A most precious gift you can give to your child

No matter how deep once you had been in love with the idea of having a baby, as a parent there will always be times when you feel exhausted and overwhelmed by the never-ending tasks of parenting. There is too much in motherhood that is repetitive and situations can sometimes get completely out of control.

Probably the most challenging times are when you are trying to focus on something OTHER than parenting while you child demands your full attention.

Kids are known for living in the present and wanting to get answers to their questions right away. It does not matter to them if the time and place is inappropriate to raise that question.

Mindfulness may be the key

Obviously it is impossible to pay attention to your child 24/7, but the more aware you can be in your interactions with them, the less likely they will get carried away by inappropriate reactions to get your attention. This can reduce the number of instances when things – and parents’ reactions – get out of control.

Levels of attention

The brief listing below of the various levels of attention may help to understand what it takes to be a good listener.

Level Zero: These are situations when you send your kid a clear message that he or she will not get any of your attention.

Level #1: It’s only your body that is present, your mind is somewhere else. What your kid says goes in at one ear and out at the other. In fact, this level is the same as Level Zero: you are paying absolutely no attention but you fail to acknowledge it.

Level #2: It is pretending to be there and uttering words like ’I see’ or ’yeah’ every now and then. Even though this behavior requires a little bit of attention because you obviously cannot say ’yeah’ when are supposed to raise objections, this level is nowhere to genuine attention.

Level #3: It’s selective hearing. When you are listening, more or less, yet your mind has a tendency to wander. When you catch yourself staring out of the window in the middle of a conversation or when you do a mental checking of your to-do list. Obviously, at this level you are far from being genuinely attentive.

Level #4: It’s listening with both ears. You do make an effort to really pay attention to what your kid is saying so that you can recall his or her words later on. However, this alone will not get the two of you any closer to each other. In most cases, your conversation is nothing more than an exchange of information.

Level #5: It’s listening in order to be able to respond. What your kid says is fuel to your response. For many people, being engaged in a conversation is like being part of a project: one step comes after the other and so the sentences must have a certain direction too. At level #5 parents have a tendency to hear their kids’ words through the filter of their own experiences and so they often react by saying ’Yes, I know what you mean, I have those feelings sometimes too’ or ’The same thing happened to Joe the other day’. This is when they reply without really understanding their kids’ point – when what has been said is interpreted in the context of their own world.

Level #6: It’s empathetic attention. When you turn to your kid with genuine interest trying to find out what it is that is on their mind. It involves so much more than listening with both ears – it is listening with an open heart. And empathy should not necessarily mean that the two of you fully agree. Empathizing with your kid can be a tremendous help in figuring out how he or she feels in a given situation. It’s like walking a mile in their shoes, as the saying goes.

Undivided attention is the most tangible expression of love one can give to their kids. At the same time,  it is also an excellent habit to pass on to get them prepared for family life.

Even though mindfulness is often described as a simple practice, most people find it difficult to apply in times of stress because this is not our default mode of operating.

In order to consolidate non-judgmental awareness start practicing in times of calmness.