The Beginning of our Conscious Journey
A few years ago i discovered conscious parenting, before then i thought i was parenting in a fairly conscious way, however on the day that I yelled so much at my son, that i was shaking, my throat hurt, and my son had fear in his eyes - that’s when i realised that there has to be another way, I didn’t want to have my son see me as that scary person. I knew I had to make a change in the way that i was parenting my children.
That rock bottom moment lead me on a journey of self discovery and awareness and a massive paradigm shift in the way i see parenting, I discovered Dr Shefali Tsabary and trained as a Parent Coach through the Jai Institute for Parenting. This led to a passion for supporting all parents to gain a deeper connection with their children. I moved from parenting over our children, to parenting with them. From control and frustration to nurturing and thriving.
So let me start with saying that being a ‘Perfect Parent’ does not exist… there is no perfect parent, no perfect child, we all parent from the awareness and knowledge that we have at the time of becoming a parent. Our children are here to teach us, as much as we teach them, they awaken us to deep seeded hurts that we weren’t aware of and haven't yet had the skill set to deal with.
I ask that you begin to see your imperfections as a valuable tool for change, that you use them as a transformation. During this article i will give you tips on how to embrace your imperfection.
The Role of a parent
What is the true role of a parent?
To provide Safety (keep them safe and teach them how to be safe)
To provide life enhancing skills (hygiene, food, water, education, sleep, shelter)
And most importantly to understand that your child has come to teach you as much as you need to teach them.
The essential role of a parent is to see your child as they are, remove your emotional baggage, remove the idea of who they ‘should’ be (we see in our children a desire for our own wholeness, who we ‘should’ve’ been, were discouraged from being or weren’t allowed to be). Instead we can connect to them as they truly are, accept them in their uniqueness.
“Our children deserve to be nurtured by parents who are journeying toward wholeness and discovering their worth, for its from this that their own wholeness and sense of worth will be managed. This is their right - and our calling in the sacred task of parenting.” - Dr Shefali Tsabary
A conscious parent stays in a calm state no matter what is happening with the child, even if a child is raging and screaming at them, they recognise there is a need that hasn’t been met, stay calm, loving and compassionate, they recognise that it’s not personal;
The more conscious we are, the more unflappable and unreactive the deeper the parent/child relationship is strengthened. And it takes a really deep inner journey to be able to do this with our children, especially if they have special needs or learning differences.
The Importance of self care
So how do we get to the point of becoming non-reactive?
We put impossible standards of perfection onto ourselves, and if you are also parenting a child with extra needs you will understand when i say, when we are parenting them - staying conscious is extra challenging.
For our family turning towards conscious parenting has meant that as a family we have had to let go of social norms and tune into our children’s needs - we have to see them for who they truly are not who we think they ‘should’ be.
And In order to best meet their needs, i have had to learn to meet my own needs first. Self care is such an important part of parenting mindfully. I’m not talking a facial, mani/pedi type of self care, i’m talking turning inward, meditation, connecting with nature, reading books that nurture your soul. I’m talking taking 5 minutes or more a day to reconnect with your breath, to reconnect with yourself.
“Chances are you could take a little pressure off yourself and things would still be ok” - Rachel Macy Stafford, Only love today
A parents agenda
As adults we get so caught up in our own views and agenda. We have quite rigid ideas and for a lot of families (generationally) the parent/child relationship has been ‘do it because i say so’… top down approach…
What if instead of yelling, slamming doors, storming out you could instead switch straight into:
Why am i being triggered?
Why am i so unhappy with my child?
What is my child exposing within myself that is triggering me?
It is not my child who needs help right now it is me.
I need to focus on my self care.
“No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough. Yes i am imperfect and vulnerable and somethines afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that i am also brave and worth of love and belonging.” - Brene Brown
If you are able to parent from a place of wholeness (instead of from your wounds), once you realise that everything that is happening in your life is a mirror of your awareness, everything happens for me, not to me… life becomes more peaceful and you experience internal joy.
We often think in order to survive parenthood we need to squash our own needs - and don’t realise that in order to meet the needs of our loved ones we first need to meet our needs.
If these needs aren’t met then in times of challenge with our children, our ego can roar - so loudly - and we tend to squash down our true feelings and emotions with things like yelling, slamming doors or even lashing out at our loved ones, or subtle ways like binge watching tv, gossiping, drinking, eating, drugs, shopping. All these acts lead to guilt, blame, self shame and to break this cycle we must learn to listen to what our inner child is saying to us, listen to our essence (inner voice) that speaks up.
Because Shame leads to fear, blame and disconnection and it is deeply aligned later in life with things like addiction and violence - in childhood it can lead to aggression and bullying.
Shame is the root cause of these behaviours - so delivering more shame to a person, only leads to more of the same behaviour rather than stopping it and a cycle begins.
