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UW Study Shows Kids' Behavior Improves When Parents Learn Mindfulness Techniques

Intel Free Press

New research from the University of Washington bolsters the argument that learning mindfulness techniques can be beneficial. A team from the university's department of psychology investigated whether children's behavior improves when their parents learn skills for staying calm.

Liliana Lengua, who co-authored the study, is a professor of psychology and director of the university’s Center for Child and Family Well-Being.

“We offer parents ways to bring their mind and their emotions into the present moment, to be observant in the moment, both in terms of interactions with other people, with their children and for themselves, and to be aware of their stress in their bodies and find ways to manage some of that stress,” Lengua said.

It can be hard for a parent to stay calm when a child is acting out, but Lengua said that ability to stay calm is important because it teaches children how they can manage their own emotions.

She and her team conducted their research at two early-learning programs in Washington that serve predominantly low-income children. Parents received instruction once a week for about six weeks and learned techniques such as focusing on the breath as a way to build mindfulness.

Their research showed benefits not only for the parents but also for the children.

Parents reported more self-control over their emotions after completing the course and that the children’s behavior had improved, Lengua said. The researchers also spent time observing parents and their children together.  

“When we observed children in their interactions, their behavior was less negative,” Lengua said. “And then parents were reporting that their children had fewer behavior problems in the home and showed more social-emotional competencies or social skills.”

The study was published in the journal Mindfulness.

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.