Mindful Parenting So You Don’t Lose Your Children To The Rat Race This Summer Break…Or Any Break.

Kids playing in unstructured activites is joyful for kids.
Time speeds up when you have kids. We measure years in decades and we wonder what happened to our little kids. If you are a parent, thoughtful in your role each day, you may want to find out how to slow down time.Now that summer is near, we want to plan. But realize, idle parents can make for happy kids when the opportunity shows itself. Summer is the opportunity I am talking about. An open, not busy schedule is what I am suggesting. Maybe planning a lot of activities is the exact opposite of what we need to do as mindful parents this summer. Maybe doing less with more focus is what we all need as parents. Our kids will reap the benefits.Summer play is an unknown ocean. wide and deep and exciting.
Unstructured Play is an unknown ocean. Wide and deep and exciting.

Do Less With More Focus

 

 

Time speeds up when you have kids. We measure years in decades and we wonder what happened to our little kids. If you are a parent, thoughtful in your role each day, you may want to find out how to slow down time.

Now that summer is near, we want to plan. But realize, idle parents can make for happy kids when the opportunity shows itself. Summer is the opportunity I am talking about. A open, no busy schedule is what I am suggesting. Maybe planning a lot of activities is the exact opposite of what we need to do as mindful parents this summer. This constant planning can be distracting, and when we lose our focus, even less gets done and quality of experience is compromised.

How a Mindful Parent Can Slow Down Time:

The book Free To Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life written by Peter Gray gives parents the reasoning on how to slow down time. Through his real life he has found a way that kids can learn  and at the same time not lose themselves. I just read this book for the second time, and I am pumped that I was reminded of so many good learning ideals right before summer!

After reading his book I felt a resonance. Several issues brought up by Gray really made me think about how we are teaching our kids, and how I want to raise mine. It made me a more mindful in my homeschooling and parenting in general. Montessori methods bring out the beauty in children, and being a proponent of Montessori, I realized even more how important Montessori was in our kids life.

Mindful parenting allows kids the time to play each day.

Nature dispels anxiety, and brings forth true joy.

I also realized, most importantly that giving our anxious and stressed kids time to play is essential to their future happiness and mental health. Play is something we as parents need to be mindful of. We need to make sure our kids get a chance to play each day.

I resonated with Gray’s points deeply, as he recalled having gone through a system of education with his own child where evaluations and tests, monopolization of time, and decreased rewards for critical thinking were king. Once he changed his model to a much more organic one, his kid thrived. And so did he as a parent.

Mindful parenting in the summer means slowing down and enjoying the season.

Free play is a way to bring joy and calm to our kids.

I am grateful to Gray for addressing the elephant in our home. The topic that resounded even stronger relates to how kid’s hectic lives seems to interfere with family life. Gray states his case, saying Their schedules “eat into the time that families can spend together, on their own activities. It also interferes with family harmony, as parents must be enforcers of homework, cope with the negative effects that schooling has on children’s moods and home behavior, and in some cases do battle with kids every day to get them to go to school.” It’s true that kids are ecstatic when summer break starts, as they are free once again!!….until camp, and gymnastics, and extracurricular intensive mania begins!

Do kids want all these activities? Don’t kids and parents want a break?

Rachel Macy Stafford, writer of “Hands Free Mama”, (handsfreemama.com) offers great insight into how parents can better connect with their kids. She draws attention to the idea of putting down distractions, including cell phones, pods, and TV.  She suggests that parents reduce texting and use devices only at certain times during the day, times when kids are not awake or are engaged in other fun, creative endeavors. Basically, putting the attention back on our kids! The resulting payback is a huge feeling of satisfaction in being there for your kids.

In essence : “Don’t let your life pass you buy. This life you can’t get back. Don’t postpone joy. Do less with more focus”

We only get one shot at this parenting thing. Let’s make it marvelous. Let’s make it a thoughtful journey. Let’s not postpone joy even one more day!

Don't Postpone Joy

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Mindfully Spending Time with Our Kids is Better Than Spending Money On Our Kids.

