By April Hadley from Grand Rapids Center for Mindfulness
I have been a parent for just over 14 years. I think that should make me an expert. In fact, if I gave a significant portion of my time and energy to almost any other subject for 14 years straight, I am confident I would feel some measure of competency. But these rules do not seem to apply to parenting. In fact, most of the time, I end up feeling fairly incompetent which is to say I am never 100% sure if I am choosing actions that are helpful to myself or my children. The feeling of “not sure” seems to come with the territory of having 3 kiddos in my life who are constantly growing and changing from their shoe size to their food preferences to their social groups. Each change requires me to start building my competency all over again.
Rather than resist our feelings of incompetency, we can learn how to embrace them with a method I call the AC/DC of parenting (inspired by the heavy metal band AC/DC because everyone knows rock bands and parenting have a lot in common – especially the loud, messy, stinky parts). AC/DC is less a parenting method and more of a foundation upon which we can build the parenting journey. AC/DC has made me a more mindful, resilient, and joyful parent and modeling these attributes to my children is the most powerful gift I can give them on this journey through life.
What is the AC/DC of Parenting?
AC/DC stands for awareness, compassion, do-over, and community. Here is a brief description of each of the 4 main layers of AC/DC along with a couple of practice links to help you get started on your journey.
Awareness: Mindful awareness gives us clarity around our present moment experience. When we have clarity, we can begin to acknowledge when the parenting journey is going well as well as when it is a struggle. It is easier to move into the next layer of AC/DC parenting when we can let go of shame and can be clear about our struggles. Practice: 3-Minute Breathing Break
Compassion: When we are clear about our struggles, we can offer ourselves compassion. The majority of us spend a lot of time beating ourselves up over every perceived parenting mistake. Parenting is hard. We all mess up. Rather than meeting our mess-ups with harshness, we can learn to meet our experience with the soothing touch of self-compassion. Practice: Self-Compassion Break
Do-over: Learning how to do-over is a vital part of the parenting journey. It is also an exquisite practice of self-compassion. Do-overs allow us to stop in the midst of a parenting struggle and begin again. A do-over has three elements: 1) Take responsibility for your actions 2) Ask for permission for a do-over and 3) Wait until everyone is ready for a do-over. A do-over may sound something like this: “I am sorry for yelling at you. I would like a do-over. Please let me know when you are ready.”
Community: We all have our limits as parents. When we ignore our limits, we are likely to become anxious, irritable and angry. Rather than seeing limits as a bad thing, we can learn to view them as a gift nudging us to ask others for help. When I encounter a sticky spot in parenting (such as getting my kids out the door for school), I will ask a friend ahead of time if I can call her when I get stuck. Just knowing I can call helps me feel less helpless.
Start your journey of AC/DC parenting today! And when all else fails, find something that makes you laugh. In that spirit, I leave you with these words: “When my kids become wild and unruly, I use a nice, safe playpen. When they’re finished, I climb out.” -Erma Bombeck