel negatively about themselves, and act in ways that reflect the labels applied to them. In other words, they will be bad or they will act "dumb" because adults have told them they are this way. In contrast, if positive qualities of the child are emphasized by the adult, then the child's self-concept will more likely be positive as will his or her behavior.
Bottom line: When kids feel better, they behave better. Help them feel better by letting them know you see them, that they matter, and by acknowledging and expressing what you love about them. Check out The Three Things You Should Say to Your Child Every Day and watch your child blossom and your connection deepen.
3. Be present. Make the decision now to be present and engaged with your children daily. Here is a good place to start. And here. They aren't little for long, so let's slow down and savor these years.
Here are 12 exercises for mindful parenting: (Source)
- Try to imagine the world from your child's point of view, purposefully letting go of your own. Do this every day for at least a few moments to remind you of who this child is and what he or she faces in the world.
- Imagine how you appear and sound from your child's point of view, i.e., having you as a parent today, in this moment. How might this modify how you carry yourself in your body and in space, how you speak, and what you say? How do you want to relate to your child in this moment?
- Practice seeing your children as perfect just the way they are. See if you can stay mindful of their sovereignty from moment to moment, and work at accepting them as they are when it is hardest for you to do so.
- Be mindful of your expectations of your children and consider whether they are truly in your child's best interest. Also, be aware of how you communicate those expectations and how they affect your children.
- Practice altruism, putting the needs of your children above your own whenever possible. Then see if there isn't some common ground, where your true needs can also be met. You may be surprised at how much overlap is possible, especially if you are patient and strive for balance.
- When you feel lost, or at a loss, remember to stand still and meditate on the whole by bringing your full attention to the situation, to your child, to yourself, to the family. In doing so, you may go beyond thinking, even good thinking, and perceive intuitively, with the whole of your being, what needs to be done. If that is not clear in any moment, maybe the best thing is to not do anything until it becomes clearer. Sometimes it is good to remain silent.
- Try embodying silent presence. This will grow out of both formal and informal mindfulness practice over time if you attend to how you carry yourself and what you project in body, mind, and speech. Listen carefully.
- Learn to live with tension without losing your own balance. In Zen and the Art of Archery, Herrigel describes how he was taught to stand at the point of highest tension effortlessly without shooting the arrow. At the right moment, the arrow mysteriously shoots itself. Practice moving into any moment, however difficult, without trying to change anything and without having to have a particular outcome occur. Simply bring your full awareness and presence to this moment. Practice seeing that whatever comes up is "workable" if you are willing to trust your intuition. Your child needs you to be a center of balance and trustworthiness, a reliable landmark by which he or she can take a bearing within his or her own landscape. Arrow and target need each other. They will find each other best through wise attention and patience.
- Apologize to your child when you have betrayed a trust in even a little way. Apologies are healing. An apology demonstrates that you have thought about a situation and have come to see it more clearly, or perhaps more from your child's point of view. But be mindful of being "sorry" too often. It loses its meaning if you are always saying it, making regret into a habit. Then it can become a way not to take responsibility for your actions. Cooking in remorse on occasion is a good meditation. Don't shut off the stove until the meal is ready.
- Every child is special, and every child has special needs. Each sees in an entirely unique way. Hold an image of each child in your heart. Drink in their being, wishing them well.
- There are important times when we need to be clear and strong and unequivocal with children. Let this come as much as possible out of awareness, generosity, and discernment, rather than out of fear, self-righteousness, or the desire to control. Mindful parenting does not mean being overindulgent, neglectful, or weak; nor does it mean being rigid, domineering, and controlling.
- The greatest gift you can give your child is your self. This means that part of your work as a parent is to keep growing in self-knowledge and awareness. This ongoing work can be furthered by making a time for quiet contemplation in whatever ways feel comfortable to us. We only have right now. Let us use it to its best advantage, for our children's sake, and for our own.
4. Rekindle your romance. We know intuitively that how happy we are -- in a relationship or otherwise -- affects our children. Our emotions are contagious, and so when a romantic partner loves us unconditionally, the happiness and security that love brings can spill over, to our children's benefit. Romance also has the potential to make us better parents: positive emotions (like love) and the social support of a partner can make us warmer and more responsive to our children. A strong relationship provides security for your children and demonstrates how a loving, respectful partnership should be. What could be more important? Check out this article, and this one.
5. Let go of the guilt. You are enough. Love yourself unconditionally for who you are. How? Here are some ways to start.
- Spend time alone with yourself this week. Turn off the iPad, leave your cellphone behind, and go for a walk. Just hang out with yourself. Get comfortable with who you are.
- Pay yourself an amazing compliment, and make it meaningful. Say it out loud while looking at yourself in the mirror.
- Look at what you're feeding yourself, and I'm not talking about food. What you really have to ask yourself is whether the television shows, movies, music & art you indulge in are enhancing your life or detracting from it.
- Exercise! It's good for your body and your mind!
- Go to bed early. None of us get enough rest! Make it a priority.
- Forgive your mistakes and move on. So you got grumpy with your kid? Apologize and forget about it. Focus on reconnecting and don't dwell on your mistakes.
Read this for some inspiration, and this, too. Oh, and this.