by Mindful Mothers Marin
In a busy world, filled with a variety of means of communication, we often find ourselves navigating through the day with very few opportunities for meaningful face-to-face contact with others. There are even times that the way in which we communicate as adults would lead others to believe we forgot that we are our children’s biggest role models!
Communication builds community…AND healthy brains! Not only does it let others know what we want and need, and what's important to us, but communicating mindfully is critical to a growing child's development. There's more and more evidence suggesting that having a good command of language goes hand-in-hand with the ability to imagine and think up new ideas.
Additionally, communicating mindfully with those in our lives not only lets them know you would like their attention, it also lets them know that you are respectful and interested in what they have to say. Communicating mindfully models respectful and expected behaviors, leads to increases in executive functioning skills and, most importantly, builds connections, self-efficacy and a sense of Self (that’s the capital S self!).
We offer a challenge to our parenting community: join us in a summer of mindful communication! Teach and model good communication skills for all our children. While traveling, waiting online at the bank or discussing the day’s event, take the time to practice mindful communication and watch your child’s skill set grow!
When you are communicating mindfully with your child, please remember to:
1) Know Your Child is Listening and Let Your Child Know You are Listening
Get your child’s full attention / give your full attention to your child. Make eye contact….or don’t! Sometimes powerful conversations take place while walking side-by-side or driving in a car.
2) Be Available For Your Child
Stop the other things you are doing. Chances are no matter how busy you are, you will not regret giving your child your time.
3) Respond In A Way Your Child Will Hear….that may not be verbal
The focus of communicating mindfully is to connect with your child. Drop in and be right there. Keep your emotions in check and RESPOND with intent. Use “I” statements (see below). Don’t react. Be real - show compassion and empathy. And remember, you are modeling behavior. Communication doesn’t only mean verbal. Note your body language, offer a warm hug, soften your gaze. Words may not even be needed to connect with your child.
4) Shine a Light on What is Right And Fill Their Bucket
Do acts of kindness for your child (a special note in their lunch, prepare their favorite dinner) and make a practice of one of the most under-utilized means of mindful communication…PRAISE! Look for opportunities, find them and name them! Positive parenting is powerful and ultimately supports an increase in children meeting expected behaviors.
When you are communicating mindfully with your partner, please remember to:
1) Turn Towards Your Partner
Both literally and figuratively. Understand that one of the keys to communicating with your partner is about recognizing a bid either from them or you. A bid is an attempt from one partner to another for attention, affection or any other positive connection. Key word = connection! Bids can be small like a kind touch, wink, or gesture of gratitude, or big like a verbal or emotional request for support, help or just a shoulder to lean on.
2) Use “I” Statements
The purpose of an “I” statement is to give factual information about how an event or situation affects you. When used, your partner can more easily understand your needs.
I feel (feeling) when (behavior or situation) because (what or how it is a concern for you).
3) Stop the Four Horsemen with their Antidotes (adapted from the Gottman Institute)
- Stop Criticism --> Instead use a soft start up
- No attacking partner’s personality or character to make them wrong
- Stop Defensiveness --> Instead take responsibility
- No seeing yourself as the victim. No excuses. Own your part…..two people are in this relationship. This is powerful to model for your child!
- Stop Contempt --> Instead describe your own feelings or needs
- No attacking partner’s sense of self with the intention to insult or mock
- Stop Stonewalling --> Instead try physiological self-soothing
- No withdrawing or withholding from the relationship as a way to avoid conflict (silent treatment, monosyllabic responses)