Compassion is being fully present.
Parenting is commonly said to be one of the most challenging and the most rewarding jobs we will ever have. I believe that it is also one of the most important jobs, therefore mindful parenting is essential. Children learn by following what they see, and parents are typically who they see more than anyone else. When we are not fully present in our interactions with our children, that is when we are most likely to act in ways that are not compassionate. The goal then is to be fully present when we are with our children in order that we are compassionate. Not only is it the right thing to do, it sets an excellent example for them to emulate.
Being present means being aware of our feelings. When we are focused on things that life requires of us, such as work or household duties, a child suddenly or constantly needing attention can be annoying. After all, we need to get that report finished or the groceries put away or whatever else it is that will lead to some negative consequences if it isn’t completed. Yet it isn’t the child’s fault that we have responsibilities besides caring for them. We can see our child needs something, be it an answer, a snuggle, someone to listen or perhaps discipline, but we were already focused on something else that needs to be done. This becomes a conflict in our mind. It becomes stress. This is where we need to slow down. We need to be attentive to how we feel. Acknowledge that the we are feeling stressed or annoyed or overextended. Take a moment and plan before responding. Taking that minute to acknowledging our feelings and plan a response can mean the difference between an overreaction and a compassionate response.
Will you always be successful?
Like anything new you attempt, you will not always be always be successful as you work to change how you react to your children. You will still have times where you react in anger versus the calm, compassionate response you are aiming at. When this occurs, I find the best thing to do is to give everyone a chance to calm down, then apologize. Yes, apologize. Sure, the child may have been doing something that warrants them giving you an apology. When you apologize, you set the example of how to handle it when you know you have acted inappropriately. In addition to apologizing, I like to tell the child what I wish I would have done and said instead. I think this is a great exercise because as long as you have kids, situations where your patience is challenged are bound to arise. Knowing and saying how you wish you would have handled a situation gives you a blueprint to follow when something similar happens in the future.