6 Ways Mindfulness Helped Me to Become a Better Parent

Me saying parenting is hard is the biggest understatement of all time. There is no course or training to prepare you to become a parent, and no certification is required to prove you know what you are doing. How we tend to parent can depend on how we were raised or how we judge other parents. Not one parenting style works for every child all the time. I have three kids, and they are all different, and it requires me to wear different hats constantly. Using a mix of styles, depending on the child and the situation, has allowed me to bond with them on their own terms. 

There are so many types of parenting styles which include:

· Authoritative – encourages a child’s autonomy yet still places certain limitations on behavior. This has been touted as being the best style. Authoritative parents are supposed to be nurturing and supportive. Research suggests that authoritative parents are more likely to raise independent, self-reliant, and socially competent kids. This style requires the most work on the parent’s part. Imagine yourself as the office (house) manager, and you are responsible for being on top of everyone under you. But it’s essential to not just look at parenting as a job but as a life experience. What can you teach and learn during this phase of your life?

· Authoritarian – In this style, the parent stresses obedience, not collaboration and dialogue, and enforces strong forms of punishment. The use of stern discipline is often justified as “tough love.” In an attempt to be in complete control, authoritarian parents often talk to their children without wanting input or feedback. This parenting style can be utilized in certain situations. Choosing this style as the only parenting method can lead to resentment when the child gets older. In moderation, sometimes parents need to put their foot down and say, I’m not having it right now. I am the parent, and you need to follow directions right now. But try not to do it in anger or out of frustration, or because of unresolved issues from the past. Being mindful can help you identify specific triggers that affect how you respond.

· Permissive – is accepting and affirmative, makes few demands, and avoids exercising control. Permissive parents are more likely to take on a friendship role rather than a parenting role with their kids. Put in the work early in your child’s life, then maybe around high school, you can start to implement this style (depending on the child). This technique can help the kids transition to adulthood and make decisions independently while the parent is watching and guiding them. This may not provide kids with enough structure and discipline if used too early. 

· Uninvolved/Neglectful – is unsupportive, fails to monitor or limit behavior, and is more attentive to their needs than the children, as they often struggle with their issues. This is basically child neglect. If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health or substance abuse issues, please get help. 

Based on your style, you can choose a method to go along with it. 

· Parenting with Love & Logic is a process children grow through their mistakes and learn from the consequences of their choices. There are two basic rules in Love & Logic: Adults set firm limits in loving ways without anger, lecture, threats, or repeated warnings. The book, Parenting with Love and Logic by Foster W. Cline, talks about removing the power struggle, letting children live with their natural consequences (unless they’re in danger), and is quite freeing (in theory) as a parent.

· Gentle parenting – focuses on fostering the qualities you want in your child by being compassionate and enforcing consistent boundaries. I think this style has its place during certain times. I also feel kids need a parent figure to help guide them with rules and expectations. 

· Free-range – involves giving your kids plenty of independence to instill confidence, creativity, and problem-solving skills. Again, everything in moderation.

· Helicopters – pay incredibly close attention to their kids’ activities and schoolwork to protect them from pain and disappointment and help them succeed. Helicopter parents are known to hover over their children and become overly involved in their lives. Growing up and seeing the harness of the world can cause someone to become a helicopter parent. I am guilty of this, especially with my firstborn. My son was born at 26 weeks, and I saw him fight for his life. So naturally, I initially felt the need to protect him from everything. And with my twin daughters, even though they were born with no complications, I felt the need to lay a safe and narrow strategic path for them to succeed. If used solely or too much, this style can hinder children. The kids won’t know how to think independently and trust their own ability to make decisions. 

Growing up, I had a lot of opinions on how I was parented as a child and what I felt my parents could have done better. Even though I had specific things I did not like and said that I would do differently once I had kids, I found myself doing the same things my parents did to me. In the fourth grade, all I thought was my mom yells too much, and when I’m a mom, I won’t scream at my kids. One day one of my twin girls said to me, “Why do you yell so much; you are so mean.” I saw my childhood flash before my eyes, and I saw me in her, and I knew exactly how she felt. I knew at that moment I needed to be mindful in my interactions with my kids and purposely not make the same choices my parents made. As a child, I didn’t realize the stress my mom was under, and my dad, my brother, and I didn’t make it any easier on her. But I know now that mindful parenting is about acknowledging your past and letting go of your ego, desires, and attachments.

Here is how I used mindfulness to become a better parent.

1. Let go of the past – during my journey, I’ve learned to forgive my parents for not always getting it right. As an adult, I can see how life for a Jamaican immigrant and a poor girl from the deep south had a lot going on. Kids are not for the faint of heart. They will test you, and parents have to have their minds right to deal with it and not scar the children. I acknowledge my past and mindfully choose to live in the present.

2. Let go of expectation – most parents want their child to get good grades, go to the best schools, and have a slew of friends. Redefine what success and happiness mean for them and nurture them and give them the mental and emotional strength to gain it, whatever that is. 

3. Pay it forward – Our minds our genetically set to remember bad situations more often than good ones. I guess it’s a way to protect us from making the same mistakes. I had so many good memories growing up, and my parents made so many scarifies for my brother and me. I like to take all my parents’ good things and build on them. This is part of learning and growing and how each generation gets better than the generation before.

4. Stop being so serious – I had to get out of this idea of perfection based on some fairytale I’ve dreamed up. This is exhausting for them and for my husband and me. Even though it is important, I make sure everyone has their homework done, and their teeth brushed and in bed on time, so they get enough sleep for their brains to function; it is also important to laugh and hug and say, I love you every day.

5. Be in the moment – Kids just want our love, understanding, and acceptance of who they are. And before we do something to mess it up, they just want us. Take some time to just be with each other without having to rush off to some school event or practice. They will not be kids forever. Enjoy the ride. 

6. Breathe Chile – Everything is going to be OKAY!

The moral of the story is to get out of your head and into your heart. Parent with your heart. Plus, you want your kids to like you when they get older.

Everything I discuss here is something I have used to help me. Breathe Chile is a movement to help the world through mindfulness, physical fitness, and positive motivation. I hope you will join me on the journey!

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