87 – Mindful Parenting | Interview with Shirin Peykar

This is the audio recording of an interview I did with Shirin Peykar where we discussed the topic of mindful parenting. Shirin works with parents who are trying to be more mindful. Parenting is difficult at times and it’s easy to find ourselves reacting habitually in the midst of the chaos. In this episode, Shirin will share some fantastic ideas and insight about mindful parenting.

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www.talkwithshirin.com | www.rie.org

Transcript:

Noah Rasheta: Welcome to another episode of the Secular Buddhism podcast. This is episode number 87. I am your host, Noah Rasheta and today, I’m sharing the audio of an interview I did with Shirin Peykar on the topic of mindful parenting.

Noah Rasheta: Before I jump into the audio, a reminder, keep in mind the Dalai Lama’s advice, [00:00:30] do not use what you learn from Buddhism to be a Buddhist, use it to be a better whatever you already are. I think that’s especially relevant in this topic when it comes to parenting.

Noah Rasheta: I connected with Shirin a couple months ago and we’ve been planning on having a discussion around the topic of mindful parenting. And this is a topic that hits home for me, because I have three kids, ages nine, six and three. And I’m always striving to become more aware of my parenting style and trying to be a more skillful [00:01:00] parent in the role that I play as their dad.

Noah Rasheta: Shirin is a graduate of the University of Southern California. She’s a licensed psychotherapist in California and she’s been practicing psychotherapy since 2019. In her work, Shirin incorporates elements of cognitive behavioral therapy, psychodynamic therapy and mindfulness. And Shirin has specialized training in RIE, which is an organization that’s all about helping [00:01:30] parents to raise authentic and self-competent children.

Noah Rasheta: So without further ado, this is the audio recording of the interview I had with Shirin.

Noah Rasheta: All right, I’m excited to have Shirin Peykar on the phone with me. We’re doing this interview using the wonderful technology that is Skype. So Shirin, thank you for taking the time to be on this call with me and I’m looking forward to this interview. How are you?

Shirin Peykar: Hi Noah, it’s great to be here with you, thank you for [00:02:00] having me.

Noah Rasheta: Thank you. So this is a topic I’m looking forward to discussing with you, one, because I’m a parent and two, because I’m striving to be more mindful with my parenting.

Noah Rasheta: So before we jump into it, I’d love to hear a little bit about how you got into this topic of mindful parenting, a little bit about you and your background. Would you mind sharing a little with us?

Shirin Peykar: Sure, so I’m a licensed marriage and family therapist, [00:02:30] as you mentioned, based in Los Angeles and since I began working with clients in 2009, I found that there are a lot of common threads, themes in my work with them. One being that clients struggled with their difficult feelings or unpleasant feelings of anxiety and depression and shame, guilt, loneliness, so those kinds of tough emotions that we tend to call the negative feelings. They had a really hard [00:03:00] time feeling them. And they had a hard time communicating them, expressing them. It seemed almost like they had sort of cut off from themselves, with regards to their feelings.

Shirin Peykar: And ultimately, they had a hard time even accepting that those feelings existed in their lives and they were afraid, in essence, that A, the feelings would swallow them up whole, that it would be too much for them to handle and B, that the suffering would be forever. Once they opened [00:03:30] up this can of worms, it would just be forever. As a result of their avoidance of these feeling, their pain would get louder and louder until they really couldn’t cope anymore and that’s when they would come into therapy.

Shirin Peykar: Then another theme that I found was that they had this attachment to the idea that they needed to be a certain way in their life. And when their ideal world and their reality didn’t align, it caused them suffering.

Shirin Peykar: And then the third area [00:04:00] is that they had this idea that happiness and comfort needed to come from something outside of themselves, some sort of external means, like a purchase or food or a relationship or marriage, career, how much money they were making. And they were so set in their ideals from their ego, that they lost their sense of being. It was all about what they were doing and providing.

Shirin Peykar: [00:04:30] And so fast forward to when I had my son, he was about three months old when I began looking for a mommy-and-me type class. And I found an organization called RIE and they held these parent infant guidance classes, they called it, where the parents would go into the room and the babies would be placed on a mat in the center of the room and the parents would sit around the perimeter of the room. And the class was led by an experienced RIE associate.

Shirin Peykar: Parents would [00:05:00] learn in essence, through these interactions and through observing the children and the babies, their own babies with other babies, they would learn mindful, conscious, respectful parenting that led into toddler head. So we stayed together for about two-and-a-half years, from about three months to two and a half years.

Shirin Peykar: And so this is where my mindful parenting journey began, when my two worlds kind of collided, my personal, my professional [00:05:30] world collided. And it brought me a sense of consciousness within myself and with regards to my parenting.

Shirin Peykar: So I realized that I was so conditioned to resist my uncomfortable feelings, very similar to my clients. And I had adopted my cultural view that children are to be not seen, not heard even and that parenting is more of a hierarchical relationship. So I realized that if my [00:06:00] clients had this type of parenting from a mindful place, they wouldn’t have had those themes sort of keep coming up in their lives.

Noah Rasheta: Wow, that sounds … it’s so interesting to hear that. I’ve heard that same expression in my social circles, that children are to be seen, not heard. It’s interesting how we do that.

Noah Rasheta: [00:06:30] Something you mentioned that stood out to me was not being good at sitting with our uncomfortable emotions or difficult emotions. And that certainly resonates from just a general mindfulness standpoint, but something that I find interesting is for some reason, it seems like we go into parenting expecting parenting to just always be this pleasant experience, without acknowledging that part of parenting is the discomfort. It’s [00:07:00] the poopy diapers and the tantrums and the other things that you experience, that are normal parenting experiences and normal emotions, but we don’t want to feel those.

Noah Rasheta: And so much of our suffering arises out of not wanting to experience what’s normal and natural.

Shirin Peykar: Exactly and that attachment to our desires, that things should be a certain way because that’s how they should be, we have all these shoulds attached to [00:07:30] parenting. So exactly, that’s [inaudible 00:07:33].

Noah Rasheta: Yes, so tell me a little bit about like the shift from the view you have, the view of children as the standpoint of to be seen and not heard and that switch to … so how do you view them then, if that’s not the case?

