Seven Mindful Ways To Be A Less Angry Parent
It’s always a pleasure to find like-minded people to share these pages with. Jennifer Mazzoni is a respected writer, meditation coach, and authority in mindfulness techniques. When she accepted my invitation to share her knowledge and wisdom with my readers, I was thrilled and I know you will be too. In this guest post, Jennifer discusses seven ways in which mindfulness can help you become a less angry parent. So without any further ado here’s Jennifer!
Seven Mindful Ways To Be A Less Angry Parent
Parents yell at their children…sometimes on a daily basis. Parents may yell for good reason, such as when your children are being unsafe, but most parents yell for various reasons: we react out of instinct or we feel overwhelmed and stressed. We may feel awful after we’ve yelled, not wanting to be that angry parent we never thought we’d become.
Practicing mindfulness does not make us perfect parents. Mindfulness is about “paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment non-judgmentally.” (Jon Kabat-Zinn, source)
Mindfulness is not a cure-all for the stress and wide range of emotions that we experience as parents. But there are many opportunities for us to practice mindfulness each day to help us find joy and contentment in everyday life.
1. Pause, Breathe, and Respond
Temper tantrums. The phrase alone can cause tension and stress in parents. When your child is having a temper tantrum or misbehaving in general, the parental instinct is to react by shouting and doing your best to get your child to stop. However, reacting is not always the best option, because we are allowing emotions and our fight or flight instinct (which increases our stress levels) to guide us rather than the logical part of our brain, the prefrontal cortex. (source)
When we pause and take a breath while our child is throwing a tantrum or misbehaving terribly (as challenging as this may seem), we can become mindful of the situation and form a response instead of relying on a gut reaction.
Our responses do not have to be perfect every time, all parents make mistakes, but pausing and taking a breath before responding to a stressful situation with our children is better for everyone involved. Being mindful reduces the parent’s stress level: deep breathing works wonders for activating the prefrontal cortex, reducing cortisol, and activating the parasympathetic nervous system- the one that calms down the flight or flight reaction. (source) Our children will appreciate not being yelled at or scolded constantly on a daily basis, as well.
2. Clean mindfully
Washing dishes, doing laundry, dusting, and other household chores can become daunting for parents trying to juggle work, caring for children, hobbies, etc. When we feel overwhelmed it can cause stress, which can lead to becoming easily irritated and snapping at our children. It’s all about mindset when it comes to cleaning. When we call something a chore it may be perceived as a drudgery, something we must do that we won’t enjoy.
Mindfulness helps us become more aware of our sensory experiences as we complete a household task, such as washing dishes. First, we can use several of our senses: feeling the warmth of the water, watching the soap bubbles pop and expand, smelling the dish soap as it mixes with the warm water, and admiring the shine and sparkle of a clean dish.
We can also take mindful cleaning a step further by thinking about the purpose of washing the dishes, laundry, dusting. We are providing a clean and healthy environment for our families when we complete these household tasks. And perhaps we will not be thanked by anyone for this, it can be helpful to express self-gratitude and acknowledge our actions to care for others.
3. Enjoy a Mindful Meal or Snack
When is the last time you tasted what you were eating? Meals can become another part of the day that we try to “get through” as we rush through our routine. If we want to practice mindfulness, we can use mealtime as an opportunity to observe and be aware of what we are eating (but not necessarily from a health or dieting perspective).
Choose the meal or snack of your choice, and take time to create a beautiful display on your plate with your food. You don’t have to be all Gordon Ramsay about it but have fun “plating” your meal or snack. As you arrange the items, notice the texture of the food with your fingers, and take a moment to smell what you will be eating. Smelling our food helps enhance the taste.
Finally, chew slowly. Take your time eating, and actually taste your food. Observe the textures of the food in your mouth, noting any crunchiness or smoothness.
If you want to take this a step further, try a mindful snack with your children. They’ll enjoy the opportunity to “play” with their food by creating a design on their plate.
4. Practice Gratitude
Another way to be a less angry parent is to adopt an attitude of gratitude. Instead of focusing on what we want or what we don’t have, we shift our attention to all we do have.
One way to practice gratitude is to keep a journal. At the end of each day, perhaps before you brush your teeth, write down one or two things for which you are thankful. Some days it may be a challenge to think of one, and other days it may be hard to narrow it down. But the point of the exercise is we always have something to be thankful for, which can help us experience greater happiness and contentment.
Despite the many benefits of meditation and its positive impact on the brain, it can be challenging for parents to find time to actually sit down and meditate. My rule of thumb for taking time to meditate is if you have twenty minutes to scroll through social media (or whatever you enjoy doing on your phone), you can carve out five of those minutes to sit and focus on your breath.
Meditation can be practiced first thing in the morning (before the children are awake), during part of your lunch break at work (if you have privacy and enough time to do so), or in the evening after the children have gone to bed.
Taking a few minutes out of your day to focus on the feeling of your breath as you inhale and exhale can be a refreshing way to start your day or a reset button for the middle of a stressful (or ordinary) day. Meditation with eyes closed can also provide a sensory break from the visual stimuli we are bombarded with in our daily lives.
6. Social Media Detox
Social media is fun and engaging, and it’s a wonderful way to make new friends and interact with people from all over the world. But, sometimes there can be too much of a good thing, and there are parts of social media that are pretty toxic (for example, the comments section of most news articles – even ones that are about a positive topic).
Social media may connect us to a virtual world but it often disconnects us from the people who are directly in front of us. It’s not easy to disconnect from social media. It can be quite enjoyable to have people comment on and like what we post, but it can take away from quality time with our children.
As a family, you can work together to set some social media/phone use guidelines, such as:
Agreed upon “phone away” times, such as during meals, family time, and/or an hour before bed
Using a basket with your family’s name on it or decorated in some way to collect all phones (parents too)
Less social media/phone time can lead to more quality time with family and friends. Children require attention, not just for behavioural reasons but also for their social-emotional growth. Thich Nhat Hanh has said that “the most precious gift we can offer anyone is our attention. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers.” (source)
7. Finally, Don’t Forget to Have Fun
There are so many daily activities that can go from ordinary to extraordinary when we do them mindfully.
A nature walk can become a scavenger hunt using many of the senses. You can turn on music for your children and have an impromptu dance party. Join in when your children are colouring. There are so many ways we can pause, be aware, and enjoy the present moment.
About the Guest Blogger:
Jennifer Mazzoni, Founder of HelpMamaMeditate.com
Jennifer created her blog Help Mama Meditate to help others find balance and harmony in their lives, as she herself learns how to practice mindfulness as a mom of two young daughters.
She is currently enrolled in the Unified Mindfulness Foundations program to enhance her mindfulness and meditation coaching skills.
Feedspot.com recently named Help Mama Meditate a top 40 meditation blog.
Jennifer was also interviewed on the Moms Who Know podcast regarding motherhood and meditation.
A rehab speech pathologist by background, Jennifer began meditating during the stressful times of graduate school ten years ago. Jennifer lives in Chicago with her husband, two daughters, and King Charles Cavalier Spaniel.
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