A couple of weeks ago, I flew to New York to visit my two adult children, Maya and Naomi. It was great! They live two blocks from each other in the wilds of Brooklyn. Both have busy, active lives. Naomi (28 years old) is a student at Columbia University in their Family Nurse Practitioner Program and Maya (30) is a yoga teacher and body therapist (Rolfer). I spent the weekend with them and caught up on their lives. They count each other as best friends and it was very lovely to experience their close, loving relationship with each other.
Spending time with them in their adult lives, I reflected back on their childhood and some of the trials and tribulations their mom and I experienced. We both loved having children! But I also thought about decisions that we made when they were young and how those choices impacted them throughout the trajectory of their lives. During the course of childhood, parents make scores of big and small decisions. It can be overwhelming when you are in the middle of it. We choose one path over another, and we have no idea how our decisions will work out in the long haul!
Parents in our generation are much more thoughtful about child rearing then our parents were. Today, there are books, blogs, DVDs, magazines, and articles about how to raise children. With so much input, it can be confusing for parents too. But no matter how informed we are, we still can’t predict the future. It is a source of worry for Moms and Dads.
In my opinion, it is important to be intentional about the seeds you want to nurture in your child’s life. These seeds, when watered and cultivated, will grow into the plants you hope to see. “Mindful” parenting helps us nurture our awareness of who are children happen to be and how we can help them develop into the adults we would like them to become.
Below are some important points to consider.
Remember that childhood only comprises one-quarter of our lifespan. While the first 20 years of their life are very important, our mission is to help our youngsters establish the foundation for what will be the majority of their life time—adulthood. It is easy to forget this fact when they are 8 years old and are having trouble during recess!
Take the long view. How might the decision I make today set the stage for skills, knowledge, and behavior in adult life?
What is your child’s temperament?-- Personality?-- Strengths and weaknesses? This can be difficult to see. Our intense love for our kids can be blinding. But look closely. Who are they when they come into the world and start to take their first steps? What type of baby were they? How does their innate temperament interact with their family and the world around them? What are their strengths and what areas do they need to strengthen?
How can we help our kids find balance? What aspects of their personhood do we want to nurture? My youngest was very focused on herself and my oldest often thought of others first. We tried to steer our youngest into experiences that would help her build compassion for others. We wanted her sister to see into her own needs and take better care of herself.
Children are influenced by many other people and institutions outside of their nuclear family. Teachers, relatives, schools, and religious organizations can have a big impact on kids. We don’t have control over how these individuals relate to our children. But we do have control over which “pasture” they graze in. Be thoughtful about what kinds of influences you expose your children to. They can have a huge impact.
As they grow, think about how to provide children with experiences that enrich their lives and help them grow in the direction you feel is important for them. Sometimes parents depend too much on “mini lectures” to communicate important messages. Children turn off to these monologues at an early age—regardless of the importance of what you have to say. Better to consider how you can arrange for them to have experiences that teach them important life lessons. This has much greater impact.
What do you think of as “mindful” parenting? What do you think is important?