We all think we are cut out for the parenting gig until we become parents. So some people prepare themselves by reading plenty of parenting books, while others go in intending to do a better job than their parents.
This has led to the exploration of various parenting styles, including conscious parenting. This parenting style has become a popular topic after Dr. Shefali Tsabary, a renowned clinical psychologist, published a conscious parenting book on the same subject, “The Conscious Parent,” in 2010. In her TED Talk on conscious parenting from 2012, she spoke on the importance of raising our children with awareness, attunement, respect, and love.
“We are triggered not by their behavior, but by our own unresolved emotional issues.”
— SHEFALI TSABARY
As a result, today, parents, psychologists, and parenting experts use the term to describe a Parent-centered parenting style. The focus is shifted from the child to the parent – asking them to look inward and make intentional and aware parenting choices.
What does conscious parenting mean?
A conscious parent is one who “seeks to be more self-aware, responsible, and open in their interactions with others.” Conscious parenting can also be defined as the process of making choices that encourage “the full development of the whole child, not just their intellect.
This means that you, as the parent have to be self-aware of your behavior, patterns, and reactions so you can deal better with your child. Take a minute and think about how your parents raised you. Were they strict? Were they strict but also loving? Did your parents give you freedom, or did they create harsh rules and expect you to follow them without question? Did they listen to what you had to say? Did you have to spend every waking moment trying to be perfect so you don’t disappoint them?
Now, think about the relationship you have with your parents today. Is it what you want for you and your children? If your answer is no, read on to know more about conscious parenting.
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Conscious parenting and mindfulness
Conscious parenting is a parenting style that encourages parents to look inward, practice mindfulness, and show up emotional intelligent. That is helping them to be more flexible, understanding, and patient in dealing with their kids. You are encouraged to question your reactions to situations to know whether you project your issues to your child.
For example, suppose you need to control things in your life. In that case, you are likely to extend this behavior to your child leading to a negative outcome in your child’s life in the future. Conscious parenting is the understanding that your child is not here to fix your life, fulfill your unfulfilled dreams or become a version of who you think they should be.
The path to Conscious Parenting requires that you let go of all the above and see your child as an individual with their own personality and ideas. They should be given the freedom to discover and build their identity through your inspiration, guidance, and unconditional love in every stage and situation in their lives without you molding them.
Now that you have an idea of what conscious parenting is, let’s look at the key components of the style.
What are the Key Pillars of Conscious Parenting?
“Do you see me?” This is the big question your child is asking every day. “Can you recognize me for who I am, different from your dreams and expectations for me, separate from your agenda for me?”
— SHEFALI TSABARY
Parenting is not a one-way process. It is a relationship between you and your child. You should be open to learning from and about your child as a unique individual.
Release your attachments, ego, and desires towards your child. Children rarely do what we want them to when we want them to do it. Your job as a parent is to love them anyway and accept their choices.
Pain and struggle are teachers. As a parent, it’s difficult to watch your child struggle. Your first instinct is to jump to the rescue or stop the pain. However, pain and struggle are a part of life (as long as their life is not in danger), and it can help your child develop and build resilience.
Set clear boundaries early.
Practice self-awareness, self-regulation, and presence. This will help you avoid overreacting in certain situations.
Focus on the process leading to an event and what it means. For example, what has led to a temper tantrum or your child acting out in public? Why does your toddler hit? What needs were unmet, was your child hungry or tired? Or, if it’s a miscommunication, you can address that issue instead of reacting negatively to a tantrum.
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Be present and engage your child in every situation. This helps understand your child’s point of view, making it easier to accept the situation.
connect before you correct
It is important to note that circumstances are unique with every child and family, so don’t be too hard on yourself when applying conscious parenting. Many of us were raised very differently, and conscious parenting can feel like a revolution to all we believe in. Choosing conscious, peaceful parenting can be challenging and painful. So if you are coming from another parenting style, be patient and self-compassionate with yourself.
The four main traditional types of parenting styles
According to Diane Baumrind, there are four main types of parenting styles;
Disciplinarian or authoritarian
Indulgent or permissive
This style is considered the best parenting style among the classic four. An authoritative parent will;
Set clear expectations and allow the child to contribute to setting some of their goals.
