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Last Updated on April 26, 2018

How Mindful Meditation Can Improve Your Parenting Style

How Mindful Meditation Can Improve Your Parenting Style

Are you looking for ways to improve your parenting?

Of course; we all are! Anyone who is a parent is always looking to take their parenting skills to the next level and improve the balance in the household. Parenting styles don’t have to complicate our lives, but which style of parenting we choose does have a direct impact on how harmonious our lives with our children are.

Everyone has heard the terms “meditation” and “mindfulness”; but, were you aware that mindful meditation can bring about an amazing transformation in your parenting style?

It’s true! With just a few simple tips on meditation and being more present, your parenting style can see an amazing transformation in just a very short time.

Mindfulness Matters

Meditation is the practice of calming and centering the mind. Mindful meditation originated in India thousands of years ago as part of Hinduism.

Over the centuries, its amazing ability to transform our mind, body and soul have been taken on by Buddhism as well as many other cultures and religions.

Today, countless cultures around the world have embraced the physical, emotional and spiritual benefits that mindfulness can bring to our personal lives.

The Secret of Stress Free Parenting

Let’s face it, parenting can be hard and stressful!

It can also be quite amazing and rewarding to see the best aspects of ourselves standing in front of us in the form of our children.

To be the very best parents we can be, it’s crucial that we find productive ways to manage our stress. After all, our kids learn best by watching our behavior (this is called “modeling”) and if we don’t handle stress well, neither will they.

Adding a mindful meditation practice to your life, even if it’s just a few minutes a day, can transform your parenting style in several incredible ways:

  • You will feel a greater sense of calm and peace
  • You will be able to ebb and flow around daily challenges more easily
  • You will naturally be more patient with your child and yourself

Science Backs Up The Benefits

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD conducted a recent study on the effects of a mindful meditation practice and it’s impact on stress and well-being. Their research looked at over 3500 people, and what they found was astonishing! [1]

They found that “the negative effect (of Anxiety, depression, and stress/distress) is improved in mindfulness programs”.

They also found that “mindfulness-based stress reduction reduces (physical) pain severity to a small degree” and that “Mindfulness meditation programs had moderate evidence of improved anxiety”.

Yet another study published by the National Institutes of Health found that a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program “may have a beneficial effect on anxiety symptoms in generalized anxiety disorder, and may also improve stress reactivity and coping”. [2]

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Clearly many experts recognize the ability of a mindful meditation practice to reduce stress and anxiety; and since parents seem to have an endless stream of stress and anxiety, this can certainly help make some positive changes.

Meditation Changes Our Brains

A recent study by the University of California in Los Angeles examined the links between aging, brain deterioration and meditation.

What they found was nothing short of amazing!

In their study, they reported that “meditation is brain-protective and associated with a reduced age-related tissue decline”. [3]

They went on to say that there is “scientifically solid evidence that meditation has brain (and mind) altering capacities (which can help with) healthy aging, but also pathological aging, such as is evident in mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer’s disease”.

In short, if we focus on adding just a few minutes of mindful meditation to our daily rituals we can literally transform our minds and positively impact how our brains age.

We can then apply this to all aspects of our lives, including how we parent.

The Effects on Kids May Surprise You

Children face enormous pressures today compared to when we were kids.

Social media and technology can affect the brain negatively to create anxiety and stress that simply didn’t exist in past decades. We also have epidemics of ADD & ADHD and out of control rates of adolescent depression.

The good news is finding ways to incorporate a mindful mediation practice into your child’s life can have a significant impact.

A recent study by Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry found that “using the techniques of Sahaja Yoga Meditation . . . showed improvements in children’s ADHD behavior, self-esteem and relationship quality.” [4]

They went on to say that “Children described . . . better sleep patterns, less anxiety . . . and at school more able to concentrate, (and had) less conflict. Parents reported feeling happier, less stressed and more able to manage their child’s behavior”.

While kids may not have the patience for a daily or lengthy practice of seated meditation, just a few minutes several times a week can bring about a profound change in mood, attitude and stress-reduction!

The Magic Behind Mono-tasking

Mindfulness has come into fashion over the past decade.

Essentially it’s the practice of focusing our attention on what we are doing in the moment. With mindfulness, we focus on being 100% present to a person or action, instead of allowing our minds to be scattered across many thoughts and tasks.

