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7 Benefits Of Mindful Parenting And How To Practice It

| Mindfulness and Meditation | Benefits of Mindfulness in Mindful Parenting | How To Practice Mindful Parenting |

What Is Mindful Parenting

Mindful parenting is to apply mindfulness to parenting by paying attention to the child and parenting intentionally, presently, and non-judgmentally​1​.

Mindfulness is about being here and now, in the moment. It’s about not letting your mind wander off into the past or future—instead, staying focused on what you’re doing right now.

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, however, will recognize that her negative emotions are exacerbated by fatigue and that her child simply needs help regulating his emotions.

mother meditates next to baby son

Mindfulness and Meditation

Being mindful means being here and now. It is a skill that can be developed through practice. 

Meditating is one of the most common ways to practice mindfulness.

The more one practices, the better one becomes at being mindful.

Meditation originates from the Buddhist tradition, but its practice is not tied to any particular religion. It has been around for thousands of years but has recently become more popular in the Western world.

Through magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), scientists have discovered that meditation can alter brain structure, and this alteration is associated with many mental health benefits​2​.

Because of its therapeutic effects, meditation is increasingly used in mental health settings to promote mindfulness​3​.

As mindfulness and meditation are closely related, mindful parenting can also refer to parents who meditate to become more mindful. Some researchers and psychologists also use mindfulness and meditation interchangeably.

Benefits of Mindfulness in Mindful Parenting

Mindfulness is the intentional, nonjudgmental awareness of one’s own thoughts and feelings. It’s about being fully present at the moment and accepting it for what it is instead of worrying about what happened yesterday or what might happen tomorrow.

When parents are in this state of mind, parenting is made easier in the following ways.

Stress Reduction

Mindfulness practices can help reduce parents’ stress levels. 

Instead of letting our emotions get the best of us, being mindful allows us to step back from difficult situations and reflect on them objectively.

Stress is reduced when we don’t let our strong emotions take over and trigger the fight-flight-freeze response​4​.

Decrease Child 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, causing children’s behavioral problems to worsen​5​.

Research shows that children’s aggressive behavior and conduct problems decrease when parents’ stress is reduced​6​.

Increase the Child’s Positive Behavior

Being mindful is necessary for parents to empathize and become attuned to their children’s feelings. Attunement and nonjudgmental acceptance allow parents to connect with their children emotionally and help them feel understood​7​.

When children misbehave, pausing and reflecting on the situation allows mindful parents to respond according to their parenting values instead of creating an automatic reaction based on punishment or dismissal​8​.

Children raised in such nurturing environments tend to show fewer behavioral issues and more prosocial behavior.

Better Emotional Regulation in Parents

Meditation is good for parents’ emotional self-regulation​9​.

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.

Improve Parenting Satisfaction

A mindful parenting approach also helps parents raise emotional awareness. 

Being more aware of your child’s and your own emotions allows you to recognize how their behavior can affect how you feel and disengage faster​10​.

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, better quality of the parent-child relationship, and a higher level of satisfaction for parents.

Stop The Cycle Of Intergenerational Transmission of Mental Disorders

The application of mindfulness in the treatment and prevention of mental disorders has been on the rise​11​.

By adopting a mindful approach, parents with mental illnesses can reduce the stress associated with the conditions and the risk of passing them on to their children to break the cycle of intergenerational transmission.

Enhance Relationships

Mindfulness can help couples and families improve communication, emotional regulation, and relationship well-being. In addition to improving adolescent-parent relationships, it can also improve romantic relationships between parents​12​.

How To Practice Mindful Parenting

There are mindful parenting programs designed to help parents practice mindful parenting​13​, but parents do not have to sign up for such behavior therapy to practice mindfulness.

Mindfulness can be incorporated into parenting at any time and pace by any parent.

Here are some mindful parenting practices for parents to adopt at home.

Meditate daily

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 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 type of meditation, you focus on your breathing and hold your attention there. If other thoughts arise, acknowledge them, put them aside, and then redirect your attention back to your breathing.

Other widely practiced types are loving-kindness meditation and observing-thoughts meditation​14​.

Teach Kids Meditation

Engage your child in mindful parenting activities and teach them how to meditate.

Anxiety and stress can be reduced and focus strengthened in children through mindfulness​15​. Some studies also report improved self-confidence, positive emotions, and family relationships​16​.

Be Mindful of Your Parenting Goals

In dealing with parenting challenges, keep your parenting goals in mind. 

For example, if 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 and disciplines that can help you accomplish what you want.

Slow It Down

Being mindful in parenting means taking a step back in tough situations and noticing how it affects your emotions and your child.

Slowing life down may be particularly beneficial for 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 actually 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 wonderful moments, or worse, turn them into miserable moments, ones that our children will remember us for.

References

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    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
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    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
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    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
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    Siegel DJ. Mindful awareness, mindsight, and neural integration. The Humanistic Psychologist. Published online April 2009:137-158. doi:10.1080/08873260902892220
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    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
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    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
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    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
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    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
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    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
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    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
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    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
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    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
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    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
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    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
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    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

About Pamela Li

Pamela Li is a bestselling author. She is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Parenting For Brain. Her educational background is in Electrical Engineering (MS, Stanford University) and Business Management (MBA, Harvard University). Learn more

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