A Must Use Tool in Parenting
I’m going to be vulnerable here, and completely honest.
Before I was “Teresa of Parenting for Social Change,”
I was “Teresa, what the hell is going on in my family?!”
Even though I logically understood many of the ins and outs of racism, sexism, heterosexism, and more, I was trapped in a place of domination and control with the children in my life.
I was replicating behaviors I thought I’d never do with children. (aka: yelling, shaming, bribing, and getting infinitely triggered by the smallest behaviors)
Can you relate to this feeling of disconnection from yourself?
Where you feel like you’re on autopilot – but you don’t even like the pilot! You’re being pulled in a million directions, none of them seem to work, and none of them make you happy – they just lead down a rabbit hole of shame, frustration, and guilt.
Often times, I’d fall into patterns of behavior with the children in my life. Even if I wanted to change, even if I was aware of the control I was exerting. If they behaved in a way that made me uncomfortable (not answering when I called their name) and in the past I reacted to the behavior by trying to control them (demand they answer), I found it sooooo challenging to not react as I had in the past.
As I delved more into this, I began to see the ways my individual patterns mirrored broader patterns in society. And, the more parents I worked with, the more I saw that being disconnected, triggered, reacting, and then feeling shame and guilt are challenges we all face.
I share this with you, to tell you that one of the most amazing tools that I have found to support me in those moments and on this journey, is the practice of mindfulness.
The radical in me loves mindfulness because it disrupts the training we’ve received in our culture that leads us to use power and control unconsciously (with ourselves and with others). We perpetuate systems that we internalized from childhood because we remain unaware of how they operate within us and through us. Mindfulness is a game changer because it allows us to create awareness of what we’ve internalized and it shifts us toward greater consciousness of ourselves.
My dear friend, Geeta Cowlagi, teaches Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction. She likes to say that, “Mindfulness is an invitation to live fully and be present to every thing that life offers us with our full attention and care.” When she teaches, Geeta weaves in opportunities to explore the care, kindness, and compassion we show towards ourselves.
What I have learned is that using mindfulness and being in the present moment frees us from patterns of behavior that have developed between ourselves and the children who share our lives. We let go of the past interactions and history we may have with a child and the particular behavior and we are able to respond (not react) in a way that is compassionate and open.
Even though I do not practice meditation regularly, being present and attending to the here and now is a powerful “tool.” I often use my own emotions as a gauge for whether or not I am present and mindful. The more stress, anxiety or frustration I’m experiencing in the moment, the more I know I have moved out of the present and into the past or the future.
As I bring my focus to Martel or Greyson without judgment, without presuming I know what will happen in the future, and without using our past interactions to color the present, the more flexible and caring I am able to be. My goal in being mindful is not to change their “negative” behavior but to be with them in the present so that I am able to feel and see them for who they are in ways that are supportive, loving, and affirming.
It is an ever present journey, in this moment…and this one…and this one…