Mindful parenting: A comprehensive guide for all parents
We've also included tips to help you better yourself as a more mindful parent.
There are a variety of parenting styles out there, each with their own pros and cons. One of them takes a different approach to the more traditional styles of parenting: Mindful parenting. Before we answer the the question, “what is mindful parenting?”, you first need to understand more about its core tenet — mindfulness.
Nowadays, life is hectic. Everyone, especially parents, have multiple commitments: career, kids, their own parents, and so much more.
It’s not unusual, then, to rush through things thinking about what to do next. A familiar scenario would be to think about how many chores you have waiting for you at home, while talking with your colleague, or thinking about work on a Sunday.
Mindfulness aims to take away this “mental multi-tasking”. It is a method of living where you fully immerse yourself in, and focus on, the present moment (or the ‘now’) as it unfolds. It’s in direct contrast to worrying about things that occurred in the past or what you need to do in the near future.
Becoming mindful does require some vulnerability in telling yourself that everything is and will be alright. Consequently, slowing down will make you more self-aware of what you’re thinking and feeling.
For many, meditation helps them train themselves to make themselves more mindful.
Mastering mindfulness, however, does bring many benefits, including better sleep, increased communication between the family. In fact, teaching your kids mindfulness could help reduce violent behaviour in the future, too.
If you’re wondering “what is mindful parenting?”, know that mindfulness can also play a part in parenting. The main aim in instilling mindfulness into parenting is to enhance the experience of interacting with your child.
How? By completely concentrating your attention towards them. Not what tonight’s dinner plan is, or if your child refused to eat his vegetables last night.
The difficulty lies in practicing it. One study might have the answer as to how you can do this. The study attempted to link how parents apply mindfulness in their lives and their children’s general wellbeing.
Justin Parent, the lead author of the study, discovered three characteristic behaviours essential to mindful parenting, which are:
- Observing what you feel if you argue with your child;
- Halting your actions momentarily before retorting angrily;
- and being attentive to what your child has to say – even if you are against it.
Should you aim to be practice mindful parenting all the time?
Although the answer may first appear to be “Yes!”, it’s not practical. Everyone is only human – with things they can still improve on. Being a parent isn’t easy either, since it’s such an emotional job.
Jon Kabat-Zinn, a professor emeritus of medicine in America, in trying to answer the question, “what is mindful parenting?”, says that:
“Mindful parenting is not about being a yogi or practicing Buddhism; it’s about being human and realizing that we have more options than we may think in any moment, no matter what is happening.”
So remember to always pause – even just for a second! – before lashing out at your kids. It could change everything.
Clearly, being able to stay calm in the face of anger does have its benefits, especially if you’ve regretted losing your temper with your child.
Here are the benefits of mindful parenting.
- Reduced anxiety, depression and rebelling in children. After analysing their study, Justin and his team found that mindful parenting acted like dominoes. Parents who used mindful parenting techniques displayed increased favourable and less critical parenting behaviour. In turn, these traits were associated with better behaviour in children.
- Less drug use in kids. In another study, Caitlin Turpyn and Tara Chaplin of Mason University sought to understand how mindful parenting affected parent-child relations. Their results showed that parents who used mindful parenting often displayed reduced hostile emotions and increased optimistic emotions between both parent and child compared to parents who didn’t. The positivity between both the parent and their child connected to less drug use in children – but not sexual behavior.
- Helps to make the relations between both the parent the child last.
- Encourages good behaviour through being a good role model. By handling conflicts less instinctively, kids will be able to understand and imitate how to cope with them.
- Allows you to be better equipped to handle situations. Parenting comes with a host of challenges, and mindful parenting lets you respond less emotionally and instinctively. Instead, becoming conscious of what you’re thinking and feeling can help you react more fittingly. As a result you are more unflustered and in-control when your relationship with your child seems strained.
The studies conducted on mindful parenting did find a few points of potential confusion for parenting wanting to practice mindful parenting.
- parents who were more mindful in their everyday routine did not necessarily see better behaviour in their kids. Perhaps mindfulness and mindful parenting are two separate things. In fact, Justin speculates that mindful habits can plummet stress levels, but it doesn’t always mean that they can be applied to heated arguments.