Shirin Peykar: This is the sort of intro to mindful parenting about really reflecting what is your image [00:08:00] of a child. And this is what I ask parents to do initially is to think about what they view children, how they view children. And are we viewing them as individual beings or are we sort of viewing them as extensions of ourselves?

Shirin Peykar: So what you do is a reflection of me and we have these expectations of them to be our projections or these ideas that we, for example, should have been this [00:08:30] great doctor, this amazing, successful doctor. And so we project that onto our children, sort of viewing children that way or again, as individual beings with their own ideas and their own journey and just figuring out who they want to be.

Shirin Peykar: Go ahead.

Noah Rasheta: I really like that and what you said kind of stood out to me are they extensions of ourselves? I remember my son [00:09:00] taking, when he started soccer, that was meaningful for me, because I grew up playing soccer all throughout my schooling years and even after, I played on a league for my adult years for a while.

Noah Rasheta: So when he started playing soccer, it was exciting to see him play and I remember one game specifically, the way he was playing. He’s very timid, he’s not aggressive at all and he’s just not a good soccer player, [00:09:30] but his team won. And I remember being excited and then it occurred to me, am I happy that he won or am I happy that I get to participate in a story of my son is a good soccer player?

Noah Rasheta: It was the extension of me that was taking place there and I think we do that a lot with our kids.

Shirin Peykar: Exactly, but it’s wonderful that you are able to get into this place of mindfulness of checking in with yourself about what this means to me. Is this for my child [00:10:00] or is this for me?

Noah Rasheta: I think a lot of times, at least in sports with kids, you see that where it seems like we’re projecting ourselves on to our kids so much where if they’re not good at something, it’s like that speaks about me as the parent. Then I’m not a good parent. That’s damaging, huh?

Shirin Peykar: Yes, it’s exactly it, because we’re not allowing this space for them to fill who they are and who they want [00:10:30] to be and maybe he doesn’t even want to play soccer, maybe he wants to play football. But because of your excitement and your pride, he may have some difficulty with expressing that he doesn’t want to go to soccer, he wants to do something else.

Noah Rasheta: It’s been an interesting topic in my dynamic, in my family and my marriage, because I do have kind of the unique circumstances of having [00:11:00] multiple views in our household, when it comes to cultural views, political views and even religious views. And it’s kind of forced us to really think about that with our kids, what do you think about this? And we’ll talk about a topic, they’ll ask a question and it’s like mommy thinks and she’ll explain her view and then daddy thinks and I’ll explain my view. And we’ve tried to make a very conscious effort to say, but what really matters is what do you think? And [00:11:30] give them a space and that flexibility to one day know that you get to decide for your own how you view this or what you think about that.

Shirin Peykar: And the way that you’re modeling that you each have different views, it shows him that he can also have his own.

Noah Rasheta: Sure, yeah, so let’s talk a little bit about the feelings that you were talking about. How do [00:12:00] I as a parent relate to my feelings, the feelings of being a parent, the experience of parenting versus the child’s feelings? Tell me a little bit about that.

Shirin Peykar: Again, when we’re not allowing ourselves to access a place of discomfort, we’re modeling to our child that they also shouldn’t, for whatever reason. Or that if we’re dismissing or not allowing them to have their experience, [00:12:30] for example, if they’re crying about a fall and we’re saying you’re okay, the child learns to cut off that feeling, the inner self with regards to their feelings.

Shirin Peykar: And then like the initial beginning intro, where I talked about the clients that sort of cut off their feelings from themselves, they have a difficult time accessing them in the future.

Noah Rasheta: I really like that. I feel like this is getting at the heart of [00:13:00] what it means to be a mindful parent or to be parenting mindfully. And this has the crossover with what we talk about in mindfulness in general. What we’re trying to accomplish as a practice isn’t necessarily to feel good, it’s to be good at feeling.

Noah Rasheta: And I really like that applied specifically to parenting. Would you say that’s kind of the … is that how you would define [00:13:30] mindful parenting?

Shirin Peykar: Yeah, I think mindful parenting begins with that sense of a parent really just asking themselves how are they feeling? It begins with us.

Shirin Peykar: And so if we are beginning to allow our own feelings to be within us and we’re allowing them to exist and we’re labeling them within ourselves, because if you can name it, [00:14:00] you can tame. That’s the saying, if you can name it, you can tame it. And if we’re able to release them in a healthy way, we’re again, modeling all of these for a child. So release in a healthy way, it could be if we’re upset, we’re just going to cry, we’re not going to hold back our sadness for whatever cultural reason we’ve had in our past, where you shouldn’t cry in front of children. It’s going to make them sad, you don’t want to make them sad, being sad is bad, being sad is scary. [00:14:30] If we’re angry, we want to use exercise to release our anger or a journal or breathe through it or use some sense of imagery to release it.

Shirin Peykar: And we want to really just validate within ourselves, instead of judge. I remember a podcast where you talked about that second arrow. We want to eliminate that second arrow of feeling and emotion and then having a judgment about that emotion. [00:15:00] We want to eliminate that and accept our feeling. And if we need to, communicate and share within ourselves and with others, including our children.

Noah Rasheta: I like that. And a word that kind of arises as I think about this is awareness, that you mentioned. I had this experience last week or maybe the week before. It’s a busy time of the season and the reason I want to highlight this [00:15:30] is because I’m sure someone’s listening to this or clicked on this podcast episode with the title mindful parenting, thinking I want to be a mindful parent.

Noah Rasheta: And in their mind, what that means is here’s all this chaos, kids are screaming or whatever and I am just at peace and I’m like sitting there. But it’s not that. Here’s how I, in my experience of trying to be a more mindful parent, this is one example where I have been very grateful for my practice.

Noah Rasheta: [00:16:00] So like I mentioned, it’s a busy time of year, we were all out late doing activities, going to listen to grandma and grandpa’s choir concert and long story short, we get home, it’s really late, kids are going to bed around 11:30 and they’re going to have to wake up for school tomorrow. So I kind of paused and took the whole family for a moment and I said, everyone, listen for a moment. It’s late, [00:16:30] we’re going to bed late, so in the morning we’re all going to be probably a little grumpy. Do you know why we’ll be grumpy?

