Mindful discipline offers parents a way to ground themselves before correcting a child’s behavior. This can help prevent you from flying off the handle or making empty threats. It can also break generational trauma.
Award-winning writer Sandi Schwartz shares doable tips for incorporating mindful discipline into your family.
There will be times when we lose our temper with our kids. Maybe they’re throwing a tantrum about a toy they must have or they’re screaming in the backseat while you are trying to concentrate on traffic.
As difficult as it may be, it’s important to think seriously about how we handle our children’s behavior, because our reaction can ultimately influence how they learn to regulate their own emotions and behavior throughout their lives.
But figuring out the most effective way to practice mindful discipline with our children can be quite a challenge. If you are too loose and try to be their best friend, they will walk all over you. But if you are too hard on them, it can backfire and impact their education and future success.
A 2017 study published in Child Development showed how overly aggressive harsh parenting like yelling, hitting, and threatening can make children more susceptible to peer pressure and ultimately more likely to drop out of school.
Another study published recently in Developmental Psychology found that when we use mindful discipline strategies with more supportive behaviors, both parents and children end up being much happier.
Supportive behaviors include distracting children, validating their feelings, or providing reasons why they should or should not act in a certain way.
Non-supportive behaviors include ignoring children, physically moving them, taking something away from them, or interrupting them instead of listening to them. When we ignore our children’s behavior, threaten or punish them, or tell them that they are overreacting, we may prevent them from being able to effectively manage their own emotions.
Clearly, we need to avoid verbal and physical aggression towards our children since this type of parenting will only impede their success and happiness. It can be tricky to stay calm and choose more effective disciplinary approaches, but by taking a step back and being more mindful in our approach, we can have a more peaceful home and better relationships with our children.
How To Stay Mindful While Disciplining Your Child
We can work toward mindful discipline when it comes to our reactions and stress level when our children misbehave. Try some of these strategies to manage your own emotions in these moments to ensure that your children will develop strong emotional intelligence in the long run.
- Make being calm your priority. Tell yourself that no matter what happens today, you will remain calm and collected. Do whatever you need to do to stay in this serene place—say a mantra, listen to music, think about a lovely vacation.
- Focus on your own behavior. We will never be satisfied if we try to change other people’s behavior, including that of our own children. This has to be about you changing how you react to your children. When you focus on your life and goals, you will have more connection and influence over your child.
- Try not to take it personally. You will never be able to relax if you make every misstep your children take all about you. Your children’s behavior is their choice, and how you react is your choice.
- Think before you react. Make decisions from your head instead of from your emotions to avoid getting too angry and frustrated with your kids.
- Take a pause during the craziness. As soon as you feel your blood pressure rising, take a five-breath-pause. Try this little trick—look down at your hand and take a slow, deep breath for each of your five fingers. This pause will help you to focus and regroup.
- Talk it out with your kids. Once the meltdown has passed, have a conversation with your child about how they were feeling and why they were acting that way. By calmly discussing the situation that occurred, you can help your child handle their emotions better next time.
- Take time for yourself. All parents need a break at some point. Make sure to schedule in some self care time so you can get a break from mommy time stress.
More Effective Mindful Discipline Approaches
If you are frustrated with your kids not listening to you, try some innovative disciplinary approaches like positive reinforcement, logical consequences, taking away privileges, and encouraging them to express their emotions through creativity like writing and art.
Interestingly enough, besides being more mindful in our reactions, we can also tap into mindfulness as a discipline tool. Imagine this…instead of sending your children to their room kicking and screaming, taking away their iPad for a week, or giving them a time out in the corner, you ask them to spend a few minutes alone to meditate and work through the anger, frustration, stress, or other emotions causing them to act out.
This new form of discipline, involving all types of meditation like breathing exercises and yoga for kids, is now a huge success at several schools, and they are seeing some major changes in their student body.
Research shows traditional punishment in schools, like detention and suspension, are ineffective ways to address bad behavior. This approach only creates resentment and damages the relationship between the student and teacher. (source) We can take these lessons learned from schools and add them to our parenting toolbox to keep things running smoothly at home.
So, why is mindfulness so effective?
As we practice mindfulness, we begin to understand our bodies and minds better and to not be so reactive to thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations. With mindfulness, we develop a quality of attention that can be present no matter what is happening around us. This helps us have more peace, ease, and balance in our lives and we develop more empathy, compassion, and love.
In fact, scientists have witnessed individual’s brains thicken in areas in charge of decision making, emotional flexibility, and empathy during meditative practices. You can encourage this by encouraging meditation for kids. You’ll find dozens of free guided meditation scripts for kids here.
Have fun together creating a calm corner in your home to send your children to when they are upset or not listening to you. It is certainly worth a try to start with a mindful moment to help your children cool down and get a hold of their emotions before we react by yelling and screaming at them and threatening to take away everything they love.
And while they’re having a mindful moment, maybe we can do the same.