How to Be a Mindful Parent

Want to stop getting angry and reacting to your children’s behavior? Learn how to be a mindful parent with these tips.

Mindful Parent

Have you ever had those days when your kids clamor for your attention and you’re like a ping pong ball bouncing from one to the next? You might even hold those conversations while cooking or cleaning, adding even more noise to your head. And if one of them happens to throw a tantrum on top of all that?

Yeah… it gets pretty hectic.

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That’s why when I read Dan Harris’ book, 10% Happier, about being in the moment, I thought: “Easy for you to say—you don’t have kids!”

He has a point, though. When we’re mindful and present, we notice how we respond and can better communicate with our kids. We’re not in a fog listening to a constant stream of thoughts playing out in our heads. Being mindful teaches us to respond, not react.

So, despite how impossible it might seem to live in the moment as a parent (especially those with more than one child!), I learned that we can be more mindful. Here’s how:

1. Limit distractions

I’m sure I’m not the only one who has checked her phone while she was supposed to be playing with her kids. I’d even hold a conversation… and check my email when they turned the other way.

At one point, I decided to stash the phone in my bedroom, far away from where I could grab it while I was with them. And guess what? The days when the phone was far away were the days I was most mindful.

Maybe your distraction is also the phone, television, or the pile of work you had to take home. These activities on their own aren’t terrible, but there’s a time for them, and, as I learned, it’s not always when we’re supposed to be engaging with the kids.

Because let’s face it: they’ll clamor for your attention—let’s not add unnecessary tasks to the mix. Wait for a quiet time to tackle those tasks so you can focus on one thing at a time.

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2. “Notice” things around you

If you’re like me, you wonder how you got from taking a shower to dressed and in bed, all because your mind had been elsewhere that whole time.

It’s so easy to overlook details when our thoughts are elsewhere. From replaying scenes in our heads to worries and plans about the future, we take multitasking to a whole new level in our heads.

For the most part, this is actually normal. For instance, you’re no longer a new driver and can reverse your car out of the driveway without a second thought. Imagine if we were scrupulous over every action as if we were experiencing it for the first time.

But sometimes we take it too far: we overlook details in our days and aren’t attuned to our surroundings. We’re living in our thoughts rather than in the present moment. And sometimes, it’s our families that take the biggest hit.

Next time, take just 10 minutes to observe and notice things around you. When you hold your child, feel his warm embrace and note it in your head: I’m holding my son. Notice the feel of your feet stepping on the ground or the breeze blowing on your face.

This practice can make you more attuned to the moment and heighten your senses in ways you may have been too foggy to notice.

3. (Really) listen

Kids pick the most inconvenient time to show you their craft or tell you the color of a fire truck (over and over). As we all know, it’s hard to listen when you’re doing something else. So, you mumble “uh-huh” while only half-listening and get upset when they interrupt you from what you’re doing.

But imagine a different scenario. You’re in the middle of sorting paperwork when your child shows you her craft. What if, instead of mumbling “uh-huh,” you put the papers down for a minute and truly look at what she had made? You praise her for her hard work and wrap her in a warm hug.

All that took maybe two minutes. That’s two minutes of your full attention she got, leaving her happy and ready to play something else. She won’t get frustrated or whine for your attention now that you’ve given it to her. And you can go right back to sorting paperwork knowing she’s fine playing on her own.

If it isn’t possible to listen to her, let her know. You might say, “I’m parking the car right now, give me a second.” Or “Mama has to focus on sorting all these papers but I’m all yours in 10 minutes.”

4. Notice yourself getting angry

Mindful parenting allows you to notice your emotions, including the negative ones. Because what’s the typical response to our kids acting up? We get frustrated, yell, or say something we regret, all because we’re caught up in reacting.

The next time your child frustrates you, take a breath. That one pause is enough to separate the trigger from the reaction. Once you’ve paused, label your emotion—either in your head or out loud, say, “I feel mad.”

Notice the physical changes in your body, from a faster heartbeat to tensing muscles. That acknowledgment will offer you a choice of whether you want to remain mad or do something else.

Noticing yourself getting angry means you don’t address your child’s behavior. By being mindful, you give yourself the choice of how to respond next.

As I say in my book, You Are Enough:

“The goal is not to avoid hardship, but to change how you respond to it. We have to stop relying on ‘good’ days to make us feel good. Instead, we need to rely on our ability to change how we respond to anything to determine how we feel. So that when good things happen, we respond to it with gratitude and welcome. And when not-so-good things happen, we can lean into them with compassion, understanding, and with less of our egos attached.”

5. Meditate

Meditation is your mindfulness workout. By training your mind to be aware, you’ll see future situations without judgment. You won’t always react. If your child is whining, meditation will have taught you to notice your temper and not yell.

As Dan Harris says in 10% Happier:

“[Meditation] has countless benefits—from better health to increased focus to a deeper sense of calm—but the biggie is the ability to respond instead of react to your impulses and urges. We live our life propelled by desire and aversion. In meditation, instead of succumbing to these deeply rooted habits of mind, you are simply watching what comes up in your head nonjudgmentally.”

How can you meditate? A simple method is to focus on the breath. Notice how the air fills your lungs and passes through your nose. Focus on just one thing, whether your breath or a number.

And when your mind drifts to another thought, acknowledge that thought. (Oh look, I’m thinking about what to cook tomorrow.) Then imagine sending that thought on its way as you focus on your breath once more.


The days you’re mindful can be far more peaceful than the days you’re not. Pause, notice your emotions, and find quiet time to practice mindfulness. Limit distractions and truly listen to your kids without letting other thoughts cloud your mind.

Being a mindful parent is an ongoing process. There will be days when you’ll mumble “uh-huh” just to get them to be quiet and check your phone when they’re not looking.

But by practicing mindfulness, you can better respond and be more present with them. You’ll appreciate simple pleasures and have clarity.

You don’t need to be an experienced yogi to benefit from mindfulness. Just a few minutes of focus and deep breaths are all it takes—even when it feels like you’re a ping pong ball bouncing back and forth.

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  1. I use mindfulness as much as I can. I even am trying to teach my kids it. Although its difficult to teach a very hyper 3½ year old. Lol. This article was a good reminder. I have been forgetting about this skill lately.

    1. Awesome Raven—I never thought to teach my kids about mindfulness. Being in the moment has definitely helped me place my emotions on a neutral level so not everything is so reactive.

  2. Meditating is definitely difficult but an important one. This post was really helpful and a good reminder, so thank you.

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      Thank you, Jess! I’m glad meditating has been a helpful part of being a mindful parent for you.

  3. My biggest struggle in motherhood is enjoying and staying in the present moment instead of worrying about tomorrow.

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      I totally know what you mean. Sometimes, our minds don’t stop talking about the what-ifs that haven’t happened yet, or all the things left to do, that we can’t even be mindful of the moment. It’s all too easy to slip into automatic mode and not even be aware of what we’re currently doing.

  4. Thank you, very helpful.

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      I’m so glad to hear that, Jenn—thank you for letting me know.