Parenting expert, Maris Rose, teaches that attention and connection are the keys to mindful parenting.
In our modern day, there is so much clamoring for our attention. For some, household life is a balance between parental responsibilities and the demands of raising children. The simple task of getting dinner on the table often become arduous. For many parents, it’s difficult to decide what deserves their attention at any given moment.
In addition to the plethora of things demanding our attention, many distractions are begging for our children’s attention as well. From electronics to sports to obtaining the newest gadget, our children are overwhelmed with choices. As a general rule, our society places enormous value on busyness. As we can’t change culture, what is a parent supposed to do? Parenting, after all, is not for the weak of heart.
One child expert says, “That which you give attention to flourishes.” Maris Rose believes that mindful parenting is the act of choosing where to direct our attention. In truth, we have only one chance to raise an emotionally balanced child who exhibits the qualities of empathy and kindness. Rose suggests that parents begin by asking themselves, “Is what I am doing in my family life building connection or distraction?”
Mindful parenting is a term that has received plenty of attention in recent years. Ultimately, it is a practice that emphasizes the moment-to-moment interactions between a child and a parent, with a focus on awareness and openness. To be a successful mindful parent, Rose believes, you have to first and foremost be cognizant of your own self.
As parents, many of us like to believe that we have control over our children. The truth of the matter is that we have very little power. Take, for instance, the overtired 2-year-old toddler. Try as we might, we can’t force the child to sleep. As much as we would love our children to eat vegetables, we cannot force them to chew and swallow the food that we serve them. Ultimately, the primary tool that we have as parents is influence.
Rather than attempting to change our children’s behavior through control and assertion, it is essential to bring attention to one’s own behavior first. For many of us, we have never been taught how to pay attention to the feelings that arise within us. “When a parent is paying attention, they are modeling a behavior or skill, that is extremely important for any child to learn.”
Mindful parenting is a skill that can be nurtured and honed throughout the years. However, to be entirely successful, parents need to understand their parenting values. Rose emphasizes that parenting skills are born from one’s philosophy, intention, and truth. By continuously revisiting your philosophy, thus bringing attention to it, your parenting skill will flow with greater ease.
The crux of Rose’s parenting philosophy focuses on one key component: Connection. According to Rose, connection with your children is the foundation of which all else follows. Without connection, all the best parenting skills in the world are cold. Successful connection often naturally eliminates power struggles and tantrums. Often, a child’s opposition stems from their feeling disconnected from you at that particular moment. By genuinely connecting with your child, you may be able to turn things around.
The most effective way to nurture a connection with our children is through our deliberate attention. While we all have things in life to take care of, it’s vital that we take note of the quality and quantity of the attention that we give to our children. Through the utilization of empathy and understanding, our children feel heard. As with all human beings, children have a strong desire to feel understood. While it is not our jobs as parents to make our children happy, it is our role to help them feel understood.
For example, if a child breaks their favorite toy, our immediate reaction is often an attempt to ease the pain. As a result, we might respond with, “Oh look, you have so many other toys,” or “Don’t worry, we will buy you a new one.” Although well-intentioned, our responses are often aimed at much as easing our own sadness and anxiety as our children’s.
Instead, Rose suggests, that you get on the floor with the child, look at them in the eyes with full attention, and honor their sadness. “You want the child to exhale. For that to happen, you need to exhale. Always exhale breath before you exhale words,” Rose teaches. While disappointment is always challenging, teaching our children how to handle this big emotion early on will help them throughout life.
Connection helps a child feel accepted, which is something that this world could certainly use more of these days. Ultimately, we are all seeking a place to belong. Children who grow up with a sense of acceptance, attention, and connection will grow up resilient.
Maris Rose’s suggestions for fostering peace and connection with ourselves and in our family:
- Go for walks.
- Get plenty of sleep.
- Get plenty of physical activity.
- Eat a healthy, well balanced diet.
- Do not over schedule yourself or your children.
- Simplify wherever and whenever possible.
- Reserve plenty of time off line and away from cell phones.
- Engage in activities you truly enjoy i.e.: ski, bike, sing, dance, hike, swim, canoe, play a sport, play games, play a musical instrument, garden, cook, bake, play with your pets, do a craft or hobby, sew, knit, read, write, etc.
- Minimize activities that momentarily entertain or distract you but don’t add to your peace or joy.
- Minimize screen time and media input, especially “news”.
- Minimize shopping and consumer activities.
- Be generous with physical affection- cuddle, hug, snuggle, playfully wrestle, hold hands, give back rubs and foot rubs, etc.
- Start an appreciation practice with your family.
- Read together.
- Establish a regular routine for mealtimes and bedtimes.
- When arriving home from school or work or daycare with the children take time to cuddle on the couch and connect before rushing in to dinner preparation and other evening chores and activities.
- As a morning alarm wake up to classical or happy music.
- Play sweet music or appropriate children’s music such as Music for Sprouts or Putumayo World Music.
- Play a story in the car or at home such as Sparkle Stories.
- Spend time with each family member (one on one) each day to foster closeness and connection, even just a few minutes.
- Remember to actively, attentively listen to one another.
- Speak respectfully at all times, especially sensitive times.
- Find the humor. There is nothing quite like sharing a laugh to help everyone feel happy and connected!
- Speak appreciations or say grace at mealtime.
- Speak prayers or blessings at bedtime.
- Take time to be quiet, in silence each day.
- Dance together.
- Play peaceful music. Light a candle.
- Regularly take time to be in nature. Go camping.
- Volunteer together.
- Have a family identity – “In our family we…”