Noah Rasheta: We all talked about it, yeah, because we’re tired, but it was almost like this awareness of what we’re going to be experiencing tomorrow and sure enough, the next morning, I had forgotten that we talked about it, but remembered when we were having breakfast and the kids were essentially being sloths and could not get themselves ready in time to make the bus. [00:17:00] And I felt this moment of wanting to lose my temper and just be, like you guys, run.

Noah Rasheta: And then I remembered what I said the night before I was like, oh yeah, I knew that this morning would be harder than normal because I’m tired, they’re tired, we’re all grumpy and that awareness alone was enough to not get rid of the feeling. I was still frustrated that they weren’t going to make the bus on time, but at least I knew why and it gave me a little bit of space, in terms of the feeling [00:17:30] that I was having and how I was going to react to that feeling.

Shirin Peykar: Exactly and I’m really glad you brought up this awareness of needs and triggers, because this is another step into becoming more of a mindful parent. Because when we’re able to increase our awareness of not only our feelings like you did in this situation, but also our needs and our triggers as parents.

Shirin Peykar: So things like [00:18:00] sleep, like you mentioned, food. There is a term called hangry and it’s true, when we’re hungry, we do get angry and our children even worse. And bringing this awareness into the stressors in our own lives on any given day. There are personal triggers from childhood, maybe we have this need to control because of our anxiety as adults or maybe we’re struggling with boundaries with others or again, we’re feeling like [00:18:30] we’re very ego driven, so we feel like our children are projections. We’re having this constant dance of projections between us and our child or maybe feeling ignored triggers your rejection button.

Shirin Peykar: Maybe sometimes when my son doesn’t respond to me and I’m saying something and he’s looking at me or he’s not looking at me, but he’s not responding. I sometimes have to check in with myself as to why is this triggering me? Why am I getting activated? And is this triggering my rejection [00:19:00] button? Do I feel rejected by my child right now because he’s not responding to my question, if she’s hungry or not?

Shirin Peykar: Also, it is this awareness of the way maybe that we were parented. Maybe we’re seeing ourselves as our parents and we swore that we’d never become that. And it’s also important to not only have this awareness of ourselves, but also an awareness of our child’s needs and triggers too.

Noah Rasheta: And in [00:19:30] my case, it’s been really helpful to try to recognize in my spouse and my wife’s interactions, her triggers too. What I found was something would trigger her and when she’s triggered, that would trigger me, because I’m the peacemaker. And like suddenly we’d be caught in these complex webs of reactivity and we’re all just reacting to different things that had we all understood, oh, you’re tired, oh, [00:20:00] you’re being triggered by this past experience of your childhood, which is triggering me.

Shirin Peykar: Exactly.

Noah Rasheta: And then we go through our whole lives, if we don’t notice that, we go through our whole lives raising our kids, just constantly being reactive and unintentionally teaching them to carry on with that same form of reactivity.

Shirin Peykar: Exactly and the relationships, I’m glad you brought up romantic relationships, because those are very triggering [00:20:30] for us, but we can leave those relationships, which people tend to do, especially in this day and age. But when it comes to parenting, we have to work through triggers and we have to figure out why this is activating us and what within us is being activated and why, so that we can raise healthier, happier children.

Noah Rasheta: I really like that. So one thing that I try to emphasize a lot in the topics that I discuss [00:21:00] on the podcast is that when we’re discussing something, we’re trying to bring it back to me. This is about introspection and you finding out what’s there for you and I think that’s important to highlight here.

Noah Rasheta: Mindful parenting isn’t modeling, oh, I want to be like so-and-so, they’re a mindful parent. It’s about getting to the heart of what you just said, like what’s triggering me, why am I feeling this way? And discovering the little things that you didn’t know, like [00:21:30] the concept of hangry was somewhat foreign to me. I don’t know why food isn’t a big deal for me. I could eat sludge, as long as it has a decent flavor, every day, for every meal and it wouldn’t bother me.

Noah Rasheta: But my wife is very particular when it comes to food and if she hasn’t had her meal, she gets hangry and that’s passed along to my kids, well, at least to some of them. But I didn’t realize something about me is I call it hotgry, which [00:22:00] is the temperature. If it’s too hot, like if I’m wearing my coat and we get in the car and then we turn the car on, the heater kicks on, like all of a sudden this rage enters me. And it’s because I’m hot.

Noah Rasheta: And I didn’t know that for a long time and I would be reactive and especially in the car, like we’d get in the car and start driving and that’s when I’m more likely to like yell or something. But now that I know that about myself, we get in the car, especially here in winter, I’ll take my coat off and [00:22:30] I’ll be in a T-shirt in the car because if the heater is on and everyone’s being loud, the hotgriness goes away, because I learned that about myself. And I don’t know how many times I was reactive because I was just really hot.

Shirin Peykar: It’s funny you brought that up, because I actually share both of your triggers, except when it comes to food. I am very much like your wife in the sense that I’m very aware, when I need to go pick up my son [00:23:00] from nursery school at 12:30, I need to have eaten before. I need to sit down and eat a good meal. I need to be full, so that I can be patient.

Shirin Peykar: Because one of his triggers is transitions, but one of his needs is that he needs time to transition from school, to the car, to me, to home. And so he requires a good 10 or 15 minutes to walk and look at a tree that’s outside [00:23:30] and sit on the grass and look at the little child outside of his nursery class. And if I’m hungry, I don’t have the patience to do that.

Shirin Peykar: So like you say, being mindful of our buttons really helps us to create less of those unnecessary moments of chaos.

Noah Rasheta: Yeah, I like that, unnecessary moments of chaos. Because like we mentioned before, the truth about parenting is it can be [00:24:00] an unpleasant, it will be an unpleasant experience at times and it will be chaotic at times, but the unnecessary chaos is what we’re focused on. I like that.

Shirin Peykar: Exactly and that’s also a reason why I encourage parents to take on this practice of figuring out what their goal is, of becoming a mindful parent. Are they trying to get rid of both the unnecessary and necessary chaos? Are [00:24:30] they trying to fix their child to be more compliant and respectful, rather than having this mutual respect that mindful parenting encourages?

