I am a real parent, just like you, trying hard to raise the best kids I can and to become the best version of myself in the process – what I call Conscious Parenting. Constantly wishing for parenting do-overs got old really fast, and I knew things in the way I parented had to change.
Every parent has spent sleepless nights guilt-ridden after yelling at their kids, and it often feels like raising kids is easier for everyone else. I don’t believe that’s true; I think that some people are simply more honest about the struggle. Once I began refining my parenting style, coining the phrase, “Hot Mess to Mindful Mom,” and seeing success in leaps and bounds, I began sharing what worked with others.
Top Conscious Parenting Tips
If you are wanting to solidify a close relationship with your kids, stay ahead of consequences so you don’t feel like you are yelling and punishing your kids all the time, and actually enjoy raising your kids, then these tips and tools can change your parenting and, by default, your life.
I have found that strong boundaries, clear expectations, and a ton of love create an environment in my home that allows me to thrive as a parent, and for my kids to feel how much I care about them and their wellbeing. I have personally utilized every tactic that I share, and I teach them to all my clients with amazing results. In fact, many of them share that the entire environment in their home has changed. Let’ s jump in!
Have a Trigger Plan
There is one thing I know for sure…life as a parent is never going to slow down or stop bombarding us with stressful situations, but that doesn’t mean we have to throw our hands up in the air and give in to stress. Even though we can’t always control what comes our way, we surely can control how we react to it. We always have a choice. Even when things don’t go our way we get stuck behind a train and are now running late to soccer practice, or the kids tell us they hate what we made for dinner, we can respond to life in a way that makes us feel calm and balanced.
I have found that because of my spiritual practice, I react to stress in a very different way than I used to. It’s not that I don’t ever feel triggered, but when I do I can diffuse those feelings much faster than before. I used to stew, ruminate and freak out, and now I find myself pausing, breathing and responding instead of reacting. When I feel stressed there are certain things I can do which always make me feel better.
I call these tools my Trigger Plan. Some of the things that work for me without fail are:
- A One Minute Meditation (there are 35 suggestions in my new book “One Minute to Zen”)
- Taking a walk outside
- Spending a few minutes with my dogs
- Taking a break and making a mug of tea
- Saying a prayer
These activities bring me to pack to center quickly and help me to feel grounded. I encourage you to create a trigger plan for yourself. Test out a few ideas and find what really works for you at the moment. When we are totally stressed out, it can be hard to think straight, that’s why having a firm plan in place is very helpful.
Ditch Perfectionism & Comparison
There are three types of business in the world. My business, your business, and God’s business. Simply put, comparison happens when we veer out of our business.
We all do things differently. Our success as parents isn’t tied to how many nights a week we order dinner, or it our kids watch television during the week. There is no right or wrong, only what works for your family. When I think about my success as a parent, I am more apt to consider my kids’ manners and their resilience, and if they are truly nice boys.
As parents, we all make different choices, and someone else’s choices seem wrong if we are in their business. Once I let go of comparison and judgment, of others and myself, I began to feel more of a sense of camaraderie with other moms, and less competition. Once I relaxed, my intuition kicked in, and I felt more confident in my own choices and decisions. I began to see what can happen when parents come together to support each other.
Get Your Kid’s Attention
When your kids’ talk, are you:
- Making eye contact with them?
- Maintaining presence?
- Letting them finish their sentences without being interrupted?
- Making sure they feel heard?
Modeling good listening skills for our kids shows them the way we want them to listen to us. Here are a few things that have really worked for my own family and many of my clients when it comes to getting our kids to listen. I call them my Ninja Mom Tricks.
Make eye contact when you ask your kids to do something: Yelling at your kids from the kitchen that it is time to get shoes on while their eyes are glued to the television is simply not going to end well. Taking the extra step to get in front of your kids and look them in the eye when you are speaking to them will pay off and cut down on frustration on both ends.
Have them repeat back the request: This has really been a game changer, and it takes away the excuse they try to use all the time: “I didn’t hear you”. When I make eye contact and ask my kids to do something I have them immediately repeat it back to me. If I say, “We are leaving in two minutes. Please get on your shoes,” they repeat back, “we are leaving in two minutes and we have to get on our shoes.” It may sound excessive, but it works like magic. I am crystal clear, and they know what my expectations of them are.
Whisper: Yelling doesn’t get my kids to do what I want, and it makes me feel like a terrible mom. Instead, I whisper when I really need my kids’ attention. For some reason when I speak really quietly, they hang on my every word. It also helps me to stay calm and not feel frustrated.
Take a timeout: When I feel myself begin to lose control and become really triggered around my kids, I often decide it is best for me to take a break from the situation so that I can use a tool from my Trigger Plan, and collect myself. I may also need to gather my thoughts and determine the best way to respond to my kids instead of reacting in a way that I may regret later, or throwing out a consequence without thinking that makes no sense. When I say, “Mom needs a time out” and walk into the other room, my kids know when I get back I mean business. This always gets their full attention.
Practice Morning Mindfulness
You know those mornings where the kids are fighting in the car on the way to school, someone gets out crying, and everyone feels terrible? Those are the worst! I do everything in my power to send my kids off for the day feeling centered and ready to tackle the world.
One of my favorite tips for doing this is a practice I call Morning Mindfulness. In the car on the way to school we all do the following:
- Take 3-5 long, deep breaths
- Think of 3 things we are grateful for
- Share why today is going to be awesome!
Creating a positive mindset in the morning can help kids deal with social anxiety or nerves before a big test or game. This can also be done at the breakfast table, the bus stop, or when you wake your kids up in the morning with a snuggle. This helps me feel confident that they have a calm nervous system, and a full heart, and it’s a beautiful moment to share.
Create Family Rituals
My favorite family ritual growing up was Candy Night. We weren’t allowed to eat any junk during the week, but on Saturdays, my parents took us to the drugstore and we were allowed to pick out a candy bar. I lived for Saturday afternoons!
Rituals help kids to feel supported and adds stability to their lives. By taking the time to create and nurture rituals, we have the opportunity to bring a deeper meaning to them. A client shared with me recently that rituals were completely missing from her life growing up, and had she had them as part of her childhood, she would have felt more secure and confident growing up.
Rituals don’t have to be expensive or grandiose gestures. It’s the repetition of them, and the idea behind them that make them special. Every year on our boys’ birthdays we decorate their rooms. My husband and I stay up late making signs and blowing up balloons. The kids love it no matter how old they get! Each Friday after school I take my kids for Friday Treats. We get ice cream and recap the week, always sharing laughs.
What feels good to do as a family to you? Here are some suggestions to get you started:
- Family game nights
- Dessert for breakfast on birthdays
- Sunday movie night
- Volunteering together
- Family workouts
- Parent/child book club
- Having a shared journal and writing back and forth
- Indoor picnics
Don’t stress about picking the perfect one. Just get started with something that feels fun. Your kids can help you brainstorm too. It would be fun to get their input.
Mindful parenting to me is about being in the moment with your kids, and not feeling like you are just “getting through.” The calmer and more present you are, the easier it is to achieve. I hope these tools help you as much as they have helped me through the years.