Let me start by saying that I lied- there is no such thing as mindfulness perfection. I prefer to think of it as the principal at my school says, “Practice makes permanent.” If we do something over and over again it becomes habit for us. Once established habits are hard to break. And we can use that to our advantage!
The 3 P’s
The benefits of mindfulness may be many. Look at any magazine, television special, youtube channel and, yes, scientific studies and you will see the possible outcomes that you may reap from practicing mindfulness. However, those benefits will only come if you practice. That is where the problem often arises for many of us- there are only so many hours in the day. As a parent, a public school teacher, a person who is involved in way too many activities I am even more aware of the limited amount allotted to me each day. But what I have come to understand is, if I take a little time each day to practice mindfulness my experience with all of the other activities will be so much more positive, effective, and meaningful. That is where the 3 P’s come into play.
Personal Practice for Parents
Parents often ask, “What can I do to help my child with meltdowns, stress, getting to bed, _________________ (fill in the blank with the various struggles)?” One of the biggest and most effective answers, which I was reluctant to hear for a long time, is work on yourself as parent. What I realized is that if I can come to a place of some stability then I can react differently. When I react differently to situations then no matter what happens, if if the pattern has been well-established, then the outcome usually changes.
When I began to change…….
A perfect example is when I had a student with whom I had worked on developing a relationship, finding out more about the student and really taking a genuine interest in his life. However, there were days when this student would come in and I could tell by looking at his eyes that he had disconnected. On these days the student would without fail in get in trouble and end up in the principal’s office at some point throughout the day. The student would try to provoke teachers, would say horrible things and even break items in the class. I was just beginning to practice mindfulness and was struggling to bring it into my daily life. I wracked my brain to find a solution. Then it came to me- I could use the disruptive behavior of the student to help me remember to practice mindfulness in the moment. I decided that when I focused on my breathing I would also smile and tell the student, “Thank you,” simply as a practice of gratitude for helping me.
The student came in one day and I could tell something was off. I did everything I could do to connect with the student to no avail. I was teaching and the student got up talking loudly at me across the room. I asked him to sit down as I was teaching. The student only got louder and started saying very rude things to me. I continued to be polite but could feel the anxiety in the room build. The student started walking across the room and stood right in front of me. I felt trapped. I was able to walk around the student to my desk all the while the student is yelling at me for no reason. I sat behind my desk and realized I was trapped. There was only one way into and out of my desk. The student was blocking the way, which caused great anxiety in me. Then I remember, mindfulness! I began focusing on my breath instead of the situation. Then I smiled. All of the other students were taken aback and said, “Oh man, he is smiling.” I told the student, “Thank you.” He immediately stopped screaming and said, “Why?” I simply said, “Thank you.” The student was so baffled that he stood there for a moment almost dazed and then when he realized I wasn’t going to react, he went and sat down.”
Since this time I have had many similar situations with other students and with my own children.
Taking Time for 3 P’s
The amount of time it takes for me to practice can be range from a few brief moments to several day retreats. What I realized though was that I could actually save time if I practiced mindfulness. Those five, ten, twenty minutes that I take to practice save me time in the long run. By being able to be mindful in my daily life I am better able to deal with situations as they arise. How much time and energy are spent putting out fires especially when I add to them, in procrastinating, in doing other things to divert from looking at my feelings? The amount of time and energy it takes adds up to much more than the time I spend doing a formal (alone) practice of mindfulness.
Tips For Establishing Personal Practice for Parents
- Find support. This can be a Facebook group, a local mindfulness group, friends and family- anyone who can encourage you in developing a practice.
- Talk to your kids about how mindfulness may help you and if you are helped it will support the entire family.
- Integrate mindfulness into your daily life. My family does a “Minute of Mindfulness” before dinner together. It might not seem like a lot but I get at least 7 minutes a week that I wouldn’t get without it. Check out information about InterChange. Brainstorm ways that your family can get involved.
- Look for my upcoming post, “Finding Time to Practice 101”