In today’s fast paced world parents want to know they are getting it right the first time. Naturally they read as much as humanly possible about how to be the best parent they can and ultimately, they chose a style that they feel will work for them. Thirty years ago, when I raised my children there wasn’t the research or anywhere near the amount of information available as there is today.
It took me about 10 years to work out how I wanted to parent my children because with each child and each stage of my life things changed, the children changed, and I had to change too. With every year I learned to adapt to the changes more readily. In my mind, that’s when I became a more conscious parent.
Conscious Parenting is based around the belief that raising children should have a foundation drawing on mindfulness. As parents it’s best to keep an open mind, let go of our ego and preconceived ideas about what is important, and all the while be open to change while we’re figuring it all out.
Children need guidance naturally, but sometimes we just need to let go of the reins and let our child lead. This doesn’t mean we stop teaching and leading, but sometimes we can just step aside and live in the moment with them.
This ‘living in the moment’ focus helps parents connect with their children and develop a mutual sense of respect, which naturally leads to a more harmonious household. Conscious Parenting often takes elements of other parenting styles to allow each family to find a balance that suits them.
Parenting in the moment not only gave and continues to give me the wonderful experience of being a very loved and respected mum, but it also has provided my children with enough independence and self-confidence to enjoy a wide variety of experiences and adventure out into the world and achieve whatever they put their mind to.
Simple ways to be a mindful family
Life is full of doing things that we and our children don’t really want to do. It may be boring, difficult, monotonous or even painful. However, if you practise and teach your children how to REFRAME, they can find joy in things they never expected to.
Attitude is everything. When you put a positive slant on an activity, you can trick your brain into enjoying what it’s doing, and all those things won’t feel as unpleasant as they would if you viewed them negatively. Practising reframing is so helpful for all of us and eventually you’ll find yourself and your children enjoying life more.
You’ll notice your children helping you to see life with a fun attitude where there was once just stuff to get through. A child’s enthusiasm is contagious and when you are open to it, you’ll notice their desire to enjoy those moments together, adding to the depth of the connection you both are building upon.
Noticing changes in your child’s behaviour
It’s impossible to notice changes and challenges with our children’s behaviour unless we’re consciously managing and mindful of our own moods. If we get stuck in a bad mood, we can miss what’s going on around us. Being present and finding our best selves helps our children learn how to do the same. A little reflection can go a long way when it comes to being present and aware. It’s impossible to notice when our children are struggling if we are unconscious ourselves.
Everything you say can become your child’s inner voice.
Being aware of our responses and trying not to blame or criticize our children, is very important when it comes to the way our children feel about themselves.
What children need to know is they will always be listened to, understood, and fully supported. Naturally, they will make mistakes, and helping them to feel ‘that’s OK’ is paramount. Mistakes happen to all of us, and our accountability to miscues will help self-awareness and stop them from judging themselves too harshly.
The best gift in the world is to be accepted, especially by our parents.
Don’t assume children know how to share their feelings
We don’t always know how to express what’s going on for us and we shouldn’t assume that our children can either. They learn these skills by watching and listening to their parents. But if we find it difficult to say what we feel, they will likely encounter the same thing.
Sometimes it is hard to find the courage or the right moment to discuss how we feel so we can easily get into the habit of just pushing our feelings down. Parenting consciously is a way of noticing our own behaviors so that we can teach our children from a place of self-awareness.
We can help our children by encouraging them to feel their feelings and express them when needed. Making light-hearted and fun chats on a regular basis stimulates connection. Our children learn that by opening up to you when they feel uncomfortable about something, it can yield a positive result and become easy to do.
You can help encourage this by having eye contact when you speak to your children, looking friendly and approachable, and expressing your love with a touch or a smile. If they haven’t before, your children will soon enjoy your interactions and trust that you are always there for them, ready to listen.
Stop and breathe
If you find that you get triggered when your child isn’t behaving in a way that feels respectful, always try taking a deep breath so that you can think about your response rather than impulsively react and say or do something you may regret. If you need to leave the room and reset, try this technique and do it as often as you need until you’re able to approach the situation calmly.
Simply find somewhere quiet, sit for a moment, be still, and listen to your breath. Become aware of a silent but powerful sense of calm within. Soon you will have the presence of mind where you feel at peace and ready to resume being the parent you want to be.
Conscious parenting not only helps your family to live harmoniously, but it also has a ripple effect for generations to come, touching more lives than you could ever imagine.
My parenting style has evolved over almost 40 years of working with my own children and others as a nanny, daycare assistant, night nurse, parenting coach, and mentor. I have put pen to paper and recently published my parenting book that includes all the tips above as well as many more that have assisted me in helping hundreds of children to be mindful and many families to enjoy parenting consciously.