Wholeness Healing Today


Parenting with Consistency through Mindfulness

Parenting comes with lots of responsibility.  Meeting the needs of our children can be a full time job from morning to night.  Whether it’s a bedtime routine, help with homework, or getting them up and out the door each morning, our children may meet us parents with resistance in one area or another.   Parents often rely on various strategies to develop a child’s compliance with these routines and are important models for the child in navigating through the day.  When a child struggles with a disorder such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), or is faced with some issues of depression or anxiety, it can be increasingly challenging to for both the parent and child to manage activities and behaviors of daily living

Dialectical behavior therapy skills have proven to be effective for many people. These skills are often considered to be essential life skills to aid in managing emotions, relationships, crisis and daily mindfulness practice.  For parents, these skills can be very valuable when guiding a child’s behavior.  Let’s talk, today about using mindfulness as a fundamental way to manage your child’s behaviors and your own behaviors as you work towards consistency and discipline.

A dialectic is about balancing opposites.  What we do influences our environment and other people in it.  As a parent offering discipline, it is important to focus on your child AND focus on yourself.   You can understand why your child is feeling or behaving in a certain way AND disagree with his or her behavior and ask that it be changed.

Thus the first step is to be mindful of the behavior you are attempting to change and the desired outcome.  For instance, let’s say you are having issues with your child talking back.  You may be seeking for the child to respond to you respectfully when asked to do something.  It’s important to be clear of both the problem behavior and the desired outcome and have a clear idea about what this should look like.  Keep it simple when you are attempting new ways of doing things.  Pick a target area, such as “talking respectfully”.  Remain mindful of this target area as you watch mindfully (observing) the patterns and behaviors.  When this target area comes up as an issue, you respond with neutral consistency and discipline.

Mindfulness is about awareness of the current moment and doing one thing at a time.  Regular practice of mindfulness can assist in creating more flexibility in the brain and more attentional control.

Neuroplasticity can be helpful to understand the benefits of consistency required for change.  Considering trying to write you name with your nondominant hand.  Most likely, the first try is going to feel rather awkward and will not appear as it would when writing with the much more seasoned, dominant hand.  What’s happening in our brain during this activity relates to what neuroplasticity is all about. Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to change itself.  Neurons that fire together wire together and dendrites increase in size and efficiency when something is repeated over and over.  New activities involve strengthening neural pathways in your brain.  Your brain is accustomed to using your dominant hand and can write this same sentence rather automatically, without much concentration or thought.  When you try it with your nondominant hand, your brain requires more awareness and practice of the task before it begins to feel easier or potentially with extensive practice, more automatic.  Neural pathways can get stronger and stronger with repetition.

Discipline for children involves teaching and shaping behavior.  It requires both an increase in attention to a certain behavior and the flexibility to make change to the behavior.  It requires practicing it over and over again.

Being mindful is necessary as you zero in on the target area as well as aiding you in choosing battles wisely.  It’s important to know which issues are going to provide the best opportunity to enforce consequences effectively and be consistent with the effective approach to discipline.  For instance, I am not always going to engage in addressing my son’s back talk.  When I recognize that he is tired and illogical, I often decide its best to keep my cool and get through the moment.  I may need to use another skill and take a brief vacation in my mind, say, “I can do this”, pray, etc.  But first I have to be mindful that the skill is needed, that I am not going to address the behavior at this moment.  Being mindful means that I am aware and then as a parent, I make the choice on what discipline or consequences I want to set up in the moment.

After you have the targeted area mastered, take on the next one. Consistency and discipline are about providing kids safety.  Limits and boundaries are required in order for kids to feel safe.  You will likely see greater change in a child’s behavior when they are mindful and aware of who is in charge and what to expect from their parents or caregivers. Failure to define the limits properly may result in confusion of how to discipline and is likely to make it difficult to provide the necessary consistency.

In future articles, I will address how to build your parenting skills using the parenting skills of interpersonal effectiveness, managing emotions, and crisis moments.  These all build on using mindfulness to observe your behaviors and your children’s behaviors as you implement discipline.  So start with this first step and begin to build your skills from here.  Change your neuroplasticity in your brain as you begin developing new pathways in your brain.  And be loving and nonjudgmental to yourself as parents as you take on doing the best you can do for your children.

Burdick, D. E. 2014. Mindfulness Skills for Kids and Teens. www.TheBrainLady.com

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker
    Licensed Independent Mental Health Practitioner

  • Jody Johnson, LICSW, LIMHP, began working at Wholeness Healing Center as a therapist in 2007. Jody graduated from the University of Nebraska at Omaha with her Masters in Social Work.  She received her bachelor degree in Social Work from the University of Nebraska at Kearney.

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