Parenting: Raising Happy, Healthy Kids
The Gift of a Parent's Presence
and Myla Kabat-Zinn are the authors of Everyday Blessings: The Inner
Work of Mindful Parenting, a book on how the practice of mindfulness
can improve relationships between parents and their children. Body
& Soul's Gail Harris, mother of one, had the opportunity
recently to talk with the Kabat-Zinns about the nature of parenting.
Herewith, some excerpts.
evolved over thousands of years, and for thousands of years babies
slept with their parents. They were held all the time, and we evolved,
in some ways, to be in those situations. That's what babies need. It's
only since the industrial revolution that we've really started to separate
from babies so early. I think it's real grounding for children to be
held. It grounds them in the present moment. It grounds them in terms
of their relationship, and it also gives them and the parent tremendous
pleasure which, we're really in some ways, denying ourselves when we
don't do that.
is not simply with the body but also with one's heart, being able to
embrace a child in your heart even when the child is doing something
that you don't like. Mindfulness of touch means really being present in the
touching. Mindfulness of seeing means being present in the seeing, in
the feeling. So that's something that one cultivates over time, and
it seems very simple, but it turns out it's extremely powerful.
might think you're present in that moment when you're putting your child
to bed, and then the next minute you're thinking about the next day
and you lose something. Bringing your attention back into the present
moment can be a tremendously powerful exercise and endeavor.
keep bringing your attention back to the present moment. Why? Because
it's the only moment that you're ever going to be alive in. It's this
one. You can be awake in a fraction of a second. You can be kind-hearted
in a fraction of a second. I like to think of it as strengthening a
muscle. The mind goes off, you bring it back. The mind goes off again,
you bring it back again. It's of tremendous benefit to do that, but
it is a discipline, and you have to be somewhat intentional about it.
who that child is means looking beneath the surface of their behavior.
Very often, we get caught up in the surface. 'Oh my God, she wants to
get her nose pierced,' or, 'She wants to dye her hair purple. Setting
limits, or having very clear values and standing firm when it's hardest
for us to do that, takes a lot of energy. But that's the way we really
show our love and our honor of their sovereignty. Sometimes it's a huge
struggle, where the easy way would be to say, 'Sure, do what you want.'
That's not what we call honoring the sovereignty of the child.
stretch our limits. They are always challenging. There are moments when
we feel like we're the worst possible parents in the world, no matter
how mindful we are. This is part of the work. Life is real. It's not
that if you do this in some formulaic way, everything will just work
out. There are times where we worry deeply about our children. Mindfulness
is the cultivation of emotional intelligence. Families that honor emotions
grow children who are competent in the vast range of different emotional
often we think we have to give our children tangible gifts. We're very
oriented in our society to buying; that's the way we give our children
love. But very often what is most meaningful to children is the gift
of our presence. When we've asked people to talk about moments when
they felt truly seen by another person in their family, it was often
something very simple, like having their hands in the dirt with their
grandfather out in the garden. That moment stays with them their whole
Adventure Game Theater
Jon & Myla Kabat-Zinn
The Holistic Pediatrician
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