What is Conscious Parenting?
Conscious parenting requires you to step outside the traditional box of parental thinking and reframe everything you thought you knew about how kids learn and what they need to grow into mature, responsible adults! Conscious parents engage and connect with their children using emotionally intelligent discipline choices rather than punitive methods because the brain thrives on connection and empathy. We are intentional in pursuing personal growth and development (parent and child), as well as learning non-violent, positive discipline strategies in order to raise emotionally-well children without breaking their spirit.
But what IS Conscious Parenting?
Let me first say what it isn’t. Conscious parenting isn’t permissive parenting. Our kids aren’t out in these streets cursing us out and hitting us while we smile and gently ask them to stop. It’s always a bit maddening that the first response to “I’m not spanking my child.” is “Well, you can’t let them run over you. You have to discipline them.”
Despite what the world would have you to believe, it is completely possible to discipline your child without shame and violence. I’ll go into details about that in a little bit. For now, let’s break down the principles of Conscious parenting.
Conscious Parenting Focuses on Three Things…
- Controlling the Environment
(Child-proofing your home so your curious 1 year old can’t touch dangerous things instead of popping her hand when she does)
- Emotional regulation of the parent
(Deep breaths. A calm voice)
- Connection with the Child (Because the greatest influence on behavior is emotional connection)
So, how is conscious parenting different from all these other styles of positive parenting? It’s pretty much the same but with a much larger focus on the parent, being mindful of our mood, mindset, and triggers. It’s a complete mindset shift for the parenting style most of us grew up with.
“The more we hone this ability to meet life in a neutral state, without attributing “goodness” or “badness” to what we are encountering, but simply accepting its as-is-ness, the less our need to interpret every dynamic as if it were about us. Our children can then have their tantrums without triggering us, and we can correct their behavior without dumping on them our own residual resentment, guilt, fear, or distrust.” ― Shefali Tsabary
Here’s an example of this paradigm shift: Your teenager breaks the “no social media after 9pm” rule AGAIN for the 10th time.
When the usual persuasion tactics don’t work, you grow frustrated, because hell, it’s frustrating (your emotions are valid too). You threaten punishment (an attempt to control the child and the situation). You become angry. You yell. You threaten bigger punishments (“Give me your phone now or I take all your electronics for a week!) Let’s run through this scenario using the conscious parenting points above:
- Controlling the Environment
You set an alarm two alarms on your child’s phone, one for 8:50 pm (10 min warning) and one for 9:00 pm. You go into the room and retrieve the phone, instead of waiting for her to bring it to you.
- Emotional regulation of the parent
Instead of taking it personal that she keeps breaking the rule, you realize your child needs help controlling the impulse to be on social media after 9 pm. And although you’re frustrated that you have to go get the phone, you realize that doing so stops your child from breaking the rules, so you take a few deep breaths, get the phone, and end the night on a peaceful note
- Connection with the Child Even though turning the phone in is a non-negotiable rule, your child might still be pretty peeved at having to hand it over. This is where we take the time to empathize with them, let them know we understand their frustration at this rule, and reiterate that it isn’t a punishment, but a way to make sure they get enough sleep and aren’t tired in the morning. Then hugs all around. You can’t stop the frustration, but just allowing them to feel their feelings without judgment or shaming and encouraging them to talk about how they feel teaches them how to express their emotions and builds a bond between you.
Conscious Parenting is about bringing your awareness to the hidden fears or subconscious thoughts running in the background that may cause you to lash out in anger. When you can identify your triggers, they lose their power to control your behavior.
“I shouldn’t have to keep repeating myself over and over again. She should just do as she’s told!” You may be thinking. Well, maybe she’s just not capable of following that rule developmentally, which means it has nothing to do with you
See, here is where we level-up when it comes to conscious parenting: We use a deep level of introspection and self-awareness to see that we are triggered, and then we ask ourselves WHY. And that’s the secret sauce. The WHY. Are you triggered because you expect you feel like your letting your child get off too easy? Or do you feel like she should just do what she’s told, no questions asked? Maybe you feel her inability to follow rules is a reflection of your parenting?
