“When our mind is neither in the past or the future and we are completely present, our experience changes in a significant way. Suddenly life seems more spacious, and more peaceful.” – Jan Marie Dorr

We’re on the home stretch of our Spring-Cleaning for Your Psyche series, in which we’ve focused on taming our inner critics and becoming more mindful. Why does this matter to our children? We all know that the negative voice in our heads makes us worse parents. Learning how to manage our minds and moods helps us respond in a way that calms, rather than escalates, any situation with our child.

True, our kid may still behave badly. But now we have a choice about how to react. Your Child’s Action + Your Reaction = the Outcome, which is the kind of child you’re raising.

The good news is that we can all learn ways to tame our inner critics and make our minds easier to live with. We’ve been talking about those strategies for the past few weeks.

The even better news is that there are ways to give our minds mini-vacations. Even a small amount of time with a quiet mind replenishes us, like water when we suddenly realize we’re parched. Our intuitive natures take over, allowing us to make wiser, more compassionate decisions. Scientists say that even a small daily break from our conscious minds can create physiological changes, enhancing our functioning and happiness all day long.

Today’s strategy is Bypass your Inner Critic by Diving Deeper. 

Most of us find it tedious to make yet another snack, change yet another diaper, be patient one more time. Sometimes it feels like parenting traps us in a cycle of wearying repetitive tasks. Our mind starts gnawing away at us.

But there’s a secret to transforming tedium into joy: Dive deeper. Be fully present.

If we’re only half there, it often feels tedious to meet our child’s needs. If we’re thinking about everything we need to get done, worrying about whether our child is on the right track, or cataloging our own failings, then the caretaking tasks of parenting will always feel tedious.

What’s more, our kids will always be demanding more, more, more – because what they’re experiencing is that we aren’t all there.

And by staying in our minds, we leave the door open for our inner critic to make a mess of things by finding fault with everything we do, and everything our child does.

But being with kids doesn’t have to be boring. When we bring ourselves into each present moment of experience, we find it brimming with life. The creative possibilities are endless. It’s our resistance that’s the burden, not our kids. @DrLauraMarkham (Click to Tweet!)

Try an experiment. Turn off your cell phone. Show up 100% when you’re with your child. See how much more joy and delight you find in nurturing and guiding. See how much easier everything is. And notice that it’s a gift to yourself as well.

Want some specific ideas?

  1. Find someplace you can watch the sunset with your kids. Really appreciate “the show” as the sky streaks red and the sun sinks below the horizon.  It will leave your inner critic speechless.
  2. Now, bring some of that sunset-inspired awe into your next interaction with your child. Whether she’s five months or five years, she’s a miracle. Watch the way she communicates. Moves. Learns. Seeks your love. Really taking in the miracle of your child will fill you with love, and put all those things you worry about into perspective.
  3. Hold your child on your lap. Just show up. Bring your full presence into your touch. Soak him in through your body. Watch how much more fully you embrace him when you dive deeper into the moment. Feel how he sinks into you, how his nervous energy drains away into stillness.
  4. Throw yourself into the “zone.” As you give your child a bath, read him a book, or help him clean up his toys, forget about everything except this one moment.  Watch how your child feels the juice of your full presence and responds with happiness and cooperation.
  5. If your inner critic shows up while you’re enjoying your kids, bypass it by diving deeper. Resist the lure of the to-do list; it will be there after the kids are in bed. Remind yourself that you’re engaged in the greatest possible creative act — Helping your child blossom. Your presence is the sunshine she needs to flower. Just show up.

“Instead of focusing on how much you can accomplish, focus on how much you can absolutely love what you’re doing. Be there completely. While doing this, you’ll find that you naturally enjoy those seemingly tedious tasks much more (like washing the dishes). It’s amazing how much non-resistance and presence changes everything.” —  Zen Habits

Dr. Laura Markham, founder of AhaParenting.com and author of The Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids Workbook, Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How To Stop Yelling and Start Connecting and Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings: How to Stop the Fighting and Raise Friends for Life.


Image courtesy of Benjamin Manley.