What Is Mindful Parenting Anyway?

12/06/2017 13:42 BST | Updated 12/06/2017 13:42 BST

I have read the books, been on the (amazing) course, but most importantly I do parenting every day. I was so happy to have my two children and they make me laugh every day, but blimey it's a workout at times. Let's be honest that now and then we feel a little like lying in a dark room after a busy day. Parenting is the most amazing and responsible of roles. Wanting to do it to the best of our abilities is natural, but with balancing all that life has to offer can prove tricky.

What mindful parenting is not: superficial, lack of discipline, looking fabulous at all times, getting it right first time and every time, having children that meditate every day (but that's not a bad thing if it happens).

Susan Bogels, a clinical psychiatrist, teaches mindful parenting to parents of children with behavioural challenges, and she explains that mindful parenting is a move away from schemas. Actually just holding an ideal of wanting to parent well can be a source of stress and discomfort, impacting upon the way a household runs.

When we feel the pressure, that's when our parenting can go a little off. It's OK, but we need to have the skills to put ourselves back on track. This is where mindfulness can help. When we meditate and practice compassion meditation, we enhance areas of the brain that reduce stress responses and activate happy chemicals. This puts us in a good position to parent to begin with. It also opens our awareness to important things associated with our parenting; how we were parented (do we want to parent similarly?), how our emotions impact upon our parenting and our children's moods, also the repeated patterns of unhelpful behaviour that we get stuck in. So, your own practice of mindfulness and meditation is the first step.

Mindful parenting helps us to reduce our automatic responses that are often unhelpful. The power of a pause is huge, it can change the outcome of a difficult situation. When we look at our children through fresh eyes, as though it's our first time meeting them, we realise any biases we may have developed. Looking at ourselves and our children as we would a friend also enhances our compassion towards our own families. When we explore mindful parenting we can also develop a strong awareness of how bodily sensations drive us towards behaviours. Returning to the body and finding a sense of peace in our bodies also reduces those automatic reactions that we can later regret.

When we cultivate a kindness towards ourselves and develop a greater awareness of the factors influencing our parenting we move to a more peaceful place from which we can bring up our children. This won't stop the difficult times completely but it will enable them to be dealt with easier and perhaps last for shorter periods. Mindful parenting courses are suitable for those struggling and also those who just want a greater awareness when parenting. You become able to tune in to yourself and your children more easily.

Perhaps spend five minutes just sitting and watching your child today, with fresh eyes. What do you notice? What thoughts do you have, what sensations are running through your body? How do these things impact on your relationship with your child? Babies and children are also great mindfulness teachers. They are living for the moment and learning and seeing things for the first time regularly. Watch how they explore things and how they approach things for the first time.