“Only to the degree we are emotionally connected with ourselves are we able to be present with another in their experience without the need to have it be anything other than what it is.” - Dr Shefali Tsabary
Still your mind
To remain calm under pressure we must first still our mind… There is no place to be except where we are right now… if we are feeling anxious and rushed the best thing we can do is to stop and take a moment to calm ourselves down.
In the same sense we want to ‘fix’ our children or a situation with them, the whole purpose of parenting Consciously is that we support our children with their big feelings - we guide them through feeling their feelings, we don’t stop them feeling what they are feeling or this will lead them to their own ways of squashing their inner essence as they get older;
Role modelling this ourselves is important. “I’m feeling very frustrated right now and i just need a moment to calm my body down by taking a few breaths.”
Learning how to accept feelings young means that as a child reaches the pre-teen years, the teenage years adults they will be less likely to numb their our own pain with over indulgence in eating, drinking, shopping, binge watching tv, facebook or gossiping.
As a society we look at the outer to gain approval, to ‘feel’ good about ourselves. We take to heart the positive things said to us about how successful we are or we take to heart the negative remarks. If we can turn inward and sit with our pain, or joy, without a reaction, and can sort through our emotions, the more peace and joy we experience, the calmer our mind and body becomes.
“Today there is a good chance i will experience pain, struggle, challenge, sadness, frustration, or uncertainty. This does not mean I am failing. It does not mean i am going about things all wrong; it means i am alive. I refuse to numb myself, to deny, or dwell on this unpleasant feeling or experience when it comes. I will acknowledge it and remind myself it won’t last forever. I refuse to merely exist. THis means i will accept the pain that comes with a Feeling Life and grasp joy every change i get.” - Rachel Macy Stafford, Only Love Today
Tools to use to take the path towards conscious parenting…
Pause throughout the day to focus on your breath
Check in with your feelings often
Ask your child questions like:
What are you worried about? Hear them, without interrupting
ok what’s the reality here… discuss deeper
Note. You may want a change for your child, but they have to want it for themselves
Consequences - You will either have quite strong boundaries or are you’ll be wishy washy. From now you can be clear about your boundaries…
life enhancing boundaries - safety, hygiene, eating, drinking, education. These are the ‘have to do’s’. So even those that are ‘have to do’s’ you can be flexible about ‘when and where they happen’ - For example a child needs to eat within a day, however when and where they eat can be flexible
We also have - Ego driven boundaries - these have nothing to do with safety - these need to be negotiable. Ie. We need to leave a venue, give a warning etc
“Many people think that discipline is the essence of parenting. But that isn’t parenting. Parenting is not telling your child what to do when he or she misbehaves. Parenting is providing the conditions in which a child can realise his or her full human potential.” - Dr Gordon Neufeld
We must make sure our child is in a state of calm and balance before we teach or address something with them anything following a storm, so first before discussing the incident, help your children to feel:
Shift your perspective and help them to shift their perspective so you/they are not a victim to emotions and circumstances
Tools for effective communication:
Listen intently (show interest)
Refrain from interrupting (very hard to do)
Refrain from judgement (it can show on your face, or be heard in your voice)
Refrain from comparing yourself to others
Become a WINNER at conscious parenting - Let's take a look at Shefali’s winning technique…
WITNESS - Pay attention to what is actually happening in this moment, step out of your ‘parent’ role and observe what is playing out here, now.
INVESTIGATE - Inquire - we will never really know the other person, we can assume to know what might be going on, however unless we stop and show curiosity towards them, we won’t truly know… what might’ve lead to this moment? Hungry?, tired?, overstimulated? If you are able to step into a state of curiosity, this will lead to connection and therefore a willingness for them to open up to you a little.
NEUTRALITY - We bring our own emotions into any situation. If we are able to stop and breathe before launching into our request of them. If we can first deal with our emotional state, and then ask for what we require, it comes across in a more accepting way.
NEGOTIATE - in matters of life sustaining issues like safety and wellbeing, there is little negotiation, however if it's another boundary like more time on the ipad then we can negotiate the solution.
EMPATHISE - this doesn't mean we feel exactly what they are feeling or that we can presume to know how they are feeling. It means we are able to be present with people in what they are feeling, without thinking we have to fix things. We can ‘allow’ each person to be wherever they find themselves.
RESOLVE - Repeat, Rehearse, Resolve - the purpose of repeating and rehearsing is to resolve issues. In order to resolve conflict, we need the resolve… We don’t always have to be right. We can learn to let go. You can use Role playing as an effective repeat/rehearse tool.
I thank Dr Shefali Tsabary, Suzi Lula, Renee Jain, Daniel Siegel, Jolette Jai, Brene Brown, Marianne Williamson - to name a few for my inspiration in Conscious Parenting
The conscious Parent, Dr Shefali Tsabary
Out of Control, Dr Shefali Tsabary
The Awakened Family, Dr Shefali Tsabary
The Motherhood Evolution, Suzi Lula
The gifts of Imperfection, Brene Brown
The power of Now, Eckhart Tolle
Judgement Detox, Gabrielle
Mindful Parenting in a Messy World, Michelle Gale