Shirin Peykar: What’s the reason? Why do they want to be mindful parents? So we delve into that and we’ll talk about, are they attempting to fix, change or minimize these negative feelings to control their child? Because [00:25:00] these are all ego-driven goals. Or are they trying to create a psychologically healthy adult, that’s inner directed and authentic and secure and self-aware and accepts a full spectrum of their emotions? A child that’s communicative and confident and attentive.

Shirin Peykar: Because a child that is excessively compliant is unhealthy. This represents [00:25:30] the death of the self. Meaning the child has cut off their true self, in order to satisfy others, so they’re really in essence sacrificing themselves, their needs, their feelings, their wants and desires to satisfy everyone else and that’s the recipe for a very codependent relationship in the future.

Noah Rasheta: It seems like that transitions very easily into affecting your romantic relationships too.

Shirin Peykar: [00:26:00] Yes, undoubtedly. The relationship between parent and child creates the parameters of the relationships that we pursue as adults. We kind of recreate those relationships as adults and we try to resolve those unresolved areas of our childhoods, through our romantic relationships in the future. And then we find a whole mess later on, when it could have been something that [00:26:30] we could have worked through with our parents, if our parents were more mindful and aware of us and themselves.

Noah Rasheta: Let’s talk a little bit about like common mistakes, what we can call habitual reactivity. What are some of the tendencies that you see when you’re working with people of little things, that might not … excuse me, little things that might not be so obvious, that we’re all doing?

Shirin Peykar: I think [00:27:00] you touched on it a little bit, when you said that you kind of flip your lid when you get hot and that speaks to reaction without taking a pause. I think this is one of the areas that many parents fall into, where they just yell or they raise their voice or they become annoyed or get into a power struggle, because they haven’t been aware of their own bodily cues of they’re going [00:27:30] to flip.

Shirin Peykar: And so I recommend that parents take a pause, when they start feeling those cues within their body of them getting tense, usually it’s like the hand, the fist kind of being tight, your body becomes tight, your breathing is slow or minimal. And when we’re attentive to those bodily cues, we can then remember to take [00:28:00] a pause and so then we can mindfully respond, rather than habitually react.

Noah Rasheta: I found in my own experience, I like prompting myself with a question, like, whoa, why am I feeling this? Or specifically with kids, with my kids, it’s like, why does that feel like such a big deal to me, the fact that they’re doing this or that and I’m feeling really … like I want to react. Why [00:28:30] is this such a big deal to me?

Noah Rasheta: And that often allows me to sometimes gain insight on what we were talking about earlier, like, oh, this past experience or something along those lines.

Shirin Peykar: Yes, exactly. It really brings your awareness to yourself and to your child and that’s what really this is all about, mindful parenting is just awareness of ourselves and our child and the dance between us. And even if though, [00:29:00] you do get into a situation where you have sort of flipped your lid, Dan Siegel calls it flipping your lid, he says that it’s a human thing that we do and it’s something that our brain, it just does. It’s natural, it’s not your fault.

Shirin Peykar: And so it’s important not to blame ourselves if we have flipped out. And you want to move to more of a place with self-compassion and repair, ultimately, is what we can do at that point. And so like you say, asking yourself the question, [00:29:30] we’re really impaired at this point once it has happened, so you want to maybe ask yourself, how do I handle it when I have acted in a way that’s not aligned with my mindful parenting perspective?

Shirin Peykar: And what we tend to do as parents, unfortunately, is to deny that it happened or we rationalize it and say, oh, I’m really tired. I didn’t sleep last night or we blame our child and we say we got a bad kid or we avoid it altogether.

Shirin Peykar: [00:30:00] But what I encourage parents to do is to communicate what they’ve done in a way where the child can reconnect with them and what that could look like is, I’m sorry I yelled at you, that was probably scary for you. I’m going to let you know next time I’m upset that I need a break.

Noah Rasheta: That’s interesting. I remember now that you’re saying this, for me growing up, [00:30:30] there’s kind of a routine, if we got in trouble or I shouldn’t say if, when we got in trouble for doing something, my twin brother and I were very rambunctious little kids. But I remember any time we got in trouble, it was always followed up at some point usually within I don’t know 30 minutes to an hour, my dad would come back in and tell us we got in trouble. If we got [00:31:00] spanked or whatever it was, whatever the technique was that put us at our place, he would come back and explain it.

Noah Rasheta: And I remember as I’ve grown, like appreciating that and I’ve carried on that same thing with my kids. If they get in trouble or I react a certain way, I always come back and explain it later when I feel like I’m ready to explain myself adequately.

Noah Rasheta: And I mentioned this in the podcast once, one of these instances was [00:31:30] coming home, being upset and like kicking or picking up and throwing the Legos that they had built a little thing and I threw it against the wall. I felt really bad about that because at the moment, I was just reacting, but flipping the lid. My lid had been flipped, which I think is a normal thing, but it allowed me, like I said before, that question, why was that such a big deal, why did I react that way? Because it felt like that wasn’t [00:32:00] normal of me.

Noah Rasheta: And I gained a lot of insight out of that. So I try to continually do that, whether it’s just a little reaction or a big reaction. I try to eventually sit down with the kids and I’ll do this all the time. Do you know why I yelled? And it gives us this chance to talk. And I always, by then I’ve realized something about myself, so I usually present that. Listen guys, I’ve been dealing with this or that or I’m tired or I was [00:32:30] hungry and it gives them, at least it feels to me like it’s giving them this perspective of understanding, oh, I’m going to feel that way too one day and when I flip my lid, I get to also sit and ask, why did that happen, why did I feel that way? It’s been an interesting experience for me.

Shirin Peykar: Yeah, exactly and I think the ability to communicate with each child that’s in a different stage, [00:33:00] we of course have to adjust how much and what we’re communicating with each child in a different stage. Obviously with an older child, you’re able to share more and you go for more complex emotional terms that you could use with them, that really expands their emotional intelligence. So it’s really a great practice to do that.