Communicate frequently according to the child’s age and level of understanding, so there is mutual understanding.
Explain the rules and disciplinary actions to the child.
Do all the above with love and a nurturing spirit.
Disciplinarian or authoritarian style
This is a strict parenting style. The hallmark of an authoritarian parenting style is the phrase “Because I said so.” Children have little to no room for negotiation, and they are not allowed to have their own opinion. Parents have high expectations, rules are not explained, children are not involved in problem-solving, and punishment is common. Most authoritarian parents are less nurturing and don’t consider much the feelings and needs of their children.
Indulgent or permissive style
Indulgent or permissive parents are not strict at all. They let their children do what they want, when they want, and offer little to no guidance. Children are left to figure things out on their own. There is open communication with the kids and little to no expectations set for the kids. In most cases, parents want to be friends with their children and lack the guidance and safety children need to thrive.
Uninvolved parents do not participate in their children’s lives. They stay out of the way. Some parents may choose this parenting style, while they just don’t care in some cases. Parents rarely communicate with their children, and they are not nurturing. There is no discipline style, and parents don’t have any expectations.
With the above information, it’s easy to identify your parenting style, especially if you are not already a conscious parent. However, if you consider becoming one, you might wonder how or where to start.
Conscious Parenting in Action
“to enter into a state of pure connection with your child, you can achieve this by setting aside any sense of superiority”
— SHEFALI TSABARY
Conscious parenting utilizes mindfulness. That means you practice being non-judgmental, non-reacting, and attentive in the interactions in the here and now with your children. We all know how challenging parenthood is and that children can test your patience and stir up unfathomable anger in you with their words and actions. As a conscious parent, you choose not to be swept away by those feelings, and you aim for responding instead of reacting. This involves the following practices:
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Push the Pause button by Breathing
When your child touches your triggers, you may easily snap at them with “What is wrong with you?” But, instead, conscious parenting requires you to push a pause button to gain presence in this very moment. This means self-regulating yourself and being self-aware of what is going on inside you before yelling, reacting in anger or horror, or even giving a punishment.
If your toddler has shaved half of their head with the shaving machine, or you find your ten-year-old vaping, take a few deep breaths first, count backward to tend, and then respond to the situation. Then, if necessary, You see, you’ll deal with the situation in a more grounded way.
Does the current situation trigger any particular emotions within you? If the answer is yes, try to find what just happened in a more calm moment. Usually, this has nothing to do with our children when we get triggered. These are old memories stored in our bodies, bringing up fear, pain, and hurt feelings. When your child triggered you, what need was unmet at that moment. Did you feel unheard? Did you feel unsafe? Did you feel you needed to defend yourself? Were you already stressed because something else happened that day? Are you afraid of what others might think of you? Do you judge yourself?
When you interact with your children, be mindful of your reaction and try to let it go. Don’t project your fears and wounds on your child.
Boundaries are what we tell others how we want to be treated, what is acceptable for you, and what is not. It draws the line between two people, their feelings, needs, and responsibilities. In parenting, boundaries ensure the emotional and physical well-being of the family. Furthermore, they reduce anxiety and make children feel safe to have clear and predictable guidance.
It will happen that boundaries are crossed, and your responsibility as a parent is to find out why. Ask yourself, did you explain to them the boundaries and limit clearly? If the answer is yes, go deeper and ask yourself what was in the way your kids couldn’t stand the boundary. Make it a cooperative process with your child and talk about it calmly. Problem-solving together how the boundary could be held up. Conscious parenting requires you to help your child peacefully and aware of their age to maintain this boundary.
For example, if your toddler used your expensive oil to paint the wall, that might bring up anger in you. In this situation, remind yourself what you can expect of your child (mind their age).
Then explain your boundary, tell them what they CAN do, and then store the oil somewhere out of reach (because toddlers have no impulse control). With conscious parenting, it’s less about the oil on the wall but more about constructive, respectable communication, age-appropriate expectations, and building long-term authentic relationships with your child.
