Present Parenting

   Immature Behavior
   Personal Thoughts
   How to Change

Parenting Responses:
Present Parenting and Personal Mindfulness

Positive parenting choices and implementing the Accountability Pyramid are pretty much impossible without simultaneously working to improve personal mindfulness.
If I truly focus some attention on being honest about and accepting my personal weaknesses, and then set goals to improve those weaknesses, I am a better parent. If my commitment and time spent improving myself is for my children's sake, the changes and results are longer-lasting and we all benefit.

Since moments of conflict are the most challenging times in parenting, below are some thoughts to help you shift your focus away from how awful your child seems to be behaving and examine how YOU are behaving. How do you respond to your child during those tricky moments. Are you present-minded? Your personal mindfulness matters on this journey you are on together. Also, here's a blog entry describing some of my experiences with the road to improving personal mindfulness: My Mama-Yoga Marathon.

4 Basic Parenting Responses to Conflict or Immature Behavior

As far as we've observed and experienced, there are four basic ways parents respond to children during moments of conflict, chaos, or immaturity (if there are any neuro-scientists out there...maybe we can order a test for this hypothesis??):

Imagine yourself working on your computer (maybe reading my blog). Your two kids start to fight. Your response might be defensive/reactive...“Cut it out you two…go to your rooms!!!” Or it might be offensively planned out...“Hey you two, you know our rules. When you fight you go to your rooms. So GO!!!” Or you might hardly notice their fighting and simply mutter something--(ie. Absent). If instead you lovingly turn your attention to them, pause to understand the conflict, and with calm confidence help them develop a solution depending on their current maturity level, you're well on your way to Present Parenting.

Defensive Response: A quick, non-planned reactive response that primarily uses the lower/emotional parts of the brain. This response can protect against immediate danger. For example, yelling "STOP" at your child as they dash into the street in front of a car. But if we get excessively "jumpy" with our kids, reacting to our emotions, they will suffer because of it.

Offensive Response: A planned response given during moments of predicted conflict, chaos, or immaturity that uses parts of the higher/rational/logical areas of the brain. The preparedness aspect of this response can be very remembering to have the throw-up bowl nearby during stomach flu season. But 'offensive' implies competition, not team work. Using an offensive response to manage our children's immature behavior puts them in a defensive position. This tends to increase their long-term negative behavior, or Natural Defense Immaturity, which makes life more challenging for everyone.
Absent Response: A non- or half-response because the brain is already focused on something else. It is very appropriate to have a focused mind on important tasks. But in parenting, we've found it is even more important to be aware of and self-disciplined in choosing which tasks deserve our best attention. If we are absent when our young children need assistance with their brain balance, then who is accountable for the chaos and immaturity that becomes the result? The buck still stops with us until our children have a mature prefrontal cortex, which scientists now know is a multi-step process that takes many years. Therefore our literal and mindful presence during our child's development is critical for success. 

Present Response: A planned response that is focused on assisting another (like a child) in processing the negative or immature energy he/she feels during a moment of conflict. This response uses the mid-prefrontal cortex area of the brain, or CEO of the brain that is responsible for balancing other brain areas.

In order to wisely balance a given situation, this response requires the mastery of 4 A's of Mindfulness: 
  • Awareness
  • Acceptance
  • Appreciation
  • Action  
Since children do not have a developed prefrontal cortex, it is the responsibility of the parent to stand in as a substitute "mindful brain" for the child during the early years using the Present Response as often as possible. Parents can then wisely transition this brain-balancing ability during the pre-teen years when the child is naturally beginning to pay attention to true accountability for personal actions. And finally, during adolescence when the prefrontal cortex is young and hungry for experimentation, parents can use the Present Response to grant confidence, guidance, and space for their children to practice discovering their own unique present responses.

As parents, we frequently and naturally switch between these four responses depending on our circumstances and brain chemistry. For disciplinary purposes (when our children "misbehave"), we strive for the Present Response as often as possible because rather than narrowly settling just our own needs after we detect the chaos our children have created, it uses the positive aspects of the other responses--protection, preparedness, and focused attention--and wisely adds the element of personal mindfulness to help our children progress.

Additional Commentary
The world is full of energy...both positive and negative. Evidence of this is in the emotions we feel...both positive and negative. When the people around us are trying to process negative energy, their behavior shows it. Our bodies sense this and we naturally and quite automatically go into protective defensive mode. Then, if our prefrontal cortex is not actively engaged in a positive way, life often becomes a big game of emotional ping pong with the negative energy as the ball...bouncing back and forth between people without ever getting processed. Defense. Offense. Defense. Offense. 

Present Parenting is an attempt to recognize this instinctive game--and rather than playing along mindlessly, instead engage the prefrontal cortex and take wise accountability for the situation...and repeat as necessary (which will amount to millions of moments by the time children are grown). Present Parenting suggests that the parent (who should have a more mature brain) acknowledge negative/immature energy when it's coming, but learn to not fear it or toss it back with a defensive or offensive move. Present Parenting recommends being on the same team as the child, combating negative energy together. This requires that the parent notice, accept, and change the negative energy into something positive by consciously prioritizing mindful concern for the child over personal anxiety (this difficult process uses the prefrontal cortex, or most advanced part of the human brain).

Present Parenting is unselfishly giving oneself physically and mentally to the rearing of children, or in other words helping children process the energy in this world and progress because of it.  The resulting "gift" is that parent and child each develop a healthier, more balanced mind and thus enjoy greater peace and wisdom.

Present Parenting is definitely not easy, nor is it a quick fix. We hope the general philosophy can help you in your parenting.

Present Parenting uses The Accountabilty Pyramid as a guide to disciplinary actions that promote the development of a balanced brain in children/adolescents and their parents.