Parenting is … putting positive attention on raising our kids.

Posted on January 26, 2020

Parenting is… putting positive attention on raising our kids.

Tomorrow, after 35 years, I’m going back to school! Although I feel that I have been a lifelong student of life and have attended hundreds of mindfulness courses and retreats, there’s something special about the anticipation of being in a classroom in an organized academic institution. Over the last week, I’ve been buried with assignments in preparation for the start of the program—TMF (Training in Mindfulness Facilitation) at the MARC Foundation at UCLA.

Before class began, our group was assigned to read Fully Present, The Science, Art and Practice of Mindfulness by Dianna Winston and Susan Smally. Although I’ve read many books on mindfulness, this book stands out. One particular section on attention and mindfulness really made an impression. Here, the authors discuss how everything we experience is directly related to the attention we put on it. If we are in the midst of refurnishing our home and have started looking for furniture, magically our attention is drawn to sofas in other people’s homes or in the window of furniture stores, or in pictures that people post online!

I couldn’t help but remember how, when I was pregnant with my first child everywhere I went, I spotted other pregnant moms or strollers or baby bags or car seats or smiling and crying babies. I remember wondering if I noticed these things because I was pregnant myself. Science tells us that, yes, that definitely is the case!

The godfather of psychology, William James, said, “If you change your attention, you change your experience. My experience is what I agree to attend to.” I was thinking about that and the section in the assigned reading, as I scrolled through posts on social media last night. I noticed three different posts by moms complaining about their kids with comments like: “Look what my monster did today” and “Can I ever catch a break!” and “I hate you right now even though I’ll love you forever.” These were all accompanied by kid-mischief pictures. Most of their other posts also showcased the “terrible” things that their kids were doing and the “tough” job that they had as parents.

Today, when we all can showcase our strengths, talents, and families through social media platforms, would it not behoove us as parents to put our attention on our positive interactions with our kids? In that way the experiences that we have as parents will be positive, too—enjoyable and memorable. We will be parenting for the rest of our lives, if we’re lucky, that is. Shouldn’t we choose to have the best experiences with our children so we can enjoy the ride and leave lasting good impressions for our kids to learn from? What a gift that would be for our children!