And because you did the work, you realize that the yelling is caused by your ego being bruised…. NOT because your child broke the rules. Conscious Parenting is the recognition that parenting is all about YOU. And your internal world. This mindset shift takes work. It isn’t easy, especially when you are tired from a long day and have no patience left. This is why becoming attuned to yourself is so important.
How we learn to respond or react to life is driven by our interactions with others and the patterns which are set up in early childhood form the basis of our future relationships – including the one we have with ourselves. As we mature, we collect, sort, and file away our emotional experience as reference points. The more you understand yourself…your moods, mindsets, fears, triggers, etc., the more likely you’ll be able to choose an empathetic and compassionate response over shame or violence. And when you consistently choose empathy and compassion over shame and violence, you deepen your child’s trust in the world and secure your influence as something to be regarded as safe and reliable. This cultivates the environment your child needs to develop and thrive – mentally, physically, and emotionally. And this is what sets conscious parenting apart from other parenting styles.
If this all seems a bit much, just start by doing these three things:
CHECK YOUR LANGUAGE
– is it sarcastic, cruel, degrading, impatient, callous or otherwise disconnecting in tone or attitude – verbally or non-verbally or is it kind, respectful, encouraging, and confident?
CHECK YOUR EXPECTATIONS
– is your request developmentally appropriate? How can you help your child? Can you control the environment to meet your needs w/out your child’s help?
CHECK YOUR SELF-REGULATION
– is your manner calm and confident? Are your limits set with kindness regardless of how your child reacts? Can you remain composed and non-argumentative even when your child is not?
You see what we are asking you to do here?
But what about discipline? How do they learn if you don’t punish them?
This is where the mindset shift from a traditional (power-based) view of parenting to a conscious (relational-based) view becomes so important. Conscious discipline brings the focus back to helping your child self-regulate, build skills – all while building strong bonds between you. Punishment, on the other hand, disconnects us from our children and emphasizes conditional love.
Many people use discipline and punishment interchangeably. But they are not synonyms.
Discipline and punishment are not the same thing.
Discipline is the practice of training someone to behave in accordance with rules or a code of behavior. To discipline means to teach. To teach is to show and explain how to do something. It focuses on teaching desirable future behavior. To punish is to inflict suffering for the past behavior. For many parents, punishing is the only way they know how to get results. I mean yelling, hitting, time out, taking things…they seem to get immediate results and curb undesirable behavior, right? Seem is the operative word here because not only does it not curb undesirable behavior, it can actually make things worse.
The statement – “Effective Discipline to Raise Healthy Children,” which was published in the December 2018 issue of Pediatrics – found that spanking and yelling fails to improve negative behavior in young children. Instead, it leads to increased aggression in the long run. Corporal punishment may also affect normal brain development by elevating stress hormones.
So, what’s left if hitting, popping, whopping, and yelling are out? Do we just let the kids run buck wild?
No…kids thrive off discipline and structure. They need them to feel loved and secure. But, you don’t have to make your kids feel physical or emotional pain to discipline them. The best tools in the conscious parenting box are natural and logical consequences.
Trust me ya’ll, it’s gonna feel counter intuitive to allow natural and logical consequences instead of inflicting punishments. Your first thought will be, “I can’t let them think they got away with this.” or “They are going to think they can walk all over me if I don’t nip this in the bud.” Here’s what you have to understand. Our kids are not purposely trying to manipulate us. They aren’t trying to hurt us when they act out. They’re just learning how to be humans and navigate through this world. Sometimes, they get it wrong. In those moments, they need our compassion and empathy, NOT our condemnation. Letting children experience the natural or logical consequences of their actions is one way to teach responsibility.
Conscious parenting isn’t the easy way to parent, but we think it’s the most effective and children are worth it! If you’re new to this style of parenting, click here to start learning more about conscious parenting and positive discipline—> Start Here to Learn More about Conscious Parenting