Contemplative Parenting

My daughter goes to a preschool where most of the parent/teacher community is Buddhist. They share my respect for tolerance and a caution for getting bogged down in dogma. Last night they offered a class on contemplative parenting and I attended.

When I attend a seminar, my goal is to find one thing that I can apply, immediately, in my life. Last night I learned several so have the added bonus of a blog post to share!


Each session starts with everyone saying a few words about how things are going.

This marks a change from the typical “who I am” introductions, which focus on the past or the future.

Tell us a little bit about how things are going and how your kids are doing right now…


To be effective as employees, negotiators, athletes, spouses or parents… we need to be present. If “present” sounds new-agey to you then what they are talking about is not allowing the normal stresses of life to clutter up our minds. For me, this requires:

  • Sleep
  • Nutrition
  • Exercise
  • Gradual removal of clutter, both in the minds of people with whom I associate, and in my physical surroundings (traffic, urban noise, living space).

To be effective parents we need to get our own lives (and minds) in order. Very similar to performance psychology in business and athletics – the Buddhists were speaking my language!


Children have a fundamental need to belong. Effective parenting taps into this need via a mix of boundaries and inspiration.

Young children can gain a sense of belonging via objects – Daddy’s watch; a colorful piece of paper; sharing a meal, getting a clean diaper for brother. This object focus also explains the attraction of dolls, bandaids, blankets… that I see in my daughter.

Parent/child conflict comes when the ability to belong is blocked, or threatened. To be effective in meeting this conflict, we need to be present and free from the influence of our own fears.

As Dad, my capacity to be effective is related directly to the amount of fatigue I am experiencing as well as being free from the perception of time pressure.

The choice, to be less tired and less busy, is difficult to make because it triggers a fear of being less successful. External success is attractive to my ego (winning races, earning money, relative performance).


Practical Tips

To create empathy ask the child what sort of face it creates when…

  • What sort of face does your brother make when you hit him?
  • What sort of face does Mommy make when you hug her?

Scaffolding love onto others…

  • Helping care for a younger sibling – changing a diaper, feeding, cleaning
  • Seeing parents involved in helping others – volunteer work

Adjust behavior in yourself that you want the kids to emulate:

  • Loudness
  • Automatic reactions
  • Neglecting our own needs to the point of exhaustion
  • Kindness in word and action
  • Respect

Create self-confidence by providing a safe environment for independent success.

Pause, start small and follow up.


While the class was directed at parenting, the advice was applicable across all aspects of my life. I enjoy tips I can apply across the board.