George W. Holden, Ph.D: Meta-parenting — What is it and why does it matter | Raising Parents #36

In this episode, host Dina Sargeant is joined by George W. Holden, Ph.D., a Professor Emeritus in the Psychology Department at Southern Methodist University in Dallas

Meta-parenting refers to the awareness and thinking that parents engage in before and after their interactions with their children. In the podcast episode, George W. Holden introduces the concept of “meta-parenting” and its significance in understanding the cognitive processes involved in parenting. 

Meet George W. Holden, Ph.D

George W. Holden, Ph.D., is a Professor Emeritus in the Psychology Department at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. He has a strong background in social development, with a particular focus on parent-child relationships. 

George’s research interests encompass various aspects of social development, including parental social cognition and behavior, discipline and positive parenting, and the causes and consequences of family violence. His research has received support from prestigious institutions such as the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the National Institutes of Justice, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health, the Timberlawn Research Foundation, and the U.S. State Department.

He has authored numerous scientific articles and chapters and written or edited five books, including Parenting: A Dynamic Perspective, which is currently in its third edition. Holden has served on the editorial boards of esteemed journals such as Child Development, Developmental Psychology, Journal of Emotional Abuse, Journal of Family Psychology, and Parenting: Science and Practice.

George is actively involved in organizations and initiatives dedicated to promoting positive parenting practices and ending the use of corporal punishment. He is a founding board member and the President of the U.S. Alliance to End the Hitting of Children (

About the episode

In this podcast, George explains that he borrowed the term “meta” from the concept of “meta-memory” in cognitive development. Just as meta-memory refers to awareness of one’s memory, meta-parenting refers to parents’ awareness and thinking about their parenting practices.

According to George, meta-parenting involves four major components:

  • Anticipating: Refers to parents’ proactive actions to prevent problems.
  • Assessing: Parents observe and monitor their child’s development, compare it with peers, and identify potential issues.
  • Problem-solving: Involves how parents address and resolve the challenges that arise in parenting.
  • Reflecting: This is where parents think about their actions and evaluate whether they are appropriate or if adjustments are needed.

Here are key recommendations from George regarding practicing and adopting meta-parenting effectively. Engage in daily reflection by taking time each day to reflect on your child’s day, any problem behaviors that occurred, and how you reacted to them. Anticipate how your child may react and devise strategies to minimize problems.

Have problem-solving strategies in mind and prepare additional strategies to address and navigate situations if your child does become upset, such as using humor to diffuse tensions. Discuss your thoughts and approaches with a partner, family member, or therapist, as talking through these aspects can aid the meta-parenting process.

Schedule structured reflection time, incorporating formal reflection time into your schedule. Some individuals may also find it helpful to write down their thoughts.

Challenge negative rumination by thinking creatively about alternative reactions and approaches to challenge negative thoughts instead of dwelling on perceived failures. Embrace the process of improvement and avoid being too hard on yourself, viewing meta-parenting as a dynamic process of growth and improvement rather than striving for perfection. Use your child’s reactions as feedback to assess the effectiveness of disciplinary approaches, such as spanking, and consider alternatives if necessary.

Adopt a meta-perspective by developing a broader perspective that recognizes multiple viewpoints. This will enhance self-awareness and improve relationships over time. Seek new information by consulting reputable sources on child development and parenting approaches to support and enhance your meta-thinking process.

In conclusion

This episode discusses meta-parenting, a valuable framework for understanding the cognitive processes involved in parenting beyond observable behaviors. Parents can strengthen their metacognitive skills over time by engaging in regular practices such as reflection, anticipation, assessment, problem-solving, and discussing experiences with others.

Be the first to see our next episode. Follow us on social media to stay updated:





You can also subscribe and listen to the show on your preferred podcasting platforms:

Apple Podcasts



iHeart Radio




Google Podcast

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.