As a parenting professional, I often see parents carrying the mental and emotional weight of not doing "enough" for their children and family. And as a parent myself, I too get caught up in the intrusive, self-discriminating, guilty thoughts. I've laid in bed at night analyzing the interactions when my own emotions got the best of me, moments I could've parented better.
I think there's a healthy dose of self-reflection and constructive criticism that is necessary to better ourselves. Reflecting on these "not our best" moments gives us the awareness we need to make changes and improve our behavior for the next time. These changes will take time and require patience with ourselves. And I know that as a parent, patience can be hard to come by when we are constantly exhausting that patience on our kiddos.
That's why I've curated a mindful parenting philosophy to share with you, so that you can give yourself a hug and take a breather while you embrace the journey. My parenting philosophy is as follows:
Every parent is doing the best they can with the knowledge, resources and capacity that they have at the time.
That's relieving, isn't it? This philosophy is created to help us acknowledge the barriers between us and being the absolute best parent we can be. We're stating that our effort and behavior as a parent isn't necessarily about will. I firmly believe that if we could, we would. So let's expand on these barriers that keep us from being a five-star mindful parent.
1. Knowledge forms the foundation of our parenting approach; It includes what we have learned, observed, and assumed to be true throughout our lives. Limited knowledge means limited skills. A lack of knowledge about parenting can limit a parent's ability to full support their child's growth and development.
- It's important to recognize that your parenting knowledge is based on your unique experiences and the information that has been readily available to you; such as inter-generational patterns and experiences, cultural or societal norms and advice from family and friends.
- If you're finding yourself making parenting mistakes like starting solid foods before a child is ready, having consistently unmet expectations and temper tantrums, or not knowing how to entertain your child - you may be experiencing a knowledge barrier.
- If knowledge is a barrier, continuously seek to expand your knowledge through reading, research and talking to professionals. Reading blogs like this is a great step towards exposing yourself to parenting knowledge.
- Parents who have access to parenting resources, books, workshops, and support networks may have more knowledge about child development, effective discipline techniques, and positive parenting strategies.
2. Resources include access to goods, services, support and sustainability. Think of resources as time, money, education, childcare, healthcare, and housing.
- Access to resources is dependent on a variety of factors such as socioeconomic status, geographic location, social networks and support, economic conditions, government programs and policies, and general availability of resources such as child and healthcare.
- Having limited resources can restrict access to nutritious food, quality healthcare, safe and stable housing, educational opportunities, work/life balance and the meeting of basic needs.
- If resources are a barrier, it's important to identify which resource(s) so that you can attempt to find solutions. For example, you could apply for government support such as SNAP benefits, medicaid, or employment related child care. Find local support networks online, or within the community. Ask for help, they don't say "it takes a village" for nothing!
3. Capacity refers to our ability to process and respond to stimulation; emotionally, physically, mentally, intellectually, and socially.
- Each parent's capacity is unique and can vary depending on various factors, such as stress, trauma, emotional regulation skills, temperament, illnesses or disabilities.
- If you're finding yourself frequently lashing out at your child, having difficulties in your relationships with others or yourself, or experiencing burn-out symptoms, you may be riding your capacity limit.
- When you're feeling overwhelmed, hyper-sensitive, exhausted, or just straight up stressed, it's important to take space, check in with yourself and prioritize self-care.
- Practice mindfulness each day by listening to your body and identifying where your capacity lies. The more you recognize and respect your own capacity as a parent, the more manageable it becomes.
Parenting is a journey of trial, growth and adaptation. As we acquire new knowledge, stable resources, and respond to our capacity, our parenting approach evolves. So next time you're feeling the overwhelming weight that you aren't doing enough, just remember, you are doing the best you can.