“Responding from a place of wisdom rather than fear liberates everything from relationships to career to ordinary moments at home with our family.” -Shauna Shapiro, PhD & Chris White, MD
Practicing mindfulness has been proven to improve both mental and physical health. There are many benefits of regularly using mindfulness skills; it helps reduce stress and anxiety and improves mood and relationships, just to list a few. So, it is of no wonder that mindfulness would also be effective in enhancing parenting. Research supports that mindful parenting promotes positive parent-child interactions and decreases problem behaviors with children.
Mindful Parenting is based on five core concepts: 1) listening with full attention; 2) nonjudgmental acceptance of self and child; 3) emotional awareness of self and child; 4) self-regulation in parenting; and 5) compassion for self and child. Being more mindful in parenting supports wise and loving parenting choices and promotes wisdom, resilience and self-disciplined children. When parents practice being mindful in their approach with their children they are able to respond more skillfully instead of impulsively reacting based on habit, anger or frustration.
Discipline is necessary in creating a home that is harmonious and supports a sense of well-being. It helps children function at their full potential and decreases behavioral issues. Choosing to be mindful in the way parents discipline their children allows the parent to use discipline as opportunity to teach and support healthy development and empathy instead of using discipline to intimidate and punish children. Discipline that regularly uses fear, guilt and shame to deter behaviors leads to a loss of emotional openness and loss of connection between the parent and child. It also can hinder the child’s ability to develop an internal desire to be respectful and responsible.
Mindful parenting and discipline in combination with the essential elements of relational nourishment; unconditional love, space, mentorship, health boundaries and mistakes, helps children develop the ability to be self-disciplined. Self-discipline is really the ultimate goal of parenting. The development of healthy self-discipline allows children to be able to regulate their own behaviors and impulses and be empathetic and thoughtful.
Mindful parents reflect on what their intentions are; determining what is most important and what their desires are for their children and family. They bring their full attention to the present moment so that they are able to observe themselves and their children more clearly. Mindful parents practice openheartedness, acceptance and compassion. Mindfulness allows parents to clearly see what is needed and helps them stay clam, grounded and able to regulate their emotions. Mindful parenting also helps children feel safe, accepted and loved just the way they are.
Ways you can practice being a more mindful parent
- Spending a few moments each day imagining the world from the view of your child will help remind you what your child is facing each day.
- Imagine how your child sees and hears you in this particular moment. It may change what you do or say. Focus on how you want to be relating to your child right now.
- Practice seeing your child perfect just as they are, especially when it is most difficult for you to do so.
- Reflect on what your expectations are of your child; are they truly in your child’s best interest? Be aware of how you communicate your expectations to your child.
- Apologize when you have betrayed the trust of your child, even if just a little bit. Apologies show that you have thought about a situation, possibly from their point of view. Apologies can be very healing, but be mindful of saying sorry too much, it looses its effectiveness if it is said too often.
Parenting is a difficult task and the more tools parents have to put in their parenting tool box the easier it can be. Incorporating mindfulness with the skills parents are already using can help them be more effective in raising their children. Mindful parenting can help parents become more connected with their child and it supports the ultimate parenting goal of raising a child who is emotionally intelligent, respectful, responsible and self-disciplined.
Shapiro, S. & White, C. (2014) Mindful Discipline: a loving approach to setting limits and raising an emotionally intelligent child. Oakland: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.
Coatsworth, J.D., Duncan, L.G., Nix, R.L., Greenberg, M.T., Gayles, J.G., Bamberger, K.T., Berrean, E. & Demi, M.A. (2015) Integrating Mindfulness with Parent Training: Effects of the Mindfulness-Enhanced Strengthening Family Program. Developmental Psychology 51(1), 26-35.
Kabat-Zinn, M. & Kabat-Zinn, M. (1998). Everyday Blessings: The inner work of mindful parenting. New York: Hachette Brooks.
Tags: Mindful Parent, Parenting ideas, Tools for parenting
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker
Licensed Independent Mental Health Practitioner
- Jessica Kingsley, LICSW LIMHP (she, her, hers), graduated from the University of Omaha in 2010 with a Master’s in Social Work. . She earned a Bachelor’s in Social Work and Political Science from the University of Nebraska at Kearney in 2003. She has been practicing in the field of Social Work for 18 years, and in the clinical setting for twelve years in a variety of states. She is currently licensed in the state of Colorado and Nebraska and holds past licenses in the state of New Mexico.
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