How Mindfulness Can Positively Impact the Way We Parent Our Children

This podcast will focus on mindfulness and how it can help the way we parent and teach our children. The podcast episode provides how to train yourself to stay calm in tough situations, how to calm down more quickly and how to teach your children to be more mindful as well.

Life gets crazy and parenting can be stressful. Many parents anticipate the stress and experience stress throughout the day—whether it’s morning time and getting the kids off to school, or after-school time when homework must be completed—shuttling multiple children to practices and activities, getting a healthy dinner on the table while dealing with sibling arguments—or dealing with bedtime shenanigans. And let’s not forget friendship issues, electronics battles, getting your kids to clean up after themselves—or life issues like divorce, illness, bullying, work stress and whatever else is your personal bugaboo. Yes- life can be stressful, parenting can stressful—and we focus so much on how we can help our kids, talk to our kids, be there for our kids—but what about us? What about the parents? How do we cope with our stress and what might help us to take a collective breath, allow some of the frustration to fall away and become more mindful so that we can better help ourselves as well as those we love?

Dr. Laura Markham trained as a Clinical Psychologist, earning her PhD from Columbia University. She is the mother of two, now ages 21 and 25. Dr. Laura is the author of the book Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting and Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings: How to Stop the Fighting and Raise Friends for Life. We interviewed her on both of these books as well as on her wonderful workbook called the Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids Workbook—a great resource for parents. You can find her online at

The podcast provides:

  • How you can practice mindfulness in short periods of time.
  • Mindfulness practices for busy parents
  • The differences mindfulness can make
  • In-the-moment mindfulness practices
  • Recommendations to help calm our children down in tense moments
  • What parents need when they are coping with day-to-day frustrations

Important Messages:

  • Mindfulness: Becoming aware of your experience. We resist jumping into action. We bring compassionate attention. Activate observer mode. Gives us a choice about how to react to whatever we are feeling.
  • Mindfulness can allow people to heal in a different way than psychology. It helps to manage the mind.
  • A famous master of Ikido was asked; “how do you stay calm all the time?” And he answered; “I don’t- I just recover faster.”
  • Three things to do in 15 minutes that can change your life:
    • Breathing (deactivates fight, flight, freeze, shifts us out of sympathetic (geared towards emergency) and into parasympathetic system which is restorative).  Connect your breath- out and in- to stay focused. (See Michael Brown). Notice your breath- when it ends. (Like throwing a dog a bone, keeps it occupied for a while when connecting the breath) Practice self-love if your mind wonders. We often don’t breathe deeply. We need to get to a deeper level of thought, source or feeling. Feelings of safety. And the results can help you later on in the day- it has long-lasting effects. You are giving yourself a mini-vacation. Accumulate present-moment awareness. Deeper level of restfulness, source, healing. Transforms wellbeing.
    • Sitting with what is: Do a body scan and notice what’s going on in your body. Fully present but not trying to change it. Stay with the sensation. We stuff negative emotions into our emotional backpack- our body- pay attention to it and it will change. Don’t go into our mind. Buddha- every sensation is a rising and passing away. Dissipates. Later on, not as tangled up about the things that frustrated you.
    • Savor the good (Rick Hanson: Buddha’s Brain), choose gratitude, choose love. We automatically go towards the negative- protective or parents voice was negative or critical or some people are just more negative. This creates unhappiness and negativity, lack of patience. We can counter act that! Induce a more positive emotion- notice the good. Savor the good. Make it part of your routine. “I’m so happy to have this delicious tea or coffee.” You can start small! “I’m so lucky that my children don’t wake me up as much as they used to!” “I’m so grateful that I have enough to eat.” Some of it is simply silver lining. Look for the good. Savor it. Savor the hug of your child. Savor your coffee. The more often we do this, the longer we do this, it changes the brain. (You can even make this visual and with your whole family. Lots of research on gratitude for children. Pull back the camera and look at what you are grateful for.
    • Jeffry Froh- when we do gratitude work with kids, that child is happier. Try a gratitude jar, board or book- they notice it and they can relive it. It can make a difference to their emotional generosity and their cooperation. It is longlasting.
  • Remember the pause button- stop, drop and breathe. Stop what you are doing, drop your agenda, and take 3 deep breaths. (99% of parenting is not an emergency). The pause gives you a moment to think and CHOOSE your next action (rather than letter the drama choose you). Ignore the sense of emergency. CHOOSE to calm down. CHOOSE love.
  • Think something like: “It’s not an emergency.” “He’s acting like a child because he is a child.” “I can handle this.” (Put away your sword)
  • You can do a baby body scan, you can shake out your body by shaking out your hands, you can run your hands under water. You can say; “I breathe in calm, I breathe out calm.” If no time- just choose calm and love. Intervention will be 100% better.
  • Mindfulness is about choosing not to take action based on what upset you. Interrupting the hijack and the parental tantrum, the prefrontal cortex gets stronger. The amygdala stays calmer. You are learning. You are changing your brain. You are changing how you use the tools. You change your vagal tone. As you do it more and more, you can do it faster. One breath and you are ready. You have a better brain.
  • When we are upset, we need to be heard. Rage only dissipates when it feels heard. When we are upset, this is not the time to tell someone to calm down.
  • When your child is upset: “Oh my goodness, you are so upset about this! I didn’t understand that this was so important to you. Tell me more.”
  • Model mindfulness for our kids and invite your children to learn them with you. Driver cuts you off. “Woe, I can get really upset here and take a deep breath, I’m going to use an antidote. EVEN THOUGH we may be a little late, it’s fine to be a little late.” Don’t say even though I’m angry or upset- sets them. “Even though I FEEL angry, I can choose to stay calm.” “I know the doctor runs behind and we’ll be fine.”
  • Tap? EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique). Use the side of your hand with the pinky finger like a karate master. And tap the other hand while saying an antidote statement. “Even though I may be worried about the spelling test, I know I’ve studied and I’ll be fine. I’ll do my best. It’ll be okay.” A child who can talk himself though anxiety is the healthiest mentally thoughout life.
  • Transformative game: “Hey, I have an idea, let’s beam love to the people we pass. Let’s see if it makes a difference to how we feel or how they interact with us.” You can think “I love you.” “Bless you.” Beam the love. Changes body language and energy, emotional, mental, physical state. Your child experiences love- makes them more compassionate, wellbeing, happiness. More aware of others. You can feel it internally- you don’t even need to smile. It changes your face anyway. People change their reaction at you.
  • When starting point of frustration is not at zero- need to remove some stressors. Sleep. Exercise. Healthy physical state and healthy emotional state. Empty emotional backpack- old garbage can’t allow you to have a sense of wellbeing until you deal with it. Shrink amygdala- less work to do.
  • Change neuropathways. Neurons that fire together, wire together. For example, child has a meltdown, triggers old memories from childhood. Freak out. Notice pattern. Train self to react differently. Journal. Breathing. Review last time it happened. Feel in body. Sit with sensation- even though uncomfortable. It will begin to change. Feel better. Deactivating sensations that have been making you sick and tired. Next time, more ability to stop, drop, breathe- pause button. Slow down. Breaks habitual connection. Put hand over mouth. Redirect response. Like a toddler throwing something- throw the right thing or throw it somewhere safe. Breathe out slowly. Antidote to anger in body. Subbing new response. Kids fighting not connecting to yelling but to taking a breathe or saying your mantra. (1) Empty garbage (2) Rewire, calm faster.

