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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

A husband and father trying to help other dads and moms navigate through the worlds of mindfulness, health, parenting, marriage/relationships& more.

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Published on December 20, 2019

Is Authoritarian Parenting Good or Bad for Your Child?

Is Authoritarian Parenting Good or Bad for Your Child?

Kate sits down to the dinner table and is eager to be a good girl and eat her dinner like her Mom and Dad want her to do. She is a sweet girl who wants the approval of her parents very much. It is not always easy though. During dinner, she stands up and starts to leave the table because she has to use the bathroom. Her Dad yells at her to sit back down. He tells her “we don’t just get up from the dinner table, we wait and ask to be excused after everyone is finished eating.” She begins to protest, wanting to explain that she needs to use the bathroom. Her father becomes more upset with her and yells at her that she is now talking back and she is not allowed to say another word at the dinner table until everyone is finished eating and then she can be excused.

Unfortunately for Kate, she can’t hold it, and she has a little accident because she is too fearful to say a word to her Dad. She doesn’t want to get yelled at anymore. She also knows that in her home, kids don’t have a say. What Mom and Dad say is like words carved into stone. They are strict beyond reason and they will not bend their rules. Therefore, Kate felt that she had no choice in the matter and when she could no longer hold it. There was nothing she could do about it.

Kate’s parents are an example of authoritarian parenting. They are strict, they are not emotionally engaged with their children, and they have very high expectations for their children. This type of parenting style leaves children feeling disconnected from their parents.

Kate wanted to communicate to her parents that she had to use the restroom, but she couldn’t even get her words out because her parents have such strict rules and demands of her. They did not care to hear what she had to say, because upholding their rules was more important to them. In their household, a child’s opinions and feelings do not matter.

This kind of strict parenting is not helpful for children. It can damage a child and leave them with low self-esteem, mental health issues, and doing poor academically among other problems cited by research in Parenting Science.[1]

What Does Authoritarian Parenting Look Like?

In the 1960’s, a researcher and theorist by the name of Baumrind established the well known theory of parenting styles. Those four parenting styles, which are well known today, are authoritarian, authoritative, passive, and neglectful. For proactive parents that are trying hard to be good parents, they will usually lean toward either authoritarian or authoritative.

Authoritarian parenting involves strict parenting and high expectations for children. This can sound reasonable and even like good parenting. However, the strict parenting is often characterized by lack of compassion toward the child, little to no flexibility in rules, and complete control sought over the child’s behavior.

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Parents who use this parenting style believe it is their job to control the will and behavior of their children. An article in Psychology Today explains how authoritarian parents operate:[2]

Authoritarian parents believe that children are, by nature, strong-willed and self-indulgent. They value obedience to higher authority as a virtue unto itself. Authoritarian parents see their primary job to be bending the will of the child to that of authority—the parent, the church, the teacher. Willfulness is seen to be the root of unhappiness, bad behavior, and sin. Thus, a loving parent is one who tries to break the will of the child.

For example, Jake has authoritarian parents. He wants to stay out past curfew on a school night because he has an opportunity to play in a jazz ensemble. He has been playing the saxophone for years and his ambition is to play in a college jazz ensemble.

With Jake still being in high school, his parents have a curfew. On school nights, it is 8:00 pm. This rule is instituted because his parents believe they need to ensure that Jake gets his school work done each night and that he needs to be well rested for school the next day. However, they don’t explain the why of their rules to him, they simply tell him that those are their rules. The jazz ensemble is practicing at 8:00 pm on a Thursday night and they have invited Jake to come play with them. It is a well known group and a huge opportunity for Jake.

Unfortunately, his parents say no. Their authoritarian parenting style is unwavering. He wants to discuss the opportunity and its importance, but his parents will not even entertain the conversation. They stop him mid-sentence and go over their rules again. There is no flexibility.

If Jake’s parents had been authoritative, they would have taken the time to hear out his case and would likely have granted him a later curfew for that one instance. They would see that, although they have a curfew, there are some instances when an opportunity is worth bending the rules. They would ask that he has his homework done before going to play with the group, and that he come home as soon as the practice was finished.

Authoritative parents have rules, but they are also flexible based on reasonable requests for exceptions. The authoritative parents are interested in how their children are thinking and feeling. Conversely, authoritarian parents are not likely to be interested in hearing their child’s thoughts and feelings, because they want to control the will of their child, not come to some middle ground.

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Here are some characteristics of authoritarian parenting:

  • They have strict rules that are unyielding and unwavering. This is often called “heavy handed parenting.”
  • They do not want input from the child about rules. They also feel that the child’s opinion does not matter, because they are the parent thus are the supreme authority over the child.
  • There are severe punishments when rules are broken.
  • There is an emotional disconnection between parent and child, because the parent is not interested in what the child thinks or feels. They are more interested in controlling the behavior of the child and having the child be compliant to their rules.
  • Children are expected to listen to their parents and follow the rules, there are no exceptions. A child that voices their objections will likely be punished for doing so.
  • The parents have high expectations, especially when it comes to compliance of their rules.
  • Parents expect that their child will be obedient and they do not need to explain the “why” of their rules and expectations. Compliance is expected out of sheer obedience, not because the child understands the reasons why the rules are set. Parents do not feel the need to explain why they set their rules.
  • There is a failure to have attached relationships between parent and child because of the overly dominant nature of authoritarian parents and their unwillingness to allow their children to have their own voice or free will.