Chapter 3 in Free To Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life  by Peter Gray helped me put together my own view of how we currently treat children, and how we teach them. The history of education as presented in the book, from hunter-gatherers to the present, explained how our culture, economic prosperity, or lack thereof, religions and political climate all interact to produce our societal treatment of children. Taking all these factors into account to create my own current snapshot of how we treat and teach children, I have become quite thoughtful. My thoughts have required some diligent observation of my daily life.  Here is a look into what I saw.

Kids have so much to jugle when it comes to money and messages that they should buy, buy, buy.

How Can Our Kids Be Mindful Of All The Messages They Receive About Money?

Parents Being Mindful: Buying Our Kids Too Much Stuff

As in the days of classic agriculture, when animals and kids were both “raised” and horses and children were both “trained”, I gather that kids are now “bought”. We buy our food, we buy our clothes, corporate is king, and our economy revolves around big business. And yes, I think we love our kids through buying too.

When agricultural lives turned into modern working families, at least in the cities, parents learned to buy what they need for the home and lost the skills to make things of their own at home. This would explain why we buy our kids so many things as well. What can we possible give them?

One day several years ago, I had the thought that I was a “good” mom because I bought my daughter a toy piano for Christmas. I now realize love is the best gift, but it was probably not that far off from what many parents raising children in the industrial world think.

Another day more recently, my daughter Gigi told me she would rather have time with me than more stuff. Looking around our house, I understood. We are filled to the brim with games, and paints, and books. We just don’t use them in proportion to the time we spend shopping.

We shop till we drop, and our children see it. This example is somewhat embarrassing for me, so I have decided to stop. No more TJ MAXX. Ouch!  By the time our kids are in their teens, our children make up the biggest demographic as cash consumers. They are whom the marketers market to. I no longer think this is a recipe for happiness.

On the flip side,  my daughter and I went to the grocery store recently, and after a long discussion on how the kids’ sports balls with super heroes were more expensive than the plain ones, how the hot dog buns were not actually a “necessity” since we already had some good bread at home, and how we couldn’t just go and buy baseball tickets given our current budget, I felt tired.

These conversations with my daughter were a sign to me, that it was time for a change.

It's time for a change if you spend little time being thoughtful with you kids.

Being Mindful of Our Kids Makes Sense.

Being Mindful With Money Makes a Difference To Our Kids

On the car tide home from the grocery store, our conversation continued. I told her that if I bought her all she asked for, I wouldn’t be able to pay the bills. She asked me, “Mama, do you love me that much, that you would buy me everything?” I told her I would love to buy her the world, or rather give her the world. Her immediate response to my generous words was “Wow, how could I have needed those hot dog buns so much! We already have bread!” A softer, more centered child for sure.

Just taking the time to discuss money and how we might not need all the things that were being sold to us, helped Gigi to be more mindful about money as well. Talking about money is one way to take our minds off the obsession to buy, and spending that time with our kids will influence them in the long run.

Parents AND Kids are Told to Buy, Buy , Buy

When young families move into a new town, the real estate agent is sure to point out the schools in the area, if they are good. Blue ribbons hang down the entry way doors of these good school districts, voted “best school 1000 years in a row”. What everyone knows, and some sometimes say, is that the best and smartest thing you can do is to buy a house in that blue ribbon district. Buy the house, buy the school, buy the education, buy the right clothes for the children to wear, by the right enrichment programs, buy the right sport shoes for soccer……gosh darn it, just buy it!

These messages erode our kids ability to just be happy with what they have. A family, friends, healthy food, laughter, and joy, just to name a few.

My friend, a mom to 4 kids,  sent out an e-mail this week that read: “Spending time with kids is better than spending money on kids.”  If we spent more time with our children, which I believe is all they really want, I wonder if they would stop craving “more and more” things. I wonder if we as parents would stop buying so much as well.

Being Thoughtful With How We Spend Time With Out Kids

After all these ideas hit home, I decided to stop shopping. I would still get the essentials, but not the extras. After seeing The True Cost movie, it was easy to stop looking for clothes for myself as a weekend get away from the monotony of the home grind. If you don’t know what is going on with fast fashion, the movie might move you to do the same.

