Better Parenting—Doing 1 Thing at a Time.

Multi Tasking Mom
I’m a huge believer that practicing mindfulness makes me a better parent. 

Among other things, being mindful reminds me to slow down. Sometimes, slowing down is really the best thing—only thing—I can remember do as a parent when what I really want to do is throttle someone (like my daughter).

For example, I’ve noticed that on the days when I practice sitting meditation in the morning I am more balanced and able to really listen to my kid when she starts to loose it. Today, for example, she wanted to go out for dinner and was heading for a huge hangry fit. 

On my less skillful days, I end up trying to reason with her, which really never goes well for either of us. 

Instead, today I listened, gave her some space to be fussy and then changed the subject. That was the end of it.  I’m not always this lucky but things seem to go better when I am able to think about how I want to respond to my daughter rather than just emotionally reacting.

Along with slowing down, my most favorite parenting practice is one thing at a time. Recently I asked my daughter what she thought the most important thing was to me and she said, “One thing at a time. That’s what you always say.” 

One thing at a time is helpful for lots of reasons, mostly because our brains don’t actually multi-task as well as we’d like to think. And I model one thing at a time for my daughter so that she too can learn to focus on one thing at a time.

Personally, I just find life to be way more enjoyable when I’m not trying to do a million things at once or set up an art project and look for a lost toy while I’m trying to prep dinner. I look for good stopping points and then switch my attention.

My daughter is used to hearing me ask, “What am I doing right now?” She knows that after she says “Making dinner” I’m going to respond with the fact that I can only do one thing at a time and that I will help her as soon as I can.

I like to tell myself that this also teaches her patience.

The beauty of the one thing at a time practice is that it lets me off the hook for trying to get everything done all at once. 

I used to think that I was great at multi-tasking but then I had a kid and realized that I really wanted to be as present as possible with her and that I don’t want to be a multi-tasking mama. 

One thing at a time might not be for everyone,but I’d love to hear if it’s something that you do too or if you decide to give it a try. ~



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Author: Andra Brill

Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock

Photo: courtesy of the author

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Sarah Jan 23, 2015 5:30pm

Hi Andra,
What a lovely phrased meditation!
I am usually exasperated in those particular moments and it comes out more as a plea, but honestly, your words reflected back to me here are so simple and profound.
My experience of 'one thing at a time' is so different since I first read this many weeks ago, that it now occurs to me as a gift I'm giving my children: my full attention when the first task is completed, and the modeling of task management!
Thanks, friend. Congrats on the article.

Andra Dec 6, 2014 7:46pm

Hi John,
You might want to check out my website HappyMindfulFamilies.com for some more ideas about how to be mindful with children.

And I'd love to hear how it goes for you.

John kernaghan Dec 5, 2014 2:11pm

Great advice…I'll give it a go ..think I hv before just forgot a few times on their last visit….one day at a time …no thing at a time …it's like a meditation in its self…thanks for sharing..

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Andra Brill

Dr. Andra Brill is an innovator in the growing field of mindful parenting.  In her spare time, Andra enjoys backpacking, impromptu dance parties in the kitchen and reading aloud with her husband and daughter. Check out Andra’s website.