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The Dance of Mindful Parenting

The fifth aspect of mindful loving, and therefore mindful parenting, is Allowing. By this we mean allowing appropriate privacy and space, of course. But we also mean leaving physical, mental or emotional space to work through feelings, to problem solve or to create. And in all of these endeavors it is the Allowing of appropriate struggle - without unnecessary interference - that makes new growth and creativity possible.

In this last facet of our series, we come full circle. Mindful Parenting begins with Attention, and Allowing is moderated by Attention. What I mean by this is that we don't just practice Allowing by itself, because that is nothing more than neglect. We stay present while Allowing, where appropriate, so that when struggle starts to devolve into frustration, we can step in just enough to support the dynamic struggle without allowing our children to become overwhelmed. Frustration is a state in which no new learning can occur, so it can be harmful in that it can lead to discouragement.

Here's an example: if a small child is trying to put a jacket on by herself it is best to allow her the time to do that. If it becomes clear that she is becoming so frustrated with trying to get her arm into the sleeve that she will soon give up or fall into rage, it's worthwhile to step in just enough to help with one sleeve and then back up a bit again. We don't just take over the whole project the minute she becomes frustrated. Instead, we offer just enough help to allow her to struggle productively again.

Ideally, we want the pace of our families' lives to be such that there is USUALLY time to allow this type of struggle most of the time. (We know that sometimes we just have to get jackets on and get to the car.) But most days we want to build in room for learning and developing self-sufficiency.

As our children get older, the moments of Allowing become more subtle. But here, also, it is helpful to have the attitude of being present, holding space, and then when needed stepping in just enough to provide guardrails. Then, continuing to practice Attention, being ready to step back to Allow again in time.

Our own frustration can be triggered if we tend to prefer one mode or another, or if we feel insecure when it's time to shift from one space to another. But regular mindfulness practice help to give us the ability to see clearly and the kind of flexibility that allows us to dance with our loved ones in this way.

Incidentally, we learn to offer ourselves love in the form of the Five A's as we practice with what occurs in the mind. And in working with our own minds, we receive some of the best parenting practice there is.

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