Notable Quotables:

  • “Mindfulness is becoming aware of your experience. It’s bringing yourself fully present and noticing your experience without leaping into action.”
  • “If you want to go and be a monk on a mountain top, you can do that! But you can’t raise your kids at the same time. We have to find the way that mindfulness will work for us.”
  • “Nobody can stay calm all the time.”
  • “There are three things you can do in 15 minutes that can change your life.”
  • “By connecting your breathing and being mindful, you can accumulate present-moment awareness so that even later when your child gets into the car, you carry that calm with you.”
  • Once you attend to the emotions you stuffed into your body, you process them and they pass away. And then you are able to think about the phone call with your mother or the interaction with your children, and you aren’t so tangled up about it. You aren’t so triggered by it. You’re more clear. You’ve cleared those feelings out of the emotional backpack.”
  • “Being present with what is and not trying to change anything, changes everything.”
  • “When you choose love, when you choose gratitude, when you feel pleasure, you change the hormones and neurotransmitters in the body so you are giving yourself a sense of safety, wellbeing and an antidote to the normal habits of the mind.”
  • “When we are upset, we need to be heard. Rage only dissipates when it feels heard. When we are upset, this is not the time to tell someone to calm down.”
  • “We can counteract our negative emotions by savoring the good.”
  • “Teach your children to beam love at people. Strangers who seem like just ordinary people suddenly look more beautiful when we beam love at them. And it makes us include all humanity and include them in our emotional generosity which makes the world a better place.”
  • “Resist acting while you are angry.”
  • “Mindfulness is about being fully aware of your feelings but not getting hijacked by them.”
  • “Under our anger there is something else. Fear and grief is often under the anger.”

Mindfulness is about being fully aware of your feelings but not getting hijacked by them, says @DrLauraMarkham on #talktokids podcast. Find out 3 things you can do in 15 minutes that will change your life right here-
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