“What does conscious parenting mean?”
“Who is a conscious parent?”
“What does it mean to be a conscious parent?”
These are the questions I was asking myself as I began to delve into the world of conscious parenting. My own journey into this subject began quite by chance from a book recommendation. The book, The Awakened Family by Dr. Shefali Tsabary, felt like it was speaking directly to me. One of the first sentences that I read was: “We awaken when we become aware of who we truly are.”
To me, that message was that our essence, our true self is important. And while I was intrigued by the desire to find my true self, I also immediately wanted to know how this related at all to parenting.
As a clinical psychologist who merges the world of Western psychology and Eastern philosophy, Dr. Shefali has a totally different approach to parenting than anything I had ever encountered or experienced. She talks about our job of parenting our children as raising a spirit and honoring their essence—that the children who are delivered to us are done so for a reason. According to Dr. Shefali, conscious parents implicitly trust their child’s intuition to recognize their own destiny.
But here’s the part that might really blow your mind: They are brought to us to mirror back to us the parts of ourselves that we need to pay attention to and to heal. This aspect of Dr. Shefali’s approach to conscious parenting gets me so excited. It is why I have become so passionate about the subject, and why I feel a calling to teach and share this philosophy with as many people as possible.
This premise is also the foundation for understanding the reasons why we yell and provides us with the tools to learn how to stop yelling and start connecting.
Coming back to my original questions about what is a conscious parent and how we can become one: Conscious parenting uses ordinary, moment-by-moment interactions with our children to enable an authentic connection with them.
By being present, conscious and aware in the moment, overtime, a new family dynamic emerges which can dramatically impact families. When a parent changes their own reactions, behaviors, responses, and interactions the child’s behavior changes. This leads to a behavioral shift in relationships. How we respond to them, not react, becomes our own inner barometer of how conscious we are.
A conscious parent is something that is learned. It is learned through the actual experience of relating to our children, things we cannot learn by reading all of the many “how to” parenting books that are out there.
As we learn to become conscious parents some questions arise:
- Can we accept our children in their “as is” state in each moment?
- Can we get our entire heart and mind involved and in agreement to the process?
- Can we also accept the kind of parent we need to be for our particular child
- Can we be the parent our child needs us to be as opposed to the parent we think they need?
- Can we allow them to exist without the snares of our own expectations?
These are some of the challenges that we have to navigate in becoming a conscious parent. Conscious parenting spoke so deeply to me because of my many years of clinical work as a social worker and as a hypnotherapist. I understand the way our deeper mind works and how unresolved, unhealed childhood conflicts impact us in our adult lives. These unresolved issues will and do directly affect the way we parent and we probably don’t even realize the degree to which this happens. Being unaware of those issues is one of the reasons we wind up yelling.
Dr. Shefali teaches us that when we react to our children’s emotional reactions, tantrums, defiance, etc. we are reacting from our own child inside of us who is now triggered and is fighting back. She asks us to tune in and pay attention to our own inner landscape so we do not react from the place of our wounded inner child but instead can respond to our child from our adult loving self.
I know we can all heal our inner child; I am living proof. If our child is shining light onto the issues that we—as parents—need to address, acknowledging it is the first step. The next step is actually addressing it so that we can heal. We then can be in a healthier place with ourselves, and with our children. We will finally be able to connect with them and develop stronger bonds. This is your invitation to begin to peel back the layers to a better self-understanding, to yell less and to connect more.
Janet Philbin is the author of the book, Show Up For Yourself- A Guide to Inner Awareness and Growth. In this book she takes the reader on a journey to heal their own inner child. When we heal our own pain of the past it no longer will have control over us in the present. If this article speaks to your heart, the book will give you a framework to help you heal the pain that your heart has been holding. You can get a copy of the book here: https://amzn.to/3cgxKCp.
Janet works with clients worldwide, helping them to heal the wounds their inner child carry. You can reach her through her website, https://janetphilbin.com/. She is also available to come speak at your event, business or school.
This is part two in a series about the gift of emotions when parenting consciously.
5. “Mistakes” are really learning opportunities
Instead of the word mistake lets rename it a learning opportunity. There really are no mistakes. Everything that we experience in life happens for us. And not just the good stuff, but the not so good stuff too. Can you begin to look at these learning opportunities as avenues for growth?
There are many ages and stages of learning while raising our kids. As parents we have many learning opportunities.
How can we learn to do it if we had not done it wrong first? We learn what works from what did not work. As adults we remember moments we would rather forget, did we learn from those experiences, you bet we did. And we learned from them because no one saved us from the consequences.
Our children also need to learn the natural
consequences from their learning opportunities. If we rush in to save
them every time, or prevent a “mistake” from happening what do they learn? They
learn, “I don’t have to feel my uncomfortable feelings because mom or dad will
do, remember, or fix this for me.” How is your child going to learn to
remember to bring his homework home if you drive him back to get it? All he learns when you drive him back is mom
will take care of it for me, I don’t have to be responsible, or they may begin
to feel they are not trustworthy.
