Mindfulness is a popular idea but there are so many misconceptions about what it is and what it isn’t. Technically, ‘mindfulness’ refers to being in the moment without judgement. It is also defined as a mental state which is achieved by focusing your awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting all your feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. Well that sounds pretty impossible. Especially since at any given time, there are a plethora of emotions and thoughts which are unconscious and which you have absolutely no idea about. Now the term has been taken up a notch and the composite term ‘mindful parenting’ has entered the picture too. This refers to being aware of how your kids are feeling inside themselves as well as being aware of what is going on between you at any given time. It requires reflection and honesty and it certainly isn’t easy, or always possible. So what are the 5 myths about mindful parenting and how can you get a little more comfortable with being a truly present parent.
Myth 1: Mindful parents don’t ever get angry with their kids
It’s a strange idea that if you’re mindful, you don’t ever get angry. If anything, the opposite is true. Because when you let yourself know about all the feelings your kids activate in you, then it also means you get in touch with your angry, guilty, fearful and anxious feelings too. The difference with mindful parenting however, is that with time, effort and a lot of introspection, you are able to get more in touch with all your ambivalent feelings about your kids. You slowly learn to build a vocabulary around these feelings, you survive these emotions when they bubble up and ultimately learn not to be afraid of them. This prevents you from being so triggered by both your own and your kid’s big emotions, as and when they pop up.
Myth 2: Mindful parents never discipline their kids
Let’s start with the term discipline. Rather than disciplining kids as a way to keep them in line or control their behaviour, it is far better to teach kids that actions have consequences, and that when you overstep in unhelpful ways, boundaries need to be put in place to keep everyone safe. Teaching kids valuable life lessons doesn’t have to harm or make them fearful of making mistakes. Rather, with proper rules in place, kids can feel that they are safe from themselves. This approaches the same issue from another angle, without fear or control.
Myth 3: Mindfulness means having no thoughts in your mind
I’ve always been really puzzled by the idea that to be ‘mindful’ you have to empty your mind of all thoughts. Surely this is impossible for a busy parent with more commitments and conflicts than anyone knows what to do with? Rather, mindfulness is about knowing your thoughts as thoroughly as you possibly can, so that they don’t surprise and alarm you. That way you don’t need to avoid them all the time and this frees up space to think more clearly.
Myth 4: A mindful parent is always composed and calm
No parent will ever be able to control their emotions entirely while their child is having a tantrum, but why should they? Surely when your child is feeling out of control, their emotions will have a direct effect on you? This point touches on the previous one in that a mindful parent is more in touch with a wide range of their feelings which means that when they feel deeply, they are not overwhelmed by their feelings. Further to this, if you can get in touch with your big angry feelings and survive them, then you will be in a much better position to stay present with your child’s anger when it crops up. Empowering you to keep it about them, rather than feeling overwhelmed and getting caught up in all the anger.
Myth 5: Mindful parenting is always about your kids
Being a mindful parent doesn’t mean you put yourself aside and only ever focus on your kids with undivided attention. Rather a mindful parent is in touch with many aspects of inner and outer life. This means that thought has been given to a wide range of experiences and aspects so that life feels well rounded. This provides balance and space, bringing more peace of mind.
The bottom line
Mindful parenting is not about clearing your mind of all thoughts, nor is it about having a “Kumbaya” attitude to your kids and everything they throw at you. Rather it is about being more in touch with your own mind and what it means to be human. This comes with a range of surprising feelings and impulses which need space to breathe and time to be explored. When this is achieved, mindful parents free up space between themselves and their children and are able to live a far more balanced lifestyle.