Shirin Peykar: I think another area that I offer for parents to be [00:33:30] mindful of is the phones and media distractions. This is a big one, because we become so unconscious of the fact that our presence with our child usually entails us grabbing our phone, checking emails or getting a text and responding. But we really want parents to think about the effect of not having this distraction. By being present without these we’re modeling a level of connection [00:34:00] with others and with our child and we’re sending this message to our child that they’re worthy our time, because how else are they going to learn worthiness?

Shirin Peykar: I recommend that parents be present and it doesn’t require us talking really, it could even just be us getting in their world, sitting next to them when they’re playing a video game, just observing. Not hovering, but more observing and just having this quiet presence. I think a lot of parents struggle with that quiet presence [00:34:30] and the piece of advice for that is to really tap into your senses when you’re trying to connect with your child without these distractions. Because we’ve become so used to these distractions.

Noah Rasheta: That’s a big one for me. I feel like I’ve been battling with this a lot. The phone is always there and my habitual reactivity is going down to the phone and checking, is there an email, do I need to respond to someone on social media or things [00:35:00] of that nature.

Noah Rasheta: And I’m often reminded when I’m trying to talk to the kids about something and they are on their screens and they literally cannot … it’s like I’m invisible. I have to put my hands in front of the screen and then they realize, oh yeah, you’re there, what were you saying?

Noah Rasheta: But that’s what I do and it’s been really a source of … what would the word be? I guess feeling bad about my parenting, is my phone addiction. [00:35:30] What have you found as some tips or things to work around that?

Noah Rasheta: One thing I’ve done is I’ve tried to at least block out times, like okay, dinner time is an obvious one, but other times I go and I physically put my phone away like in the room or something and go back out and just sit and try to interact with the family. Because I’m trying to model that, because they’re growing up with an even harder one where for them it’s the same, they’re so entertained [00:36:00] by their technology. And I just feel like we’re modeling all the wrong behavior there.

Noah Rasheta: What would you say about tips and techniques there?

Shirin Peykar: I think those were really great ideas that you had, putting the phone in another room, putting it on silent and again, modeling that this is the time that we’re having dinner, this is the time that we’re having play. Sensitive observation [00:36:30] we call it, where we’re just kind of observing our children and watching them play.

Shirin Peykar: And if we do have to take a call, because it does happen where our children don’t want us to constantly be with them the older they get, they want to exercise their independence. But if we are in the middle of those times when we do get a disruption and it will happen, again, it’s communication, it’s communicating that I’m sorry I have to take a call. [00:37:00] I’ll be right back. Or I’m sorry, that was disturbing, I apologize for that. Or the phone’s ringing. I’m not going to take that call because it’s important for me to be here with you right now. They really acknowledge that and they internalize that they’re worthy of their parents’ time.

Shirin Peykar: So I think these ideas that you had were a great one. I think a lot of parents do struggle with it, but putting it on silent really helps. It’s just having that out of sight, out of mind thing for [00:37:30] our own well-being is very important, let alone for our child.

Shirin Peykar: So another tip I have that I think is more subtle is our use of language and use of the words, in particular of no, because that’s something that’s become so overused and it’s become something that the meaning … it has lost its meaning for our children. And so what I recommend for parents is rather than no and don’t do this and don’t do that, [00:38:00] to shift their language to something that the child can do.

Shirin Peykar: So for example, my son loves to jump on the couch. Instead of telling him don’t jump on the couch, I say if you want to jump, you’re welcome to go jump on the trampoline or you’re welcome to go jump on the mattress in your playroom, but I don’t want you to jump on the couch.

Shirin Peykar: So it’s more of this directive, it’s directed to what they can do rather than don’t do this, no, no. I recommend [00:38:30] parents using no for just safety concerns and the rest is more directives to things they can do and offering them the choice. So that they’re not zoning out with the no.

Shirin Peykar: Or the terms good and bad, I feel like places some judgment on things and people. Maybe shifting those words to unhealthy or healthy, rather than that’s bad for you, that candy is bad for you, that’s [00:39:00] not really healthy. You see the difference?

Noah Rasheta: It’s interesting, that’s one that I’ve worked on a lot in our home, because I’m always talking about that as a concept, that good and bad, that’s a very prevalent conversation in Buddhism and mindfulness. But I’ve noticed even when my kids are asking me questions like, hey, why is this word a bad word? And I’ll say [00:39:30] it’s not a bad word, there’s no such thing as bad words, there’s just words that some people get really uncomfortable if they hear it.

Noah Rasheta: So we don’t say it because it’s bad, we just don’t say it because we don’t want to make people uncomfortable. And trying to reframe things just to get out of that mindset of good and bad.

Noah Rasheta: I’ve had a lot of discussions with my wife around that same concept of there’s no such thing as like a good parent versus [00:40:00] a bad parent, other than like how do you define that, what makes you a good parent? We’re all just parenting and we’ve tried to reframe in our personal conversations, we’ve tried to reframe the good and bad to more how can I be a more skillful parent, how can I be a more skillful partner?

Noah Rasheta: But I think we’re trying to model that with our kids too, because I’ve noticed for them it’s easy to get caught up in that thinking of it might be in a good son or a good daughter, versus, [00:40:30] there is no good or bad.

Shirin Peykar: Exactly. We’re not good or bad people, people have behaviors that may not be the greatest or we could even label the behaviors as maybe good or bad, but people, we just are who we are. It’s that accepting as is notion.

Noah Rasheta: I like that. So [00:41:00] language is a big one and again, this goes back to being introspective and asking yourself, how am I communicating and why am I communicating this way? Any other common ones?

Shirin Peykar: Yes, another one that is a big one that we see is when parents tend to dismiss a child’s physical boundaries, unconsciously [00:41:30] because they want to respect others. Go give grandma, grandpa a kiss or just picking up children without letting them know.

Shirin Peykar: I think that it’s really important to begin to bring this physical awareness through mindful parenting for our children, so that they’re aware of boundaries. And we begin giving children the opportunity to check in with themselves about what they want, what they’re comfortable with, what feels good, what doesn’t [00:42:00] and allowing them to make decisions about their body.