In our previous example, your toddler used an oil that might have cost you a pretty penny, but it’s gone now. That’s for sure upsetting, and that’s ok. However, as you learn to be mindful of your feelings, you’ll learn to let go of what had happened and not hold on to the anger. Part of conscious Parenting is understanding age-appropriate behavior and then reframing old beliefs about children. The truth is that no children “willfully misbehave” and indeed not a child under 7 or 8 years old. Children do well when they can, and ALL children want to please. They NEVER intend to do things that will upset us- they want connection and want to please us. When we are coming from this truth, we can be much more easily forgiving and let go of the anger.
We, as parents, are responsible for guiding our children and creating an environment where our children can succeed. Especially younger children love to explore and discover the world, and it’s your learning lesson to have your valuables out of reach of your curious little followers.
Show empathy and compassion.
When kids make in our eyes mistakes and misbehave, they should feel safe enough to look to their parents for comfort and reassurance, knowing they are still loved. Take time to see and understand their point of view without judgment. Imagine how they are feeling about a particular situation and try to relate.
For example, if your toddler spills some hot chocolate on your white carpet or sofa. Such accidents happen, and it might be you in the same situation. Reacting harshly and punishing the child will make them feel embarrassed and ashamed, which is unfair and weaken your relationship. Instead, understand that it was unintentional. React with empathy and start working on the solutions (like having the boundary, hot drinks just at the table).
Be mindful of your child’s age.
Is the child’s behavior age-appropriate? For example, toddlers learn about their environment through sensory play. This means that they are likely to be all over the place touching, tasting, seeing, and banging things to learn more about them.
So, when you see your expensive oil splattered on the floor, remember your child’s behavior is typical for that age because they are little explorers of their environment. So, instead of punishment and harsh reactions, you can teach them how to keep things safe and then create an environment where they can safely explore.
Why should you practice conscious parenting, and what are the Benefits?
“You will only accept your child to the degree you accept yourself”
— SHEFALI TSABARY
Your kids will find their identity.
As you practice being authentic and mindful, your child will pick up on it and become sensitive to their feelings. They will be more open to sharing or talking about their emotions and thoughts because their home is a judgment-free zone, and they feel safe with you as a parent to be who they are.
Your kids will have a high EQ.
Conscious parenting requires allowing your kids to go through all their emotions, building their emotional intelligence. As a result, they learn to better manage and understand their feelings, improving their communication and building empathy.
Your kids will become active listeners.
Active listening is a skill that Conscious parents use to make the other person fully heard and understood.
Think about the last time you were heartbroken and vented with your girlfriend. She was listening, nodding, and giving you the space to get all your feelings out. Remember how good it felt that someone simply listened, really listened?
That is what a conscious parent is giving to their kids, too. They aim to listen and understand their child’s point of view, no matter how silly or annoying a situation might be. With time your child will pick this skill up and try to understand your and another person’s perspective, which is a core element of empathy.
Improves the relationship with your kids
Conscious parenting enables you to have a mutually respectful relationship with your kids because you are patient and compassionate with them. You value your relationship with them. Your intention is to satisfy their core needs of feeling seen, heard, understood, and knowing they matter to you. As you practice becoming more self-aware and authentic, you become more vulnerable with your family, letting go of being the boss. You become a more reliable, trusting, and loving parent to your child. You work together to find solutions, create healthy boundaries without hurting their curiosity along the way.
Remember, Conscious Parenting is also to help you be aware of your issues as an individual, like trauma. Over time you become more intentional in your choices. You will be willing to show up as the best person you can be daily, and with it, you will eventually be a more loving and happy parent to your child.
Drawbacks of conscious Parenting
Conscious parenting has numerous supporters, and many parents apply it. However, it might take a while to deal with your internal baggage. For example, if you have mental health issues, among other problems, it might take you time to work through all wounds and heal. It’s important to realize that conscious parenting is not a quick fix. It is constant daily work and requires commitment.
Pain and failure are a part of life, and conscious parents understand this. However, it might be hard for other parents to watch their children struggle and fail, so they prevent their kids from experiencing them. Allowing your kids to go through failure can help build resilience, a great skill to have as they grow up.
Becoming a conscious parent doesn’t always mean that you will not find some situations complicated to handle as a parent, and being a mom is a breeze.
Remember, there is no manual to parenting, and every family is unique. In addition, unlearning old behaviors and gaining new skills is uncomfortable. Still, the benefits for your child and your own well-being are significant.