What Being A Mindful Parents Means

Ojude Oba

BY CHINAZA OKAFOR

Have little ones at home? If you’re feeling a bit out of control and in need of some extra guidance, you’re not alone.

Yet between all the potty accidents, early morning wake-ups, sibling spats, and waiting in the preschool pick-up line, let’s be honest — you probably have little energy left to read chock-full-of-advice parenting books.

At the same time, mindfulness is all the buzz, and some folks are incorporating it into their parenting philosophy. This helpful strategy may not be such a bad idea so we’ll give you a brief rundown on mindful parenting and why it may be worth taking an extra moment to breathe the next time you face a situation that’s beyond frustrating.

 

What It Means To Parent Mindfully

On its own, mindfulness is a practice of living in the moment. It means you’re aware of where you are in the world, what you’re thinking, and how you’re feeling on the inside and out.

Not only that, but mindfulness is also about looking at the world — your world — with less judgment and more acceptance. The idea of bringing awareness to the present moment is the core of Buddhist meditation, and it has been practiced and studied for centuries.

The idea of mindful parenting specifically has been around since 1997Trusted Source. In essence, it applies the principles of mindfulness to the many situations in your family that can feel a bit crazy at times.

The goal of bringing mindfulness to parenting is to respond thoughtfully to your child’s behaviors or actions versus simply reacting. You work to have acceptance for your child and, in turn, for yourself. Nurturing your relationship in this way may help strengthen your bond and lead to other benefits.

This isn’t to say that being a mindful parent always means thinking positively.

We’ll let you in on a little secret — parenting is never going to be all sunshine and smiles and kids eating what you fixed for dinner without complaint.

Instead, it’s about really engaging in the present moment and not letting emotions or trauma from the past or future color your experience or — more importantly — your reaction. You may still respond with anger or frustration, but it’s from a more informed place rather than one that’s purely automatic.

 

Key Factors Of Mindful Parenting

Much of what you might find written about mindful parenting focuses on three main qualities:

awareness and attention to the present moment intentionality and understanding of behavior attitude — nonjudgmental, compassionate, accepting — in response

This all sounds good, but what exactly does it mean?

To break it down even further, most ideas of mindful parenting involve these Skills Trusted Source:

Listening. This means truly listening and observing with your full attention. This can take a tremendous amount of patience and practice. And listening extends to the environment. Take in everything — the sights, smells, sounds — surrounding you and your child.

Nonjudgmental Acceptance. It’s approaching the situation without judgment for your feelings or your child’s feelings. What is simply is. Nonjudgment also involves letting go of unrealistic expectations of your child. And, in the end, it’s this acceptance of “what is” that’s the goal.

Emotional Awareness. Bringing about awareness to parenting interactions extends from the parent to the child and back. Modeling emotional awareness is key to teaching your child to do the same. There are always emotions affecting situations, whether they were formed a long time ago or are more fleeting.

Self-regulation. This means not letting your emotions trigger immediate reactions, like yelling or other automatic behaviors. In short: It’s thinking before acting to avoid overreacting.

Compassion. Again, you may not agree with your child’s actions or thoughts, but mindful parenting encourages parents to have compassion. This involves being empathetic and understanding for the child’s position in the moment. Compassion extends to the parent as well, as there’s ultimately less self-blame if a situation doesn’t turn out as you’d hoped.

Benefits Of Mindful Parenting

There is a multitude of studies that have looked at possible benefits related to mindfulness and mindfulness parenting. For parents, these benefits may include reducing stress and mood disorders, like depression and anxiety.

One small 2008 Study Trusted Source even explored these benefits for pregnant women in their third trimester. (Yes! You can benefit before the parenting truly begins!) The women who engaged in mindfulness had much less anxiety and reported fewer instances of negative moods.

Yet another Study Trusted Source showed that this benefit may extend to the overall well-being of parents and family. How? Adding mindfulness training to an existing parenting program appeared to strengthen the parent-child relationship.

In this particular study, it was during adolescence, when things can be particularly turbulent. The researchers share that the improvements may be due to the parent’s ability to “respond constructively” to stressors as they arise versus reacting and potentially alienating their child.

For kids, mindful parenting may help with social decision-making. Researchers Trusted Source recently uncovered a link to decision-making and emotional regulation. So, the understanding and acceptance of emotions that this type of parenting promotes may help kids work on this important life skill from a very young age.

Mindful parenting may even reduce potential mistreatment, like physical abuse. A 2007 studyTrusted Source showed some reductions in child abuse among parents who employed different mindfulness strategies. Not only that, but parenting attitudes also improved. So did child behavior issues. It’s a win-win-win.

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