Authoritarian parents are driven by a belief that they need to control their children. This means controlling their children’s behavior to an extreme. They are inflexible and don’t take into account the child’s desires, emotions, or well-being as being as important to enforcing rules to get the desired outcome. Authoritative parents on the other hand, seek to guide and direct their children instead of control. There is a distinction.

The Problems of Authoritarian Parenting

Authoritarian parenting has many negative consequences to children. Children who are raised in homes with extreme authoritarian parenting are more likely to become dependent on drugs and alcohol, have lower academic performance, and increased mental health issues according to Parenting for Brain.[3] Children who are raised with authoritarian parents are also more likely to have lower self esteem, inability to make decisive choices, and have social skills that are lacking.

When a child is raised to be taught day in and day out that their voice does not matter, then that child will likely be ingrained with that belief. They will not value their own opinions because they have been taught that what they think does not matter and is of no value. This leads to poor self-esteem and low self-worth.

If a child doesn’t believe that their thoughts matter, then what they think about themselves overall is going to be affected. They will not think highly of themselves or believe that what they think, say, or do is of value. This will contribute to low self-esteem long term.

Social skills will suffer because a child who comes from an authoritarian home will be trained to believe that nobody wants to hear their opinion and that relationships are based on compliance.

For example, Judy is raised in an authoritarian home. She is now 18 years old and has her first boyfriend. Anytime that he asks something of her, even if she internally disagrees, she feels that she is supposed to comply and do what he says in order for him to like her and continue wanting to be with her.

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He wants to have sex. She does not feel that she is ready, but she will not voice this to her boyfriend because she doesn’t think that her opinion will matter or that he will want to listen to what she is feeling. She goes along with sex in their relationship to be compliant. She doesn’t want to be punished by disagreeing with not having sex. He says that they are ready for that next step in the relationship and she fears that the consequence of saying no would be that he ends the relationship.

Therefore, she doesn’t even voice her thoughts or feelings on the situation because she doesn’t think they have value or will be heard anyway.

She has been taught by her parents that her opinions and feelings don’t matter. She has learned from the past 18 years with her parents that what matters most is that she is compliant. She gets along with her parents best when she is doing exactly what they want her to do. This is why she feels the need to do the same with her boyfriend.

Going along with his decisions, being compliant, and not voicing her feelings will keep the relationship going and avoid conflict or punishment. The ultimate punishment in her mind would be that he ends the relationship.

With her opinions never being valued by those who she has loved the most (her parents), she has learned that she should not voice her opinion if she wants to keep the other person in the relationship happy. In her mind, because of how she has been raised, compliance overrides all else, and her opinion is meaningless.

However, her boyfriend is not her parents. He is understanding and would want to know how she feels. He wants a long term relationship with her and he loves her so much. His true desire is for her to be happy. He would never want her to have sex if she wasn’t feeling the same way that he was feeling. He would gladly wait and would want to hear what she thinks and feels about taking their relationship to the next level.

Authoritarian parenting methods can inflict great harm on a child. The child becomes emotionally damaged because they grow up believing that their opinions, thoughts, and feelings do not matter. Instead they are taught that compliance and being obedient supersedes all else.

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The Solution

The solution is to move from authoritarian parenting methods to authoritative parenting practices.

Authoritative parenting has been deemed as the best parenting method by researchers, according to Psychology Today. Parents who use authoritative parenting methods have rules for their children, but they are not looking for blind compliance. They recognize that having a relationship with their child is of great importance and therefore valuing the child’s voice, opinions, and thoughts is important.

Authoritative parents seek to guide and direct their children, but they do not seek to control the will of their child.

Parenting Coach Plan explains the foundation of authoritative parenting as the following:[4]

Authoritative parenting can be described as a style of parenting that combines firm limits and clear boundaries with fair and consistent discipline. Authoritative parents are also nurturing, highly-involved, and willing to speak openly with their child regarding expectations and the consequences for failing to meet those expectations. Rules are enforced and fair consequences are put in place for when those rules are broken.

Children raised in authoritative homes follow the rules because they understand the “why” of the rules. They are also bonded to their parents because they are able to talk to their parents openly. This bond helps nurture a positive home environment and a two-way relationship that can last a lifetime.

To learn more about how to be an authoritative parent and how to discipline a child using this parenting method, check out my article:

How to Discipline a Child (The Complete Guide for Different Ages)

Featured photo credit: Xavier Mouton Photographie via unsplash.com

Reference

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