Shirin Peykar: So maybe asking, do you want to give grandma, grandpa love before they leave? Or can I pick you up, to younger children. I have this bedtime routine with my son where I ask him, we call it the bedtime kisses and I ask him where do you want me to kiss you before bed? And so he’ll point to his hair and his eyes and his ears and it’s almost like a fun game for him, where [00:42:30] he tells me where he’s comfortable being kissed. And I just say good night and I respect that and some nights he doesn’t want any and that’s okay too.

Shirin Peykar: So again, it’s not about me, it’s checking in with yourself as to who is this for? Is this for my child or is this for me? Who is this benefiting?

Noah Rasheta: It’s interesting with my kids, the differences in their personalities. My primary love language is [00:43:00] physical touch and affection and my son is very much that way too. So like in the mornings when the kids are … so my son and daughter, my kids are nine, six and three. The nine year old and the six year old go ride the bus together, but every morning it’s the same thing. My son is like bye mommy, bye daddy and he has to give us each a kiss and he has to give us a hug and then he’ll start to leave and turn around and always needs a second hug or a second [00:43:30] kiss.

Noah Rasheta: And our little daughter, the six year old, she’s always just like see you, bye and doesn’t … no hugs, no kisses and it was interesting to notice in me like that sense of, whoa, something’s wrong because why would you not give someone a hug and a kiss before you leave? Because that’s me, but it’s made me very aware that, oh, she kind of gets to decide how that is and how long I’ve projected my communication [00:44:00] style on like my wife or on my kids.

Noah Rasheta: And it’s been eye-opening for me to think, okay, I want to be more mindful about this and pay attention. What are her communication styles, how does she feel loved? I just thought about that as you were explaining.

Shirin Peykar: It’s really important for us to be able to respect theirs and allow the space for them to exercise what they want, when it comes to their bodies. I think [00:44:30] as young children, we do tend to tell them to go kiss this person and give that one a hug and we don’t think, like what if they don’t want to, what if they’re really uncomfortable for whatever reason? It’s not what they want to do. We’re sending the message that your inner voice is secondary to what your parent has to kind of direct you to do.

Noah Rasheta: Yeah, interesting.

Shirin Peykar: And I don’t think it’s intentional. I don’t want to [00:45:00] judge parents because I’m sure they’re all doing the best they can with what they know, but we also do want to bring some awareness to a child’s experience within the way that we’re parenting.

Noah Rasheta: I like that. So let’s talk a little bit about like the mindful parenting from the perspective of what’s happening inside. Because we talk about mindful parenting in terms [00:45:30] of how I interact with my kids, what do I say to my kids? But what about mindful parenting in the context of how I talk to myself? The inner voice, what’s happening inside of me, let’s talk about that a little bit.

Shirin Peykar: So when it comes to our own feelings, that’s where we can begin, ultimately, that’s where we’re going to begin. And bringing this awareness to ourselves, I have a [00:46:00] little thing that I have created called the mind and body scan. And it’s very aligned with the Buddhist tenet of the right mindfulness, of being aware of your thoughts and your emotions and your body as it exists in the present moment. And ultimately, your feelings and your thoughts do create your reality, which is the whole mindfulness approach. I’m sure you’re able to speak to that better than I am.

Shirin Peykar: But I’ve created this practice, [00:46:30] in checking in with yourself, just by scanning your body, throughout the day, for your sensations and your feelings. And the purpose of this is to create a habit of staying in the moment.

Shirin Peykar: So just throughout the day, taking a moment within yourself to check in, how am I feeling right now? Because we’re really easily able to distract ourselves, though again, the phone, through chores that we have to do, through our relationships, through [00:47:00] work. It’s really easy to forget and to put ourselves aside.

Shirin Peykar: And so when we create this practice of checking in with ourselves, it benefits us as parents and as individuals, because we’re modeling that we’re feeling or validating or communicating or even with ourselves, about our feelings our needs. And it’s a great practice to do just within yourself, the positive or the negative. Right now, I’m [00:47:30] not in a good mood, what caused that? Just having this relationship with yourself throughout the day that you’re checking in with yourself, just to see how you’re doing. The same way that we would do with a partner.

Noah Rasheta: It’s interesting how you mentioned this modeling, if we don’t model or if we don’t practice this ourselves, we’re essentially modeling the way of being [00:48:00] habitually reactive to our kids. And one way that I know that I do that and I think you mentioned this in some of your work, is distracting our kids. It’s always been a strategy or a technique that I use when the kid falls and you’re like, oh, you’re okay, oh, look, over there, did you see that? We’re trying to distract our kids from what they’re feeling or what they’re going through.

Noah Rasheta: And I think in my [00:48:30] case, that stems from … maybe that’s how I’ve always been like, oh, I’m feeling this, better distract myself, go look at that. How do we foster that sense in our kids, how do we help them to honor what they’re experiencing?

Shirin Peykar: The way to go about that is to really just meet them where they are at in that moment. So if again, we’ll use the [00:49:00] fall example of you’ve witnessed your child falling and they’re crying, I mean there’s no real injury and you may feel like, okay, it’s not a big deal. But we want to meet them where they’re at and if they’re crying, we just want to sit with them while they’re crying and just look at them and even explain to them maybe what we saw happen. You were walking and you didn’t see that last step and then I noticed that you just kind [00:49:30] of fell over and you hit your head slightly on the ground. And that probably scared you.

Shirin Peykar: We want to add words, we want to be able to put words to the experience, emotional feelings, that must have scared you, that shocked you, you weren’t expecting that, you feel scared, you feel afraid, whatever words that we feel like would accurately explain [00:50:00] what our child is feeling. So that they’re able to put words to it, they’re able to make sense of it and we’re not discounting their experience, because we feel like, okay, there’s no blood, you’re fine.

Noah Rasheta: That seems to be a common one, it’s like, you’re okay, get up. Quit crying.

Shirin Peykar: Yes, I see that, you’re okay, nothing happened, nothing happened. Why are you crying, don’t cry? Oh my gosh, let’s go get ice cream, the ice cream truck … and I think a lot of that’s cultural too [00:50:30] for many people. We’ve learned to become afraid of our emotions. I don’t know why, because we don’t do that with the positive emotions of happiness and joy. We want that, but we don’t want the other part of our human experience.

