Mindful Parenting and Discipline

In the 1960s it was called “Be here now,” but the idea of “mindfulness” is an effective parenting strategy based in modern science. Research from UCLA, UC Berkeley and others shows mindful parenting and discipline is far more effective in teaching or changing behavior than traditional punishment for both typically developing children and those with special needs.

Mindful parenting is focused on listening fully and paying attention to how you and your child may be feeling. It involves “emotional regulation”— say, taking a deep breath instead of screaming with frustration — and accepting your feelings without judging them. Mindful parenting also means accepting you and your child are not perfect, and discipline is a learning process in connection with others.

Here are some mindful discipline ideas to try:

  • First connect, then correct. When a child is doing something unacceptable, quickly and proactively working to connect with him or her, instead of yelling or punishing, can help stop the behavior. Using compassion — “I know it’s fun to throw the ball inside, but I’m worried it will break the window”— can help a child develop understanding and change behavior. Mindful parenting sees this as a “time-in” vs. a “time-out.”
  • Be consistent. Consistent bedtimes, mealtimes, limits and rules help children feel safe and can help simplify parenting.
  • Monitor your own feelings. When a child’s behavior is really bothering you, do a check-in with yourself: How are you feeling emotionally and physically? Are you hungry, tired or stressed? Acknowledging your own state without judgment can help you regulate your response. (And, when you stay cool remember to give yourself a little praise for working to do the best you can do!)
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