What does it mean to “Nurture Mindfully”?

Since this site is all about “nurturing mindfully,” I thought it was important to expand on what exactly that means.

The term “Mindfulness” is currently very popular and widely used in the fields of psychology, behavioral therapy, and education.  Mindfulness training is a strategy several of my daughter’s therapists have used with her to treat her anxiety, and help her be more in tune with how she is feeling and why she is feeling that way.   (If you didn’t read the introduction, my daughter has Autism Spectrum Disorder).  Mindfulness has been used by my daughter’s school psychologist to help her with her focus in school (she also has ADHD).  Having a front row seat to observe my daughter’s therapies, many of which have been preformed in our home, has been a great privilege and learning experience for me.  It has helped me to be more educated as to how to parent my child; but it has also been an opportunity for me to learn and put into practice many of these methods for my own personal growth.

What does “Mindfulness” mean?

Mindfulness has two definitions listed in the dictionary:

  1. The quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.
  2. A mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations; a therapeutic technique.

Mindfulness in Scripture:

  1.  Throughout the psalms, David provides us with a front row seat into his own mind while he is practicing “mindfulness”.  Definition 2 of mindfulness states that mindfulness, as a therapeutic technique, is practiced when one focuses one’s awareness on the present moment while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.  David begins many of his psalms by calling God’s attention and then telling God how he feels…                                                        – Psalm 4:2 – “How long, O you sons of men, will you turn my glory to shame?  How long will you love worthlessness and seek falsehood?”                                                 – Psalm 6:3,6 – “My soul also is greatly troubled; but You, O Lord, how long? … I am weary with my groaning; all night I make my bed swim; I drench my couch with my tears.”                                                                                           There are many other examples throughout Psalms, but you get the picture.  David is acutely aware of his feelings, and he is verbalizing them.
  2. In Psalm 4:4, David actually calls us to mindfulness when he says “Be angry and do not sin.  Meditate within your heart on your bed and be still.”  In other words, take time to focus and be aware of your feelings rather than acting out on them.  It is also worth noting that while many of the psalms begin with David in grief and distress, by the end he is able to be at peace, and even experiencing joy, after mindfully calling out to God in prayer.
  3. Psalm 139:24 says, “Search me, O God, and see if there be any wicked way in me.”  Yes, we need God to be able to truly see ourselves, but we also need to take a beat, be still, be quiet, and listen for His still small voice to show us.  God already knows the innermost parts of our hearts and minds.  For Him to reveal them to us requires us to be practice mindfulness – to be still, be quiet, and focus our awareness within.

So…what does it mean to “nurture mindfully”?

So, if mindfulness is a state of being quiet and focusing our awareness, then what it means to “nurture mindfully” is to slow down, be quiet, and focus our awareness on our children.  There are many different ways that mindfulness can help us develop better parenting practices, and I want us to explore a few of them…

How can I practice mindfulness toward my children?

  1.  We Need To Be Aware of Ourselves:  As parents, we are often so busy trying to meet our children’s needs that we do not meet our own.  I am particularly guilty of this.  It didn’t even occur to me until I went to therapist after having my second child.  I experienced pretty deep postpartum depression after the birth of my second daughter.  My therapist recommended that I read Parenting from the Inside Out by Daniel J. Siegel, MD and Mary Hartzel, M. Ed.  This book was life-changing.  Daniel J. Siegel is a renowned neuropsychaitrist who focuses his research on the ways our brains influence our relationships.  He explains how our childhood experiences and subconscious memories affect our reactions to things that come up in our present.  How much of what we are yelling at our kids about is really about us?  Is it a childhood trigger? (Did our moms always yell at us to finish our plate, so we are doing it too?) Is it our current circumstances? (Are we yelling at them because we are overwhelmed or hormonal or something else outside of our children entirely?)  The question must be asked:  How are we reacting and why are we reacting that way?
  2. We Need To Be Aware Of Our Children:                                                                                                             a)  Who are they?  How do they think?  How are they wired?  What are their triggers?  Are there special needs?  Do I understand how those needs affect the way they think?  What are their strengths?  What are their weaknesses?  Proverbs 22:6 says “Bring up a child in the way they should go….”  More literally translated it says “according to their own way.”  Become a student of your child.  Take the time to be still, be quiet, and be aware of who your child is and why.

How does mindfulness affect discipline?

First of all, I want to take a moment to talk about discipline.  When we think about discipline, we tend to think of negative consequences administered as a consequence of an undesirable behavior.  So, your kid runs out in the street – outside play is over.  He hits his sister – he sits in time-out.  And so on and so forth.  But actually the dictionary lists 6 possible definitions of discipline.

  1.  Control gained by enforcing obedience or order; an orderly or prescribed conduct or pattern of behavior; self-control. (So, there are explicit expectations of behavior, set routines, and following these rules and routines are enforced by authority.)
  2. Punishment (This is that negative consequence of undesired behavior that we always think of as discipline.)
  3. Training that corrects, mold, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character. (Training that molds their character may come in many forms; reading, conversations, the example you set, rewards and punishments, etc.)
  4. A field of study (This may mean realizing your child’s talents or natural affinities and encouraging and supporting them in those areas.)
  5. A rule or system of rules governing conduct or activity. (There can be no discipline without setting explicit expectations.)
  6. Instruction (You cannot simply make a rule and expect children to follow.  You often need to take time to instruct them, so they become capable of meeting your expectations.)

Take a minute and compare this definition from the dictionary with what Timothy says in 2 Timothy 3:16, 17.  “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.  That is the New King James.  The NIV translates it this way, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

So from the dictionary definition, as well as from Scripture itself, we begin to see that discipline takes on many forms.  Discipline is all of them. Discipline is, in fact, everything we do as parents.

How do we know then which form of discipline is appropriate in a given situation?  It can be utterly and completely confusing.  The answer is through the practice of mindfulness.  When you see a behavior, especially a pattern of behavior, STOP, BE STILL, BE QUIET, AND BE AWARE!  Ask yourself the following:

  1.  Who is my child?  How is s/he wired?  How is his/her wiring affecting her behavior?
  2. What has been going on in my child’s world?  Are they tired? overwhelmed? being provoked?
  3. What is your own mood?  Could your actions be causing their behavior?  Or causing you not to be seeing their behavior clearly?
  4. Is this a long-term or short-term problem?  Does it require a long-term or short-term solution?

Taking the time to be mindful before you discipline will give you clarity to see what your next step should be; what form of discipline is called for.  All forms are profitable, but not all forms are profitable in every situation.  In fact, using the wrong form can make things a lot worse.  So before you react, be still, be quiet, and be aware.

A Word About Wisdom:

Proverbs commands us in several places to GET WISDOM! GET UNDERSTANDING!  Above all, this is what is needed to be successful parents.  But you will never find wisdom is you just live moving from moment to moment, and incident to incident, reacting and then moving on.  Wisdom is found in the quietness, in the stillness, and in the intentional focus of our attention.  It is found through mindfulness.  David practiced it regularly.  Jesus himself practiced mindfulness, taking time to go to the desert to pray and meditate on his circumstance.  As parents it is essential that we practice mindfulness too.  That we take the time to nurture mindfully.