|What is mindful parenting?|
A recent parenting book has added to what has been called the mindful parenting movement. Mindful Parenting, by Kristen Race, a brain researcher, has stimulated articles in the New York Times and Slate and perhaps others. It has much good information about what we are learning in neuroscience about the different effects of modern stress on the one hand and traditional practice of mindfulness on the other. It applies to modern parenting some of the concepts of mindfulness, including being present in the moment and taking time to think and respond instead of react. And it also applies some of the more recent developmental theories to raising kids.
Like the human potential movement of the 60s and 70s, it can be taken to place quite a burden on the new parent, creating high expectations and heavy duties. At the same time, it can also be taken to emphasize the importance of parenting and the powerful influence parents have on their children.
Rather than create another set of benchmarks, we need to appreciate, in each family and as a whole society, the crucial role of parents and encourage each parent to organize their lives so that they do not have to deny or make light of their key responsibility to this new developing human child.
I love the idea of being mindful, that is, keeping in mind exactly what you are there for at any given moment and responding appropriately for the conditions.
But I think that parenting is actually a function of the heart, not the mind. It is as much a right brain activity as a left. We can analyze and study developmental stages and what music to play to the baby in the womb or during their studies, but we must also spend a good deal of time listening to our parental hearts.
I think that is really what true mindfulness is in the traditional Asian philosophies we have borrowed from. It is about quieting the mind and our cascading thoughts about work, relatives, the economy, or our diet. It's about controlling our over-reactive egos and instead listening to the truths in our hearts.
In The Seven Secrets of Successful Parents, I have identified seven thoughts which should dwell in the mind of a parent whenever they think of their child. And I urge a parent to think of the child often, and especially before and after an encounter, because every encounter comes out better if you start in the right place. That is, with positive expectations, a mind at peace, and a confidence that everything will be okay.
These thoughts start in the mind of the parent and need to be there before an encounter, because in the heat of the moment, voices in the brain can get in the way of authentic words or action from the heart.
Modern brain science is exciting, but it should not get in the way of the natural intelligence a parent can access in direct response to her or his love for the child.
I think the greatest challenge today is for parents to actually spend enough time, that is quantity time, with their children to actually exercise that parental love muscle, so that the right words and actions tend to come at the right moments, from the heart, not the mind.
Today's lifestyles, of the parents and of the children, the prevailing economic pressures and the psychologist apologists, conspire to convince us quantity time isn't important. But it is. It allows parents to build their innate love and compassion for the child, and to set the example the child needs for the easiest most effective learning about life. And it is this love and compassion, born of the parent-child relationship, which has been responsible for our species' success since way before we had any scientific investigation of the brain.
Randy Rolfe Take Home Tips: To get the responses you want from your parenting, you do best to do your thinking before and after an encounter with your child and focus on responding from love when you are in the moment. Thinking before and after allows you to set aside fears, urgency, guilt, worry, mistrust, and other emotions so that you can speak, listen, and act authentically from your heart, with confidence in the relationship you have created with your child and with certainty that working together you will get the results you both want.