Are you sitting on the fence, not knowing which way to go in your parenting journey?
Maybe you’ve been doing all the “attachment parenting” things with your young child, but it’s all become much harder now that they’ve grown a will of their own and are asserting it? Are you wondering: “Why won’t they cooperate with me?’
Maybe you’ve tried imposing “consequences,” setting limits and explaining things to your child, but that isn’t going the way you’d hoped. Maybe you’re all caught up in stress and struggle much more often than you’d like?
How I discovered conscious parenting
When I became pregnant with my first child at age 34 I hadn’t heard of conscious parenting but I had firm intentions. I really wanted to do things differently to the conventional parenting approach that I’d been brought up with. I didn’t want to depart from all of it, just the bits that I didn’t like – such as punishments, yelling, threats and criticisms. I wanted to ditch those and live with my child in a respectful, peaceful and harmonious relationship.
While I had great intentions, I didn’t have a clue how to bring them into reality. As my son grew, and then I had another son 4 years later, I found myself facing challenges that I was completely unprepared for. I was trying to deal with horrendous sleep deprivation, a son who experienced intense emotional meltdowns and a son who refused to go back to preschool.
The old programming and unresolved pain from my own childhood was leaking out and starting to run my life and deeply affect my relationships with my sons.
“Conscious parenting” hadn’t been invented back then (my first child was born on 01/01/01 – yes, really) so I had to figure out a lot of things on my own for a while. For a long time it felt like I was reinventing the (parenting) wheel in isolation, but eventually I found some other women who were on a similar path and we were able to put our heads and hearts together and make the changes we wanted actually happen. Together we invented our own version of conscious parenting and put it into practice in our families.
Our version of conscious parenting
Our “version” of conscious parenting is unique in three ways.
- Firstly, we chose not to impose any limits, rules or consequences on our children. In my own family this meant that I didn’t impose limits on “junk” food, TV, YouTube or video gaming. There were no parent-imposed rules about bedtime, tooth brushing, chores or manners either. I was certainly open to coming to agreements with my sons about limits. We used a process of creative problem solving to find solutions that everyone was happy with.
- Secondly, we focus on the process of unlearning our old programming about parenting, our negative judgements about our children and our beliefs about conventional education. If I’m worrying about my child or I’m in conflict with them, the first thing I do is to figure out what I’m believing about the situation and I investigate and question that belief.
- Thirdly, we learned how to talk to our children using nonviolent communication so that we could ask for what we wanted without any blame or judgment.
That may all sound very radical, compared to conventional parenting, and it is. It’s also a radically effective way to bring your family life into harmonious flow.
I found the teachings of Byron Katie to be the most useful in my own unlearning journey. She teaches a simple process of self-inquiry that you can apply to any issue that’s coming up in your life. She calls it “The Work.” It’s a process that you can use to clear your mind of the old programming and beliefs that are affecting your peace of mind. I used The Work to investigate and dissolve my old beliefs and to open my mind to new ways of being with my children.
Why choose conscious parenting?
The practice of conscious parenting transformed my relationships and my life into one of joyful, harmonious flow. Conscious parenting was the catalyst for a gradual spiritual awakening that is still deepening and evolving.
I have no doubt that my children benefited from my adoption of a conscious parenting approach, but I think I’m the one who has got the most out of it. So much of the anxiety, overwhelm, stress and self-doubt that I used to experience has just fallen away.
I am now much more available and able to support my sons in a whole new way. I’m able to be genuinely respectful and trust their capacity to find their own path (with a little help from me, when requested).
Through the practice of conscious parenting I was able to end my focus on fixing, managing and controlling my children.
I got really clear about the stressful, toxic nature of the conventional parenting role that relies on punishments, rules, threats and bribes and I came to understand and dissolve the underlying beliefs that were keeping that role alive in my life. Once I’d uncovered those underlying beliefs and questioned them, I was free of the emotional reactions that they caused.
