There is no one way to be a perfect parent but a million ways to be a great one. What do you want for your kids? How do you want to be as a mom or dad? Our intentions as a parent are usually quite pure. We all generally do things because we love our kids. Whether those things we do land our kids in therapy or not depends on our parenting knowledge and self awareness. It depends on the amount of consciousness we’ve brought to ourselves, our past, and our own parenting journey. But it is not because our intentions are shitty or mean. What do I mean by that? Let’s just say that I have yet to meet a parent who sets out to screw their kid up. I have yet to meet a parent who says or does certain things to make their kid self-conscious or insecure. So why are so many kids floundering, insecure, or on meds? There are many reasons but a big one is that, while we may intend differently, we enter the journey of parenting naive and without much self reflection. We have an idea of how we want to parent and what we want our relationship with our child to be like but we don’t know how to model and act in ways that are in alignment with what we envision. This is what conscious parenting is all about.
This month, let’s commit to switch that. Let’s bring some awareness to our parenting and our living. To begin to switch, we must begin by approaching our parenting from a place of compassion. Compassion with ourselves and compassion with the other people in our lives who have influenced us and who influence our kids. We are all doing the best we can. Going back to the first picture and quote of this blog, I want to remind you that you’re doing the best you can. You will not help your kids if you try to change your parenting from a place of self-criticism and condemnation. Instead of judging yourself, your parents, or your spouse/co-parent, I encourage you to be curious. Whenever you can move from judgement to curiosity you will benefit. Look at how you are interacting with your kids from a place of curiosity instead of judgment. Remind yourself that your intentions are pure. You can’t fix something you didn’t know about. If you didn’t know that your way of parenting was cutting down your child’s confidence, how would you know to change it? Click To Tweet You don’t know any better until you know better. Commit to knowing better with curiosity. Keep an open mind when looking at why you parent how you do and you will grow faster and higher than if you judge and criticize yourself and your past.
Now that you are ready to look at how you parent through a lens of curiosity and kindness, ask yourself these questions:
-What bothers me about my child?
-Where do I wish they were different?
-What do I wish they’d do differently?
-What stresses me out about my kids?
As a parent, I continually come back to this truth: “If it bothers me, it’s about me”. What does this mean? Quite simple actually. It means that if something about my kid bothers me, it’s about me. I can see it as a sign that that’s an area where I can grow. [tweetshareinline tweet=”“To parent consciously, we have to become astute observers of our own behavior when we are with our children.” @DrShefali ” username=”SusieBarolo”] For example, if I was good at soccer and always regretted not trying out for the school team, how might that show up in my parenting? How might I parent when my daughter tells me she’s too nervous to try out for her third grade dance team? Yep, you’ve got it. And, as I push her into a situation where she’s uncomfortable and overrule her own inner voice telling her this isn’t the right choice for her right now, I will be excusing my behavior because “it’s what’s best for her”. BEEP – pause. You know what’s best for her? It’s best for her for me to realize what’s driving my behavior. It’s always in our kids best interest for us to manage our own emotional lives and to unpack my own unmet dreams and expectations. My un-met dreams and goals actually have nothing to do with her. I need to see my thoughts on her trying out for the team independent from my past issues. I am the adult and it is my duty to do the emotional work with myself instead of pushing it on her. I continually remind myself: the disfunction stops here!
At the base of my coaching as a Mindfulness-based Cognitive Coach is this widely-used thought model and emotional intelligence. I will briefly explain this thought model:
CIRCUMSTANCES (FACTS): There are certain things that happen in our lives. Those things are the circumstances or facts of our lives. They are the objective and unbiased truths of our lives. Everyone would agree that they are what they are. For example, I have 3 sons is a circumstance of my life. It’s a fact. I have 3 amazing sons is not a circumstance. That’s biased and everyone may not agree with me. I like to say that the circumstances or facts of our life could be proven in a court of law. It is raining is a fact. It’s going to be a bad day because it’s raining is not a fact.
