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3 Mindful Parenting Myths

Mother and daughter hug

I think there is a basic parenting fact we can all agree with (understatement alert): Raising children is hard. Really, really hard.

And raising children in today's world with chronic pressures and distractions makes our job as parents feel nearly impossible. So, let's assume that we all doing our best under extremely challenging (as in Mt. Everest challenging) circumstances. In trying to do better, we consider the mindful parenting movement.

It's absolutely worth exploring, but one should also be aware of some myths behind it.

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Jon Kabat-Zinn, co-author of "Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting" says this about it: "Mindful parenting is about moment-to-moment, openhearted and nonjudgmental attention. It's about seeing our children as they are, not as we want them to be. We let everything that unfolds in life be the curriculum for our parenting—because it is—whether we like it or not."

With varying degrees of success, I have attempted to follow this parenting model since my son was born 16 years ago, and my daughter three years later. While mindful parenting often helps me detach from outcomes and stay grounded in emotional family storms, I still regularly screw up with my kids, yell, apologize, screw up again, repeat. That's called being human.

MYTH 1: When you practice mindful parenting, you are going to be a nice calm mom

Mindful parenting is not a quick fix. ... A bigger commitment requires practice.

My son once (very sarcastically) screamed at me, "Gee, Mom. It looks like all of your meditation and Om crap is really working."

Well said. I can be the queen of "Om Crap" and sometimes am misguided enough to think that a few minutes in lotus position is going to give me what I need to stay Zen all day. It's not, especially when faced with the realities of raising two teenagers . So, when embarking on a mindful parenting practice, don't expect a magical shift from crazed to calm. Mindful parenting is not a quick fix. While a few deep breaths before a tough encounter with a teen will likely helps, a bigger commitment requires practice. True practice becomes a way of life, infusing all you do.

MYTH 2: Mindful parenting is going to help your children succeed

OK, it is, but not necessarily in the way you might think. If you jump on the mindful parenting bandwagon as a way to get your kid's test scores up, you are missing the point. You are already focused on an outcome rather than, as Zinn says, "Seeing our children as they are, not as we want them to be."

When you take the time to be with your kids, let circumstances unfold and not get caught up in judgment and expectation, amazing things can happen in your relationship with your child. They see you are there and feel your unconditional love. They calm down. You calm down. Your lives go better. Emphasis on your.

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MYTH 3: Mindful parenting is not about your children

Mindful parenting begins with you, the parent. Start by keeping your children out of it and just bringing attention to your own experience in the world. Are you chronically plugged in to the point that your family can't find you? Are you anxious and distracted? I live next door to a playground and regularly look out to see parents staring at their phones while absentmindedly pushing their kids on the swings. If that's you, then just start to make a few small changes:

Draw a breath before reaching for your phone and checking it yet again. (After all, you did just check it five minutes ago.) Now put the phone down and go outside and look at the sky instead. Notice the stars glowing against the inky darkness. Find the Big Dipper. Breathe in the eternal beauty around you.

That's called being mindful.

Now take your child's hand and ask her to come stargaze, too. That is the beginning of mindful parenting.

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