How to become a conscious parent in 10 steps
So let's start at the beginning... What does conscious parenting actually mean?
Isn't all parenting conscious? Aren't we all thinking before we act when it comes to our kids?
The answer is no, and this shouldn't be a surprise. Parenting has no breaks, it's nonstop and you don’t get feedback or guidance until it's usually too late.
Conscious parenting looks at all of the default issues parents are faced with and allows you to change that reality.
Conscious parenting focuses on improving the parent for the benefit of the child.
Rather than giving you hacks, tips and strategies to manage your child’s behaviour, it's about looking at how you’re feeling and how you’re behaving and how this is influencing your way of parenting.
It's a way of evolving your thinking and developing your emotional intelligence, so you can better facilitate your child’s life.
It’s unrealistic to raise children unequipped, but most of us do it. This is because all children are different, all parents are different and you really don’t know what you’re getting yourself into, until you’re doing it!
It’s like trying to describe childbirth to someone. It’s difficult because they don’t know the feelings you are describing, because they’ve never felt those feelings before. So, trying to understand and articulate a formula to successful parenting is impossible and a waste of time.
However, a large number of parents would agree that support and information is important and so is evolving as a human being.
The things you know now, are far greater than what you knew when you were first bringing the baby home from the hospital and you’ll learn more as you go every year.
BUT trial and error isn’t always the same experience for everybody and the impact of YOUR trial and error, onto your kids, cannot be understood for quite some time.
Think back to when you were a child and some things your parents did, or your friends parents did, and straight away you’ll understand where they went wrong and what they could have done better.
Because you’re reflecting, you're critically thinking about behaviours. But it’s not enough we think back to our childhoods and decide what we’ll take on or not in our own parenting journey, because that was not OUR journey. That was theirs.
Conscious parenting considers your individual journey and how you can best facilitate for your child and you, in this path.
And being a conscious parent is not being a perfect parent. It's more about focussing on being a genuine parent and learning and growing, just like your child is, and developing a relationship with your child that is built on mutual respect.
It’s about limiting the amount of baggage that you transfer and project onto your children, so they have an individual existence and not continue generational trauma.
The benefits of this parenting approach is about evolving ourselves to be more well balanced human beings without stigma, prejudice and emotional debt.
Here are some simple steps to take to transition your parenting approach to a more conscious one:
1. Consider the language you use
How do you speak to your children?
The words you choose to use, the tone your take and how loud you speak will impact on how your child feels in your presence.
Do they feel safe, do they feel respected or do they feel threatened and degraded?
The first step in becoming a conscious parent is reflecting on how you speak to your child and become aware of how your words impact your child.
Also consider how much you are yelling & commanding your child to complete tasks or change their behaviour. Is all the yelling working? The answer is probably no, so why keep doing it?
Yelling can easily become abusive causing hurt feelings and guilt.
Are you being sarcastic or do you run out of patience quickly?
Saying no all the time, “stop”, “don’t” and “be careful” shows your child you don’t trust them or have faith in them. It also tells them they’re wrong in a very amplified way. Hearing those words regularly can really impact on their self esteem and will do the reverse effect that is intended, and increase the behaviour you’re trying to get them to change.
Language use is also relevant when it comes to positive language. If your child is saying something funny, don’t just laugh because you think that’s what they want you to do, be genuine and tell them that it's fun, but don’t pretend it's the funniest thing in the world, that just belittles them.
You need to start being comfortable talking to your child as if they were an adult. Really empathise with them and speak clearly about your thoughts. The more respectful you are in your communication, the easier it will be to evolve your relationship.
2. Be realistic about your expectations
You already know by now that children move at a different pace to adults because they don't have the same amount of knowledge, experience and maturity.
So, be realistic when you want your child to behave in a particular way or complete a particular task.
Conscious parenting is about limiting your own triggers and not projecting your emotions, your wants and your needs onto your child.
The best way for anyone to learn how to do things better and safer is to try it themselves.
Theory can only get us all so far, and when we are beings full of questions and emotions that are not yet in balance, listening to the instructions seems like a really boring thing to do!
Let your child practise at life. Let them learn from their mistakes and be there to support them if they fail and empower them to keep going.
Their mistakes and failures are not ours. They are only setbacks and we need to help our children recover so they can keep trying at life. Having an imposed time frame on someone with little ability to meet that time frame is incredibly disheartening and unmotivating.
3. Work on YOUR stuff
As we mentioned, being a conscious parent is about limiting your triggers, so you really need to know yourself and how you’ve been conditioned.
What are some things that affect your happiness and how do those things influence negative patterns in your life? These things are influencing your parenting.
Uncovering your wounds and working towards healing them is a very important step to becoming a conscious parent.
You can do this in a number of ways and therapies and it will depend on your lifestyle, time and budget, however, we all invest in our education to progress in our careers and we invest in our physical health by eating better and exercising. We also invest in our children’s education and childcare, but when it comes to parenting, we somehow don’t value the investment into it.
A lot of parenting advice out there focuses on the quick fix. The hacks, the tips, but none of it really delves into the work that is actually required.
This is because, as we all know, parenting is hard. It’s time consuming, and it really impacts on our day to day.
But, if you value the investment in healing wounds in yourself and really knowing who you are, warts and all, you won’t need the hacks and the quick fixes that only last a day, you’ll KNOW how to interact with your child in a far more productive way and you’ll feel more in control of yourself around them.
It benefits your family long term, which is the definition of investment.