Shirin Peykar: And if we’re not willing to have that within ourselves, we definitely can’t see that within our children.

Noah Rasheta: I wonder if a part of that is the impatience, we’re always [00:51:00] rushing from here to there, this to that. So like someone falls and oh, you’re fine, get up, don’t cry about it. We don’t have time, at least we feel like we don’t have time to sit and evaluate.

Noah Rasheta: But it’s funny that you mentioned like on the flip side, if it were a positive experience, then we do want to be like, oh, I’m going to linger with this one. We don’t do that there, it’s like, hey, I’m feeling great, no, you’re not, you’re more okay. Let’s move on.

Shirin Peykar: Exactly. I think [00:51:30] it stems from A, this fear that these negative emotions are going to swallow us up whole. So we need to avoid it or even just the fact of us being parented from a perspective of distraction and not being in touch with that emotion and thinking that there’s some reason why we shouldn’t visit those feelings. There’s something in there that’s scarier, that it’s going to last forever or that we have this idea that it shouldn’t be this [00:52:00] way. We shouldn’t feel sad or we shouldn’t cry or we shouldn’t feel guilty or anxious or lonely.

Shirin Peykar: But why not? Really asking ourselves, why not, what’s wrong with that?

Noah Rasheta: I like that you mentioned kind of highlighting some of the other underlying emotions that may be causing that discomfort, like instead of just saying, oh, you’re okay, saying, oh, did that scare you? I think that’s really [00:52:30] powerful, in terms of helping our kids to grow up with the tools, I guess, to explore deeper.

Noah Rasheta: Because I find that as adults, we do that all the time too. I mentioned in one of the podcast episodes, we were in Iceland and my wife had this experience of being yelled at by another tourist, because she was taking too much time on one of the things where we were taking a picture. And there was this intense moment of strong emotion that welled up for her, that through introspection, [00:53:00] she was able to realize why did that bother me? And realizing there’s a deeper thing, that sense of embarrassment, in this case, embarrassment is what led to the anger.

Noah Rasheta: But I think with pain, it’s similar, it’s like, well, a kid falls, they’re crying not because it hurt or because they were embarrassed, but helping them to discover what happened, did that scare you? I think is a good prompt for something like that, to realize, oh, that’s why I’m feeling this way.

Shirin Peykar: [00:53:30] As you said, in every experience, there are multi layers and it may not just be maybe what we think or it may be that there is something deeper or something different that maybe we didn’t even catch, that if we allow for that experience to unfold, that they will be able to tell us. I was surprised. I didn’t expect that to be there, it’s not that I’m in pain, it’s more that I was shocked or [00:54:00] I wasn’t expecting that to happen. Caught me off guard.

Noah Rasheta: I really like that.

Noah Rasheta: So I feel like it’s a good time to mention again, this to the listeners, if you’re listening to this thinking mindful parenting means there’s this way to parent compared to that way of parenting. I don’t know that we would want to necessarily present it that way. It’s a more introspective way [00:54:30] of parenting, where I’m learning about why I parent the way that I parent. Why I react the way that I react, when this or that happens.

Noah Rasheta: Rather than saying … I think a common mistake would be to think, okay, well, I’m just going to pretend now. This thing happens and I’ll pretend like that’s not bothering me because that’s the mindful way. And that’s actually the opposite, you’re not sitting with the emotion that you’re experiencing, you’re pretending that you’re not experiencing that unpleasant [00:55:00] feeling is counterproductive, that’s not going to make you mindful at all. Pretending to be peaceful in your parenting isn’t helpful at all.

Noah Rasheta: If we were to kind of wrap this up, what does mindful parenting look like, what are some common things that somebody listening now could start doing this or that? What would that be?

Shirin Peykar: So mindful parenting is really a [00:55:30] combination of being authentic with our feelings and our experience, relating to them, relating to our child’s feelings and experience, allowing them to exist within the child too, bringing awareness to our needs and our triggers and our self-care and our child’s needs and triggers. And bringing this awareness to our communication, as to how we’re communicating what’s going on with us, with [00:56:00] regards to our feelings and our experience.

Shirin Peykar: And lastly, I wanted to add a bonus sort of exercise for parents to try out and see how that feels for them, even if they had a day of not so mindful parenting. How does that sound, Noah?

Noah Rasheta: Great, yeah, let’s hear it.

Shirin Peykar: So I call this the manifesting positive outcomes, where at the end of each day it’s taking five minutes [00:56:30] before you go to bed, to replay the day’s interactions with your child in your mind. So what I do is I stood at the edge of my bed and I envisioned one incident that I would have liked to have gone better with my son. And I’ll ask myself where in that event I could have been more, where I could have been better. How could I have interacted in a way more aligned with mindful parenting?

Shirin Peykar: And then I begin to envision that same event going exactly as I would have liked [00:57:00] it to go, in my mind and I feel in my body, what it feels like to be on this endeavor of mindful parenting.

Noah Rasheta: I like that. Is this like a practice that you’re just kind of running in your head or do you have people write it down like a … I don’t know, like a parenting journal or something?

Shirin Peykar: It depends on what you works for you. Some parents don’t [00:57:30] like the journaling, but if you journal, I think it’s even better because it allows you this opportunity to go back and kind of look through past incidents. And you’ll remember things that you may not have remembered in that present moment. And it could be a very enlightening journal to go through, when you have the time.

Noah Rasheta: I like that. One thing I do regularly in the podcast episodes is I try to have an invitation [00:58:00] for a challenge of some sort at the end. And I think this is a good one for this podcast episode, maybe for the next week or so, to give that a try and in your day, with that asking yourself, how did today unfold in my parenting, what could I have done differently, how would that have made things turn out? And just thinking about it I think goes a long way.

Noah Rasheta: Because what we seem to be up against is remembering to remember. [00:58:30] And like in our busy lives, we’re just reacting and we’re surviving the experience of parenting and not really pausing and analyzing, what does this feel like?

Noah Rasheta: And that’s unfortunate because I try to remind myself that no matter how unpleasant the experience of parenting is today, at some point, I will look back and I’ll miss that that experience is gone. And I don’t want [00:59:00] to have regrets in my parenting and to me, I mean I don’t want to have regrets in my living, but tome, that translates into, am I really feeling it right now, allowing myself to be fully immersed in the experience of parenting?

