Mindful Parenting: Give Yourself Space to Choose to Respond

Putting space between you and your reaction allows you to respond with kindness—both to your children, and to other parents.

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In any moment as parents, we can choose to react or let it go. I’ve witnessed moments of mindfulness when parents I was working with held their tongues instead of lashing out, and when colleagues lean in toward angry parents, and distasteful situations calling for avoidance.

Growing up, it was that moment when my Assistant Scoutmaster gave up a Saturday afternoon to sit and watch blue-jays and finches flit about the branches in the woods behind my house, and with enthusiasm and presence helped me earn my coveted “bird study” merit badge. His setting aside of his own concerns to prize what looked to be valuable in me rippled forward in such a way that I wrote to him many years later to tell him about the impact his simple act of giving had on me. “I am now a clinical psychologist working with at-risk kids,” I told him. “And you taught me a lot about what it means to help a kid hang in with something that matters.”

When we’re not stuck in autopilot patterns of doing and behaving, we can more readily give to others, which brings its own joy.

When Mr. Mullet let go of…