Open Up to Conscious Parenting

This article originally appeared in St. Louis Kids magazine.

Imagine raising your children in a way where you feel effective and inspired to joyfully interact with them.  Imagine that every day is calm and rewarding for all of you.  These are the benefits of conscious parenting.

Conscious parenting represents a paradigm shift as mothers and fathers wake up to the idea that they can step back from the daily grind, think deeply about how they want to raise their children, and take full responsibility for their parenting choices, styles, and behaviors.  As parents, we often operate out of fear or from limiting beliefs that we haven’t examined.  We may unconsciously repeat detrimental patterns we learned from our own parents.  The primary goal of conscious parenting is change yourself in order to parent your children with awareness and love.  Conscious parents are willing to be their authentic selves, recognize that they make mistakes, and make repairs — always with the goal of building trust in the parent-child relationship.  This means being in the present moment with yourself and with your child who is your reflective mirror.  Parents who take this approach see positive outcomes in their children’s behavior, their own personal development, and family harmony.   

The first step in becoming a conscious parent is to gain insight into your attitudes, behaviors, and past programming about parenting in order identify your personal story which may be influencing your mindset.  When parents come to me seeking new parent support or guidance for specific parenting challenges, we first examine their transgenerational histories. How were they birthed, nurtured, talked to and disciplined? These questions generate insight for personal change, which helps people grow beyond parenting automatically from familiar places, which is called “unconscious recapitulation.”

The second step is to set your specific intentions as a parent.  What are your goals?  What do you envision as your primary roles: disciplinarian, teacher, protector, problem solver, and motivator?   What challenges do you expect and how will you work to meet them?  Are you willing to adjust your approach based upon each child’s needs and personality?

The third step in conscious parenting is something you have to do every day:  be present to yourself and to your child in the moment to create a space of love.  This is the practice of mindfulness.  All too often, parents are distracted (by the computer, the phone, the television, errands and housework) and don’t pay full attention to their children.  We all have busy lives, but can learn to observe, listen, and focus on our children’s immediate needs.  Five minutes spent with complete attention is better than an hour of being “half there.”  Something as simple as paying attention to your breath and slowing down your breathing can help you center in your body to calm stressful situations.

The fourth step in conscious parenting is to discover and accept your child’s unique personality and gifts.  From the earliest age our children are independent beings.  We can’t make them be who we want them to be. We need to allow them to unfold at their own pace.   This can be a difficult step for some parents, because it means letting go of preconceived outcomes.  By carefully observing your child’s emotions, behaviors and interests, you get to know them deeply.  However, you can still teach values and set limits while allowing your child to be himself.  Parenting is a balancing act. 

Conscious parenting works best when you and your partner are on the same page.  Frequent and meaningful conversations about parenting are essential.  You may disagree on some issues, but the important thing is to talk them though in a loving manner.  Building trust and deepening understanding with your partner also affects how both of you communicate with your children.   The conscious parenting approach can make a difference whether you adopt it when your children are toddlers or teenagers.   Some parents are now practicing conscious conception and birth in order to influence the optimal development of their child who consciously receives their love starting in the womb. 

We are entering a new era when we realize the tremendous impact of parenting choices and early experiences have on even the youngest infants, who deserve loving and responsible parents.  Having the courage to change ourselves first is the key strategy to   enhancing the quality of our children’s lives.

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