What is Conscious Parenting? Is a question I get all the time, and I know it can be a difficult term to gasp. This is probably because it changes many of the old conceptions in parenting. When we are presented with a different way to see something, specially after a long time of having the same conception, our brain struggles to understand a different way of thinking. However, in order to be able to make a change and make a better world, we need to be open to do things in a new way. We can start by changing our parenting ways. Conscious Parenting gives us hope; it gives us a way, not only to change the world, but also to change ourselves and the next generations.
I follow the Conscious Parenting concept created by Dr. Shefaly Tsabary. Dr. Shefali is a clinical psychologist originally from India and now located in New York. Her philosophy has a fusion of eastern thinking and western psychology. She has been influenced by Buddhism, The Dao (Chinese Philosophy), Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, Donald Winnicott and Alice Miller among many others. She has written 4 New York Times Best Seller books. Her parenting philosophy gives focus to the parent: it explains how parenting gives us the opportunity to raise ourselves through the challenges that our children bring us.
Conscious Parenting is not a technique that we will only apply in certain situations. CP is a way of living. It implies to be conscious of our own selves: our flaws, our triggers our social conditioning, etc. It pushes us to know ourselves in such a deep way that we can understand what part of our psyche has been imposed to us, what part we had developed giving life circumstances and who our true and real self is. You might ask yourself, what does all of this has to do with parenting? When you get to a better point of understanding yourself; you get less triggered with your children; you learn how to react less; you end with a chain carried by generations by not pouring insecurities and other aspects into your children. Most of all you give your children the opportunity to be their true and real selves. In this way, we can raise more authentic and empathic children; children that can make true connections with other people. Future adults that can stand up for themselves and won’t tolerate injustice, but at the same time will be less reactive; children that will know that their value come from just being themselves and not pretending to be what other wants them to be. Children that will respect others points of view, and accept human differences. Children less prone to depression, anxiety and other mental disorders. Human beings that will know their value and consciously will give that value to the planet and humankind, starting to make change the world.
And while the concept is complex, personally there are some points that I find are key in this philosophy:
1.- Parenting is more about the parent than it is about the child.
As I mentioned before, the work in parenthood starts with you. You as a parent (or parent to be) will pass to your child the good and the not so good (the conscious and the unconscious). You might say: what not so good? Well, we all have wounds. Well, we all have wounds from our childhood and/or from life itself. Some persons have more than others and some might have them deeper than others; but at the end we all have them. If you tune to your triggers, you might get a good start in figuring them out. Children have the ability to show us our wounds by triggering us or “pushing our buttons”. The clue lies that instead of reacting to these situations, we need to analyze why do they make us feel like this. And once you know, you’ll be able to change your consciousness towards who you really are. You’ll be able to know yourself better and change the patterns that are not working for you nor your children.
There is always a reason or a desire behind every behavior. Children are not the exception. Instead of blaming the child for “bad” behavior, we can connect with them, and validate their need and understand where they are coming from. The child will then feel accepted, validated and more open to understand the consequences of their acts and change their behavior. Connecting is not a thing will do only during specific events, connection with our children comes every single day. The child will let you know when you will have the best opportunity to seek this connection; you just need to be alert and open to that. Connection will always come before correction and with a well-established connection it will be a lot easier to parent.
3.- Accepting the child that you have.
Before becoming parents most of us had a fantasy or expectations of how our children would be. Most of the time these expectations are different from reality. The child that has come through you is perfect within his imperfections. Is perfect for you. This is the child that would help you grow and evolve. Accepting this child, focusing at the very good things this child has, brings peace to the relationship. In this way, your child will grow up being self-confident and accepting himself just the way he is.
4.- There are no hierarchies.
The child is a being of his own who deserves respect, to be heard and most of all accepted just the way he or she is. These human beings have come through you, and that they are as human as you. Having this in mind always gives you a different perspective. While this parenting style does suggest to use well established boundaries; it does leave space for the child to give their opinion, have his voice heard, interact in healthy discussions, and have opportunities to demonstrate that she’s mature enough to have more liberties. This is gained more easily when you are able to see your child as a person that can teach you as much as you can teach them.
5.- It changes the old parenting paradigms. I found this is the hardest concept to understand for most of us. During humankind history, specially during the last few centuries, society has come up some well-established parenting rules. Many times when an ideology is passed from generation to generation, it becomes an unconscious rule: the only and unquestionable way to do things. It is difficult to develop the ability to see these aspects when you’re immersed in culture; but in order to make a change it is necessary to question and analyze patterns that we’ve been following blindly. As humanity evolves and societies change many of these parenting establishments become obsolete. And not only that, by changing many of those patterns, we can bring change to human societies so we can change it for one more evolved.
Many people are afraid that by changing their parenting style, they will end up raising lazy, disrespectful, depressed, lost, non-productive children. I understand those fears. Conscious Parenting uses tools like boundaries and natural consequences among other respectful parenting techniques. It doesn’t let children run with no guidance, it just changes the priorities and ways. It looks to raise children that will flourish in their own unique way.
Maybe some of you might think that this technique is an easy one. Actually, it might present a lot more work than the traditional way to parent. The easy way can be the punishments, the yelling and still in many cultures the hitting. Yes, it does represent more work (specially in the inner level). Stopping being reactive, thinking before acting, connecting to your child’s needs and using creativity in order to find solutions; are examples of situations that will take more time and effort but in the long run will have better results.
In resume, in order to change the problems that the world is facing, we need to change the way we’ve been doing things. Starting with the way we raise our children.
Mother of 3 - Conscious Parenting Coach - Psychologist