Catharine Hannay, MA

Catharine Hannay, MA

Catharine Hannay is the founder of MindfulTeachers.org and the author of Being You: A Girl’s Guide to Mindfulness, a workbook for teen girls on mindfulness, compassion, and self-acceptance.

Blue-Red-Yellow: A Powerful Mindfulness Practice for Parents

After reading the next paragraph, please follow the instructions before reading any further.

Close your eyes and picture the color blue. You may want to repeat the word ‘blue’ silently to yourself. Blue… blue… blue… Then open your eyes and look around the room.

OK, close your eyes now and try it… I’ll wait…

What did you notice when you opened your eyes and looked around? 

You probably focused on something blue in your surroundings. Or, if there wasn’t anything blue around, you focused on whatever color was the most similar to blue (perhaps green or gray).

Now try it again, this time focusing on the color red.

Close your eyes and picture the color red. Red…. red… red… Then open your eyes and look around. 

Did something red pop out at you? Or whatever color was most similar to red, perhaps orange or purple or brown? 

Now try this a third and final time.

Close your eyes and picture the color yellow. Yellow… yellow… yellow… Open your eyes and look around the room.

When you opened your eyes, you probably noticed something yellow, or perhaps gold or orange or beige.

Kinda freaky, isn’t it? Nothing changed in your actual surroundings, but what you noticed was different each time.

 What You See Depends on What You’re Looking for

Here comes the challenging part: Can you think of any ways that you do this with your kids?

“He always argues with everything I say… Arguing, arguing, arguing…” So of course the next time you talk to him, you assume he’s going to argue with you. 

“She’s so rebellious… Rebellious, rebellious, rebellious…” Then whatever she next says or does, you’ll be looking at it through the ‘rebellious’ filter.

What if you swapped out your ‘talking back’ filter for a ‘defending himself’ filter? What if you replaced your ‘rebellious’ filter with ‘testing boundaries’ or ‘strong-willed’ or perhaps looked for signs that she’s angry or overwhelmed?

Could  you let go of filters altogether? Would that help you see the situation more clearly?

There will likely still be sources of tension or stress or conflict, but there may be something else there that you haven’t been seeing because you haven’t been looking for it.

Your kid may have an addiction or attitude or diagnostic that you’re not happy about. You may need to set firm boundaries for their behavior or make challenging decisions about their care. But at this particular moment, you can choose to focus on another aspect of the situation or another characteristic of your child.

That could ease tensions enough to make the next encounter go more smoothly—and it may prompt them to see you in a different way, too. Have you ever thought about the filters your kids use when they’re looking at you? Perhaps ‘She’s always angry’ or ‘He never thinks I do anything right’? What would help your child see you in a different light?

“Mindfulness is about making a choice, over and over again, to pay attention to whatever is happening in the present moment without judging it or wishing it was different. This sounds pretty simple, and it is. But it’s far from easy. Often we get so caught up in the endless chatter in our brain about how hard parenting is or how annoying our kids can be […] that we can’t actually pay attention to what is happening right now in front of us.”

Dr. Carla Naumberg, Parenting in the Present Moment, p. 13

If you’re located in California and need help determining if your child and/or family need professional help, contact Family Spring by submitting an inquiry at this link.

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