It’s easy to lose your cool when one of your kids does something you’ve told him not to do a million times before.
It’s especially easy when you’re already feeling weighed down by worries and irritations that have been piling up in your internal world.
Maybe you’re thinking, “Being mindful is great when you’ve got time to relax, but when you feel agitated and justifiably frustrated with your kids, who has time to be mindful?”
Mindful parenting isn’t just for those moments when you’re about to lose your cool.
In fact, practicing mindfulness as a parent can help you stave off many of the situations that trigger emotional outbursts in your child and you.
And the more you make time to practice mindfulness as a parent — and teach your kids to do the same — the more time you create to enjoy the fruits of this habit.
Once you learn how to be a mindful parent (and what that actually means), you’ll wonder why you didn’t learn about it sooner.
What is Mindful Parenting?
What does it mean to be mindful as a parent?
Mindfulness in general means being more aware of the present moment and what it offers to you and to your kids.
Mindful parenting means you are more intentional as a parent, developing a parenting philosophy that supports your values and honors the practices of being more present, calm, and compassionate with your children.
A mindful parent is more creative and thoughtful rather than reactionary and emotional.
And a mindful parent practices mindfulness in other aspects of his or her life in order to cultivate the inner equilibrium and focus necessary for parenting.
And guess who learns to do the same thing as they grow up watching you?
To become more mindful of the present moment – for your kids’ sakes as well as your own – ask yourself questions like the following:
- What am I grateful for right now?
- What am I feeling in this moment — about myself, about my kid/s, about what my senses are telling me right now?
- How are my feelings influencing my kid/s?
- How are their feelings influencing me?
- What can I do right now to help us both be more grateful and more at peace in this moment?
No one is perfect, and even the most loving parents make mistakes — every day. Parenting is a moment-to-moment thing.
So, it makes sense to learn mindfulness practices that will help you create moments you and your kids will remember fondly.
7 Mindful Parenting Tips
The more you incorporate the following tips into your parenting, the easier it will be for you and your children to build and maintain the habit of practicing mindfulness throughout the day.
If you want to effectively model mindfulness for kids, it makes sense to learn how to practice mindfulness for parents.
When your kids see how it makes you a more compassionate and loving parent, they’ll want to learn more.
1. Prioritize communication over technology.
Kids notice what we prioritize. If every time we’re with them, we turn on the radio or turn on the TV or turn to our phones, the message we send is that our relationship with technology.
We are telling them that the messages or entertainment we get from technology are more important to us than whatever our kids might want to say to us.
Instead, set aside some time each day just to talk about whatever is on your kids’ minds — things that are bothering them, dreams they have, questions they want to ask, etc.
If you eat together at the table, make it a no-tech time, and switch off the radio and TV to eliminate anything that might make conversation difficult.
2. Practice mindful breathing together.
Make time each day just to take a few deep, mindful breaths — to detach from the past and the future and focus only on how each breath feels.
Invite your children to do the same, especially when they’re feeling stressed or anxious about something.
Remind them, as they take those slow, deep breaths that the only thing they have to do right then is to pay attention to how their breath feels as they inhale and exhale.
Breathe with them and let them know if you’re keeping count for each inhalation and exhalation.
Or just breath naturally, paying attention to the sensations in each breath and to the rise and fall of your chest as your lungs fill and then empty.
Encourage them to sit comfortably and to relax a little more each time they exhale — as if they’re breathing out the stress and tension and breathing in calm strength and creative energy.
Doing this regularly will cultivate a habit that will help your mindful child find his calm center in the midst of any storm.
3. Practice quiet, mindful activities together.
Whether you knit or crochet together, create blackout poetry, or take walks, enjoy the chance to quietly enjoy all that the present moment has to offer as you focus on each stitch or each word or each step you take.
Here are some other ideas for mindful activities you can enjoy together:
- Cooking or baking
- Planting or weeding in the garden
- Solving puzzles
- Doing yoga
- Playing a card game (or board game) together
- Making jewelry or friendship bracelets
- Painting a wall or a small room
- Journaling (separately)
4. Pay attention to your internal reactions to triggers.
It’s not enough to tell yourself, “I want to be more patient and to control my temper when I feel triggered by something.”
You need to become more aware of what those triggers are and why they trigger you.
It may seem like a little thing to tell yourself, “I’m going to watch how I react on the inside when one of these triggers happen, and then I’m going to give myself a few seconds to choose a different response.”
But this attentiveness can be the difference between continuing to react as you always have and creating a new and better response to those triggers.
It’s a matter of being present and fully aware of those triggers and of how you react to them so you can consciously choose to respond differently.
When you’re not fully present, you allow your subconscious to follow the script it’s always used, because you’re too busy focusing on other things.
Though certain functions might have become subconscious routines (like turning off lights or brushing your teeth), parenting isn’t something anyone should do on auto-pilot.
When you spend time with your kids, the more present you are for them, the more you teach them to live in the present moment — which can only help them as they grow.
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5. Don’t interrupt your kids when they’re talking.
As long as it may take for one of your kids to articulate what they want to say, don’t interrupt them or try to finish their sentences for them. It’s just as annoying for them as it is for you.
Resist the temptation to hurry things up, unless the situation requires you to gently interrupt them.
If so, let them know when you’ll have the opportunity to listen to what they’re trying to say.
If you’re driving, and you can hardly hear them from the driver’s seat, it may be best to ask them to save the conversation for later when you can give them your full attention.
Sometimes, kids just want to know that what they have to say is interesting to you as their parent.
They want to not feel invisible or as though they could walk away and no one would miss them.
So, if you can’t give them your undivided attention at that moment, let them know when you will and remind them when that time comes, so they can finally tell you and get the response they were hoping for.
6. Ask questions that show you’ve been listening.
If you know one of your kids has a strong interest in something, ask thoughtful questions to invite them to talk about it.
Vary your questions, so they know you’ve been listening to their answers and taking an interest in what they have to say.
Encourage them to share their thoughts about subjects of interest to them and ask questions if you need clarification or would like more information about something specific.
If they seem more irritated than engaged, try to end the conversation on a high note, letting them know you’re genuinely interested in their thoughts and ideas.
If they decide later to tell you more, you’ll be happy to listen or to let them know when you can give them your whole attention.
7. Allow your kids to express their emotions and practice active listening.
Sometimes kids (like adults) just need to vent, and they want to know that what they’re going through matters to you.
If it’s possible to give them your full attention right then, stop what you’re doing and practice mindful listening to be fully present for them.
Whatever they need to talk about, they’ll pick up on it if you’re distracted or preoccupied with something else. Listen as attentively as you would want them to listen to you when you have something to say.
After all, how else will they learn to mindfully listen to others as they grow?
If you don’t model that behavior for them, they’ll get the impression that “subordinates” (kids, students, employees) have to pay close attention to their authority figures, but those authority figures (parents, teachers, bosses) shouldn’t be expected to return the favor.
And if they become one of those authority figures, they’re likely to treat their kids, students, and employees the way they were treated.
Will you prioritize mindful parenting?
Now that you know what mindful parenting is all about and how you can practice it with your own kids, what will you do differently today?
Is there something you’d like to start doing with them this week that you haven’t made time for yet?
Have any of them been sending the message that they wish you were more present for them when they felt stressed, frustrated, or alone?
Many of us grew up thinking that grown-ups have “no use for” the words we use to express what we’re feeling or going through.
And it’s easier to just pass that on as parents and send our own kids the same message.
Mindful parenting is being more aware of our thoughts and actions and doing what you believe is best for your kids – rather than what’s easiest.
And may your self-awareness and your love for your kids influence everything you do today.