- displaying optimistic or hostile emotions didn’t affect adolescent sexual behavior or drug use. Chaplin thinks that parents should focus on becoming more receptive towards their kid instead of showing positive or negative emotions when communicating with them. In fact, parents smiling in heated or suspenseful conversations may not lead to better outcomes.
Overall, studies like these show that mindful parenting, instead of severe punishments or scolding them—may be able to prevent children from risks like depression, anxiety, rebellious behaviour, and drug use as they grow up.
With all the rush in life, it’s hard to be aware in the ‘now’ every time. You might even only remember certain parts of life. Thus, it makes sense to create a mindfulness habit in your everyday routine.
It doesn’t have to be long or complicated. The simplest version is to sit at the same place and time each day for 5-30 minutes – and just pause. Slowing down will let you become more aware as you breathe and helps you feel the body functioning.
Your mind will produce thoughts that go astray, but don’t worry about it. Once you are aware of this phenomenon, just don’t think. Instead, release the chatter. You’ll be able to concentrate on your breaths and body functioning – which is key to living the ‘now’.
In fact, past studies show that thinking or worrying too much about the past or future while doing something now isn’t good for our health.
Thus, it’s key to spend time with our kids without having our mind astray, which already happens from distractions, expectations and the daily routine. Being mindful can also spread the good behaviour to your kids – a valuable maneuver.
Parents nowadays are often handling everything and overwhelmed by life in general. This reduces the chances of showing our “best selves” when we communicate with our kids.
As you become more mindful by practising meditation as outlined before, you’ll notice that eventually, you can trace and observe stresses in your daily routine. There’s a way to soothe yourself to a more responsive manner by remembering STOP:
S- Stop. Once you identify being stressed while being self-conscious, pause.
T- Take a few breaths. Breathing will help you calm down and help you become more aware of your breaths. Soon, your mind will begin to settle as everything becomes clearer. Being conscious of your breathes do help to coordinate the body’s cardiovascular system and eases the “alarm” areas in the brain, helping you to assess the situation plainly.
O- Observe. As you breathe, observe: do the breaths help to balance the body? Feel it. Then, observe your surroundings. Exactly what’s happening now?
P- Proceed. Once you are less stressed, respond as fittingly as possible towards your situation.
The best part is that this general rule helps in any situation – be it prepping your children for school, or parking the car.
Most parents have unrealistically high expectations of themselves, striving to become a “perfect” parent. Mindful parenting argues the contrary: it doesn’t berate you for your mistakes, instead accepting that you are “good enough” as you are.
Mindful parenting takes into account that no matter what our best intentions are, there will be times where we slip up. Having flaws and encountering failure is just another inevitable part of being human.
It is how we react to failure that is critical to mindful parenting. Admitting your failures to your kids is okay. In fact, it can benefit your children in various ways, including:
- letting them understand that being human comes with imperfections.
- providing a chance for you to express compassion, learning from your mistakes, forgiving and redeeming yourself, humor and honesty. Just don’t forget to express these virtues in age-appropriate manners.
Children seek approval for being themselves as individuals when their parents are out of the picture. Of course, that doesn’t mean giving them unlimited control over their lives.
Rather, it’s best to accept them for who they are and not force our expectations, insecurities, unfinished tasks and botched dreams onto them.
As parents, it is our responsibility to be true to ourselves as it is to respect kids for who they are, instead of giving them additional burdens.
Sadly, many arguments between parents and their kids often stem from the parents being unaware of which lines they shouldn’t cross when forcing things onto their kids. Our demands are completely different to theirs, and can conflict with one another.
Parenting – it’s not easy, with a flurry of ups and downs. There are times when your child may disappoint or betray your expectations. It is only at these moments where we must foster compassion and affection towards ourselves, as the emotional scars can leave us feeling hollow and hateful.
In essence, everyone in some sense is searching to be loved. Mindful parenting allows us to love ourselves as individuals by removing unrealistic demands, as well as respond accordingly to our kids.
However, our kids are a blank slate – so mindful parenting has to come from the parent before they can learn it and pass it on towards the next generation.
We hope you know know the answer to “what is mindful parenting?” Do you practice this form of parenting? Let us know!