- Mindful parenting can reduce stress and improve parent-child relationships.
- Mindful parents are present, intentional, and non-judgmental with their children.
- Meditating and focusing on the parenting journey enhances mindfulness.
What Is Mindful Parenting
Mindful parenting is to apply mindfulness to parenting by paying attention to the child and parenting intentionally, presently, and non-judgmentally1.
Mindfulness is about focusing on the here and now, in the present moment, and not letting your mind wander off into the past or future.
For example, a parent may come home tired and exhausted after work. As soon as her child throws a tantrum, she yells at him for being spoiled and giving her a hard time. A mindful parent will recognize that her negative emotions are exacerbated by her fatigue and that her child needs help regulating his emotions.
Mindfulness and Meditation
Being mindful is a skill that can be developed through practice.
Meditation is one of the most common ways to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness can also be achieved by focusing on a craft project, painting, playing a musical instrument, etc., or anything you can focus on without letting your mind wander.
The more one practices, the better one becomes at being mindful.
Meditation has been around for thousands of years, originating from the Buddhist tradition. Its current use in the Western world is not tied to any particular religion.
As mindfulness and meditation are closely related, people sometimes use them interchangeably.
Meditation and mindfulness have become popular in recent years. The surge in popularity can be attributed partly to the growing body of scientific research supporting the benefits of meditation.
Through magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), scientists have discovered that practicing meditation can alter brain structure. This alteration is associated with many mental health benefits2 , such as a significant reduction in stress.
Because of the positive effects of mindfulness, meditation is increasingly used in mental health settings3.
For parents, being mindful means being present with their children and giving them full attention without worrying about what happened yesterday or what might happen tomorrow.
Meditation takes time, and parents in today’s busy families don’t have much of it, to begin with.
But the good news is that this parenting style makes a parent’s job easier.
Mindfulness practices can reduce a parent’s stress levels.
When confronted with difficult situations, a mindful parent can step back and observe them objectively without being overtaken by intense emotions.
Challenging situations can trigger fight-flight-freeze immediate reactions and increase stress levels in parents under normal circumstances.
But mindful parents can make a conscious choice, take a step back, and approach problems with a calm and clear mind4.
Fewer Behavior Problems
Stress affects parenting skills dramatically.
In stressful situations (such as when a child throws a tantrum at the grocery store), parents may fall back into survival mode. They become more rejecting, controlling, reactive, and less warm, further worsening the child’s behavioral problems5.
Research shows a significant decrease in aggression in a child’s behaviors when parents’ stress levels are reduced6.
More Positive Behavior
When parents are mindful, they can empathize and become attuned to their child’s feelings. Attunement and nonjudgmental acceptance allow parents to connect with their children emotionally and help them feel understood7.
When children misbehave, pausing and reflecting on the current situation allows mindful parents to respond according to their parenting values instead of creating an automatic reaction based on punishment or dismissal8.
Children raised in such nurturing environments tend to show fewer behavioral issues and more prosocial behaviors.
Better Emotional Regulation in Parent and Child
Meditation is good for parents’ emotional self-regulation9.
When parents take distance from their negative thoughts, they interrupt the cycle of negative, repetitive preoccupations before they escalate into full-blown conflicts or depressive episodes.
A parent’s ability to regulate their own emotions plays a significant role in their children’s ability to regulate theirs. Being a good role model in self-regulation sets a good example for their young children.
Higher Parenting Satisfaction
A mindful approach to parenting helps parents raise their moment-to-moment awareness.
Being more aware of your child’s and your own feelings allows you to recognize how their behavior can affect your feelings and disengage negativity faster10.
As a result, there tends to be less automatic behavior, such as yelling, and more listening.
Overall, the results are a more positive home environment, a better quality of parent-child relationships, and a higher level of parenting satisfaction.
Stop The Cycle Of Intergenerational Transmission of Mental Disorders
The application of mindfulness training in treating and preventing mental disorders has been on the rise11.
By practicing mindfulness, parents with mental illnesses can lower their stress and prevent intergenerational transmission.
Mindfulness can help couples and families improve communication, emotional regulation, and relationship well-being.
In addition to improving the parent-child relationship, it can also improve the romantic relationship between partners12.
How To Learn
You can take a mindful parenting course to learn how to meditate13. But parents can learn mindfulness without signing up for such a program.
Mindful parenting practices can happen at any time and place.
Here are some mindful parenting tips.
Set aside time to meditate in your daily routine.
Taking good care of yourself is the foundation for stress-free parenting.
Meditation is not just a parenting tool. It can affect all aspects of parenting and the quality of life. It helps parents learn to care for themselves and bring calm into their family.
Practicing mindfulness is not about getting somewhere, fixing something, or creating some outcomes. It is a state of mind when you are present without other thoughts.
Meditation beginners usually begin with breathing meditation. In this meditation, you focus on breathing and hold your attention there. If other thoughts arise, acknowledge them, set them aside, and then redirect your attention to taking a deep breath.
