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What is Present Parenting:

Present Parenting is a parenting approach that uses mindfulness to navigate the daily positive and negative moments with children. It is also a road map for the parent/child relationship, giving long-term vision of how those precious moments progressively lead towards the natural process of parents helping children grow into mature adults.

Present Parenting is similar to so very many positive parenting sites, techniques, and styles. We're grateful there are many sharing their thoughts and experiences on such an important topic! Check our references page for a few of our favorite sites and authors.

In addition to so many great ideas out there, Present Parenting has a few unique thoughts to share that may spark some inspiration for your family as it did for ours.

Throughout this site, there are 2 major individual themes that ultimately work together:
1. Understanding Accountability for Immature Behavior
2. Using Personal Mindfulness in Every Day Parenting 

1. Let's start with ACCOUNTABILITY:  

It is relatively obvious that an infant comes into the world helpless and in need of constant care. An infant is simply not capable of being accountable for caring for himself. As an infant grows into a toddler, however, and then on to young childhood, adolescence, and eventually adulthood, his ability to care for himself gradually increases. It may become difficult then to discern at any given moment WHO is accountable for the child's challenging behavior as well as the behavioral limit-setting that can promote progress. Present Parenting teaches that accountability for the child's behavioral balance starts 100% on the parents shoulders and VERY gradually and mindfully shifts towards the child as maturity stages are accomplished. 

The maturity stages, or primary goals for children to accomplish, are outlined on the Accountability Pyramid. In short, before the goals of secure attachment to parents (typically established around age 3) as well as the ability to follow parents as positive leaders (becoming firm around age 8) is accomplished, parents err if they expect their young children to bear the weight of their behavioral imbalances and essential limit-setting on their own.  

Here's why: 

Scientists are becoming more and more certain that the center of moral choice and intentional behavioral regulation, or in other words true accountability, lies in the proper functioning of the prefrontal cortex region of the brain. This area of the brain (which sits right up front behind the forehead) is not at all fully formed yet in infants, is barely starting to function here and there in young children, becomes a little more solid during the ages of 7-12-ish, but then goes under mass construction again during the adolescent years so it can arrive as a more efficient, mature, and well-balanced brain ready to be used more wisely starting around the mid-20s through late adult years.  

If accountability for ignorant and immature behavior is primarily shifted to young children before the age of 8-ish, or is done in a less-than-mindful way at any age, the child's incomplete brain will be forced to find alternative ways to process the burden of accountability that should otherwise have been the responsibility of the "missing" prefrontal cortex. This increases the likelihood of greater brain imbalances (and therefore greater intensity with genetically prone behavioral challenges including ADHD, ODD, depression, anxiety, etc) in later years because other areas of the brain become over-used and ignorantly defensive in nature, while the prefrontal cortex is left underdeveloped and unable to balance the brain naturally when it eventually IS time for it to take some responsibility starting around age 8.  

The Accountability Pyramid is the basic model we use to guide how and when to shift accountability towards our growing children so that they can increase their likelihood of proper brain development and mature adulthood.

Accountability for challenging behavior in this model shifts much slower than most current parenting trends. Therefore, instead of using discipline techniques that cause a child under 8 to feel isolated in carrying the weight of his or her immature behavior, the Accountability Pyramid expects parents to gracefully carry that burden for or with the child. This means parents must choose to mindfully endure, embrace, and appreciate children for who they are--even in their immature moments that create a heavy burden. The willingness to be the mature one and carry that burden for the young child (particularly during the Attachment Stage) is what opens the door for parents to then guide children towards progress, not by fear or force, but by modeling how a mature adult thinks, feels, and acts. The brains of securely attached children are especially ripe for naturally imitating parents and teachers between the ages of 1 and 8 (the Following Stage). 

After many years of having parents who mindfully carry the burden of children's immature behavior rather then shifting it to the child prematurely, children soak in how "maturity" looks without developing a defensive nature against handling stress. With a mind that is still open to learning, children around the age of 8 are then ready to begin experiencing for themselves how to use their own prefrontal cortex to take responsibility for personal thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. The transition time between childhood and adolescence (ages 8-12, or the Accountability Stage) is another delicate learning time that, if done mindfully by parents and teachers, can prepare pre-teens to responsibly think for themselves and then tackle the risks of teenage years using their own developing brains.

The hallmark trait of teen brain development is that teen brains naturally crave the risk of carrying the burden of their own behavior rather then relying on their parents' ability to swoop in and do it for them. Teens want to consciously discover and prove their individual strength and worth. Because of this, teens naturally demand the time and space away from parents to experience life and it's consequences for the choices they themselves are making. With the prefrontal cortex at a critical pruning time during the teen years, parents will wisely respect a teen's own ability to exercise personal agency during that time (ages 12-16, or the Self-discipline Stage and 16-20, or the Independence Stage). This gives teens a chance to strengthen their own prefrontal cortex so that pruning results in higher efficiency of higher level emotional regulation and behavior balance rather than the pruning away of accountability cells that simply aren't being used enough.          

2. Using PERSONAL MINDFULNESS in Every Day Parenting

Because the natural pattern of brain growth in children feels tediously slow, Present Parenting encourages parents to spend ample time improving personal mindfulness in order to be more aware of, accepting of, and progressive towards this delicate and gradual accountability shift in their children.

To effectively use the Accountability Pyramid,
 showing children (more than telling them) how a mature prefrontal cortex handles both joyful and stressful moments throughout the growth stages of life is essential. This requires personal mindfulness, or present-minded choices.

Essentially, a child can behave how ever they are going to behave and regardless of who is accountable at any given moment, parents need to be prepared to respond in a mindful way rather than a reactive and potentially destructive way. This. is. very. difficult! Personal mindfulness is a skill that helps parents look inward and honestly assess their own personal strengths and weaknesses and work towards greater personal peace and wisdom so that chaotic, immature moments with their children can become moments of growth and progress. 

The Present Parenting tab discusses attitudes towards immature behavior (which many parents find they need to adjust) and 4 types of responses parents can have when they encounter immature behavior. Examples of exercising personal mindfulness are found in the blog

Improving personal mindfulness is a unique journey for everyone. Useful ideas are plentiful and worth studying among many mindfulness experts. This site lists a few steps on this page: How to Change.  Please also feel free to contact us with a question, follow our Facebook page, or message us for personal mentoring or to join a mentor group.  

 A few extra thoughts:

The dictionary defines “present” as:

Noun: “a gift or something willingly transferred by one person to another without thought of compensation” (ie. unselfishly)
Adj: “being in a particular place physically and/or mentally”

and “parenting” as:

Noun: “the rearing of children or the methods and techniques used or required in the rearing of children”
Adj: “of or concerned with the rearing of children”

Present Parenting is therefore unselfishly giving oneself physically and mentally to the rearing of children. The resulting "gift" is that parent and child will each develop a healthier, more balanced mind and thus enjoy greater peace and wisdom...together.

Parents use a variety of styles when disciplining their children. Brent and I developed Present Parenting as a style we attempt to use with our 8 children. Because other parents regularly ask us about our "style", we created this website to share it.