What is Conscious Parenting?Mar 13, 2021
What is Conscious Parenting?
Conscious parenting. Another buzz word in the world of parenting. You’ve heard it, and maybe you’ve had other parents talk about how important it is for them. But, what is conscious parenting? How are you supposed to keep up with all these new terms and concepts? Who does conscious parenting benefit?
While these and other questions are swirling around in your head, let me reassure you that you CAN learn new things! And it’s going to make a difference in how you parent.
We’re going to get into conscious parenting and talk about what it is, how you can do it, and how it benefits not just your children but also yourself.
Let’s start our journey into conscious parenting!
What is conscious parenting?
Okay, so we know there are lots of different styles of parenting out there and we know there are lots of different techniques. So, why another one? Well, conscious parenting is a parenting idea that moves the focus from the CHILD to the PARENT. It focuses on how mindfulness can transform your parenting choices and make you more aware of how your actions and feelings are affecting your parenting decisions. It’s not about “fixing” your kids; it’s about “fixing” yourself.
With that in mind, think of conscious parenting as an addition to the parenting techniques you’re already using. It isn’t meant to replace something but to supplement it...you can use the principles we’ll talk about later to add this level of mindfulness and self-awareness to what you’re already doing as a parent.
Now, we can’t really continue our discussion on conscious parenting without mentioning Dr. Shefali, who is the most popular voice regarding this way of thinking and parenting. She has been praised by popular figures like the Dalai Lama, Pink, and Oprah. Dr. Shefali contends that our own emotional baggage can create dysfunction in our parent-child relationships. We’ll talk about how we can let go of that and help ourselves be more mindful and aware of what we need to connect to our children.
How do I DO conscious parenting?
Now that we know what conscious parenting is, let’s look at how we can start doing it. I’m going to give you 8 principles or key elements that will help you transform your parenting.
1. Know your triggers
We all have bad days. We all have things that grate on our nerves. But what do we do about it when we have to interact with other people? Think for a minute about the coworker or neighbor that has that tendency to set you on edge. Would it be appropriate for you to yell at them or belittle them? Of course not! In those situations, we find a way to deal with them internally without taking it out on others. Guess what? It should be the same when you’re interacting with your children.
Revolutionary, right?! Just as you’re aware of our triggers in situations where you can’t just blow up at someone, you should be aware of what triggers you around your children. Think about this ahead of time before a situation arises. Maybe it really gets to you when your children have left their toys out AGAIN for the 100th time. Maybe it’s when they whine about not getting candy in the morning even though you’ve told them EVERY DAY for weeks that it’s not something that will ever happen. Maybe it’s when you’ve come home from work and no one has done their homework or cleaned up their rooms or any other number of things that would really help you out. Whatever it is, plan NOW for how you’ll handle that in the moment.
2. Speak respectfully to your children
We’ve discussed how respect is important in parenting before when talking about positive parenting. It carries over here to conscious parenting as well. How you speak to your children really makes a difference in how they perceive the situation, your feelings, and themselves. Remember, children pick up on things better than we may think, and you might be surprised to hear them using the same sarcastic or impatient tone that you are using with them.
If you constantly sound irritated with you, you may hear them say things like, “Mom, why are you mad at me?” Or, “Dad, why do you always sound annoyed?” Or even to a sibling, “Ugh, stop doing that! You’re so frustrating!” Your words have power; they can greatly impact how your children view you and how they interact with the world.
When you change your language to a more respectful tone, using patience and love, they’ll be empowered with those same tools, and you will feel calmer and more in control of your emotions and your home.
3. Manage your expectations
This is a big one! Who hasn’t been disappointed when something hasn’t turned out the way they wanted it to? We’ve all been there. Well, parenting is like that on many occasions! You have in your mind the way things should go, and if they don’t, you take it out on your kids. BUT, there’s a better way! Conscious parenting is all about NOT putting your expectations onto your children and letting them evolve authentically. That doesn’t mean you can’t help them along the way, but the frustration comes when YOUR needs aren’t being met. But is that really what your child needs right now?
Think about how your expectations are affecting your parenting choices and how you’re expressing that to your children. You don’t want them to feel like they’re disappointments. Unmet expectations lead to frustration. If you find yourself frustrated often, drop the expectations you have for them (and for you too!). Accepting “what is” in life brings contentment.
4. Keep your children’s ages in mind
The focus of this conscious parenting principle is especially related to behaviors that are age appropriate. Along with this, remember that children learn to self-regulate around the age of 12, and neurodivergent children can take even longer to get there. Even after that, it’s an ongoing process, so take away YOUR expectations of what a child of a certain age should be doing. Instead, shift your thinking to the belief that children are doing their best, that they’re not trying to be bad. This can help you recognize that there is something going on behind the scenes, there’s an unmet need, or there’s a skill lacking. Remember that children are learning how to deal with big emotions and approach the situation with patience and empathy. This is conscious parenting! You could sit down with him and ask how you can help. Or wait until he’s ready to come with you.
