There’s no question in my mind that mindfulness can make us all better parents, both by helping us to stay tuned in to our own thoughts and feelings so they don’t unconsciously dictate our actions AND by giving us the skills and tools to truly connect with our children so we can best respond to their thoughts and emotions with kindness. I have found that my own meditation and informal mindfulness practices have made a noticeable improvement in my ability to stay calm and choose how I want to respond to my girls, rather than reacting to them out of frustration or anger. I’m definitely not perfect, but it’s getting better.
To be honest, though, I had always thought that mindfulness was going to require more effort in my parenting. I worried that all of that awareness, all of that figuring out what is going on inside my crazy mind (as well as my daughters’ minds!) was going to be an awful lot of work. I decided to do it anyway, because the way I saw it, parenting is hard work no matter how you do it, so you might as well try to get it right, right?
Turns out I was wrong. I just read two studies by Karen Bluth and Robert Wahler at The University of Tennessee looking at the relationship between mindfulness and parental effort. They asked mothers of both adolescents and pre-schoolers to fill out scales measuring how generally mindful they are and also how much effort they expend in parenting. Not surprisingly, they found that “the mothers with high mindfulness scores reported less parenting effort and lower problems with their youth than did mothers with low mindfulness scores” (2011a, p. 177).