Before your baby was born, how many books did you read about different parenting approaches?
None? One? Three? More than three?
There are lots of 'experts' and lots of different ways to be a parent.
There are the Gina Ford advocates who depend heavily on daily routines and precise time slots. Then there are those who follow their babies own natural routine.
Whatever approach you take to parenting is completely up to you as the parent.
Before our twins were born, I didn’t read any parenting books.
Not because I thought I would know instinctively what to do, but simply because I wanted to find my own feet and learn my own way rather than follow the ways of those who either don’t have children or those who claim to be baby experts.
I have lost my way slightly over the past few weeks. I'm guilty of immersing myself fully into the so called modern life and all that it entails.
From social media to blogging and becoming far too obsessive and dedicated to the things that, well, simply don’t matter.
To put it in a nutshell I spend far too much time on my phone than I should. It obviously affects my relationship with my children and my husband.
Before I go on, I would like to say though that I’m not on my phone 24/7 while my children fend for themselves. Simply that when they’re playing with lego or with their toy kitchen rather than sitting with them and joining in, I’m sitting next to them. On my phone.
I don’t want to be that kind of mum.
I don’t want my children to look back in years to come and think of me as always being on the phone.
I’m quite an organised person. Sometimes too organised. Some people will say almost to the point of OCD.
When it comes to responding to tweets, emails and comments on blogs, I had to respond to straight away.
I had to respond to every blog comment the same day.
Will the earth explode if I don’t reply immediately?
Will my fingers falls off resulting in me never being able to send another tweet again?
Of course not!
You get the idea!
I have a series of posts coming up in the next few weeks on this topic, but for now I thought I would talk about mindful parenting.
What is Mindful Parenting?
It’s a simple idea really, but putting it into practise takes exactly that. Practise.
It’s about paying attention to the present, taking time to think and responding without judgement instead of reacting.
As I’ve said above I am guilty of spending too much time on my phone when I’m around my children. Instead of being in the moment and enjoying it for what it is, I am missing the little things. The important things and that will undoubtedly have an effect on my children.
Instead of enjoying what is going on at that particular moment, many parents, myself included, are guilty of letting our minds wander off somewhere else.
Instead of focusing and paying attention, we’re thinking about what we have to do that day or worrying about something that’s really not worth worrying about.
The effects of all this impact our children the most.
We need to stop and slow down. Pay attention to what is going on and just let it happen.
I read somewhere once the following and if you take a little time to think it over, I wonder what reflections on your daily life it may make you reconsider.
What greater gift could we possibly give to our children than our presence.
It's so true. So simple and yet often overlooked.
Being mindful, doesn’t mean that you have to constantly play with your child 24/7. It’s important to let your child breathe and play on their own now and again. It helps to develop confidence and independence. Just knowing that you’re there for your child when they want you to be there is reassuring.
I have moments in my everyday life where I’m playing with our twins. It doesn’t really matter what we’re doing, but you’ll know the sort of thing I mean. We’re just playing, enjoying, laughing and spending time with each other.
Interacting, paying attention and just being there. Days like those, when there are no tantrums, no crying, no fighting, make you feel full of pride. They make you feel happy because your child is happy, smiling and having fun. Because your child hasn’t had one tantrum or cried at all that day. It’s been a good day and you feel like super mum!
I’m sure my next scenario is one all parents can relate to. Your children are playing happily together, or on their own if they’re an only child. In my case, for example, M picks up a toy and starts to play with. R will notice that M has a fun toy and will wander over to investigate it. Before you know it, they’re both holding the toy and playing tug of war with it whilst screaming at the top of their voices in frustration and anger.
What do you do?
In my two years experience of being a mum I have tried many different approaches. From removing the toy altogether and leaving the girls to calm down themselves to removing the child in the wrong from the situation, sitting down with them, comforting them and telling them why they shouldn’t have done what it is they have just done. One I'm sure every parent has also tried is using distraction.
Of course there are also times, where I have been distracted myself. For example doing something on my phone, and I've just ended up shouting at them both. In the heat of the moment. Reacting. Without thought.
I didn’t explain why I was saying no, nor did I know who was at fault or what exactly had happened because I was too involved in replying to that email that just couldn’t wait another hour until they were sleeping.
Do you see where I’m going with this?
Every time that I am distracted resulting in me reacting in the way that I did makes me feel like a bad mum. A part of mindful parenting is to become aware of how distracted you were, how that made you feel and then you can take the opportunity to re-engage. Each moment is a chance to reconsider what you’ve done and then to put it right.
The end result?
Being the parent that you want to be.
Mindful parenting is about listening to your child, paying attention to their feelings as well as yours, keeping your emotions in check and accepting and understanding the situation with compassion for all involved.
You may wonder what I mean when I say ‘keeping your emotions in check’. Quite simply I mean that even if you feel angry inside and want to shout…don’t!
Try to stay calm.
I think it’s important to say at this stage that children learn from copying us, their parents. You may cough and at the same time tap your chest, so it’ll come as no surprise when a few days later your child replicates this behaviour.
How would you react if you saw your child hit another child? Would you shout or tell your child why they shouldn’t hit?
What if you hit your child?
How can you then expect your child to understand why it is ok for you to hit them, but not ok for them to hit someone?
I’m not the perfect mum, as you’ve probably guessed by now from reading this post up to this point. I find it hard to resist the temptations of reading my emails, checking Facebook or responding to a tweet.
If I’ve shouted at our girls for one reason or another, you can guarantee that within a few minutes after the situation has calmed down, I’ll feel terrible. Like the worst mother ever. I’ll apologise to our girls and inside I’ll be thinking to myself what a horrible person I am. Is that being compassionate to myself? Is that acceptance? Well, no it’s not.
Mindful parenting is something that I am getting better at. I put my phone away when I am around my children and give them 100% of my attention. I’m not perfect and I do have to bite my tongue at times, but sometimes that doesn’t always happen and I will end up shouting.
I am definitely getting better though at becoming a better mum. That doesn’t mean I’m a bad mum at the moment! It just means there’s room for improvement.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.