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Mindfulness removes the illusion that multi-tasking somehow makes us more productive. Instead it replaces that idea with mono-tasking: being laser focused on one thing at a time.

In doing this, we become more accepting of what we can’t change. We become more patient, caring and empathetic. It also naturally causes our relationships to improve as we will become more present and connected to those we interact with.

To dive deeper into exactly what mindfulness is take a look at the 10 Easy Ways To Practice Mindfulness .

Applying Mindfulness Makes Your Life 10x Better

In terms of how mindfulness can improve your life, let’s review the biggest positive impacts:

  • It helps regulate our emotions
  • It heightens our sensitivity to others and the world around us
  • We will more easily replace expectations with appreciation
  • It can strengthen our feelings of self-worth and self-esteem

In short, by making a choice to practice mindfulness and mindful meditation we are taking charge of our lives, our emotions and our minds. We are no longer simply reacting to the world around us, but taking responsibility for how we want to live our life.

3 Simple Ways to Start Meditating Today

So mindful meditation sounds great, right?

But, how do we incorporate that into our daily lives? More importantly, how can we practice mindfulness in a way that doesn’t eat up a lot of our precious time?

The answers can be surprisingly simple.

There are likely a million different ways to practice mindfulness and no one way is best.

In truth, what works for you may not work for someone else, and vice versa. Therefore, find what works for you and don’t worry if you’re doing it the “right” way.

The primary goal of mindful meditation is to calm your mind and clear away all the distractions and thoughts.

While practicing mindful meditation you may want complete quiet. Others, though, may like the challenge of tuning out a certain amount of background noise. And yet some others may prefer to listen to gentle music in the background.

Listed below are 3 incredibly easy ways to add a mindful meditation practice to your life:

#1 Seated Meditation

The easiest way to add a mindful meditation practice to our lives is to simply set aside anywhere from 5-15 minutes in your daily routine. Almost all of us, no matter how busy our lives, can spare an extra 5 minutes. Wake up 5 minutes earlier to start your day, so that you ensure you have plenty of time to practice.

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Find a place with limited distractions and sit cross legged. The important thing is to try and eliminate all the distracting thoughts and focus your mind on one thing.

Focus on your breath, breathing in slowly through the nose and out through the mouth. Also, focus on a maintaining a strong and upright posture with the crown of your head pointing to the sky.

Many meditators like to focus on the pineal gland, or what’s known as our third eye.

The pineal gland is located inside the brain, but the gateway to it, the third eye, is considered by many to be located on the forehead in between our eyebrows. The pineal gland is where melatonin in our body is produced; thus focusing on it can help improve sleep regulation.

No matter what helps you quiet your mind, stay focused on that one thing.

When you find your thoughts drifting towards what to make the kids for dinner or last’s night’s spat with your spouse, simple breathe out and come back to your focus.

Even the most seasoned meditators occasionally find their thoughts drifting. So, be kind to yourself and clear your mind as often as is necessary. Don’t worry that you aren’t doing it perfectly.

#2 Practice Tai Chi

Think of Tai Chi as a form of moving meditation.

While it is a traditional Chinese martial art, it is a solo practice that does not (typically) involve contact or partner work. It is also a very slow and gentle practice that allows the practitioner to focus on breath and healthy movement.

Of course you can find a local Tai Chi class, but there are also plenty of YouTube videos that allow you to practice at home.

Unless you’re an expert, start with what’s called the Yang style short form which is features 24 different movements rather than the traditional 108 long form.

To dive in deeper, take a look at the 10 Benefits of Tai Chi .

#3 Practice Yoga

Yoga, too, is a centuries old practice.

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It also comes in many styles, some more rigorous than others. What they all tend to have in common, though, is a calming and focusing of the mind through breath and healthy movement.

Like Tai Chi, you can certainly find a yoga studio near your home or work, but you can also find a multitude of videos that will enable you to practice at home.

The more rigorous among you may want to look into Bikram or Hot Yoga classes, which can be a very full bodied workout. For a more gentle approach you may prefer Hatha or a restorative “yin” style yoga.

But like any mindful meditation practice you will naturally see benefits physically, but also emotionally and spiritually. Dig deeper and learn What Yoga Can Teach Us About Productivity .

You’re Never Too Busy to Meditate

We all feel the pinch in our busy weeks of trying to find the time to add one more thing.

