Wednesday 8 March 2017

Becoming a mindful parent

'Mindfulness' is a popular term at the moment and it's one that has been applied to parenting too, as a way of trying to understand and respond to our children in a more considered manner. I wondered whether it would be a new buzz word, another stick to beat parents with or a new age solution to an age old problem, or if indeed it would have relevance to me.

We're very lucky with Ethan and have always adopted a baby/toddler-led approach, knowing where he should be and when but letting him show us when he's ready rather than enforcing weaning, potty training or a sleep routine. It's a method that works for us and we are really fortunate to either have a really good toddler (most of the time) or to have worked out a way to parent that works for us.

That being said, Ethan can get a right strop on and hubs and I have very different approaches when a tantrum strikes. He also goes through periods, be it a funny half hour or a full day, where he decides to be more challenging - saying no to everything, getting upset for no reason or being rude or saying something mean. It more often than not comes out of no-where but I never know how to deal with the situation or the best way of making things better - without becoming a push-over parent.

I received some information about a new book, Mindfulness for Parents by Amber Hatch (RRP £9.99), and was keen to review a copy. It promises to provide a personal, knowledgeable perspective on how to deal with the stresses of parenting better with practical tips as to how to employ mindfulness techniques to your own family.

Reading the cover, it really spoke to me as a mum:

As hubs and I sometimes differ on our parenting approaches, I thought that this book would be a useful guide for us both to understand our toddler better, deal with stressful situations better and to just feel a bit better as a parent. We all have guilt - I worry I'm too soft, hubs that he's too hard - and trying out some new techniques is always worth a shot as toddlers, and little boys and teenagers I'm sure, can be complex creatures to work out.

I've found Mindfulness for Parents to be accessible from the get-go and went into it with an open mind. I think that you won't always agree with any one person's view on everything, but it's good to read about, share and discuss other people's experiences to understand how things have worked out for them and to feel better about your own choices. I wanted to see what advice Amber had for being a calmer parent and hoped to take away some practical tips.

The book is laid out well, with the theme of each chapter established, some personal examples and other case studies provided and then a 'top tips' box before a useful summary at the end. This makes it easy to dip in and out of, particularly if there's a topic that is particularly applicable to you.

As you can see from my copy, it's been flicked through quite a bit...

 I have taken away a number of things from the book - here's a few thoughts it's inspired in me:

* Mindfulness is a technique you can use to stay calm and bring you back to the moment you are in

* Taking time to time-plan can be an effective way to be mindful

* We're all guilty of doing too many things at once - so try to worry less about multi-tasking and focus on one thing at a time

* It's ok for babies and children to be unhappy, and they won't always be able to tell you why, so acknowledging how they feel rather than trying to dissolve the situation with 'don't cry' or 'why are you crying?'

* You're probably being more mindful than you think - for us, with potty training, we've tried to look out for when Ethan may need to go and connect with him when he does, focusing on this and celebrating his successes (and, touch wood, we are now almost there, with eight days followed by 10 days of dryness)

* Rather than saying 'what do you say?' when Ethan forgets to say please or thank you, a useful technique is to say the statement you would like them to say in the first place back to them, so they can hear what they should be saying and over time, will hopefully do this and understand why rather than just repeating 'please and thank you' when you prompt them

* When your child does something wrong, such as run out where there are cars nearby, rather than jumping straight in to telling them off, show understanding and explain why they shouldn't have done this - e.g. 'I know you were excited to go and see Daddy' - as in this approach, you're trying to understand why they have acted in such a way

* De-cluttering is a good way to be mindful and to focus on the task at hand and whether the items you have are needed any more, and this can be something your kids can be involved with

* Finding time to relax, focus or meditate can be easier than you think, and you could even do this when you are doing the bedtime routine, washing up or in the bath - the key is to calm your mind and start by focusing on your breathing

* Add a ritual to your meditation time, such as lighting a candle, to make it feel more like part of your routine and to get your mind ready

I really enjoyed reading through this book, dipping in and dipping out, and certain examples were very relevant to the stage we're in right now. I started trying out some of the techniques and I do think it has made a difference - at the very least, to the thought I give to the things I say.

I think we could all be a bit more mindful, so I'd recommend this book if you're keen to learn more about the principles of mindfulness and how they could help you as a parent.

* I was sent this book for purposes of review but all opinions are my own.



  1. A great review and it sounds like a book I'd really like to read. I do my best to be a calm parent but it can be tough, especially with my four year old constantly pushing the boundaries.

    1. Thank you Nat - I did find it helpful and it does help to get a fresh perspective on things sometimes. And toddlers are definitely boundary pushers! ;)

  2. Very important book, thanks for sharing!


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