What is Mindful Parenting & How Can You Be a Mindful Parent?

Mindfulness can be described as a natural capability all humans have for being aware of what is going on in the present moment. While it sounds very simple, many parents today find that life is simply rushing past them and that they are never really fully present. Time is passing by in worrying about the next thing to be crossed off the to-do list. Today’s parents are more stressed and anxious than ever before, and they get easily provoked by children into reacting in an unhealthy and unhelpful manner, instead of responding in a more thoughtful way. Mindfulness parenting is the latest buzz in the parenting world, and many parents are trying to incorporate this concept into their parenting philosophy. Mindfulness is a helpful strategy that might be worth considering, especially when parenting is becoming a stressful affair. Read on to take a closer look at mindful parenting.

What is Mindful Parenting?

Mindfulness refers to the practice of living in the present moment. The concept of mindfulness means being aware of where you are in the world, how you are feeling on the outside and inside, and what you are thinking.

Mindfulness also focuses on how you look at the world, specifically your work. It promotes less judgment and more acceptance. The idea of being aware of the present moment is based on the foundation of Buddhist meditation techniques, and it has been in practice for centuries now.

Mindful parenting is not a new concept, and it has been around since 1997.(1) The very essence of mindful parents revolves around applying the principles of mindfulness to the many day-to-day situations in your family life that feel a bit crazy and out of control at times.

The ultimate goal of mindful parenting is for parents to respond thoughtfully to a child’s behaviors and actions instead of simply reacting to their behaviors. If you are following mindful parenting, then you have to work towards accepting your child and yourself. You have to nurture your relationship with your child in a manner that will strengthen and nurture your bond and also lead to other benefits.

However, this is not to say that following mindful parenting means you always need to think positively and respond positively.

Parenting, after all, is not all about sunshine and smiles. Your child is going to complain, no matter what. However, being a mindful parent means that you have to engage in the present moment and not let your emotions from the past or future color that present experience, or more importantly, have an effect on your reaction. Mindful parenting still allows you to respond with frustration or anger, but this response should also come from a more informed place rather than merely being an automatic reaction.(2)

What Are The Central Tenets of Mindful Parenting?

Once you start reading about mindful parenting, you will be able to understand that this technique of parenting focuses on three main qualities. These are:

  • Giving attention and being aware of the present moment
  • Intentionally responding and having an understanding of the child’s behavior
  • Having a nonjudgmental, accepting, and compassionate attitude when you choose to respond

But what do these main concepts translate into? Let’s take a look.

Most of the ideas of mindful parenting are based on the following skills:(3)

Listening: Being a mindful parent means to truly listen and observe your child with your complete attention. This sounds difficult, no doubt, but it will take a lot of patience and practice on your part to start truly listening to your child. Mindfulness also states that listening needs to extend to the environment that surrounds you and your child as well. You have to take into account everything from the smells, the sounds, and the sights, that surround you and your child.

Non-Judgmental Acceptance: This idea translates to mean that you have to approach every situation without judgment for your feelings or your feelings. Take the situation only for what is. Being nonjudgmental also involves having to let go of your unrealistic expectations of your child – something most parents are guilty of today. The acceptance of simply ‘what is’ is what should be the goal of mindful parenting.

Raising Emotional Awareness: Awareness is not just about being physically aware of where your child is. You have to bring about a sense of awareness about your parenting interactions with your child. This extends from the parent to the child, and vice versa as well. Modeling emotional awareness is vital to making your child also learn to do the same.

Self-Regulating Your Emotions: The core idea behind this tenet of mindful parenting is to let your feelings trigger an immediate reaction, such as yelling. Thinking before you act so that an overreaction can be avoided is the most important part of self-regulation in mindful parenting.

Compassion: It is not necessary for you to agree with your child’s thoughts or actions. However, mindful parenting encourages parents to at least have compassion towards the child’s thoughts and actions. This will involve you being more empathetic and understanding of the child’s position and beliefs at that very moment. Compassion also extends to the parent as well because you do not want to indulge in self-blame is a particular situation does not turn out as per your expectations.

What are the Benefits of Mindful parenting?

There are many research studies that have analyzed the benefits of mindfulness and mindful parenting. When it comes to the parents, the benefits of mindful parenting may include lower levels of stress and alleviation of mood disorders such as anxiety and depression.

A small study carried out by the California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute in 2008, even looked at the benefits of mindfulness for pregnant women who are already in their third trimester.(4) Mindfulness can benefit you even before the actual parenting begins. The women participants of the study who followed mindfulness experienced significantly less anxiety and also reported having fewer negative moods.

Another study by The Pennsylvania State University in 2010(5) found that the benefits of mindfulness can extend to the overall wellbeing of parents and the whole family. The study showed that this could be made possible by including mindfulness training to any existing parenting program. The results appeared to strengthen the existing parent-child bond.

In the study conducted The Pennsylvania State University, the researchers observed that adolescence was the time period when things tend to be particularly turbulent in a parent-child relationship. According to the researching team, the improvements discovered by the study were partly due to the parent’s ability to respond constructively instead of reactively to the many stressors in a child’s life. Reacting suddenly increases the potential of alienating the child.