It’s clear from what we’ve learned that the benefits of adding a mindful meditation practice into our lives can be an amazingly transformational experience!

But how do we fit it into our busy and ever-increasing schedules?

Like anything else it has to be simple and it has to be something that doesn’t feel like we’re sacrificing.

We also need to be willing to fake it until we make it. In other words, like any new practice it may feel unnatural at first and it can take anywhere from 21-28 days (or longer) to form a new habit.

So be patient and stick with it.

Once you’re past the initial stages and the new habit is formed, mindful meditation will naturally and seamlessly become part of your new everyday routine. Here’s how to begin:

  1. Set a clear parenting goal or intention (to be more patient, to be more loving, to be more calm, etc.)
  2. Make your goals 1-3 things (remember we’re keeping this simple!)
  3. Write down your goals somewhere (the fridge is a great place)
  4. Start by dedicating just 5 minutes each morning to meditation (use whatever method you prefer; seated meditation, Tai Chi, yoga, etc)
  5. Push through on those mornings when you don’t want to do it (we all have those mornings)
  6. No matter which practice, focus on your breath and emptying the mind
  7. Close your eyes (to minimize distractions)
  8. Be kind to yourself (when you get distracted)
  9. With every breath try and release more tension in your body

As you start to get the new habit ingrained, you’ll start to see the tangible benefits of mindful meditation. Then you can begin to devote more time to it.

Just a few minutes a day really can make a big difference!

If you can meditate with your kids, then it becomes a family tradition and you all grow stronger together!

Become a Model Parent with Meditation

Meditation reduces stress and anxiety while bringing a greater sense of calm and patience to both you and your child. You will see amazing benefits from starting a mindful meditation practice.

In truth, adopting a mindful approach to life can not only improve your parenting style, but can bring about a positive change to all aspects of your life. So, don’t delay, begin practicing mindfulness meditation today and reap the incredible benefits for both you and your children.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Jeff Campbell

Blogger, Husband, Father & Martial Artist

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Last Updated on June 18, 2018

Parents Are Their Own Worst Enemies

Parents Are Their Own Worst Enemies

The pressure to be a good parent is real. All this pressure comes at us from internal and external sources that converge and make a perfect storm for parents to lose any confidence they had as parents. We, as parents have the power to overcome our own worst enemy, which is ourselves.

Video Summary

As parents, we encounter messages on a daily basis that tell us how we need to do things in a different or better way. We hear messages that we need to expect more of our kids, we need to not be so hard on our kids, we should vaccinate, we shouldn’t vaccinate, we need to be involved with our kids, we shouldn’t be helicopter parents, we need to help our kids with their homework, we need to let our kids do their own homework, and a plethora of other mixed messages. All these messages turn into self talk one way or the other.

Everyone has a running conversation of self talk going on in their own head. As parents, our self talk can revolve around our abilities as parents. Are we doing things the best way for our kids? Are we doing thing that we think are good, but could in fact be harmful? We have so many messages coming at us in all directions that it becomes easy to question every decision we make as parents. Thus, it becomes far to easy to be hard on ourselves as parents.

Parents Are Their Own Worst Critics

Your own worst enemy in life is yourself. Typically there is nobody who will say more negative things to you than you will to yourself. It is the self talk that goes on in your head all day long that provides for the negative commentary to yourself. You need to stop the negative self talk today as it constantly breaking down your confidence as a parent. There are tips further in the article that will help empower you to overcome this negative self talk.

Are we good enough?

As parents, one thing we are constantly asking ourselves mentally is are we good enough and are we doing enough for our kids. Any good parents wonders this from time to time. Self analysis is helpful at time. However, if we are doing it too often, we begin to doubt ourselves and second guess our decisions as parents. Allowing negative self talk that undermines our skills as parents can hinder our confidence as parents. In turn, it makes it more difficult to parent when we are always questioning our capabilities as parents.

Are we doing things the best way possible?

We, as parents, need to let go of perfect. Perfect is unattainable. The pursuit of perfect leads to frustration and defeat. Instead of pursing perfection, we need to chose a good path for parenting that is best for our own family and let of trying to be the best and do the best. Let it go and instead just be present.

Are we comparing our kids and ourselves to others?