THOUGHTS: We think thoughts about the circumstances or facts in our lives. Thoughts are sentences in our head and they are not necessarily true. We have between 60-80,000 thoughts a day and we get to choose which thoughts to focus on. Take the circumstance that it’s raining. I may choose to think that it’s going to be a bad day because it’s raining. That’s a thought but not a circumstance or fact.
FEELINGS: Depending on the thoughts we focus on, we will feel a certain way. Feelings are single words and are also called emotions. If I focus on the thought “today will be a bad day because it’s raining” I may feel discouraged or depressed.
ACTIONS: Our feelings lead us to certain actions in our lives. We either act, re-act, or in-act. If I think the thought: “Today will be a bad day because it’s raining” and feel discouraged, I may choose to lie on the couch and watch TV instead of doing what I had planned. (in-act).
RESULT: The actions (or inaction or reaction) I take will lead to a result in my life that always points back to the original thought I chose to focus on. In this case, me lying on the couch and not doing what I had planned to do leads to the result that today is a bad day (my original thought). Why does this matter and how can using this model impact everything? What if, when I saw the rain I chose to focus on the thought: “It’s raining, I won’t have to water the plants and so, will have so much more time today”, my feeling may be excitement which would lead to the action of doing everything I had planned for the day (and possibly even more!) with the result being my original thought: that I had so much more time that day.
Mindset matters in life and mindset matters in parenting. Back up to my daughter telling me she’s not trying out for the dance team (circumstance/fact). What if I focused on the thought: “What an independent child making her own decision based on her inner desires”? I’m going to feel a lot differently than if I choose to think: “If she doesn’t try out, she’ll spend her life disappointed and never amount to anything.”
While that is a big overview of the model and a generic situation, it illustrates two important pieces of parenting:
(1) It reinforces the knowledge that my kids can do whatever they are going to do and I can think what I want, feel what I want, and act how I want. I am responsible for my feelings, my actions, and my days. No one else can make me feel a certain way. No one else is in charge of my emotions or mood. Nor can any action by my kid “make” me feel a certain way.
(2) If my kids are bugging me, it’s because of the thoughts I’m choosing to think. If my daughter chooses to try out for the dance team or not, my thoughts about her action (the fact) will determine how I feel. If I think that she’s making a mistake I will feel and act in a certain way. If I think that she’s on her own path and will learn
So much of how we parent is because we want our kids to avoid pain or to learn a lesson we didn’t learn. This goes back to our intent in parenting. We want the best for them. It is great new that we are not intentionally trying to screw them up. Now, we get to do some work. Dig into the knowledge that they’re on their own path. Your child is a being on this earth and needs you to unpack your own baggage so she/he can be on her own journey.
Our children pay a heavy price when we lack consciousness. Overindulged, over-medicated, and over-labeled, many of them are unhappy. This is because, coming from unconsciousness ourselves, we bequeath to them our own unresolved need, unmet expectations, and frustrated dreams. Despite our best intentions, we enslave them to the emotional inheritance we received from our parents, binding them tot he debilitating legacy of ancestors past. Only through awareness can the cycle of pain that swirls in families end.” Dr. Shefali
If this resonates with you, please act. Consider this your alarm clock. Once you know better, you do better. No need to beat yourself up (or your parents or inlaws). We are all doing the best we can with the tools we have. That said, you’re the adult. Less advice, more action. Our kids need us to support them and to love them. They need us to model decision making, failing, and living. They do not need us to micromanage their lives or to try to control their lives so that we feel better. The next time something bothers you about your kid, instead of opening your mouth, open your journal and answer the following: What am I making this mean? Why am I upset? Why am I trying to control the outcome? How do I usually parent in these situations? What can I do differently?
Parenting is our opportunity to grow. When we look internally and learn about ourselves, our kids always benefit. Ever since I’ve let go of the belief that I am here to raise my children and view it more that they are here to raise me into the parent they need me to be, I’ve found freedom and a closeness with my sons that I never imagined.
Let’s go parents. We are the adults. It is time to leave old pains in the past and free our children for the life they are here to live.