For children, mindful parenting has also shown to help with their social decision-making abilities. A recent 2019 study carried out by the Alpert Medical School of Brown University discovered a link to emotional regulation and decision-making when combined with mindful parenting.(6) Understanding and acceptance of emotions that is promoted by mindful parenting help children work on social decision making from a very young age itself.

It has also been observed that mindful parenting can dramatically reduce cases of mistreatment, including physical abuse.

Griffith University in Australia undertook a study in 2007 that found a substantial decrease in child abuse among parents who followed different strategies of mindfulness.(7)

Furthermore, their parenting attitudes also improved, as did child behavior issues in their family.

Some of the other potential benefits of mindful parenting include:(8)

  • Reduction in aggression in children(9)
  • Improved parent-child communication
  • Improved parenting satisfaction
  • A decrease in symptoms of hyperactivity in children
  • Reduced feelings of depression
  • Reduces levels of stress and anxiety
  • Better parental involvement
  • Making parenting feel less stressful and requiring less effort

How Can You Be A Mindful Parent?

There is no need to change your entire lifestyle around to practice mindful parenting. You can easily incorporate these strategies into your parenting today. Here are some easy tips and strategies of mindfulness you can include in your parenting style today:

Live in the Moment: It is important for you to let go of the past. Resist living in the past. Also, stop planning too intently for the future. Look for the good in what is happening in the present moment, right in front of you, and enjoy that.

Open Your Eyes: When one says open your eyes, it means both figuratively and literally. You need to open your eyes and start paying attention to your surroundings and how you are feeling, both inside and outside. Absorb in everything with all your senses, including hearing, sight, touch, smell, and taste.

Accept and Accept: Practicing acceptance of your child’s actions and emotions is a big part of mindful parenting. Remember to practice acceptance even when they frustrate you and also extend this acceptance to yourself.

Focus On Your Breath: Remember to take a deep breath, fill your lungs completely with air, and then focus your mind only on your breath. Now exhale and feel the breath as it exits your body. Encourage your child to concentrate on their breath when they are having a crisis moment or just going through a tough time.

Meditate: A big part of mindful parenting involves focusing on your breath as part of meditation. This does not mean that you need to spend hours meditating. You can simply take out a few minutes every day to just connect with yourself. There are also many meditation and relaxation exercises available online for children of all ages. Meditation is known to benefit people of all ages, so practicing meditation will improve your acceptance and also help you focus in a moment of crisis.

Conclusion

The next time you are in a tough parenting situation, with your child having pushed you to the edge and you feel like you are about to blow, just take a moment to pause. Take a deep breath and exhale fully. Absorb your surroundings, your feelings, and try to understand your child’s feelings and experiences as well. Now work towards acceptance in that very moment without thinking back to past mistakes or what the future holds.

When you try this new method of parenting, there is no need to succeed right at the very first try. In fact, it is possible that you are able to remain mindful in the first few tries, but after some time, you will find that taking a moment to pause before blindly reacting to a stressful situation will have a positive impact on your child, you, your parenting, and your entire family.

References:

  1. Wong, K., Hicks, L.M., Seuntjens, T.G., Trentacosta, C.J., Hendriksen, T.H., Zeelenberg, M. and van den Heuvel, M.I., 2019. The role of mindful parenting in individual and social decision-making in children. Frontiers in Psychology, 10, p.550.
  2. Duncan, L.G., Coatsworth, J.D. and Greenberg, M.T., 2009. A model of mindful parenting: Implications for parent–child relationships and prevention research. Clinical child and family psychology review, 12(3), pp.255-270.
  3. Duncan, L.G., Coatsworth, J.D. and Greenberg, M.T., 2009. A model of mindful parenting: Implications for parent–child relationships and prevention research. Clinical child and family psychology review, 12(3), pp.255-270.
  4. Vieten, C. and Astin, J., 2008. Effects of a mindfulness-based intervention during pregnancy on prenatal stress and mood: results of a pilot study. Archives of women’s mental health, 11(1), pp.67-74.
  5. Coatsworth, J.D., Duncan, L.G., Greenberg, M.T. and Nix, R.L., 2010. Changing parent’s mindfulness, child management skills and relationship quality with their youth: Results from a randomized pilot intervention trial. Journal of child and family studies, 19(2), pp.203-217.
  6. Wong, K., Hicks, L.M., Seuntjens, T.G., Trentacosta, C.J., Hendriksen, T.H., Zeelenberg, M. and van den Heuvel, M.I., 2019. The role of mindful parenting in individual and social decision-making in children. Frontiers in Psychology, 10, p.550.
  7. Dawe, S. and Harnett, P., 2007. Reducing potential for child abuse among methadone-maintained parents: Results from a randomized controlled trial. Journal of substance abuse treatment, 32(4), pp.381-390.
  8. Corthorn, C., 2018. Benefits of mindfulness for parenting in mothers of preschoolers in Chile. Frontiers in psychology, 9, p.1443.
  9. Singh, N.N., Lancioni, G.E., Winton, A.S., Singh, J., Curtis, W.J., Wahler, R.G. and McAleavey, K.M., 2007. Mindful parenting decreases aggression and increases social behavior in children with developmental disabilities. Behavior Modification, 31(6), pp.749-771.

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