4. Make your home predictable and functional
Conscious parenting is about being aware of yourself and reducing reactive behaviour. One great way to do this is to get organised and create a home environment where everybody knows what happens when, where things go, how things work.
Predictability makes people feel safe and secure. It's a way to keep things consistent, when everything else is a mess; like people’s emotions and developmental milestones.
When children have tantrums it's usually because they’re overwhelmed and can not control their feelings so they need to express themselves and exhaust the various feelings going on.
Adults have versions of tantrums too. We all feel burnt out and overwhelmed with the day, so by creating an environment in your home that is organised, predictable and purposeful, you’ve calmed down the world around you, and can refocus your behaviour.
An organised space allows your children to take on more responsibility, because the chores are more achievable. The lesson in responsibility rewards both you and your child without having to teach a lesson, give a lecture or nag for a task to be completed!
5. Get to know your child
This sounds obvious, but a lot of parents assume a lot about their children.
They assume their abilities based on their age, they assume their interests based on their gender and they assume their development stage based on their siblings.
None of this can be assumed. It's also never ending. All these things are continuously changing, so it’s important to really know your child.
Observe their behaviour, their reactions, their tendencies. Really understand that your child is an individual. A sovereign being to you.
Comparing your child to someone else’s or even their sibling can cause real identity issues and limit their emotional development.
It will also really take away from the bond you could have with them, because you’ve filtered their individuality and diluted the connection between you and them.
6. Empathy breeds empathy
Your child needs to develop empathy. This takes time.
Some children are more empathetic than others, and this is okay, everyone has strengths in different areas, however the more exposed to empathy, the more likely your child is to exhibit it too.
Empathy is also not feeling sorry for your child and over protecting them from harm or pain. It's allowing your child to feel what they feel and respectfully supporting them through that feeling.
If your adult friend had a tough time, you wouldn’t rush them to get over it or correct them about their emotions. You’d respectfully talk to them through it, at their pace and consider when they’re able to move on.
Conscious parenting takes this same approach but with young children and infants.
Considering your child’s feelings like you would an adult, helps your child emotionally develop far smoother than a child who does not have the room to explore these emotions freely.
7. Monkey see, monkey do
Be the example. This is another obvious one, yet we all have been guilty of expecting our children to do one thing, yet we do the other.
For example eating sweets, exercising and not swearing.
Rather than trying to be holier than thou, just be real.
If you make a mistake or do something you rather your child didn’t, explain yourself. Why did you do it? Why don’t you want them to?
That way you explain the value in your lesson, rather than being a hypocrite and not worth trusting.
Your child may listen and follow suit…. Or they may not, but that’s their prerogative.
Role modelling realistic, healthy and balanced behaviour really shows your child that they can live in light and shade and be okay.
Trying to live up to a ridiculous standard that YOU don’t even live up to, is tremendous pressure to put on a person.
8. Expose them to resources & tools
When you tell someone what they need to do to be healthy, it's only one part of the process.
You need to expose them to it all, as well.
You cannot tell a child to eat all their vegetables, if you don’t offer them some or show them that you eat them too and you’re aware of their benefits and are able to answer any questions they may have about those benefits and so on…
This seems like a lot of work?
Well, yes it is, but so is parenting.
So if you want your child to make positive, healthy life decisions, then you need to be a positive influence in their life and expose them to healthy options.
This goes beyond food by the way. It’s exposure to healthy attitudes, a love of learning, embracing different cultures and people and ideologies.
It’s about exposing them to figures who have made a difference in this world and have overcome challenges far greater than the average person.
While we cannot make decisions for our children, nor can we make them happy, we can influence them and expose them to tools that can help guide them to find answers they’re looking for and find their own happiness.
9. Make your children responsible for things
Think of a time you’ve felt the most useless. It was probably a moment you had nothing to do and no responsibility, right?
When you give a person purpose, you make them feel needed, trusted and respected to be a part of something larger than themselves. Children are no different.
Give your children responsibilities. Make them accountable, give them a role to play and you’ll see growth and independence almost immediately.
Assuming our children are too young or too small to do something affects how you parent tremendously.
It is minimising the child and creating a need for them to feel worthy of your trust and respect.
This is not the way to be a conscious parent.
Obviously the responsibility you give needs to be applicable to the child’s ability and personality, but that’s it.
Don’t prejudge based on age or gender, these are things the child cannot control.
Get into the habit of observing your child and challenging them to take responsibility.
Your child will tell you whether they can do it or even want to. But you haven’t assumed anything and your child takes accountability for their decisions to help or not to help.
This is a great task in critical thinking and boundary setting.
10. Take a deep breath and slow it all down
Finally, the key in achieving this parenting approach is to slow down and pace yourself.
As mentioned, children are not ours to mould, so we need to really be respectful of their time, which is often much slower than ours.
Not because they’re doing it to annoy us, not because they’re spoilt, because they are just not as experienced as us.
We need to respect that, otherwise, you’ll find yourself always doing everything for them, then they won’t learn anything for themselves, and then you’ll resent them for it!
This modern day habit of rushing around, and fast paced culture we’re subscribing to, is an issue.
We’re really not able to parent in a paced and thoughtful way.
We’re always going somewhere, doing something, going on to the next activity and trying to fit in as much as possible, into our days, without reflection and digestion of feelings.
When we parent in a purposeful way, we can think about what it is we’re really trying to achieve, rather than just reacting to the pressure of time.
Take a deep breath, think about what is priority and respect your child’s need to do things in their own time, their way so they can learn and develop, which is what we all really want in the end anyways, right?