This wasn’t an overnight transformation. It’s much more of an ongoing process that will continue and evolve as my children move into adulthood and our relationships change. The difference in my life today compared to how I used to be makes me very confident that the benefits will continue to flow and I’ll continue to deepen my own peace, joy and freedom as well as appreciate my sons.
Conscious parenting is NOT going to guarantee that your children turn out brilliant, successful and incredibly polite. They might, but not because of conscious parenting. This is not a back door way to control, shape and train your children or to create perfect young humans.
Please note! Conscious parenting can lead you and your children in some unexpected and unconventional directions. For example, you may find that your child wants to breastfeed or sleep in the same bed as you for longer than you planned, or that conventional schooling does not suit them. Your child may discover a passion for video games and watching YouTube videos, or they may want to play the piano for hours every day. You may find that you are drawn to support your child to grow in the way that suits them best and to follow their passions.
When my eldest child refused to continue attending preschool at age 4.5 I suddenly found myself considering alternatives to mainstream schooling. I ended up unschooling both sons for the next 15 years. This turned out to be the option that suited all of us the best and it was an amazing experience.
Home education won’t suit every child or family and it’s certainly not an essential component of conscious parenting, but it’s becoming increasingly popular with children who discover that it’s an option. You might find your child asking to stay at home, so it’s a good idea to have some understanding of this educational option.
How does conscious parenting work?
The best way I can think to describe conscious parenting is through the type of questions that I asked myself during the process.
I frame conscious parenting in terms of questions for a reason. My “version” of conscious parenting is not a set of guidelines or expert advice on how to raise your child.
I don’t want to give you advice or describe the way that conscious parenting should work in your family.
I’m writing from my own direct experience of asking myself countless questions in order to unlearn my old programming. Once the old beliefs and patterns of thinking started to drop away I could hear the inner intuitive guidance on how to raise my two sons.
Tapping into your own intuitive guidance is the key. Some of you may already be very much guided by your intuition, in which case, just keep following it! Others of you may be more like I was when I became a parent; mostly stuck in my head. That’s why I’m setting out a list of questions for you to consider.
Are these the sort of questions that resonate with you?
If so, then conscious parenting will suit you very well.
When a difficult situation arises: What effect are my beliefs having on this situation with my child?
When a difficult situation arises: What effect is the unresolved pain from my own childhood having on this situation with my child?
Can I take responsibility for my own emotional reactions rather than projecting judgments, anger and fears into my child?
Am I willing to clear my mind of old programming so that I can offer my child acceptance, kindness and trust?
Am I believing self-judging thoughts such as “I’m not good enough.” “I should do more for my children.” or “I make poor choices.”?
How do I reconnect with the calm, loving and joyful energy within myself and relate to my child from THIS?
How do I join this peaceful revolution and take a more conscious approach with my parenting?
There are lots of amazing resources for people wanting to learn about conscious parenting these days, so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel.
As I mentioned above, I found that a process for investigating and questioning my stressful thoughts was essential. That’s why I have been using Byron Katie’s process called The Work for the last dozen years. It really does work! I’ve unlearned so much that my inner world has changed dramatically.
I also learned some very useful listening, communication and problem solving skills. The fact is, if you’re not going to use the conventional parenting tools like rules, limits and punishments, then you’ve got to have something else to work with. Otherwise you’ll be left floundering (unless you are already very intuitively guided). I found it really helpful to introduce some new habits to replace the old unhelpful ones. These simple skills helped me to meet the many challenges that I faced as my sons grew, changed and continued to push whatever buttons I had left to push.
I started using and adapting the skills that really made a positive difference and that felt fully aligned with my heart. Then I started to teach them to my friends and other parents through my Joyful Parenting Course. Over a period of about 6 years I wrote a book, called “Joyful Parenting: the Five Skills to take your family from Conflict to Connection.” As the name suggests, this contains the best bits out of all the new skills and processes that I learned. This is my conscious parenting handbook and I’ve been so grateful to be able to share it with many other parents who want to transform their lives and relationships. Why don’t you have a look and see if it will support and inspire you in your conscious parenting journey.