By Lisa Swinburn
My journey as a parent has required an openness to new ideas, personal reflection from my own childhood and learning from other wise teachers. Mindful parenting is an approach that focuses on developing a strong, nurturing and respectful relationship between parents and children. It emphasises being present, understanding your child’s needs and fostering their emotional and psychological well-being. It considers not only cognitive development but also emotional, social and spiritual growth. It most of all values the development of a well-rounded individual.
Having brought up my own adult children with mindful parenting (no rewards or punishment) and a more conscious journey towards growing myself, I’ve collected a few key principles along the way that I’m hoping might help you and your family.
1. Trust children – and trust them to care about you
Trust is the foundation of a mutually respectful relationship. If we don’t trust our children, then how can our children learn to trust themselves? Children are wired for relationship and connection (they could not survive babyhood otherwise). Many of us are conditioned to think that children don’t care about anyone other than themselves – yet we’ve all seen children comfort another child with concern; babies cry when they hear other babies cry. Children care about us and they care about others.
2. ‘Children don’t misbehave. They behave simply to meet a need.’ (Thomas Gordan)
Problems (conflicts) happen when children are trying to meet their needs – and they interfere with us meeting our own needs. For example – I need my children to help tidy up the living area so I can relax after work; they need to play and create.
When I discovered this principle (we all have needs), I stopped blaming and began listening. What was the need behind their behaviour? Often it was a basic need – play, hunger, thirst, attention or illness. Once we worked out the problem (through listening), there was often a solution.
3. Take children seriously and attune to their problems
A child’s problems are just as important to them as our problems are to us. When we listen to what’s concerning or bothering them, we respect their world. And likewise, when we are unhappy or have a concern, they are more likely to respect our world. Be fully present when interacting with your child. Put away distractions like phones and laptops and give your child your undivided attention. Listen actively and engage in conversations that show you value their thoughts and feelings.
4. Believe in children’s capability
When we take over, control our child or constantly tell them what to do and correct their efforts, we are not letting them learn skills for themselves. We are, indirectly, saying to our children that we don’t think they are competent. If we teach them, encourage them to problem solve, to come up with solutions, to be independent, we are showing we believe in them – so they can believe in themselves. This approach emphasises fostering intrinsic motivation and values-driven behaviour, rather than relying solely on external rewards or punishments.