Mindful Parenting Habits, 26 Practices for Raising Your Child with More Presence and Less Stress (From Infancy to Kindergarten) by Barrie Davenport and S.J. Scott
Parenting isn’t an easy job, and the heartwarming picture-postcard moments are far too rare. You face little sleep, lots of guilt and a willful little one doing everything possible to try your patience. Mindful parenting provides a path to raising children that keeps you emotionally centered, in control, and able to respond compassionately and appropriately when your young child acts out. Best-selling personal development authors Barrie Davenport and S.J. Scott provide simple techniques that guide you to becoming the parent you want to be, and the best version of yourself for your family.
- Mindful parenting can help parents balance the joy and love they feel for their offspring with the stresses of parenthood.
- A mindfulness practice helps you become “intentionally aware” of your thoughts and feelings, without judgment.
- Learn and practice mindful parenting during the infancy stage to become centered and appreciative parents.
- Focused breathing and meditation help you cope with the stresses of parenthood.
- Adjust to the changes a baby brings by learning to “let it go” and prioritizing self-care.
- Mindfully parenting a toddler requires constant vigilance, endless patience and inner calm.
- Keep toddlers safe, teach them social skills and enforce age-appropriate consequences.
- Preschool is a critical time to teach behaviors essential for your child’s success and well-being.
- Establish rules and boundaries regarding technology and monitor the time children spend on digital devices.
Mindful Parenting Habits Book Summary
Mindful parenting can help parents balance the joy and love they feel for their offspring with the stresses of parenthood.
Moms and dads everywhere often struggle with parenting. In addition to everyday child-rearing challenges, like handling temper tantrums or facing little sleep, today’s parents contend with issues prior generations didn’t face. They have to process conflicting messages from an overabundance of experts, deal with society’s evolving attitudes toward marriage and work, and face constant, technology-based disruptions.
People within your circle will give you unsolicited opinions on how to parent. Even strangers on social media are ready to parent-shame at every opportunity.
“As a mindful parent, you’ll be prepared for better responses during these high-stress times and have more bandwidth to savor the joyful times. 3”
Mindful parenting enables you to remain even-keeled and offer your best self to your family, despite the pressure and stress of child-rearing. It’s an approach to childcare in which you are intentional and present in the easy times, as well as the difficult moments. You anticipate rather than simply react, and treat yourself and your family with care and compassion.
A mindfulness practice helps you become “intentionally aware” of your thoughts and feelings, without judgment.
With a mindfulness practice, you live in the present, without the constant remorse for past actions, qualms about the future or the pull of ongoing distractions. The benefits of mindfulness include less ruminating, a decrease in stress and anxiety, more restful and restorative sleep, and a switch to proactive rather than reactive behavior.
Mindfulness practices will improve your relationships with your partner and children and decrease conflict in the home. Additionally, as you model mindfulness in your own life, your children learn these practices.
There are three tenets of mindful parenting:
- During a disagreement with your child, focus on your emotional reaction.
- In highly-charged moments, pause before responding.
- Give your child the chance to express his or her views, even when you disagree.
Parenting during infancy, toddlerhood and preschool presents unique challenges. A mindful parenting approach helps you successfully navigate these developmental stages and guides you beyond the early years.
Learn and practice mindful parenting during the infancy stage to become centered and appreciative parents.
Practicing mindful parenting will help you cope with the physical, mental and emotional toll of caring for a new baby. You’ll be better able to handle the loss of control and drastic life changes that come with the arrival of an infant. Despite your nervousness and exhaustion, you’ll be emotionally available to revel in love for and delight in your little human.
“During the joyful times, you will rely on mindfulness to savor these fleeting and magical moments.”
A foundational principle of mindfulness is “present moment awareness”: the understanding that the current moment is the only true reality. Babyhood passes quickly, and if you’re not present, you’ll miss many special moments due to exhaustion and the pressures of life’s unrelenting demands. During stressful times, focus your attention with the mantra, “Be here now.”Write the saying on sticky notes, and place them in high-visibility areas to serve as reminders throughout your day. Use this prompt to focus your attention on what you are doing and feeling in the moment.
