I never maintain to have all the answers, in fact I spend a lot of my time helping parents realise they already have the answers, deep down inside them. I am merely the avenue for helping parents find those solutions. Finding these answers for yourself is all part of conscious parenting.
Do you find yourself saying, “Tomorrow I’ll do better”, yet by 8am you’re yelling at your children to get their lunches in their schoolbags and get ready for school!
Most parents put their hand up and say, “Yes, me too!” Exhausted from a day of nagging, yelling and demanding your children do things faster, better, or do something at all, you flop into bed and wish for more peace at home. With your head churning, you long for a better way to do things and hope for a little courage so you can try harder tomorrow.
The last few weeks I’ve been working and playing a lot with families who have young children. Often the parent’s ask me questions along the lines of, “how can I make my child listen?” Or, “what can I do to stop the tantrums?” They often make comments about their children such as “they’re just so naughty” or “I’m worried that they’ll grow up bad”.
Great parenting is not out of reach, it’s not even that difficult — it takes one key element to lift it from mediocre to great. It just requires you to be aware, or as it’s commonly now know, to parent consciously.
Conscious Parenting is about Staying Present
It’s not what will happen in 10 minutes, half an hour, or even in two hours time; it’s not important what has gone before you, previous days, weeks, or even years; it’s only important what you decide right in this very moment.
Every day is simply a progression of tiny moments that are all strung together over the course of 24 hours. If you feel overwhelmed, angry, resentful, or even plain exhausted, it helps to remember that the most important part of your day is right now.
If you get frustrated that your children seem unable to get themselves ready for school on time in the morning, choose how you will handle this repetition instead of continuing with your frustration and emotional outbursts.
To yell at them, does little to lead your family in a strong and positive example, instead you reinforce to them the feelings of being out of control and powerlessness. When this becomes a daily ritual in your home, it’s not surprising their behaviour will reflect this frustration.
Quick Tips to Help you Begin to Parent Consciously
- The next time you’re about to raise your voice and yell — STOP.
- Simply take a deep breath and remind yourself that you are the parent and it is your responsibility to lead your family.
- As you climb into bed, while you hold the wish for greater peace inside your home, take the time to reflect on how you might remind yourself to stop reacting and start responding to every little moment – the ones that are strung together to make up a day.
- When you trip up and you hear yourself yelling before 8am in the morning in sheer frustration; don’t give up — stop mid-sentence and say to yourself, “let’s try again …”
- In a calm, strong, and effective tone, continue to remind your children (without nagging) and do nothing more. This conscious choice encourages and empowers you for the next moment, and then the next, and next, and so on.
- It helps to have some practical solutions, but even the most efficient and effective strategies won’t help if you carry them out while you harbour inner resentment, anger, frustration, or even disengagement.
- It’s most important to understand you first influence your family in every moment through who you are being, then second, through what you are doing.
How Your Own Childhood Impacts Your Parenting Style
We need think carefully and consciously about how our own childhood and upbringing impacts the way we parent our own kids today.
And we need to reflect, every day, in a very conscious way on how we are parenting, and what the impact of our parenting style is on our kids.
This is the path towards really conscious parenting.
When working with parents I often get them to think about their own childhoods. We discuss the happy memories and the positive things they recall their parents/caregivers doing and consider the possibilities of trying to incorporate similar things into their own parenting.
We then discuss aspects from their childhood they wish to leave behind; these often include shouting, arguing, smacking or lack of boundaries. Some call this conscious parenting. Through reflection, and introspective thinking, we can help to create the initial building blocks to growing a strong and healthy family.
This sort of thinking can be taken into all aspects of family life.
Consider for a moment the 2 year old child having a tantrum (or the 14 year old shouting and slamming doors and saying they hate you!).
What is your immediate reaction to this behaviour? Do you get angry and shout “No!” and not listen to the child? Do you put the child straight into a “time out” situation?
This immediate reaction likely stems from how you were parented, it’s your automatic response…and it’s totally normal.
However, if it’s an automatic response that’s unhelpful to the situation, then the situation is likely to escalate and leave you and your child feeling horrible. By considering how you were parented as a child, you’ll be able to recognise what your “automatic” is… and with practice be able to control it (most of the time).
This gives you and your child a better chance at being heard.
So when faced with the tantrum/slamming scenario you’ll be able to stop and think: “what is it this child is trying to tell me?” Is it really that they’re “naughty” or they really hate me?” Or is it that we’ve been so busy today rushing around doing all the errands etc. that neither of us have been able to stop and hang out, and share some peaceful times together to really listen to one another?
Using Reflection to Parent Consciously
Another aspect that I’ve been discussing with parents of late is what they want for their children and families in the future. How do they see their current 4 year old behaving as a 20 year old, or their current 16 year old behaving as a 30 year old?
What sort of person do they want their children to be? What sort of household do they want to live in? How do they want their children to feel about themselves and about their parents, and perhaps their own children?
Thinking about the future results is a wonderful way to pave a smoother road for our children, and might provide you some guidance on what you need to do today to get there.
Again, reflecting on our childhood and also on our actions will help you on this journey.
When you’re asking your child to sit at the table to eat and to use their knife and fork correctly, ask yourself why this important to your family.
The answer might be because table manners are widely regarded as important in society, and so are important to you. You may not want your son or daughter taking their future partner out to dinner at a fancy restaurant and then using their fingers to eat their pasta do you? So if it’s important to you, then it’s important to your family and worth persisting.
Keep at it, be consistent, and you will get there! They’ll thank you for it one day (and so will their future partner!).”
When your child asks you to sit with them and read to them (for the hundredth time), think ahead to school/university/job time when they can figure out the difficult concepts because their brain was working so hard reading with you in the early years.
And when you think “oh my 7 year old just won’t listen to me”, try sitting on the end of their bed each night to listen to them… you’ll be thankful when they’re 17 and know you’ll listen to them, when they’ve got something really important to tell you. And maybe… just maybe… they’ll listen to you too!
Keep reflecting, keep asking yourself why, the answers will come to you. Then be consistent!
Conscious Parenting is a Continuum
Parenting is a continuum. It starts at pregnancy and doesn’t stop.
Growing great families is not just about physical health. It’s emotional, intellectual and spiritual too.
Reflecting on how we were parented, and on our own parenting, will create a strong foundation to build upon, hopefully setting up for some positive experiences throughout the family years.