Taking this approach shows love toward your children because they understand that you want to help them and not just reprimand them for not behaving the way YOU think they should be behaving at that moment.
5. Be reflective and self-aware
This can be a hard one especially in the moment! Still, this is an important principle of conscious parenting. Take a second and be aware of why you are starting to feel or react the way you are in a given situation.
Let’s look at an example for this. I have a mom friend, let’s call her Lizzy. She has told her daughter about 10 times to just try to work out her homework on her own because that’s how she’ll learn. Lizzy has said she’ll check the homework when her daughter is done. Also, at this moment, Lizzy is trying to get a task done in the house...and she’s been interrupted A LOT at this point. She’s starting to lose her patience.
Lizzy needs to take a few seconds and reflect. Why is she becoming impatient? Well, it’s because she’s made herself clear, but her daughter keeps interrupting her! Ok, but why is she interrupting? It's probably because she wants to get it right! School is important to her, so she’s looking to her mom whom she views as an expert. Lizzy remembers that homework can be frustrating and talks calmly to her daughter to work through the situation. Lizzy ALSO realizes this isn’t about her…it’s about her child and what she’s going through.
I know. It’s tricky to think about all of that in the moment. But, with practice, it will come more naturally.
6. Let go of your ego
You may think this one doesn’t apply to you. You don’t have an ego! Well, remember that time you said “no” to your son but then realized it wasn’t a big deal, but you held fast to that “no” anyway? That’s ego!
It’s okay to show your children that you’re wrong sometimes. It’s okay to apologize or change your answer. You can tell them why you changed your mind because that will bring awareness to the situation. This will also help you to feel calmer and know that you are in control of your emotions and your actions and teach your children how to handle their ego as well.
7. Think of parenting as a relationship
Children are unique and are often our best teachers! You are not in a one-way relationship where you just transmit commands and knowledge to them. If you can adjust your thinking to include them in the relationship, you will be well on your way to being a very conscious parent! Think about your other relationships in your life. Why do they function well? What can you take from those and apply to your parenting?
Along with this, think about your children as individuals. I know that I don’t have the same relationship with my best friend as I do with my neighbor. But, they are both good relationships. Your relationships with your children can be just as different and meaningful. This will help you be more aware of each child, their needs, and how you interact with them.
8. Establish clear boundaries
Conscious parenting focuses on establishing clear, consistent, and compassionate boundaries which can help you move away from simply disciplining all the time. When you are clear with your boundaries, your children know what to expect and you know how to handle the situation. For example, let’s look at screen time. You’ve set a boundary in your house where your children know that after the timer goes off, screen time is done. It happens the same way every day, and you even give them a warning before the timer sounds. Because of this set up, the children automatically put away their screens and move on to a different activity.
Imagine if you always have a different time frame or system for letting them know screen time is done. It may lead to meltdowns or fights or pleading for more time. Changing what’s already in place may take some time, but with the establishment of clear boundaries, there will be more understanding of what should happen in that situation.
What does conscious parenting NOT look like?
The easy answer to this question would be the opposite of what we just talked about. Unconscious parenting means forgetting what we just worked through and going back to a parenting philosophy where your children need to please you and meet your expectations.
Remember Dr. Shefali? She talks about unconscious parenting in the view of allowing our emotional baggage to rule the situation. With this, parents would get back into that thinking of “I know best, I’m smarter, I’m older so I’m right.” That unawareness of what the child needs or what would make the situation better has made the parenting choice go backward.
So, conscious parenting DOES NOT look like putting your emotions first.
Conscious parenting DOES NOT look like speaking angrily to your children.
Conscious parenting DOES NOT look like forcing your child to act the way YOU want them to act.
Conscious parenting DOES NOT look like you yelling to get your point across.
On the other hand…
Conscious parenting DOES look like apologizing and loving yourself and your kids as you keep trying (we forget that sometimes!). Remember that perfection is not the goal of conscious parenting.
Closing thoughts on conscious parenting
It’s a lot, I know. But, now you have a better idea of how to incorporate conscious parenting principles into the things you’re already doing to be a more positive parent. Remember it’s possible to do all the things we talked about today. You can do it!
Also, remember I’m here for you! I’m ready and willing to help you with whatever you need to be more mindful of your parenting choices. You can also check out my Freedom Moms podcast for some helpful tips, or find out your parenting superpowers through taking my free quiz.
Crystal The Parenting Coach