Other widely practiced types of meditation include loving-kindness meditation and observing-thoughts meditation14.
Teach Kids Meditation
Engage your child in mindful parenting activities and teach them how to meditate.
Children can learn to strengthen their attention and reduce anxiety through mindfulness15. Some studies also report improved self-confidence, positive emotions, and family relationships16.
Be Mindful of Your Parenting Goals
In dealing with parenting challenges, keep your parenting goals in mind.
For example, if not yelling and improving the parent-child relationship is your goal, your parenting efforts should reflect that. Punishment and threats will not help you achieve this. Consider other parenting styles, such as positive parenting and inductive parenting, that can help you accomplish what you want.
Notice the small moments
Small moments in life are what make parents so worth it.
Slow It Down
Take a step back in a tough parenting situation and notice how it affects your emotions and child.
Slowing life down may benefit kids with ADHD or other behavioral disorders.
Enjoy The Process
There is no end to parenting; it is a process.
Yet, most parents focus on the results or the lack thereof.
When we do this, we miss out on all the steps in between that are more important than any outcome.
It is a beautiful experience for parents to watch their children learn and grow. But if we’re only concerned with the perfect outcome, we will miss all the beautiful moments, or worse, turn them into miserable ones that our children will remember us for.
- 1.Bögels SM, Lehtonen A, Restifo K. Mindful Parenting in Mental Health Care. Mindfulness. Published online May 25, 2010:107-120. doi:10.1007/s12671-010-0014-5
- 2.Sawyer Cohen JA, Semple RJ. Mindful Parenting: A Call for Research. J Child Fam Stud. Published online June 18, 2009:145-151. doi:10.1007/s10826-009-9285-7
- 3.Fletcher LB, Schoendorff B, Hayes SC. Searching for Mindfulness in the Brain: A Process-Oriented Approach to Examining the Neural Correlates of Mindfulness. Mindfulness. Published online March 2010:41-63. doi:10.1007/s12671-010-0006-5
- 4.Duncan LG, Coatsworth JD, Greenberg MT. A Model of Mindful Parenting: Implications for Parent–Child Relationships and Prevention Research. Clin Child Fam Psychol Rev. Published online May 2, 2009:255-270. doi:10.1007/s10567-009-0046-3
- 5.Siegel DJ. Mindful awareness, mindsight, and neural integration. The Humanistic Psychologist. Published online April 2009:137-158. doi:10.1080/08873260902892220
- 6.Kazdin AE, Whitley MK. Treatment of parental stress to enhance therapeutic change among children referred for aggressive and antisocial behavior. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. Published online 2003:504-515. doi:10.1037/0022-006x.71.3.504
- 7.Kobak R, Abbott C, Zisk A, Bounoua N. Adapting to the changing needs of adolescents: parenting practices and challenges to sensitive attunement. Current Opinion in Psychology. Published online June 2017:137-142. doi:10.1016/j.copsyc.2017.02.018
- 8.Kirby JN. The role of mindfulness and compassion in enhancing nurturing family environments. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice. Published online June 2016:142-157. doi:10.1111/cpsp.12149
- 9.Hayes AM, Feldman G. Clarifying the construct of mindfulness in the context of emotion regulation and the process of change in therapy. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice. Published online 2004:255-262. doi:10.1093/clipsy.bph080
- 10.Ortner CNM, Kilner SJ, Zelazo PD. Mindfulness meditation and reduced emotional interference on a cognitive task. Motiv Emot. Published online November 20, 2007:271-283. doi:10.1007/s11031-007-9076-7
- 11.Gu J, Strauss C, Bond R, Cavanagh K. How do mindfulness-based cognitive therapy and mindfulness-based stress reduction improve mental health and wellbeing? A systematic review and meta-analysis of mediation studies. Clinical Psychology Review. Published online April 2015:1-12. doi:10.1016/j.cpr.2015.01.006
- 12.Carson JW, Carson KM, Gil KM, Baucom DH. Mindfulness-based relationship enhancement. Behavior Therapy. Published online 2004:471-494. doi:10.1016/s0005-7894(04)80028-5
- 13.Kabat-Zinn J. Mindfulness-based interventions in context: Past, present, and future. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice. Published online 2003:144-156. doi:10.1093/clipsy.bpg016
- 14.Lumma AL, Kok BE, Singer T. Is meditation always relaxing? Investigating heart rate, heart rate variability, experienced effort and likeability during training of three types of meditation. International Journal of Psychophysiology. Published online July 2015:38-45. doi:10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2015.04.017
- 15.Roemer L, Williston SK, Eustis EH, Orsillo SM. Mindfulness and Acceptance-Based Behavioral Therapies for Anxiety Disorders. Curr Psychiatry Rep. Published online September 28, 2013. doi:10.1007/s11920-013-0410-3
- 16.Fisher R. Still thinking: The case for meditation with children. Thinking Skills and Creativity. Published online November 2006:146-151. doi:10.1016/j.tsc.2006.06.004