Noah Rasheta: But that puts the good and the bad, so to speak, on an equal playing field. It’s like did I really soak in the unpleasantness of my three-year-old still not being potty-trained? Here I am changing [00:59:30] her pull-up in the mall. Did I really allow myself to be good at feeling what that was like, rather than just pushing that away?

Shirin Peykar: Yes, exactly. This full spectrum of emotions and experiences, exactly, that’s exactly it.

Noah Rasheta: I feel like parenting is an incredible experience. Anyone who’s a parent kind of knows this and I feel like, man, it’s been such a neat [01:00:00] experience to raise another human being and realize they’re not little robots, I’m not cloning myself. They’ve got their own personalities and their own way that makes them unique. And it’s neat to have that interaction with them, even at such a young age and to me, that’s what mindful parenting is about. It’s me trying to understand the interdependent nature of our relationship and trying to understand [01:00:30] myself, how I interject, like the natural tendency to put myself in them, the egocentric side of it that you talked about.

Noah Rasheta: And I guess not eliminate that, but totally just recognize, oh, that’s a natural tendency. Wow, why do we do that? And allowing myself to see that and then back away at times and think, oh, okay, I know why this felt this way or that way. And just again, experiencing that full range of emotions in [01:01:00] what it is to parent.

Shirin Peykar: Yes, exactly.

Noah Rasheta: Sorry, I was just going to say if people want to learn more about this, do you have any resources that you would suggest, books or your website or anything along those lines?

Shirin Peykar: Yes. I encourage them to check out my website. I have a little bit of information on my website about how I work. [01:01:30] They’re welcome to reach out to me. I offer free 15 minute consultations for prospective clients and I’m able to just kind of get to know them and what they’re looking for. I’m able to see clients in California, face to face or through Skype or teletherapy throughout the United States. And that would be more as like a mindful parenting coaching.

Shirin Peykar: And if they’d like to get more information about RIE, they’re welcome to go to www-

Noah Rasheta: [01:02:00] Wait. Before we jump into that, what is your website?

Shirin Peykar: My website is www.talkwithshirin.com.

Noah Rasheta: And that’s S-H-I-R-I-N.

Shirin Peykar: That’s correct.

Noah Rasheta: Cool and I’ll put these links in the description of the podcast episode as well. So the other one you were mentioning?

Shirin Peykar: RIE’s website is www.rie.org and that’s [01:02:30] R-I-E.org. RIE may have RIE associates throughout the United States, they are actually worldwide, so you’re welcome to see if there are any parent child guidance classes near you. Or they also have other sort of resources on their website.

Shirin Peykar: And on my website, I have books that I recommend for parents that are interested in mindful conscious parenting.

Noah Rasheta: [01:03:00] Cool, do any of those stand out right now as like here’s a book to check out or should we just go look at the list?

Shirin Peykar: There are a bunch. I recommend that parents go check out what works for them, what they’re looking for. If it’s for discipline, I have a couple for discipline. If they’re looking for more … something for their babies, from zero to two, got that covered. And then for older [01:03:30] children as well.

Shirin Peykar: And then there are books for the parents too, so we’ve got it all covered on my website.

Noah Rasheta: Awesome, great. I feel like I want to echo what I mentioned at the beginning of every podcast episode, in terms of when we’re talking about Buddhism, I always mention the quote of the Dalai Lama is to not use Buddhism to become a Buddhist, but to become a better whatever you already are.

Noah Rasheta: And I almost want to say that it’s perfectly with this, like use the concepts [01:04:00] and tools of mindful parenting not to become a mindful parent, but to become a better parent, a better whatever you already are, whatever type of parent you are now, just be a little better.

Shirin Peykar: Exactly.

Noah Rasheta: Cool. I really appreciate you taking the time and discussing this topic. It’s certainly a topic that’s interesting to me because I have kids and I know podcast listeners have mentioned it before, because I’ve only done one or two podcasts where [01:04:30] I talk about teaching mindfulness to kids or things along those lines.

Noah Rasheta: So this has been a really fun conversation. I think there are a lot of good nuggets in there, that parents are going to appreciate. And we’ll go check out your books. I think that would be the next logical step, talking to you or reading some of these books and learning more about these concepts. I know I’m excited to dig through that list and see which book I want to pick up next.

Shirin Peykar: Yes, definitely and feel free [01:05:00] to reach out if anyone has any questions. I’m very accessible. This mindful parenting is such a favorite specialty of mine and I enjoy it very much. I’m grateful.

Noah Rasheta: Very cool.

Shirin Peykar: Yes, thank you.

Noah Rasheta: Thanks again for your time, it was a pleasure speaking with you and I’m sure we’ll reach out if anyone has any questions. Visit the links in the podcast description to find Shirin and her work and thank you guys for listening.

Shirin Peykar: [01:05:30] Thank you, Noah.

Noah Rasheta: Thank you for listening to the audio of this podcast interview. If you want to learn more about Buddhism and mindfulness, you can check out my books, Secular Buddhism, No-Nonsense Buddhism for Beginners and my third book, The 5-Minute Mindfulness Journal. You can learn about those if you visit noahrasheta.com, that’s N-O-A-H-R-A-S-H-E-T-A.com.

Noah Rasheta: If you enjoyed this podcast episode, please feel free to share it with others, write a review, [01:06:00] give it a rating on iTunes or if you want to join our online community, you can visit secularbuddhism.com/community. If you’d like to make a donation to support the work I’m doing with this podcast, you can visit secularbuddhism.com and click on the donate button.

Noah Rasheta: That’s all I have for now, but I look forward to recording another podcast episode soon. Until next time.

About the Author
Noah Rasheta is a Buddhist teacher, lay minister, and author, as well as the host of the podcast Secular Buddhism. He teaches mindfulness and Buddhist philosophy online and in workshops all around the world. He works with others to make the world a better place as he studies, embodies, and teaches the fundamentals of Buddhist philosophy, integrating Buddhist teachings with modern science, humanism, and humor. He lives in Kamas, Utah, with his wife and three kids.