Conscious parenting is about being aware of who we are, why we respond and feel as we do and making conscious choices about how we wish to be with our children. It is about awareness and understanding of ourselves and our children and trying as best as possible to use that to inform our parenting choices and actions. Conscious parenting is not easy (well let’s face it – parenting in general is not easy!) but can be so beneficial for both ourselves and our children. Here are five reasons why:
- Our children learn by example and are highly conscious of our emotional responses in particular
The old saying “Do as I say and not as I do” is in fact laughable because, as you have no doubt noticed if you have toddlers who love to mirror our worst characteristics for us, children watch and model all that we do.
From the moment of birth children observe everything and become increasingly attuned to us as they gauge our reactions and watch how we respond in order to learn how to survive in their environment. We are their role-models and they learn about themselves, the world and others through what we say, yes, but mostly through how we are in the world and around other people. Our actions speak far more loudly for them than our words.
If you tell your child that the world is safe place but you prevent your child from fully living life in a variety of ways because of your own fears then your child will develop a belief system that the world is unsafe and he/she must be careful at all times. This belief system becomes a deeply unconscious core belief which will continue to inform his/her behaviour, choices and feelings for many years to come.
Most importantly our children learn to watch for our emotional responses. When these are incongruent with our words our emotions are the ones our children believe because emotions are far more powerful in how they impact our behaviour and reactions to our children. Ultimately our children want to be sure to be safe and secure and to keep mom/dad/caregiver happy (because children really believe they can). This is NOT to say you have to be happy all the times but it can be very beneficial to be aware of your emotions and their impact on your child so you can explain them to your child and help him/her to know it is still safe.
- It all starts here:
Consciousness begins in utero. In the BodyTalk work I do we work with active memory (i.e. memories that hold an emotional charge and can still impact behaviour and emotions versus a neutral memory). It is not unusual in my work with clients for unconscious active memories/beliefs to come up from time in utero, such as parents’ fears around finances or a child being unwanted. In addition these are often corroborated by their parents and/or make a lot of sense given the circumstances at the time.
Studies have shown prenatal awareness of voices and music while in utero and there was a case shared by David Chamberlain where a fetus repeatedly batted away the needle while the mom was undergoing amniocentesis.
In many ways newborns are instinctive and primal as they seek to have their needs met. Yet, at the same time they are already forming their perceptions of their environment as nurturing or rejecting, safe or not and, of course, as caregivers we are the environment and their whole world.
- Our children are our mirrors
Our children have an amazing gift for us and that is to act as our mirrors. All too often when your child is acting out it is because of something that is going on in their immediate environment that they do not know how to work through or process and, all too often, that means it involves YOU.
If you are aware of this then your child’s emotions and behaviour can be a sign to you to look at yourself and the environment you share with your child to see what could be causing the response you observe. It is an opportunity to reflect and make changes and, very often, an opportunity to learn about yourself, especially if you notice repetition in your responses and your child’s responses.
A simple example is how a baby will often settle far easier if you are settled. When you are not fully present and are unsettled in any way it can often result in baby being niggly and fussy. This can be a gentle reminder to look at yourself and what you may be bringing to that situation.
- Become more of the parent you choose to be versus the parent you find yourself being
Being conscious enables us to take responsibility for our behaviours and reactions. How often do we respond in certain ways while observing ourselves doing this and thinking, “why am I always like this?” When we are conscious of why we react as we do (which all too often links back to our own inner child experiences that we hold and which unconsciously trigger us!) we can choose to be different. We can choose to look at our own ‘stuff’ to work through it and prevent it from unconsciously shaping the parents we end up being. However, to make shifts in who we are being we first have to be conscious of who we are being and then choose to step into our power to choose to be different.
- Conscious parenting is so empowering and real
Being conscious enables us to live creatively rather than reactively – it enables us to take responsibility for who we are being and how we parent so that we feel we are truly doing the best we can versus feeling unsettled, anxious and confused about why we react or feel as we do.
Conscious parenting allows us to be real. Let me stress here – the fact that our children are so conscious does NOT mean we have to therefore be perfect in order to make sure they are healthy and happy. To the contrary, being conscious enables us to be authentic and to be real and to show your child that it is OK to be angry and sad and that they are still safe and so are we. When we are conscious we acknowledge our feelings, manage our feelings are OK with them which shows our children that they too can have these feelings and be real!