Raising children is the ultimate mindfulness practice. Mindful parents tend toward more positive parenting strategies like using clear instructions, praising good behaviours, showing affection, warmth, and communicating effectively.
Mindful parents also demonstrate fewer signs of negative parenting, such as being angry, hostile, coercive, and intrusive. They share more positive parent-child relationships, healthier interactions, and better child adjustment.
Mindful parenting behavior is about setting an ongoing intention to be present at the given moment. This presence can take many forms: it may look like paying attention to your child, noticing your feelings when you're in conflict with them, pausing before responding, and listening to your child's viewpoints, even if they differ from your own.
The biggest thing that a parent can do to be more mindful is pay careful attention to what their child is saying, doing and their reactions. Careful attention often stops parents' automatic reactions, allows them a moment to calm themselves physiologically and mentally, and to be more present for their children.
Being a good parent is also learning to dial back your stress. Studies show that the most significant source of stress for children is their parents' stress. When parents resort to a mindful calm response in stressful situations, it helps the children calm down too. They see that their parents are not falling apart; they are in control, making them feel safe.
Research studies also show that mindful parenting affects teen behavior and shows that parents are more optimistic after training and share better relationships with their teens. Additionally, the researchers made an interesting observation that adolescents of mindful fathers were also less aggressive.
These studies suggest that during the adolescence period, changes in positive parenting strategies can enhance relationships when parent-child interactions typically increase in conflict. Mindfulness strengthens parent-teen relationships, and it emphasizes listening with full attention and avoiding knee-jerk reactions to unpleasant behaviours.
Research studies also show that fathers who receive mindful parenting instruction increase their children's emotional awareness over time, whereas those without mindfulness instruction did not. Parents who report mindful parenting engage in more positive and less negative parenting behavior, linked to more positive behavior in their children, including less anxiety, depression, and acting out.
Mindful parenting is a set of skills and ways of approaching parenting—that is, parents parent with attention, acceptance, emotional attunement, and compassion. We create an opportunity to be more responsive, more productive, less in auto-pilot mode, and less overwhelmed with mindful parenting. There is a strong link between mindful parenting, positive parenting practices, and positive parent-teen relationships.
Being a mindful parent might seem like a high bar, given the everyday family stress we likely encounter. The idea of going through a whole day thinking that we're going to be permanently mindful is beautiful yet fanciful.
The key to mindful parenting is breaking down our day into manageable chunks, moving forward task by task and learning mindfulness practice. In doing so, we gradually train the mind to be more present. Being more present, we experience more calm, clarity, and a renewed sense of perspective, allowing for increased compassion and empathy.
The positive impact it could have on our children is worth the effort. Research shows that it can be an essential tool that assists parents in helping their children solve conflicts in a calm, kind, and respectful manner. Mindfulness can be as simple as making one small change to the morning routine. It can mean giving your full attention to your children in the moment. It can mean being kind to yourself, which can make all the difference in the world.
The writer is an educational psychologist