Learning about mindful parenting has created a significant change around time at home with the kids for me. And by change, I mean there’s more chance and likelihood of peace in day-to-day interactions and life. This doesn’t mean there aren’t (frequent) struggles, tantrums, or whines. It just means that they are (intended to be!) tackled in a peaceful way, and in a way where the goal is, though I fall short of it, to teach and ‘work with’ my children (problem solve, reflect, coach), and avoid ‘doing to’ them (punish, control, etc).
I first came across mindful parenting through Dr. Laura Markham’s facebook page. I then ordered a copy of her book and that was the beginning of my mindful parenting journey. I began to read it and was hooked. I loved the premise behind mindful parenting. That we do not just treat the symptoms of our children’s behaviour, or misbehaviour, but that we look for the cause and address the needs stemming from the cause. For example, my child is tired and missed a nap and thus he is prone to meltdowns…perhaps cuddle up with a book with him for some quiet, connected time, perhaps an earlier bedtime would help, that kind of a thing. As opposed to just punishing his ‘playing up’ – likely that he will only play up again because what he needed was rest.
I loved that the aim was to work with and help our child with their needs and emotions. That we keep the definition of discipline in mind which means to teach, as Dr. Dan Siegel says. Mindful parenting states that punishment doesn’t teach much; perhaps fear, but we haven’t taught or given our children any skills on how to manage whatever caused them to act out in the first place…how to regulate their emotions in order to consciously choose their actions, such as to take a break when they get angry instead of hitting.
Dr. Laura Markham’s 3 Big Ideas As Pillars For Peaceful Parenting
Dr Laura Markhams’s book is split into three big sections which I think illustrate some ‘pillars’ of mindful parenting well. They are:
1) Regulating our own emotions (as parents)
3) Coaching, not controlling.
Regulating our own emotions means that we breathe through your triggers, that we take a pause before responding rather than just reacting, that we try to see things from our child’s perspective when viewing a certain behaviour that riles us up. That basically, we practise healthy emotional regulation. This makes our parenting more effective as we begin to walk through the emotion part of our tests and respond, and not react, to the situations in front of us. It is also beneficial as it will insha’Allah be a model of how to calm ourselves down for our children. Children mimic; they mimic all my frequent fails in parenting but also, they mimic when we get it right as well.
Connecting With Our Kids
In mindful parenting, priority is given to the relationship and the connection we have with our children. Connecting is important as generally speaking, the connection, love and emotional safety we create with someone, is the basis of a good relationship. Firstly, a good, healthy (not perfect) relationship is a springboard for our flourishing and success.
A significant (and welcome!) by-product of connection with our children is cooperation and influence. And in relationships in general, the people who love and accept us just the way we are, we care what they think. Connection assists with discipline and increases the positives in the relationship, and more goodness and positives make relationships more enjoyable and fulfilling for everyone. Ultimately, we really cannot control anyone. Even with regards to our rights over others and theirs over us – they work through wilful submission to Allah, I think. And Allah knows best.
Coaching, Not Controlling
Coaching means that we endeavour to become sources of loving guidance and teaching for our children, rather than relying on control. It means that we teach them to walk through and healthily navigate their big feelings, if that may what’s behind their misbehaviour. It means we talk about the impact of actions and gently point out how our actions – helpful and hurtful – affect others. It means that we help them in meeting our expectations. It means that we set empathic limits, kindly and firmly, when we need to. It means that we endeavour to accept all feelings – though we may not agree – but limit actions (no hitting/harming etc). It means that, as stated in No Drama Discipline, we connect first, then redirect.
Empathy In Parenting
A big, and hard, part of mindful parenting has been trying to be empathic; trying to see things from my children’s point of view. So when my elder son snaps or yells ‘no!’ at his brother when he gets close to something he is playing with, I try to empathise first (I’m hit and miss, here!). So I try to empathise first ‘you shouted “no!” because you thought he might break your tower?” I will usually get an agreement at this point, in which case, I will understand and empathise. “I understand sweetie. What do you think you can say to him next time he comes near your things?” Smiley’s response, something like “can you not come near my things please?” Me: “Yeah, i think that’d work. I think that would feel good for him”. I continue: “what about if he doesn’t move?”. Him: “Ask Mummy [to move him]. Me: “sounds good, baby. We can try that, insha’Allah”. Then I will address little brother too, if need be.
Progress, not Perfection in Mindful Parenting
There is also a gap too between what I know about mindful parenting, what I know works (connection generally, connecting before redirecting, pausing and not just reacting but responding, problem-solving, empathy) and what I do (react, be blaming in my speech, lose it from time-to-time, get triggered often). But I try to keep in mind that it is a journey, and to focus on progress and not perfection. Self-compassion and making repairs with my children, and when I remember, backtracking when my voice takes on a stern tone (saying ‘sorry honey, that was my cross voice, let me try again’) help. They help to get me back on the high road (of striving, though falling short) and off the low road (of reactivity). It can be hard! And parenting fails are aplenty for me! But let’s fail forward, reflect on what we can make better, and notice the plenty of wins we have – and celebrate those, too.
So what can we do to incorporate mindful parenting into our lives? Where can we learn about it?
Actionable Steps In Implementing The Tip
2) Learning about children’s development, particularly their brain development…this (when recalled!) will make much of our kids’ behaviour, or misbehaviour less urgent and more understandable (even if testing…)…consider ‘is what I’m expecting developmentally appropriate?’ and ‘how can i help them achieve these positive expectations?’ A good book that explains how neurobiology drives behaviour is No Drama Discipline by Dr. Dan Siegel and Dr. Tina Payne Bryson
3) Learning about how the Prophet SAW was around children is both so heart-warming and so helpful. How he stood up for Fatima RA when she entered the room, how he asked about Abu Umair’s bird when it passed away, and the narrations from Anas ibn Malik RA of the Prophet’s excellent treatment of him (‘I served the Prophet SAW for ten years and he never said ‘why did/didn’t you do this and this?’).
Dr. Hesham also has a book on the topic of how Muhammad SAW raised the companions; I haven’t read it yet but have heard good things about it, masha’Allah. You can purchase it here.
4) Books That Teach Mindful, Peaceful Parenting:
- Calm Parents, Happy Kids – Dr. Laura Markham
- Peaceful Parents, Happy Siblings: How To Stop The Fighting And Raise Friends For Life – Dr. Laura Markham
- Hold Onto Your Kids: Why Parents Should Matter More Than Peers – Dr. Gordon Neufeld
The above were my three faves. I also liked:
- No Drama Discipline – Dr. Daniel Siegel and Dr. Tina Payne Bryson
- Simplicity Parenting – Kim John Payne
Below are others I benefitted from:
The Conscious Parent – Dr. Shefali Tsabary
5) Muslim Teachers of Mindful Parenting:
– Sister Kathryn Jones (The Peaceful Parenting Coach)
– Sister Hina Khan-Mukhtar’s parenting articles are wonderful, masha’Allah. Here is one I like about how to get our kids to open up to us. On the same website, if you search for Sister Hina’s name, a list of the articles she’s written show up (and all the ones I saw were on Muslim, mindful parenting). And ooh, this article entitled ‘Raising Children With Deen and Dunya‘ is uber useful by Sister Hina, also.
6) Some articles and quick write-ups that I’ve done from a mindful parenting slant:
– Lastly, ever experienced anger as a parent?! Here’s a piece of some healthy ways to process it
I hope some of these tips help, and I wish you great days with your little lovelies, insha’Allah 😃