“To get the most out of any experience, you need to be fully present with it – and that holds particularly true with being a parent.”
A gratitude practice is an important element of presence awareness. Feel gratitude for both the delightful and the challenging moments with your baby. For example, take pleasure in nighttime feedings as a chance to bond with your infant. Recording moments of gratitude is beneficial, so share them in your baby book or diary. Additionally, practicing gratitude strengthens family relationships, improves your health, reduces stress and helps you sleep better.
You may also want to consider taking up mindful journaling. Keeping a mindful journal helps you process your emotions, cultivates gratitude, decreases negative thought cycles and promotes self-awareness. You don’t need to write pages or even paragraphs. Simply jotting down a line or two provides several mental health benefits.
Focused breathing and meditation help you cope with the stresses of parenthood.
It’s hard to be present when you’re anxious, tired and stressed. The “three mindful breaths” technique is a quick and beneficial way to refocus your attention on the here and now. Focused breathing invites physical and mental peace, enabling you to respond with intention to your baby.
First, find a quiet place. Inhale a slow, deep breath through your nose and feel it enter your chest and abdomen. Take a short pause, then exhale gently, focusing on the air moving out of your body. Repeat this three times and notice how your mind relaxes, you feel calmer and more in control.
“Developing a meditation practice is like setting up a savings account that pays increasing dividends for your parenting skills, your well-being and your child’s successful development.”
A meditation practice prepares you to cope with the daily stresses of parenting. Just ten minutes of meditating offers multiple benefits. Begin by setting a timer for ten minutes, sitting comfortably in a quiet place and closing your eyes. Focus on your breathing, thinking “in” as you inhale and “out” as you exhale. As your thoughts wander or your attention moves to physical or external distractions, acknowledge the diversion and refocus on your breathing. End the meditation with a few deep cleansing breaths.
Adjust to the changes a baby brings by learning to “let it go” and prioritizing self-care.
Caring for an infant means saying goodbye to the orderly life you once knew. Instead of driving yourself crazy trying to keep the house and yourself presentable, learn to let it go. Your child won’t be a baby for long, but the chores and housework will always be there. Prioritize your baby’s needs and let everything else simmer on the back burner. When a messy house stresses you out, practice mindful breathing and remind yourself that the baby is the most important thing in your life right now.
It may seem like conflicting advice, but practicing self-care is crucial during the infant stage. Taking care of yourself is essential to having the strength necessary to give your baby the love and attention he or she needs.Nurture yourself by sleeping and resting whenever possible, eating healthy and nourishing foods, listening to upbeat or calming music, and sharing loving moments with your partner. Other self-care activities include talking with friends, family or a therapist, joining a parent/baby group, spending time in nature and letting others pitch in with meal preparation or babysitting.
Mindfully parenting a toddler requires constant vigilance, endless patience and inner calm.
Parenting a toddler is physically demanding and emotionally draining. He or she is always on the go, testing limits, and touching and tasting everything. Toddlers cannot yet practice self-control or apply logic. There will be wonderful moments as your baby develops into a unique little person, but the tantrums, yelling, hitting and running away are sure to try every parents’ patience and understanding. As they explore their limits, toddlers rely on Mom and Dad to provide safety, unconditional love and positive attention. Mindful parenting enables you to traverse the tumultuous toddler years without too many missteps.
“Toddlerhood is a time in children’s lives when their feelings are very intense and overwhelming, and they haven’t developed emotional regulation.”
