Below you will find ways to become more Mindful as a parent. It is a journey.
Mindful Ed resources to explore to learn
how to become a more mindful parent.
What is Mindful Parenting?
Mindful parenting is a lifelong practice.
It means you become less attached to outcomes and more mindful of what’s unfolding in your life and your children’s lives.
Mindful parenting is about moment-to-moment, open hearted and nonjudgmental attention.
It’s about seeing our children as they are, not as we want them to be. We let everything that unfolds in life be the curriculum for our parenting—because it is—whether we like it or not.
Jon and Myla Kabat-Zinn, authors of Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting
How can I become the kind of parent I wanted as child?
All we need to do is really think back to what we wanted as a child. Our needs were, for the most part, really very simple. We wanted to be 'seen' and loved for who we were, unconditionally, without having to earn affection, attention or validation.
With these ingredients in place we were able to navigate life storms and we grew up feeling safe, secure and confident. With this high sense of self we were able to really create the life we dreamed of for ourselves with loving guides around us to support us on our path and journey. We were happy, healthy and whole so we were able to believe in ourselves enough to live in a conscious, healthy way.
Many people did not have these simple ingredients in place when they were children so it becomes even more important to learn how to give these to our own children. As parents one of the first steps to becoming mindful is to really look back to our own childhoods and understand how these are impacting on us today.
We need to heal any pain and wounding that we experienced as children so we can parent today from a strong and healthy place. We can work to stop any generational wounds from spreading from our grandparents, to our parents, to us, to our children. We can make the choice to parent in a mindful, conscious way. It starts with making a choice, then learning the skills you need.
Lead By Example
Children learn from experience. They learn through modelling. Children learn from what we do rather than what we say. Therefore when children experience respect because we treat them respectfully, they learn to be respectful. It also works in reverse. If children are treated disrespectfully, they learn to be disrespectful.
I suggest you start with something that is a problem, such as your child not being responsible for their belongings. Check in with yourself, are you responsible for yours? Are you someone who is always loosing their keys and glasses and misplacing your phone? If this is the case, your children are around and watching and learning from this. Or are you someone who keeps their things orderly, and vary rarely looses things, then your children are watching and learning from this.
Start with the skills required to be organised with belongings. Teach these in steps, giving feedback as your child practices these skills. As they progress add in one more skill, then more until they are masters of this skill. It takes time and practice to master something, and children need a lot of time and calm, encouraging people around to support the skills they are mastering.
Practice Positive Discipline
Positive discipline is the art of being both kind and firm at the same time. Discipline is teaching rather than punishing. Many times children are told off for not having the skills they are yet to learn, creating a sense of fear, anxiety and failure. Instead we need to realise that many of our children’s 'undesirable behaviours' are happening because of something.
Start with taking a pause and looking ‘below’ the behaviour to the cause, and ask yourself “what is my child trying to tell me?” and then respond to that need rather than focusing on the behaviour. Maybe you can acknowledge that their behaviour is age appropriate. Maybe you will discover that they are overwhelmed and need some time away from the chaos (often birthday parties can induce this). Maybe you will see they are bored and need support to find an activity. Maybe you will see that it is attention seeking behaviour and they need your full focus and presence for a few minutes.
You will be able to measure your progress when you find yourself focusing more on your child’s need rather than their behaviour.
Be Present: Limit Your Own Screen Time and Theirs
Our children are watching us all the time, and learning from our example. Many teens I work with have told me their father is often on the phone and distracted even when he is with them. It is very hard for most of us to resist looking at our phone when we hear the ping of a text coming through. Our IT gadgets can easily take over our lives if we let them, distracting us from what is happening in this moment, taking us away from the people we are with, or the ability to relax without being entertained. Our children are the same as we are, and yet, many of us had a childhood where we did play outside and learn how to entertain ourselves, for us the IT revolution only arrived in adulthood.
Setting limits and boundaries is essential for our children, and we must lead by example.
How present are you when you are with your children? Insist on meals both in and out of the house being screen free. Be aware of how you are using the screens to entertain or even ‘look after’ your children. Setting healthy limits and boundaries for the whole family can be done with the children and not to them.
