Becoming a Mindful Parent {Book Review}


A few months ago I was approached to review a newly released book called Mindful ParentingSimple and powerful solutions for raising creative, engaged, happy kids in today’s hectic world by Kristen Race, Ph.D. It peaked my interest, but I was too busy. It was November, soon to be December and we were on a roll, and we couldn't stop that roll for one minute. So this little book sat in my email inbox for almost two months. Can I just say right now that procrastination will one day be the death of me. However it might not since I would procrastinate the death of me as well.

This book, on Mindful Parenting is exactly what I have been needing for the past few months. The bottom line of Mindful Parenting :
A mindful approach to parenting that helps children (and their parents) feel happier, healthier, calmer and less stressed in our frenetic era.

As I started reading I started recognizing myself and my daughter. We as a generation of parents are raising our littles among limitless stress. There is always someone to call, someone to text, a screen to watch, and always somewhere to go. Everyday of the week is full speed ahead, with activities after school, after dinner and hours of homework before bed. And while we as parents think we bear the brunt of the burden, the truth is, our littles are baring some of it too.

I'll be honest, I was really scared to read this book. I was sure I would find some things out about myself that I didn't like. I was sure it was going to tell me to turn off TV and throw out my iPhone. And while there are ideas of scaling back the technology, this book outlines realistic ways to trim the stress in the lives of your children, which in turn will trim the stress in your life too.

This book is also filled with research and actual science of the brain. For example Race talks about five and six year olds and their cognitive capacity. Which is another way of saying that my six year old has neither the cognitive capacity or cognitive ability to keep up with the fast paced life we lead. I know what you are thinking, of course she has the cognitive ability and capacity, and for a six year old ten or 15 years ago you would be right. But now, in the present we put so much expectation on our kindergartners and first graders that they are under enormous pressure. They are in school longer now than ever before, they are also required to do more busy work and learning than ever before. Is it any wonder that they are exhausted and bratty come five o'clock every day? Then add on the after school activities, the busy Saturday afternoons, and the absence of free play. I've come to the conclusion that I expect way to much out of my six year old that I forget that she is six. Like I've said before, all I had to do when I was six was play and color. I don't remember ever having a spelling test until I was in second grade.

One of my favorite parts of the book was where Race talks about how we as parents complicate the already stressful lives of our children by expecting them to grow up faster, while protecting them from developmentally appropriate mistakes. Have you ever rushed home for a forgotten lunch box? How about a back pack? Ever dropped off forgotten homework? Emailed a teacher in the middle of the night about a project that would not make it to class the next day? I'm guilty of all of these. But what is this teaching my child? According to Race: "this hovering and rescuing, known as helicopter parenting, has our kids thinking that making a mistake is to be avoided at all costs. We are raising perfectionists...".

BOOM.

Guilty, party of one. I've said more than once that my expectations of my daughter are way too high. I've never thought of it this way though, by avoiding mistakes and missteps at all costs, I'm teaching my daughter that perfect is the only way to be. How terrible! But I've always felt that the forgotten back packs and the forgotten homework would be a reflection of me too, and I didn't want to be imperfect either. Also not the best example to set.

There are many ideas and ideals in this book that I really like. I think there is a need for more free play and imaginative play in the lives of my girls. I think there is a reliance on technology. I agree that there should be some unplugged time during the day. Will I turn my TV off forever? No. Will I give up my iPhone entirely? No. Will I try to implement some of the ideas on how to ease the stress in our lives? Absolutely.

Here are the Mindful Solutions outlined in Mindful Parenting, and notes on what I took away from it.

Mindfulness SOLUTIONS to Reduce Kids’ Stress
Taken from the Mindful Parenting Press Release

Hang Up & Hang Out
A challenge to parents to curtail their cell phone use in t
he presence of their kids for one week
**My takeaways: Schedule unplugged time. Don't pick up your kids from school while you are talking or texting or Instagramming. Engage them after they have been in school all day. Put the phone away after dinner and during bedtime. This also can include any screens you have in your life, TV included. Now we aren't going to quit cold turkey, but scheduling unplugged time would benefit everyone in the family.


