Notes on Parenting

Insights for parenting babies, toddlers, teens, and young adults.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Finding Peace in Hectic Daily Life with Kids

We all know how hectic daily life with kids can be. While some parents seem to have no reservations about being in the company of active, rambunctious youngsters for hours, or days, or even weeks on end, to others the continuous exposure to kids' dynamism and vivacity (read: noise and rowdiness) can be quite a challenge. If you are in this last category, take heart - there is a way to stay centered and peaceful during your family's most hectic times.

Centered and Peaceful. 

In a way, the fact that at times you may find your children's creative liveliness hard to deal with, is an indication that a new way of responding to their behavior has announced itself to you and is about to come into focus. Whereas before bouncy, busy children may perhaps not have bothered you at all, the fact that this particular behavior does now, means that you are geared up for a new approach, an approach that lets you experience peace in the middle of pandemonium.

     Are you ready for an experiment with peace in the home? We’ll start small, taking it one step at the time. This is how you go about it:

     Think of the quality of ‘peace’ at the center of a circle that is you. Peace is the intention you choose as an inspiration for your daily life with kids. This can be pictured as follows:

     Now draw a horizontal and vertical line through the circle extending outwards: these lines create four segments, representing four areas of your life. Think of an aspect or area of your life that you would like to be more peaceful. That could be: morning routine, commute to school, dinner time, shopping, visiting, etc. Any area will do that you feel could benefit from peace.

     Next, draw a larger circle around the peace circle. This circle will contain a mental attitude that is inspired by peace and which fits the chosen area.

     Let’s look at an example. Suppose you’ve chosen 'morning routine' as the area to work with. Your current mornings are perhaps rushed and hurried when everyone in the family is trying to wake up, wash up, eat breakfast and get ready to go their own way in their own individual time and pace, leaving you frazzled, drained and irritated. This situation calls for a softer and quieter approach. Which attitude, inspired by peace, would benefit this situation most? Perhaps the ideal attitude would be tolerance, or quietness, or steadiness. Suppose you choose tolerance and quietness as those attitudes that are most likely to positively influence your current rushed mornings. You write down tolerance and quietness into the second circle in the segment called morning routine.

The blue circle represents you, in particular: the highest concept you have of yourself embracing peace. The second circle represents your mental attitudes as it relates to various aspects of your life.

     We’re almost there – bear with me just a bit longer. You have now created a firm basis: you have a chosen intention (peace), an area of your life to focus on (morning routine) and a chosen attitude (tolerance – quietness). Now I’d like you to draw a third circle, the outer, largest one. This circle will contain actions that flow from your attitudes which in turn flowed from your intention.

Intention, Attitude and Action

To stay within the framework just outlined, you might choose to allow your kids more time to complete their morning tasks. This means you commit to getting up a little earlier in the morning; 15 minutes will go a long way to a more peaceful morning routine. In that case, write down: get up 15 minutes earlier in the outer circle. Or you could choose to allow your kids more choices in for instance the clothes they wear or the food they eat, should those items cause daily irritation. In that case you would write down: allow choices.

     Should you want to work with the attitude of quietness as well, you would have to think of actions that reflect that attitude. This could mean that you decide to not turn on the radio, TV, computer and smart phone during your morning routine, allowing you the space and rest to focus on the family instead. Or it could mean that you decide to play some relaxing music during the various morning tasks and chores. In addition, you could pledge to think twice before speaking and when you do, make sure you use a low voice and speak gently rather than hurriedly.

The Target of Intention

You might wonder if these simple actions can really make a difference in your frantic, chaotic mornings. They absolutely can, and do; even if you were to only use one or two. The reason they work is the fact that each of them represents your inner spiritual intention: peace. It is a quality that you have consciously chosen as an inspiration for your life. Each small enactment of this spiritual quality, be it a whispered encouragement, a withholding of a small criticism, or the flipping of a switch, is a sign that you have been able to connect your heart with your hands. By using the target of intention you are able to apply in daily life what you know to be true and valuable in your heart.

Other Intentions: Love, Hope, Justice, etc.

Once you get the hang of this procedure I invite you to select other areas of your life and dedicate a segment of the Target of Intention to each of them. Think of attitudes that flow from your inner intention of peace and that fit the chosen area. Lastly, imagine yourself doing small actions that represent the chosen attitude. Should you want to experiment with other spiritual qualities, such as justice, hope, joy or love, simply grab a new piece of paper and draw a new Target of Intention and follow the steps. There is no right or wrong way to do this; you are the one who decides what you want to work on and how.

Mindful Parenting

Mindfulness guru, author and professor Jon Kabat-Zinn, co-author with his wife of “Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting”, stresses the importance of not being on automatic when it comes to our interaction with our kids. "If parents are more emotionally present in a balanced, more mindful way, the evidence is that children grow up to be grounded and functional in dealing with their own emotionally charged situations." (Jon Kabat-Zinn. How to become a mindful parent. Interview conducted by Julie Kailus. Retrieved from

     Small as the actions of the outer circle as described above may seem, they allow you to be emotionally available to your family, especially your kids. Each action in turn signals the fact that you are not on automatic, but instead: fully present, because now your personal spiritual intention imbues your presence.

     If you are facing a particular difficult issue and you would like some help in applying the Target of Intention to this specific situation, please feel free to leave a message in the comment box at the bottom of the page.

Johanna van Zwet
(Drawings by author. Images courtesy of photostock at

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