The True cost left the  image of the mom in India that just about broke my heart. She was leaving her young daughter a day trip away with family so she could go work in the factories to make fashions that sell for cheep in the United States and Europe. The chemicals are bad in the factories, and all kids can do is lay on a mat next to their mom’s day after day. I realized I had enough clothes for a lifetime once I understood what was going on.

Being mindful of how we spend our money as parents, and how we teach our kids, effects kids all over the world.

Every Child Deserves a Good Future, No Matter Where They Live.

The idea that fast fashion in taking advantage of women on a global scale (80% of sweat shop workers are women) made me generalized the lesson to all things made in China, India, Vietnam, Mexico and South America. This cut out 90% of my favorite shopping venues. I felt free and much better about no contributing to the sweat shop culture. Kids, no matter where they live deserve care and the possibility of a good future. So do their moms.

Without my regular stores to provide what I needed for my family, I started visiting re-sales and rummage sales. To get the essentials, I bought clean, gently used item. They were headed to the land fill otherwise, and if some woman made the item in a sweat shop, and it never even got used, that felt unbearable to me.

Rummage sales were my way of taking action and still get the basics for my family. I was able to value what was going to be thrown away. I was able to at least communicate across many millions of miles that I would be mindful of what those moms in sweatshops did each day and nod a “Thank You” in their direction.

With all my free time, I started sitting around the house more, being more available for my family. I pulled out board games, and puzzles, and old books. In essence, I was thoughtful about how I spent my day, talked to may kids, and actually started using all the stuff I had bought and stored over the past years. I didn’t so much as plan my day in excess, but took it slower.

Gratitude Finds Parents That Are Mindful of Time With Their Kids

When I didn’t go shopping very much and started being available for my kids, honestly, I got uncomfortable at first. I felt a little silly and then just totally unproductive. Nothing to achieve. No where to go. How could I feel like I accomplished anything? How much time could I really spend with my kids? AND when I wanted to have down time for just me, where in the world would I go?

And this is where you find me now, a little lost, but more comfortable, and satisfied with more time overall.

Time has slowed down, and for that I am ultimately grateful.

By the way my daughters took ease this weekend when I spent quality time  at home, I am pretty sure she is grateful  too

Kids are grateful for parents who are mindful of the time they spend with them.

Mindful parents encourage their kids To be mindful in life. And they are!

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Can You Be a Calm Mom When You Feel Stressed Out? (The Story of How I did it!)

Devices, work, the grocery store, the classes, the dishes, the house, the yard-honestly I have no idea where to begin with the never-ending list of daily chores. With all our modern conveniences, why was I so stressed out? Could I ever be a calm mom?

Being mindful with out kids can help them be calm.

Will I Ever Be A Calm Mom For My Kids?

Do you feel stressed out but want to be a calm mom too?

Do you want to be more mindful with you kids but just feel too busy?

After reading Chapter 2 of Free To Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life , by Peter Gray, I felt a lot more knowledgeable on the ways kids learn naturally. After reading the extensive research on societies that let children learn freely, through free play, adult example, and oral tradition, I wondered what in the world I was doing spending so much time on my device these days? That in addition to the daily grind makes me basically an absent parent to my children in terms of parenting with real thoughtfulness. Am I really providing a good example? Can my kids be calm if I am not?

This chapter really challenged me to think deeply about education, or “cultural transmission” as Gray calls it. “Cultural transmission” means that each new generation of human beings acquires and builds on the skills, knowledge and values of previous generations” is content dependent.

This means that what we show our kids is what they learn. We are in the position of great influence because to our kids we are their heroes.

As a parent, such an understanding can be unsettling. No one taught us how to be parents, and our only lessons come from our own childhoods growing up in our own families. Only one source to reference.  For the next generation, being truly mindful of our actions is so important because as parents their are often things we would like to do differently than our own parents.

So what lessons are we teaching our kids?

What example are we showing them in order to be Calm Kids?

Our children model our daily actions as parents. Calm parenting results in calm kids.

Your Kids Watch What You Do Every Day As Their Parent. You Are Their Hero.