Try getting up a half hour before your child wakes to meditate, journal, pray, bathe or read. The resulting equanimity helps you handle the toddler tantrums. Knowing that these meltdowns are a common trait of this developmental stage takes the sting out of the exasperating fits. In fact, tantrums are essential for your child’s social and emotional development. Toddlers don’t have the ability to regulate their emotions or the vocabulary to express what they’re feeling. Fatigue, frustration and anger spark tantrums as does the desire for attention. When toddlers throw a tantrum due to emotional overload, empathize with their feelings, stay calm and help them use their words.
Of course, there will be times when you’re about to lose your cool. The STOP technique helps you regain your composure before responding. First, stop before reacting. Next, take a deep breath, focusing on your inhalation and exhalation. Then, observe the situation calmly. Last, proceed to take action from a place of love.
Keep toddlers safe, teach them social skills and enforce age-appropriate consequences.
Mindful parents are intentional about developing rules and consequences. Enforcing rules consistently is crucial at this stage, and beyond. Too many warnings and mixed messages convey uncertainty, confusing your toddler. Being consistent isn’t easy, and takes dedication and self-control. However, doing the work now pays off in the long run with a child that follows rules and understands boundaries.
“The most important part of a mindful discipline plan for your toddler is forethought and consistency.”
Routines are important for toddlers and essential for their development. The predictability provides a sense of stability and security, allowing them to self-assuredly explore and play within set boundaries. Following daily routines instills a knowledge of time and an expectation of patterns. Toddlers want and need this order, and the structure helps them build confidence in themselves and trust in the world around them.
Preschool is a critical time to teach behaviors essential for your child’s success and well-being.
Preschoolers are naturally defiant. They push limits and assert themselves. Mindful parents identify the underlying causes of preschoolers’ behaviors and help them find solutions. The goal now is to teach your little one the self-control, family values and social skills essential for his or her future happiness and well-being. You’re your child’s primary adult influence during these precious years.
“Your main role as preschooler parents is to encourage and celebrate your child’s growing sense of self while gently guiding him with positive reinforcement, limits and boundaries.”
Preschool-aged children are learning how to verbalize what they are feeling. Mindful parenting focuses on helping them use their words, recognize what is causing the upset and process their emotions. Several techniques show preschoolers how to identify and manage intense emotions.
For example, ask little ones to draw what they’re feeling, and then talk about the drawing. Use “It seems like” questions to pinpoint why they’re angry, hurt, sad or frustrated. For example, “It seems like you are angry and hurt that your brother won’t play with you.” Show your child how he or she reacts physically to powerful emotions and demonstrate calming behaviors such as deep breathing.
Employing active listening with preschoolers helps them appreciate what they’re feeling and experiencing. Your focus and attention also make them feel validated and understood. Tune in as your child speaks and make eye contact. Do not interrupt, and when your child is finished speaking, rephrase what you heard.
Ask open-ended questions to facilitate a deeper understanding of what he or she is feeling, then come up with solutions. Active listening and mindful communication are also essential when disciplining your preschooler. “Boundary-based discipline” is a mindful parenting strategy that provides preschoolers with clear rules and consequences, so they know what is permissible, what is not and what will happen if they act out.
Establish rules and boundaries regarding technology, and monitor the time children spend on digital devices.
Technology is omnipresent and digital devices have become necessary tools that people use every day. Preschool is one of the last stages in which parents can regulate the time kids spend watching TV and using tablets and smartphones.
“A preschooler really doesn’t need technology for anything. Nor will she have access to these devices unless you allow it.”
Resist the urge to use digital devices as a distraction or to provide entertainment. Viewing screens at night negatively affects children’s sleep cycles, and excessive use of digital technology shortens their attention spans, making it harder to perform in school.
To avoid this, devise a thoughtful family technology plan that delineates how much time your children can spend interacting with or watching screens, and the consequences for breaking these rules. Additionally, always monitor young children’s use of digital devices.
About the Authors
Barrie Davenport is the founder of the site, Live Bold and Bloom and author of several best-selling personal development books. S.J. Scott is the co-author of several self-help books, including 10-Minute Mindfulness, Mindful Relationship Habits and Declutter Your Mind.