Give clear limits such as:
No ‘screens’ before school.
You can have your screen time straight after school but only for 30 mins.
Manage what they are watching with boundaries, such as no movies until the weekend.
Try and watch some movies together and discuss the themes in them. Family movie nights can be a great connector for families.
Ensure you learn how to play their computer games and play with them. This helps you to feel connected to them, and helps them to feel you are interested in their world. Equally you will learn how appropriate the games are and the skills they are learning.
Manage what they are watching with them. If you have older children teach them about cyber safety and the potential harms. Learn about this yourself and guide your children.
Recommended Books on Mindful Parenting
I personally own each of the these books and have been recommending them to parents (and teachers) for years. Each takes parents on a journey with the goal of becoming more mindful as a parent. They all follow the same philosophy and support and guide a family that is aligned with parenting in a conscious way.
The Conscious Parent: Transforming Ourselves, Empowering Our Children
by Dr. Shefali Tsabary
Instead of being merely the receiver of the parents' psychological and spiritual legacy, children function as ushers of the parents' development. Parents unwittingly pass on an inheritance of psychological pain and emotional shallowness. To handle the behavior that results, traditional books on parenting abound with clever techniques for control and quick fixes for dysfunction.
In Dr. Shefali Tsabary's conscious approach to parenting, however, children serve as mirrors of their parents' forgotten self. Those willing to look in the mirror have an opportunity to establish a relationship with their own inner state of wholeness. Once they find their way back to their essence, parents enter into communion with their children, shifting away from the traditional parent-to-child "know it all" approach and more towards a mutual parent-with-child relationship. The pillars of the parental ego crumble as the parents awaken to the ability of their children to transport them into a state of presence.
Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting
by Myla Kabat-zinn, Jon Kabat-Zinn
Everyday Blessings remains one of the few books on parenting that embraces the emotional, intuitive, and deeply personal experience of being a parent, applying the groundbreaking "mind/body connection" expertise from global mindfulness leader, Jon Kabat-Zinn and his wife, Myla Kabat-Zinn.
With the growing interest in mindfulness as a way of living, and with increasing scientific evidence of its value for optimal health and well-being, including a new field in psychology devoted to mindful parenting, and with mindfulness being increasingly integrated into K-12 education, there has never been a better time for cultivating greater mindfulness in parenting and in family life.
Mindful Discipline: A Loving Approach to Setting Limits and Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child by Shauna Shapiro, Chris White, Christine Carter(Foreword), Dean Ornish (Foreword)
Raising happy, compassionate, and responsible children requires both love and limits. In Mindful Discipline, internationally recognized mindfulness expert Shauna Shapiro and pediatrician Chris White weave together ancient wisdom and modern science to provide new perspectives on parenting and discipline.
Grounded in mindfulness and neuroscience, this pioneering book redefines discipline and outlines the five essential elements necessary for children to thrive: unconditional love, space for children to be themselves, mentorship, healthy boundaries, and mis-takes that create learning and growth opportunities.
In this book, you will also discover parenting practices such as setting limits with love, working with difficult emotions, and forgiveness and compassion meditations that place discipline within a context of mindfulness. This relationship-centered approach will restore your confidence as a parent and support your children in developing emotional intelligence, self-discipline, and resilience?qualities they need for living an authentic and meaningful life.
Positive Discipline: The Classic Guide to Helping Children Develop Self-Discipline, Responsibility, Cooperation, and Problem-Solving Skills
by Jane Nelsen
The key to positive discipline is not punishment, but mutual respect. Nelsen coaches parents and teachers to be both firm and kind, so that any child–from a three-year-old toddler to a rebellious teenager–can learn creative cooperation and self-discipline with no loss of dignity.
Inside you’ll discover how to:
• bridge communication gaps
• defuse power struggles
• avoid the dangers of praise
• enforce your message of love
• build on strengths, not weaknesses
• hold children accountable with their self-respect intact
• teach children not what to think but how to think
• win cooperation at home and at school
• meet the special challenge of teen misbehavior
Give your child the tools he or she needs for a well-adjusted life with this proven treasure trove of practical advice.