Stressed Mom vs Calm Mom

Once I started looking at my own day-to-day schedule, I was shocked at my lack of awareness. I felt like I never had time to sit down and regroup. I felt as though less achievement and commitment would be a breath of fresh air. Slowing down would be bliss. And I wondered how it must feel to actually be quite and still.

I also felt like becoming a bit more low tech. I have to say “lower” tech, because the idea of not being on near my device sounded a little scary. Still, it might be worth it as long as it I was calmer.

As a challenge to myself to really look at what goes on in my day, I stopped what I was doing one afternoon and watched my thoughts. What I found was shocking! I found quick thoughts running thought my head, meal plans for the next day swimming in my head, all while wondering where the garden should be placed this year in our backyard. Yikes!

Not Quite the Calm Mom.

Once I saw my high paced thoughts, I understood why my body was always in motion. It was just doing what it was told to do.

So how could I slow down and be more mindful?

Usually I get things done with a list, so I decided to make a list of things that would calm me down. Maybe even calm my kids! Here’s what it looked like:

Top 10 things To Do to Be A Calm Mom

1. Get rid of the lists-they are always too long and make me angry when I can’t get them done. (OK, so much for that………)

A walk in nature can help calm moms remember that we really do have all the time in the world if we are mindful of how we spend out time.

Disconnecting to Reconnect

All The Time In the World

All That Time In The World is a movie that changed me for the better, at just about the time I got rid of lists. It was great timing to say the least. My husband heard about it from a podcast he was listening to and we got so curious we bought ourselves a copy to watch.

Suzanne Crocker, from Vancouver, Canada was asked to make this documentary as a wasy to “disconnectin order to reconnect” with her family of 5. And how she set out to do this was nothing short of a super hero effort. She embarked with her family into the Yukon Wilderness for 9 months, part of which was in the dead of winter. Check out the trailer for All The Time In The World here.

Suzanne Crocker and her husband bravely took their family on a journey to a cabin in the deep woods without running water and  electricity, one so remote that the only way to get to it was by boat or snowmobile. A place that has bears and temperatures that dip well into the -40’s and -50s. A place where there are no modern conveniences.

Setting out, she thought her kids would want to strangle each other by the end of it all, but she found the exact opposite to be true. Despite all the wood chopping, homemade fires and food, and just plain work, they bonded. They bonded so much that they didn’t want to leave.

However, Crocker’s movie made a huge impact on me too!

Seeing what it means to take time with each other, to have nowhere to go and nothing to do, was eye-opening. Having seen the movie gave me some real life ideas on how I could create some down time for me and my family in our very own suburban bungalow.

Finally, daily choices like putting the devices away, not making plans, cooking meals together, not going shopping, and taking a walk in nature all made sense.

Being mindful of our family means taking time to be with them in a connected way. Nature walks help families bond.

Walking In Nature Can Help Kids To Be Calm. That Helps Mom To Be Calm Too!

I had always imagined I would cook more food at home, take walks in nature, and spend long days of quality time with my kids. I just never saw a real life example of it so I didn’t know how to be a calm mom. Now I did. I knew enough to get started, even without trekking to the Yukon Territory in Canada.

Being mindful of how I spend my time with my family became a driver for me and I did begin to feel like I had All The Time In The World. We took 4 days of park walks over the Christmas holiday, we spent a whole weekend indoors in January, and cooking began to be more fun than going out to eat.

Life began to feel more orderly.

I began to feel like I just might be a  Calm Mom.

 

 

 

Want Calmer Kids? How Being Mindful Parents Greatly Reduces Mental Health Risks For Our Children

A kids asking for love.

When We Are Mindful, Each Day Is A New Adventure Unfolding Just As It Should Be.

I asked my daughter, who is very interested in creating fairy characters and drawing them, to write a story. I told her I would post the story on Swami Mommi, and quickly she was headed for the drawing table. I asked that she show me “how fairies learn”. I was really asking her how kids learn, or how they think of learning. 

Her drawings and story taught me how to love more deeply and give up control as a parent. Not what I expected!  This is what my little five-year-old up-and-coming author told me.

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