If you haven’t been raised gently and positively, parenting peacefully can be quite a challenge. Some days, it seems like you’re totally lost and find yourself going in a downward spiral, simply repeating what’s been hardwired by the way you were raised, and not finding your way back. Parenting gently requires commitment and daily practice, in order to rewire your system. If we are able to continue this practice, and get up again after falling, we will eventually be able to overcome and effectively change the hardwiring.
Here are a few tips and tricks to help you on your way:
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- Surround yourself with people who parent in a way you look up to - or if they’re not parents, who are gentle and loving with your kids. When you are surrounded with gentle people, this will reflect on you and your behavior will change. This effect is called mirroring in psychology. Be careful, because it also works the opposite way, so shun people who are harsh and authoritarian. This may sound harsh, but keeping aggressive people away from your children is in their - and your - best interest. If you want to remain in contact with people who think differently about the subject, see them when the children are not around, so you don’t invite conflict and frustration.
- Make a playlist of soothing music. Put it on whenever you feel overwhelmed, or whenever you and your children can need some soothing. Add music you like and make sure the playlist is readily available. This is a very simple tip, but it is very effective. Music reaches parts of our brain reasoning doesn’t go (or at least not as fast).
- Breathe deeply. Breathing fuels your blood with oxygen, thus also your brain and you’ll effectively feel better in a mere instant. It’s a good idea to teach your children from a young age to breathe through their overwhelming emotions.
- Envision yourself parenting in the way you would like to parent every night, before you go to sleep. this takes just a minute, but envisioning it every day will make it so. Your mind is very powerful and you are in charge of your actions, however hard it may seem some days on the spot.
- React differently. When you notice a knee jerk reaction in a certain situation, mark it in your brain and force yourself to a different reaction the next time. It’s a simple as getting up and giving a hug instead of screaming. Do it once, and repeat it the next time... with this behavior modification, you will end up rewriting standard actions.
- Don't make big statements or promises, take it one day at a time. If you fall off the wagon, commit to doing better next time, not forever. Making grand statements will only result in guilt when you fail.
- Evaluate. If you feel like your day hasn't gone by as gently as you wish, you may have been bouncing off your children, you may have yelled, you might have handled a situation in a way that wasn't as loving as you intended... Go over your day and figure out what went wrong, envision how you could have handled it differently, and figure out the triggers. Were you nourished? Did you have enough sleep? Was your child irritable? Did you show patience?What could you have done differently to have things roll out in a more peaceful way?
- Stay clear of negative influences. Just as great parenting rubs off, negative feelings rub off too. Have a friend or family member who's not gentle or kind towards you or your children? Stay away from them. Their negative emotions will spoil your day.
- Spend time together doing things you both like. If you find an activity you can both get into, you will be connected on a deeper level. If you can both reach a state of flow, a state of complete presence, your relationship with your child will deepen.
- Make a point of spending time in nature every day. This can be as simple as taking a stroll through your garden, or walking through the park instead of along the street. Connecting too the earth will naturally make you feel stillness and peacefulness.
- Meditate. Meditation is a great way into mindfulness. And it shouldn't be hard. Just sitting in stillness every day for three minutes is enough. Just make sure it is a daily practice, instead of a sporadic event. If you have never meditated, just sit in a relaxed way and smile. You can have your eyes closed or open. Smile with your whole being.
- Daily affirmations are a good way into rewiring your brain. Pick a time of day when you can say them, repeat every day. Pick a couple of simple active phrases. You can even print them out and hang them on the spot where you are saying them.
- Eat well! A balanced diet is the key to good health, physical and mental. If you are well nourished, tackling challenges will be much easier. Try to eat foods as close to nature as possible, avoid or limit grains and dairy and steer clear of processed foods.
- Nurture yourself. Often, we get so caught up in nurturing others that we don't make time for ourselves, but just as an empty motor won't run, we have to fuel ourselves to be able to take care of others.
- Cuddle. Physical closeness releases endorphins and fosters connection.
- Schedule daily physical activity. Mild sports are a perfect way to release tension. Don't aim for rock climbing if your body isn't used to it. A vigorous daily walk is an easy, affordable way to meet your daily activity needs.
- Make sure needs are met for the whole family: have you all slept well? Have you had a good meal? Have you engaged in some sort of activity? Are you connected?