What if you don’t drive back to school? Then he will learn from the discomfort when he has to go back to school without it the next day. Feeling this discomfort will allow him time to process what he needs to learn. He may express anger at you for not rescuing him, and that is ok. He is allowed to be angry for not being rescued. He is then given a chance to become self-reliant.
Becoming self-reliant will enable him to feel proud of himself for what he is doing for himself. This will help him develop a sense of worth and self-efficacy.
As a conscious parent it is up to you to look at what feeling comes up for you when you want to rescue your child from a potential problem. It is those feelings, usually anxiety and fear, which drive parents to: bring them back to school, give too many reminders or do it for them.
It is time for you, the parent, to recognize it is your own feelings you want to make feel better when you do not allow your child the room to learn from their own opportunities. Our children came here to teach us. It is time to wake up and recognize our own emotions which call out to us for attention.
Our children need compassion and understanding for their plight not to be handicapped by never letting them learn to deal with the consequences. I am not speaking of a life-threatening situation or one where there can be serious harm but one where the consequence is fitting to the learning opportunity.
There are learning opportunities that happen all the time from the toy breaking because they played with it roughly to the teenager forgetting a doctor appointment because they refuse to look at their calendar. It is up to you to take care of your own difficult emotions and allow your child, and you, room to grow.
Striving to be perfect is just another way to create anxiety.
Let them mess up, let yourself mess up. Learning opportunities give all of us emotional freedom.
6. Patience is an exercise of relinquishing control
These words apply to all areas of your life not just parenting. However, since parenting is the focus right now that’s what I will address. Four years ago, my oldest was applying to college. This became a huge lesson in patience for me. I am the type of person, when given a task, will get it done as soon as possible. Especially a task which is time sensitive, I need to check it off my list and know it is done.
The thing about applying to college is that YOUR KID is the one applying, not you. As a parent, you must sit back and let them do it. If they want your help, support or guidance then be there, sit with them while they fill out the applications, help them gather the necessary documents, but only if they ask.
I had a conversation with a mom recently. She has twin boys who are about to begin their senior year in high school. We began talking about college and she shared that she was already worried but at least “WE got the essays done.” And I thought, this is not a “we thing,” it is something HE must get done. This is a great example of a parent who is too personally invested in their child’s process and is owning it as hers since it seems it was “their” essay.
This speaks to allowing the child to learn from doing it. When the parent does it for or with them this eases their own emotions. Remember, your child’s timeline for getting things done is theirs, not yours. You will have more patience and less stress when you can separate yourself out of their responsibility. This applies to all areas of life; from applying to college to learning to tie their shoes. When you step back and let your child do it, it also lets him know you trust him.
If I thought learning patience was hard in the application phase I was wrong, my greatest lesson in patience was waiting for the acceptance letters to arrive. My daughter applied to her perspective colleges by December 1st. The colleges do not send back anything until March, unless you apply early decision which she did not. Your child hits send and then you wait. And you wait. And you wait. As a parent you have no control, there is no one to ask about the status of the application and your child is emailed their acceptance letters, so checking the mailbox does not help either.
For me, learning to be patient, was an exercise in relinquishing control. And, man, I love being in control. Luckily, I was able to have enough self-awareness to know that this was an exercise in patience for me. A life lesson which needed to be learned and then applied. And I had the opportunity to practice it again, the following year, with my son. I think I did better the second time around, but you would have to ask my kids to find out.
Here is what I learned. Slow down and be in the moment with your child. Nothing is that urgent. Ease into the seat of the patient observer and allow space for the unfolding of what needs attention in each present moment.
And most important of all, detach from the belief that their responsibilities and the outcomes of those tasks are also yours.
7. Presence and Connection
in the here and now. We cannot be anywhere else. Fighting reality
is what causes us pain. The moment we are in, is the moment we are
in. We must be in it until we move to the next moment.
When we are present there is no better place to be. In the awareness of being present we can feel connected to another. This connection can come from a hug, eye contact, sitting with another, playing a board game, coloring together, laughing, rough housing, a shared meal. Connection happens when we are with another, without distraction, and we are fully present in that moment.
Being connected builds trust and safety within the relationship of parent and child.
When you put down your phone, turn off the TV and computer, this speaks volumes to our children. It lets them know they are the most important thing to you in the present moment. Our children only want to feel connected to us. When they feel this then they know they are loved, important, worthy, and that they matter. Can you think of a better gift? I know I cannot. We all want to feel this in our lives no matter how old we are.
There are many gifts when you become a parent. Those gifts come in varying sizes, shapes, temperaments and personalities. There are also joys, tears, hopes, dreams, and all sorts of emotional pain. I would like to talk about parenting from a conscious perspective. Some are gifts are easily recognized like: feeling proud they took their first step, saying their first word, getting an A on a spelling test, a role in the school play, getting their driver’s license and getting into college. However, I ask you to consider that the real gifts are the ones that offer our children and us the opportunities for emotional growth. These are opportunities where we as parents have to watch their emotional growing pains. Join me on a journey into the experience of parenting from a place of consciousness.
- Bearing witness to the emotional storm until it passes.
