Parents continually face stressful situations with the constant demands of work and family. Uncontrolled stress makes it difficult for a parent to respond appropriately when their child acts out. Yelling, spanking and other aggressive or violent punishments can be the result of stress buildup. A moment of uncontrolled anger can permanently compromise your child’s quality of life.
Mindful parenting is a long-term solution to stress. When a parent’s emotions threaten to take over, mindfulness techniques help resolve issues in a calm and reasonable way.
The Critical Role of Self-Observation for Parents
One of the main tenets of mindfulness practice is self-observation. Practitioners take time to observe their thoughts, reactions and feelings. This provides many benefits.
- Self-observation allows parents to identify behavior and thought patterns. Parents learn to recognize how they are likely to react in certain situations.
- Mindfulness grants a more balanced mindset. This reduces the impact of daily stressors and allows a parent to think beyond the fight or flight response.
- Parents learn to stop their reaction when they identify a negative pattern. This pause allows time to reevaluate any potentially harmful actions.
Self-observation gives parents the ability to control their actions with logic rather than reacting from emotional impulse when children act out. This practice in turn encourages children to establish their own healthy coping mechanisms.
Mindfulness Tips For Parents Who Are on the Edge
When you recognize you are on the edge of an outburst, stop the hormonal response and regain control of your logic.
- Take a break. Remove yourself from the situation by leaving the room. It may be helpful to take a walk or engage in other physical activities. This helps the body clear the stress hormones so you can think more clearly.
- Meditate. Take a few moments to concentrate on your breath and restore the connection between your mind and body. You can even try more active forms of meditation such as chanting or tai chi.
- Write it out. Clarify your emotions with a quick journaling session. Writing down your thoughts gives you a fresh perspective to help find solutions.
- Take preventative measures to reduce stress. Initiate a program of self-care with exercise and diet routines, enjoyable hobbies and other activities that encourage a healthy state of mind. This makes it less likely that an act of defiance will result in a shouting match.
Mindful Tips to Resolve Issues Between You and Your Child
- Talk it out. If your child is angry or distraught, give your child time to calm down before beginning the conversation. Listen to your child’s point of view with empathy and respect.
- Consider the consequences. If you deem punishment is necessary, use your compassionate mindfulness to formulate an appropriate form of discipline and explain it to your child.
- Focus on connection. Your child’s disobedience isn’t usually based on the desire to make you angry. Use your conversation to find the root cause of the problem.
- You don’t have to do it all at once. If your child becomes resistant, detached or difficult during the discussion, you can walk away and approach the subject at a later time.
Mindfulness is a process. Continuous practice results in greater understanding and an increased ability to empathize with others.
Daily Mindfulness Habits for Parents
Don’t wait for an explosive incident to practice mindfulness. Incorporate these habits into your daily routine to realize the benefits of mindful parenting.
- Make daily journaling a priority. Take 10 to 15 minutes each day to write about your thoughts, feelings and what’s going on around you. Dedicate a specific time and place for this practice.
- Extend your emotional awareness to your child. Spend some time each day actively listening and talking with your child to gain a better understanding of your child’s emotional needs.
- Give your whole family the gift of mindfulness by incorporating gratitude into your daily lives. At meal times, have each person share something(s) for which they are grateful. This keeps the focus on positive thoughts, which reduces negativity, frustration and the likelihood of conflict.
Mindfulness allows you the optimum mindset to make the best decisions for your child. With practice, patience and dedication, you can reduce the effects of stress and promote peace in your home.
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 Magizine!