Mindfulness is a technique used by many meditation practitioners. The goal of the practice is to bring awareness and consciousness to the present moment. Adherents of mindfulness are able to gain greater insights and better understand their reactions.
Mindful parenting focuses on empathetic communication—the ability to express your feelings while considering the emotions of your child on the other side of a conflict. Between maintaining a career and caring for a family, there are many times a parent’s energy and patience runs low with a disobedient or defiant child. When irritations arise, parents often turn to techniques meant to quickly diffuse the situation. Yelling or punitive measures like time-outs or taking away treasured items may work in the short-term but children quickly return to problematic behaviors. This never-ending cycle results in broken parent-child relationships.
Mindful parenting allows parents to engage with their child by learning to block out competing mental distractions.
- During a grocery store visit, perhaps your fidgety toddler knocks over a small display. While logic tells you it was youthful exuberance and not intentional malice that caused the accident, you may not be able to access such wisdom in the heat of the moment. Mindfulness teaches you to slow down and consider all of the information before you make a hasty decision.
- At the end of a stressful day, with the pressure of bills and work on your mind, you may retreat to the couch to soothe your frazzled brain with a favorite television show. But your toddler, unaware of adult responsibilities, insists you play instead. Mindful parenting allows you to respond without hurting your child’s feelings.
- Your teenager has been sullen and strange for several months. Unable to break through this wall of silence, you react with anger out of frustration. Mindful parenting techniques help you find more effective ways to understand and address these complex challenges.
Mindful parenting practitioners use a combination of techniques:
- Refocus conscious attention to what is happening in the present moment.
- Reduce mind chatter to communicate more effectively.
- Practice empathy to alleviate stress in the child-parent relationship.
One of the main benefits of mindfulness practice is the ability to control your responses.
When children don’t listen, refuse to cooperate or defy requests, it’s easy to get caught up in the heat of the moment. This leads to a reactionary mindset that seeks to solve the problem in the most expedient way. Mindfulness techniques give parents time to pause, reflect and choose an appropriate response. Mindfulness seeks to understand and address the root issue.
How Mindful Parenting Differs from Other Philosophies
Many parenting philosophies emphasize giving your child a positive experience. Mindfulness does not. Instead, parents are encouraged to evaluate their actions. This style of parenting is more about the level of emotional attunement you can achieve with your child.
Some parenting experts believe any type of harsh response is bad. Mindfulness proponents understand the value of thoughtful correction. Mindful parents use their heightened emotional awareness to assess and dole out more relevant consequences.
Many parenting techniques focus on keeping children under control. Mindfulness, however, isn’t about changing your child’s actions nor is it about changing your actions. The goal of mindful parenting is to relate to your child’s feelings and worldview. Mindful parenting is a pathway to embracing your child’s reality.
A Healthy Parent Relationship
Children of mindful parents experience less depression, anxiety and behavioral problems because mindful parents are more responsive to their children’s needs. Mindfulness techniques also act as a safeguard against negative or abusive practices that can lead to long-term emotional distress for the child.
Mindful parenting helps families live happier, healthier, more harmonious lives. In this series of articles, I will explore mindful parenting techniques for aggression, anxiety, depression and sleep disruptions. I will also discuss body scans, parental emotional control and how to fit mindfulness into your daily routine.
Mindfulness isn’t just for parents and their children. When both parents practice mindfulness techniques, their relationship improves. A healthy parent relationship is one of the best gifts you can give your child.
Follow my mindful parenting article each month to discover more joy in every parenting moment.
Anthony Cupo is a Trained Mindfulness Facilitator (TMF) from the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. He is a co-owner of Stepping Forward Counseling Center, LLC and has been meditating for over 30 years. Our article is also published in ParentingOC’s Magazine!