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Parents Are People Too: The Importance of Parental Psychological Flexibility
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The target article (Kirby, 2016) proposes that we add the promotion of mindful, psychologically flexible, pro-social values to positive parenting programs. These programs intend to create more nurturing environments through the goal of promoting and reinforcing pro-social behavior, minimizing coercion and aggression, and reducing opportunities for problem behavior. This goal, the article argues, will be supported by greater emphasis on mindfulness and compassion. We agree, although we hope our comments might add to the precision and scope of this recommendation. Nurturing environments do not necessarily come naturally. As the target article notes, parenting is much more than simply addressing bad behaviors. The article argues that mindfulness will help parents avoid being reactive, harsh, or impatient and will increase the likelihood that they notice opportunities to reinforce positive steps. Compassion, it is said, will promote acting in line with parenting values, rather than reacting with parental behavior that is punitive or dismissive. The article suggests that both of these processes will be supported by a greater emphasis on psychological flexibility. These are important ideas that are worthy of experimental test, and we agree with their central tenets. Our ability to reference the literature is restricted in this commentary by journal policy, but we also believe that the existing research literature allows a bit more to be said.