Whether we like it or not as parents we have likely raised our voices at our children at some point. In those moments we are rushed, tired or stressed it can be near impossible not to run out of patience with a dawdling toddler or defiant teen. Which of course is ok, we can’t be perfect but there are a few things we can do to minimise our reactiveness to a situation and repair the relationship if stress does get the better of us.
How can mindfulness help parenting?
The aim is to respond to a situation from a place of rational calm (as calm as it can be) rather than an over-reaction from a place of anger or frustration. This may sound impossible but after some practice, like anything else, it will become a habit and could transform your relationship with your children.
Is it proven to work?
An ancient tradition that has become very popular in the west in the past decade, mindfulness is based upon the idea of responding rather than reacting and being in the present moment with a heightened sense of awareness.
It is also scientifically proven to calm and regulate stress hormones and reduce the symptoms of depression and anxiety by up to 50%. Breath awareness calms the alarm centres in our primitive, reactive parts of our brain. When we are stressed we can’t think clearly or rationally. After noticing your breathing (one of the mindfulness techniques) and bringing awareness to how you are breathing, you will start to feel calmer, allowing you to respond to a situation from a less impulsive and reactive place.
How do you stop the cycle of shouting?
There are a few simple techniques that can be borrowed from mindfulness in order to model a positive and healthy reaction to situations. Discipline and boundaries for children are still important, however implementing them calmly but firmly will model assertiveness and will also enable the children to hear what you are saying rather than becoming stressed themselves.
When children, and adults for that matter, are shouted at or intimidated, stress hormones are released, which shuts down the capacity to think or make rational decisions. It is much more effective to use a firm tone rather than shout, or speak too softly. Here are a few techniques to try if you feel yourself becoming angry and ready to shout:
1. Slow down, press a pause button and try not to react.
2. Bring your awareness into your breathing.
3. Walk away from the situation and come back when you feel less reactive.
4. Notice your emotions and where that feeling is in your body e.g. angry and tight fisted/gritted teeth, tearful and tight chested/lump in throat etc.
5. Notice how your body is feeling e.g. are your shoulders tight, how fast you are breathing.
6. Show compassion to yourself and you children. Show kindness.
7. Put yourself in your children’s shoes. Did you leave something out that perhaps you shouldn’t have, are the children simply being curious and do realise the dangers etc.
And remember that YOU ARE A GOOD ENOUGH PARENT! We can’t be perfect and it is also important to show children that we mess up. When we do mess up and loose control of our emotions we can repair the situation by acknowledging it, apologising to your child and moving on.
WATCH: Tedtalk on how to slow down and be more mindful in our busy lives.