We live in a culture where it is extremely easy to compare ourselves to others. You only need a few minutes on social media to compare yourself and your life to hundreds if not thousands of others. The problem is that what is portrayed on social media is not the whole story. Our tendency to compare ourselves to others leads to discontentment. When you feed yourself messages of discontent on a regular basis, you will begin to feel like a defeated individual and parent, as you can never measure up when compared to others.

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If you feel like you or your children will never live up to the level of how others live, then you won’t. The real problem is that you are ignoring your individuality as a family. Each of you is unique, as is your family. Don’t compare yourself to others, because its like comparing apples and oranges.

Be a Confident Parent

The best way to overcome the greatest enemy in your life as a parent is to become a confident parent. Easier said than done of course. However, there are some things that you can do to become more confident in your parenting and the feedback in your head can become more positive and encouraging. Below are some ways that you can create more confidence in yourself regarding your parenting abilities.

1. Become your own encourager through positive self talk

To become more confident, you need to start shutting down that voice in your head that says that you are not good enough or you are doing enough for your child. For some moms, this is the “bad mom syndrome”. It is that voice in your own head that says you are a “bad mom”. It often comes from building a list of all your mommy failures so you feel an overwhelming source of guilt which leads to this “bad mom syndrome”.

Saying this to yourself will not make you a better mom. It will only make you feel like a failure and defeated. You are not defeated. Those discouraging messages are not helpful to you or your child. It is ok to have uncertainty from time to time. However, it is not ok to allow yourself to feel less than adequate for your child. If you truly feel inadequate get some professional help from a counselor. They can help empower you as a parent.

You need to make yourself aware of negative self talk and change the course of the message while it is happening. For example, you may scream and yell at your child for forgetting to turn in their homework. You then start beating yourself up about the yelling because you know you were wrong to react that way. Instead of internally beating yourself up, stop the negative self talk as soon as you know it has started. Look at it as an opportunity to recognize the triggers that led to the outburst, perhaps you had a bad day at work. Then tell yourself you will do better next time. You also take the time to think through how you need to approach your child and apologize for the yelling and then discuss calmly why they didn’t turn in their homework. This method of thinking of solutions and encouraging yourself that things can be worked through is growth as a parent. It is also a way of shutting down the negative self talk and replacing it with solutions and/or positive messages.

PsychCentral made a great point about self talk and the power we have in ourselves to change these thoughts:[1]

You can test, challenge and change your self-talk. You can change some of the negative aspects of your thinking by challenging the irrational parts and replacing them with more reasonable thoughts.

2. Reduce stress and fatigue in your own life

Parents are better parents when they are less stressed out. When we feel stressed out as parents, we sometimes take it out on the ones who are closest in proximity. If you are at home in the evening with your kids and you have a mile long to-do list along with lots of other external stress going on, it becomes difficult to be kind, calm, and loving to our children. Our children are precious and impressionable. They don’t deserve unkind words or treatment because we are feeling utterly and completely stressed out and overworked.

Research by Your Modern Family looked at what children want most from their parents. The results from their research showed that the number one thing kids want from their parents is for “their parents to be less stressed and less tired”.[2] This is quite telling. It shows that we need to dial back things in life that cause extreme stress and exhaustion. It may be difficult to do this for some, as it can require a major overhaul in your life structure and activities.

For other parents, it can be more simple solutions, as suggested in the Modern Family article including: getting on a schedule, having kids help with chores, getting things ready the night before, waking up before your kids, doing meal plans that work for your family, getting organized, planning ahead, and laughing. Start finding ways to reduce stress in your life and you will see that your children are less stressed and happier as well.

We are all better parents when we are less stressed out. Do what it takes to reduce your stress as it does in fact affect your child’s mental well-being. Kids are smart, intuitive, and sensitive to the emotions of their parents. Don’t go through life pretending not to be stressed. Take action today to reduce stress in your life. Sometimes the solution is saying no and reducing activities. Do it for the sake of your children. It is the one thing children want most- less stress, less tired parents.

3. Simply be present for your kids and let go of perfection

Allowing yourself and your children to be something other than the best can be empowering. It allows you to be present with your children and embrace them for their own uniqueness. It also allows you to accept your circumstances for what they are, which is likely not the best or perfect.

