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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Why Mindfulness Matters



Mindfulness is being conscientious, caring, and intentional in your parenting. - Dr. Dan Siegel

Mindful parenting is a topic that has been written about my many great authors and is gaining more and more attention in the mainstream. It is a broad topic which encompasses many separate categories.

One aspect of mindfulness is being present moment to moment. This is challenging in today's fast-paced society. It is about slowing down, observing what is really going on around you and taking that in. It is a great way to get more joy out of every aspect of your life, not the least of which is parenting. Being present with our children instead of merely occupying the same space is a wonderful gift to both us and them. We all are know how quickly childhood passes, so when we are mindful, when we are present and attuned, we are keenly aware of our actions, thoughts, decisions, and time. It makes us more effective not only at parenting but at everything we do. The present is the only thing we can control anyway, so why not remain in it?

Another aspect, as Dr. Siegel states, is that of being conscientious, caring, and intentional in our parenting. Being really aware of how we are raising our children and why we are raising them the way we are is a part of this mindfulness. It's having a conscious plan or vision for what we are striving for as parents. Caring, compassion, and empathy are part of mindful parenting, not only as it pertains to our children, but to ourselves and those around us.

Caring, compassion, and empathy do not make us weak parents but rather requires great strength and composure. Being mindful also means we must learn to control our emotional reactivity, and mindful parents teach emotional balance to our children. This means we strive to control our anger and frustration in the moment and not react (lash out). We find ways to calm our brains when we get into those states, and we pass those tools and knowledge onto our children so that they learn now to control themselves when high emotions arise. It's also about balance; finding sources of happiness, joy, peace, and contentment. The more we can remain in a state of joy and peace, the better the atmosphere we provide and the more we are able to model and teach our children.

Dr. Siegel describes "mindsight" as being able to see your mind and the mind of others; looking behind the behavior of a child and into the mind to discover what is really going on. This takes practice, but when we are able to do this, we can address the real issue and help the child to grow and develop and learn rather than just punish for misbehavior, which doesn't solve the core problem.

There are a lot of very helpful short videos by Dr. Dan Siegel on YouTube. I'll post one of his videos of mindfulness below, which will lead you to the rest on YouTube. I highly recommend taking some time to view them and also to pick up his books if you're interested in learning more about his teachings.


Of course, Dr. Siegel is just one of many to discuss mindfulness, but he is the one that I'm most familiar with.

In summary, mindful parenting is a lifelong practice. It's about becoming aware of how life is unfolding around you, both your life and your children's lives. It's openhearted, wholehearted living. It's about seeing children as the are, not how we want them to be, and valuing them just as they are. It's about training our own minds to empathy, compassion, peace, joy, balance, and teaching that to our children. It affects the emotional and relational development of our children, and they grow up to be grounded and functional in dealing with emotionally charged situations. It's really about relationships, really seeing each other, being attuned and connected, learning to respond instead of react. It's a way of relating to one another on a deeper level.
Practice sharing the fullness of your being, your best self, your enthusiasm, your vitality, your spirit, your trust, your openness, above all, your presence. Share it with yourself, with your family, with the world.”
― Jon Kabat-Zinn



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