R.E.S.T.
A powerful framework that is extremely effective for kids and can transform bedtime into a lovely transition from a busy day
Routine, Empowerment, Snuggle Time, Teaching Children to Relax
**My takeaways: We could really use a new and improved night time routine. Actually we could use any nighttime routine. As every parenting book has instructed me routines are very important in the lives of little ones, and as much as it pains me to admit, I think Caitlin could definitely benefit from one. Also I think a good solid morning routine would be beneficial too. This is a new goal for us all the way around. According to Race, routine establishes comfort, which can east the slightest anxiety.


Cultivate GOOD Stress
Age-appropriate suggestions for positive stress activities that build resilience such as camping, cooking together, volunteering, and more
**My takeaways: Is there such a thing as good stress? Perhaps. But doing things that don't include an iAnything could be a good thing in this day where everything revolves around a screen. So says the mom typing away while my kids are in the bath. Good stress can be a day at the park or a farmers market. Good stress can be reading together or doing some craft projects. Good stress can be cultivated by just being together, and really being present in those moments.

Mindful Family Activities Guide
Ideas, with age specific suggestions, that foster family 
mindfulness, space, awareness & peace
Breathing exercises, games & activities, conversation starters
** My takeaways: I'd be a liar if I said we were good about mindful activities in this house. When I read this I read more time outside, more time relaxing, and less time over scheduled.

Schedule Worksheet: Are You in the Red?
Create a weekly schedule diagram for everyone in the family.
Shade stimulating activities in red and calming activities in blue.
Do you see mostly red? If so, there’s a problem.
**My takeaways: what a great way to find out how many calming activities you have in your life. I could do one for each member of my family and the results wouldn't shock you. We have lots of red in our lives. Race gives age appropriate ideas on how to increase the blue.


Is Over parenting Hurting Kids’ Brains?
The importance of free play and simply hanging out versus adult-planned activities
A reminder of “games you forgot about”:
Capture the Flag, Duck, Duck Goose, Ghost in the Graveyard, 
Red Rover, Telephone and more
**My takeaways: Free Play. We don't ever do enough free play. This reminded me that I should let my girls plan an activity once a week, so that they can have a little more freedom with their time. It's possible that my kids activities are all adult planned. How boring, as my six year old would say.


Face Time Can Help
“Empathic concern” dropped by 48 percent between 1979 and 2009
A cause: relational starvation due to constant stimulation
A simple solution: Increase face time – Dr. Race offers forty developmental suggestions
**My takeaways: Dr. Race isn't talking about iPhone face time either. Real one on one time with your child. It seems easy and basic, but when do we really have the time to engage ourselves 100%, without our running to do lists, our ticking clocks, and our mommy brains on overdrive. I've noticed with Caitlin a little face time goes a long way.


Brain Coolers
Quick tips that can be used in the moment to help families relax, recharge, and create happiness (such as The Three Breath Hug)
**My Takeaways: Where on earth was this two months ago? Oh yeah, sitting in my email inbox. Procrastination I tell you.

I swear on my mothering life that I never thought I'd be one of those self help, book reading moms. I didn't expect to identify with and see myself so much in this book. Trust me, I've laughed at most parenting books, condemned them, and even thrown them out, literally in the trash. But this one was different. Maybe it's because of all the stress we have had around here lately. Maybe it's because not only did this book give me the tools that could help ease some of Caitlin's stress and anxiety, but it also did it in a way that didn't make me feel like a bad parent having to change years of bad habits. This book also explained in scientific detail exactly what is happening when my child has a moment of anxiety, what happens in her brain and how her body responds. This book opened my eyes and gave me better insight on what is happening with my child. 

This is a book I have needed in my life for the past few months. Reading it has made me feel a little better about our situation, but also has made me feel like this is a mountain we can climb. Reducing the extra stress in our lives will never be easy, but with tips and ideas from Dr. Race it is possible. It doesn't have to happen all at once, we don't have to throw out our TV, or stop playing games on the iPad all together. We just have to take a step back, hang up, and be a little more mindful with our parenting.

And as much as it pains me to admit, I need to become a more mindful parent.




For more about Dr. Kristen Race visit her on:
Facebook
Her website
or watch her Ted Talk

2 comments:

  1. I wrote the longest damn comment and my internet messed up. I came back to see if it went ahead and published and nope. Well I will sum it up. I think that this book made many great points. Although Jack is only 15 months old I try to be mindful of technology and family time now. I would love to get a morning and night time routine also. We have a better night time routine than morning. I really wish we would stop eating supper in front of the tv now before it becomes the norm for Jack.

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  2. This actually sounds like a good book for us!

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