Seven Keys to Conscious Parenting
Mindful tips from the author of Misadventures of a Parenting Yogi
I’m sitting at my computer while both my boys scream for me from the other room. So, relax, I'm not going to tell you to savor every parenting moment. In fact, I’d say if you’re savoring twenty-five to thirty percent of the moments, you're nearing Zen monk status. What I do have for you, though, are the following seven sure-fire ways to boost your conscious parenting chops.
1. Follow your parenting instincts. In the words of Dr. Benjamin Spock, “The more people have studied different methods of bringing up children, the more they have come to the conclusion that what good mothers and fathers instinctively feel like doing for their babies is the best after all.” I feel sure that this must be true. If not, if we have lost this instinctive ability that all animals have to care for their young, then bring on the glaciers and comets, because our epoch is done.
2. Try meditation. There I said it. So sue me. Meditation is relaxing, it helps you focus, and it makes it easier to hear your intuition. The best way to cultivate and hone intuition is by listening for and then following instincts as they arise. As Malcolm Gladwell teaches in his bestseller Blink, each time you follow an intuition, your intuition strengthens. I love seeing this as a skill that, with practice, I can hone.
3. Get help. These days we don’t live in tribes or even with extended family, so there are usually, at most, two adults and there’s way too much to do. To this conundrum, there is a solution. Set up a barter with neighbors or if you have the means, hire a biweekly housecleaner and a kid down the street to mow the lawn or shovel the walk. Schedule a monthly babysitter so you can get some dinner with your partner and have sex. This may well be the key to parenting and to a healthy marriage.
4. Pay attention. This one comes from parenting guru, Alfie Kohn. Put simply, “Take children seriously.” Really see them. Not only their misbehavior; look underneath. Ask why is Esmeralda not staying in bed after lights out? Is she hungry? Not tired? Scared of a monster? Stressed about school? Wanting more time with Mom and Dad? Each of these calls for a different course of action, a different parenting opportunity. We can address the underlying issue. More than just applying a Band-Aid, we can guide, help, and really make a difference in the lives of our children.
5. Relax. In the words of Simplicity Parenting founder, Kim John Payne, “Relax a little bit. Give [your kids] just a bit more space than you think you can.” Within this space, kids can develop communication skills, fortitude, and inner strength. We do our kids no service by micromanaging their every conflict. This steals from them the opportunity to exercise their own muscles. It would teach them that their challenges make us worried, that we don’t trust they can handle it. Of course, if our kids ask for help or if there are signs of bullying or inappropriate behavior, we must jump in. But, otherwise, forcing our way in meets only our needs and soothes our anxiety, not theirs.
6. Be Authentic. The twentieth-century philosopher Mr. Rogers said, “My hunch is that if we allow ourselves to give who we really are to the children in our care, we will in some way inspire cartwheels in their hearts.” Maybe I can come clean to Noah and the world that this parenting thing is pretty darn challenging. That I have no idea what to do quite a bit of the time.
7. Forgive Yourself. I’d like to stop trying to be perfect. Instead, I’d like to model being human. To learn from my mistakes. To apologize when I mess up. To forgive myself and move on. Kids are so incredibly dynamic. Today I can start being the parent I want to be. And if today does not go quite right, forgive myself again and start fresh tomorrow.
After all, kids learn from what we tell them, sure. But even more, they learn from what we do. So if I can do this, if I can forgive myself, well, then, my kids will likely learn to forgive themselves.
And that would truly be something worth passing along.
Brian Leaf is the author of twelve books including his newly released memoir, Misadventures of a Parenting Yogi: Cloth Diapers, Cosleeping, and My (Sometimes Successful) Quest for Conscious Parenting. You can find him online at www.MisadventuresofaYogi.com.