You may wonder how this is a gift? For some of us the emotional storms of our children are not very often and for others it seems that there is always a storm. Being able to bear witness to your child’s emotional pain is a gift. In order for someone to be in such a deep place of pain in front of you they must be able to trust you enough to feel safe. That is where the gift lies. Yes, it is no fun to watch, hear or feel but no one ever said that parenting would be all fun and games. When you were told there would be times that would be challenging and hard, this is one of those times “they” were talking about.
When we embody being conscious, we hold the space and stillness for our emotionally distraught child. As a conscious parent you accept the As-Is of your child’s emotional state and bear witness to her pain non-reactively.
You know that their emotions are not about you. In fact, their meltdown has nothing to do with you at all. It is all about your child. About her fears, his worries, her concerns about who she is or who she is not. But in the end, by being there, by holding the energetic space, and not reacting or taking it personally your child is allowed to be. She can have a full range of emotions feeling safe with you to have them. When the storm does pass, she can come back to her center and feel whole, not broken, not dumb, not feeling ugly, or anything else, but herself. As a conscious parent we accept that our child’s tantrums, meltdowns, teenage rudeness, etc. is not about us nor directed at us. We remain centered and grounded in our own self and are safe container for your child to weather their own emotional storm.
At the end of the day, your child says
“Thank you for making me feel better.”
You ask: “How did I do that.”
She says: “By being there for me.”
You smile inside knowing in that moment, sitting there, holding the space and allowing her to be was worth every tear she needed to shed.
2. Bearing witness to the unfolding spirit of your child.
Parenting consciously means we are able to be in a place of knowing and trusting that there is nothing to fix.
Your child arrived in this world just the way they were meant to arrive, with all of their innate gifts intact. It is up to us to sit, watch, guide and nourish their unfolding and blossoming. As a conscious parent we listen to them with an open heart and create space for them to explore the world in areas where they are naturally drawn. If they want to learn about space, let them. Dig in the mud, allow it. Run on a track team, go for it. Climb trees, hold your breath. Maybe you always had the fantasy your child would be a doctor or lawyer but they are an artist. It is up to us as conscious parents, not to put them in a box we built.
We imagined who they would be since before they were
born, or maybe even conceived. As
conscious parents we are called upon to recognize that the dream is our dream
and not theirs. We must detach from our
dream because when we do not, we project all of our fears onto them. Fears of what if they never do or become what
our fantasy is.
Instead, build with them the space for their own special gifts to flourish without an agenda or timeline. Release your expectations of who you believe they are or should be. That expectation is yours and not theirs. So, if your child wants to go to graduate school to “avoid adulting” a little longer and pursue their artistic career, you support their venture. You support it because it is their life, they came here to live, not yours. They did not come here to meet our needs or live out our dreams. They came here to live theirs.
3. Your child came here to teach you.
Your child is the mirror and will show up in many ways to reflect back to you what you need to look at within yourself. Start by being in gratitude for each time you yell, lose your cool and react. These are your teaching moments for growth and healing.
Next pay attention to what is going on for you. It is time to look inside. When you are reacting, it is important to take a breath and pause. It is in this pause you can look at where you feel the emotion in your body just before you lose your cool. Does your stomach get tight? Maybe your heart races. Are you getting a headache? Do you feel like you want to vomit? All of these physical symptoms are clues that there is an unhealed emotional wound you have been carrying around for a long while. I invite you to spend time with the physical discomfort and allow yourself time to explore it.
Ask yourself some hard questions like; where did this
feeling come from? Do I know it from another time in my life? Am I attaching a story to the feeling and
reacting from an old recording? How old
was I when I first felt this feeling?
What was happening in my life at that time?
Tuning into these feelings, which are held in the body, are the keys to unlocking the doors to the past which keeps us stuck in old patterns and belief systems.
When we can open the doors and unchain our self from the past, we can then be in the present with our child(ren). Being present allows you to respond with present moment awareness and not from old programming.
4. Growing into your own self-awareness.
Parenting is a time for you to grow into you. You may have thought that you were already a grown up but then you find yourself face to face with a toddler having a tantrum or hormonal teenager who pushes the limits. It is in these moments, when you are aware that you want to have your own tantrum too, that you realize you still have some growing to do. Parenting brings us to our knees; it humbles us and our children are masters at showing us our emotional pain points.
If you are lucky enough to have insight that you are not responding to your child’s behavior in the most calm and centered way then you have been given a gift. And I know it does not feel that way but trust me, it is.
It is a gift of self-awareness. With this gift you become empowered to choose to heal and change.
You get to allow yourself space and time to embark on your own growing up and reparent the self. When we begin to raise our self, we are healing our own wounded inner child. The wounded inner child is the one inside of you who has been longing to be heard, seen, understood and forgiven.
The adult self of the here and now is the one with the ability to do that. This is why self-awareness is a gift, because with awareness you begin to heal. My favorite Anis Nin quote says it all, “And the day came when the risk it took to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” Get ready to blossom, opening that bud may hurt but once you fully bloom it will be glorious.
Are you ready to learn more about conscious parenting? Janet is a Certified Conscious Parenting Coach. She is a graduate of Dr. Shefali Tsabary’s Conscious Parenting Method Coaching Institute. Email Janet at JanetPhilbin.com for a free consultation.