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Mindfulness with Parent Tutoring in ABA: Helping Parents Help Their Children

Yesterday, I was reading how parents may have difficulty controlling their own behaviors when confronted with a child who engaged in a severe problem behavior. Mindfulness encourages people to pay attention to their own thoughts and how their body feels and even their breathing in the present moment, to not criticize them and to use words to describe how they are feeling. This can produce a calming effect to help the parent follow through consistently on the behavior plan.

My mother once told me that one day she found my brother Matthew spreading feces around the house on everything. In that angry moment, my mother opened the front door, sent Matty on the porch and closed it behind him. Only moments later she realized what a mistake she had done, how Matty can run and knew nothing about traffic. She opened the door to let him back in, but he was gone.

It turned out Matty went a few blocks, luckily did not get hit by a car, and joined my father at the synagogue who was wondering what must have happened.

A study with 432 families shows how integrating mindfulness with parent training can "improve multiple dimensions of parenting, including interpersonal mindfulness in parenting, parent-youth relationship quality, youth behavior management, and parent well-being" (J. Douglas Coatsworth, Larissa G. Duncan, Robert L. Nix, Mark T. Greenberg, Jochebed G. Gayles, Katharine T. Bamberger, Elaine Berrena, et. al., Integrating Mindfulness with Parent Training: Effects of Mindfulness-enhanced Strengthening Families Program," Developmental Psychology 51, no. 1 (January 2015): 26-35, doi:10.1037/a0038212). The intervention was especially helpful to fathers.

Let's give parents the supports they need to prevent harm and to help the whole family.