One of the best thing you can do for your kids is simply be there for them. Kids yearn for time with their parents. They may not always say it or express it, but they want their parents. It is difficult to create family memories if you don’t spend time together. Make the time to be with your children. It doesn’t need to be a special occasion or a Disney experience either. Just sitting together to have dinners as family and talking to your kids is what they need for positive memories to be made.

Knowing that their parents are there to talk with them and to listen to them, is a wonderful gift to your children. In our era of busy lives and trying so hard to be the best parents we often overlook the most important factor in parenting, which is simply being present in our child’s life. Sometimes we need to dial back the schedule so that we are spending time together. Taking them from one activity to the next is not quality time together. Allowing for time to be home and interacting with one another, without distractions, is quality time. Be present to allow for open conversations to occur.

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Pscyhology Today discussed the topic of being a parent who is present and gave some specific tips. One of the top tips they provided was to stop multitasking.[3] This article stated,

“The first thing to recognize is that, try as we might, we really can only do one thing at a time, so we ought to do that thing wholeheartedly”

When you want to be present with you children, then don’t text, do other tasks, or work on other projects. Devote your attention solely to you child.

When you allow yourself to be fully present with your child, it becomes easier to appreciate the small things in life. Your child will grow up fast, you hear it from other parents quite often how they grow up too fast. Take the time to appreciate the precious little things in life, such as watching your child become overjoyed because they won at a board game you were playing, or watching your child teach their new puppy how to sit, or watching your child successfully ride a bike for the first time. All of these small things in life end up being the big things in life. Be present with your child so that you can enjoy and appreciate the small things in life.

4. Don’t get pressured into taking bad advice

Everyone has an opinion these days. It doesn’t mean that you need to heed the advice of everyone. You have permission as a parent to disregard the advice of others, including from loved ones including your own parents. Their intentions are good. They want to help you and your child be successful and happy. The problem is that the methods your parents utilized 20 or 30 years ago may be outdated. They didn’t know better. Now we have research on virtually any parenting issue there is out there.

Do your own research, so you have peace of mind that your selected parenting methods are what is best for your child. It is also nice to have this research in your back pocket so when someone questions your methods you have research and data to prove your selected ways are best. It’s hard for someone to argue with science. They can try, but facts and data are truths at the end of the day.

5. Don’t compare yourself to others

Don’t allow yourself get sucked into the comparison game. A lot of this has to do with the self talk in your head. You have the ability to stop the self talk and change its course to something that is more positive. When you start comparing yourself or your children to others, stop and replace that self talk with thoughts about how you are all unique, special, and gifted in different ways than any other family.

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Along with comparing your children includes the topic of managing your expectations. If your child is an average student, then don’t expect them to get into the gifted program at school. Be realistic with your child’s abilities. When you have unrealistic expectations it puts pressure on both you and the child. This pressure is not needed in life, as it will only bring disappointment when the expectations are too high and can never be met. Keep it real, and allow yourself to see that your child may not be the best or the brightest. They are unique and special in their own way, but it doesn’t mean that they are going to be the very best at everything or anything at all. Let them know that its ok because they are loved for exactly who they are and special because of their uniqueness.

If you have friends who like to play the comparison game, then don’t hang out with them. They will not help bring you up as a parent. Their goal is to make comparisons so they can feel better about themselves, their life, and their abilities as a parent. Their goal in no way involves helping you feel better or lifting you up and encouraging you as a parent. Cut the negative thoughts out, especially if they are coming from another person. You are doing yourself and your child a disservice by spending your precious and limited time with someone who is using comparison to bring you down in order to bring themselves up. Life is too short, find someone who wants to be a true friend.

Parenting Is Hard Work, Take Time for Yourself

Parents need a break from time to time. Don’t forget about taking care of yourself while in the midst of your parenting experience. Take time to do things that you enjoyed doing before you had kids. Keep up with hobbies and things that you enjoy doing. Allowing time for your hobbies and taking care of yourself allows you to be more relaxed, less stressed out, and happier in the long run.

Of course, there is moderation for everything. I am not saying leave your family every night to work out at the gym for three hours. Your family takes priority over your hobbies. However, in order to be a well balanced and happy individual you need to schedule time each week for your hobby, whatever that may be. Which is exactly why my kids are at home with a sitter every Friday afternoon and I am sitting at Starbucks right now, sipping my favorite Chai Latte, listening to music on earbuds, and typing this article.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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