Folks, it’s time to enlighten you with a guest post written by Kajal M Gupta who’s a living definition of the phrase ‘beauty with brains’ ! She’s not just the most intelligent woman of my fam (PhD , ahem) but also a sincere follower of the Shri Ram Chandra Mission. When she’s not in lab coat researching how to make this planet a better place to live in, she’s inspiring & helping many to discover the power of meditation and now, she’s just bagged a brand new role of SuperMommy! Read what she has to say on the topic I’m extremely passionate about- ‘mindful parenting’ !
When my cousin (yes, Aakansha is my first cousin!) and I decided on “Mindful Parenting” as the topic for my first post on her blog, I remember thinking that I’ll have so much to write about it because this has been my key focus in the last 16 months of (first-time) parenthood. However, in this moment, as I sit down to write this post, I’m swinging like a pendulum between one end of being thoughtless to the other end of having lots to express into words!
To me, mindfulness is tuning in and being aware of your present thoughts, feelings and emotions (or lack of!), without any judgement. It is being in the ‘here and now’! I’ve been practising meditation for many years now and so, going inwards has become a way of life for me. With this in mind (and heart!) I enthusiastically entered into motherhood feeling like I’ve got it all together! How naïve was I, because as Dr. Shefali Tsabary puts it, “letting go of control over our children is probably the hardest spiritual task we face as parents.”
5 main tenets of Mindful Parenting
As part of this on-going journey, here are the 5 main tenets of mindful parenting that I’ve picked up along the way, as something I not only relate to but also try to live by. I’ve also included a quote for each tenet from some of my favourite authors/books on this topic.
1) Truly know, understand and experience your child as he/she really is, separate from you. Yes, you can plan all you want – your child’s clothes, the nursery décor, whether you decide to breast- or bottle-feed, when you introduce solids, and your parenting style, too – but you can’t plan in advance how your child’s temperament will be. Each child is different and you’ll have to tailor your parenting style to meet your child’s needs and temperament. I decided to breast-feed for 6 months and then move to bottle-feeding, my baby decided to enter my life as a milk snob, refusing all the bottles in the world; I decided to introduce solids at 6 months of age but baby decided he was ready to taste his first fruit at 4.5 months of age; I got beautifully-crafted wooden toys but baby was interested in all the overly colourful, loud and ugly plastic ones! The point I’m trying to make here is: follow your child and tune into their needs moment-to-moment instead of dumping your expectations on them.
“When you parent, it’s crucial you realize you aren’t raising a “mini me,” but a spirit throbbing with its own signature. For this reason, it’s important to separate who you are from who each of your children is. Children aren’t ours to possess or own in any way. When we know this in the depths of our soul, we tailor our raising of them to their needs, rather than molding them to fit our needs.”
– The Conscious Parent by Dr. Shefali Tsabary
2) Whenever you are doing anything with your children, from something as mundane as giving them a bath to actually playing with them, be with them 100%. As with any mindfulness practice, give your full attention to that moment instead of thinking of the future or the past. I know, and experience on a daily basis, how difficult this can be with today’s fast-paced life, but I always try to be fully present with my child when I’m with him. I’ve found the best way is to encourage independent play and not intervene unnecessarily; it is actually truly magical to observe them at play and see into their world!
“Play is children’s main way of communicating. To stop a child from playing is like stopping an adult from talking and thinking. To control every minute of their play is like controlling every word someone says.”
– Playful Parenting by Lawrence Cohen
3) Try not to take other’s comments too personally. This was a tough one for me, and something I still struggle with if I do not work upon myself. Having a baby makes EVERY.SINGLE.PERSON around you believe that they not only have a say in raising that child but somehow, their way is the best way! As if the initial hormonal overwhelm of having a baby + keeping the baby alive are not enough, people shower you with their unsolicited advice and comments. This does not seem to stop after the first few weeks of giving birth but goes on in cycles – how to sleep train, how to potty train, how to avoid toddler tantrums, how to discipline, the list is endless! Again, try to swim your way out of this ocean of how-to’s, step back, observe your child and yourself, and decide what’s best for both of you. Also, it is important to build your own ‘village’ – your network of support and inspiration!
“It takes a village to raise a child.”
– African Proverb
But remember, your true tribe also knows when to shut up and just listen.
4) During emotional outbursts and tantrums, first connect and then re-direct. More often than not, we react to tantrums instead of responding. Consequences and lessons are ineffective when a child’s emotions are running high. And why just children, it is the same with adults, too. Instead of punishments, using a calm attitude to hold the child through his/her emotions allows your calmness to rub off on the child, giving way to receptiveness and understanding.
“When little people are overwhelmed by big emotions, it’s our job to share our calm, not join their chaos.”
– L.R. Knost
5) Finally, remember that this is a journey of learning for both you and your child. Parenting is not hierarchical; in fact, over this last year or so, I’ve learnt so much more from my child than I ever anticipated. Learn together, laugh together, cry together, and grow together! Just like you, your children deserve to feel that just because they exist, they are loved and adored – not when they grow up to be disciplined, not when they get straight A grades, not when they are successful individuals! Even as we attempt to do our best at parenting, we cannot fully know where their lives will take them; we can only love our children, accept them and honour the mystery of their being. Do your best, be authentic, and express gratitude for this opportunity to raise yourself!
“Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself… They come through you but not from you, And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.”
– Khalil Gibran
More snippets that will warm your heart…