What is Conscious Parenting?
Conscious Parenting is a revolutionary concept of parenting that focuses on the Parent and the practice of mindfulness in interaction with children. It is an amalgamation of Eastern Style Philosophy and Western Style Psychology bringing together the practice of meditation and self-reflection. This simply means that instead of trying to ‘fix’ the child a parent should try to look inwards to see how their actions or behavior is affecting the child. Conscious Parenting looks at nurturing an external and internal environment where your child is allowed to make the best decisions for themselves.
Key Elements of Conscious Parenting:
The two pillars of this philosophy are:
1. Self-Reflection for Parents: Parents need to acknowledge what triggers their own reaction to a situation. For example, do you find it hard to set boundaries for your child and try to over please him/her because of your own fear of being unloved or you lash out or manipulate your kids to compensate for your own issues. Awareness about how your children provoke you, will ideally make it easier to deal with issues objectively as they arise in the moment.
2. Boundaries instead of Discipline: When we set healthy boundaries for our children, it makes them feel secure just like connecting with them makes them feel safe. Be very clear in communicating “non-negotiable” boundaries, such as sleeping time, tidying up, and limiting screen time. If your child goes astray, then instead of time-outs, threats, and punishment which are ineffective in the long run try to reason, understand and empathize with the child. Along with setting clear boundaries, parents also need to be consistent in what they say and do. Children are quick to pick up on inconsistencies so if you are expecting your child to tidy up his/her room every night before going to sleep, you also have to ensure that you are also disciplined on that front. If your own room is untidy then the child will perceive the expectation for him to clean his room as ‘unfair’.
How to practice Conscious Parenting?
While it will take a long time to achieve the self-regulation and awareness needed to follow this method of parenting, here are a few tips to get you started on this journey. The three Rs for building a strong relationship with your child:
1. Right Language: When you converse with your child, check that your tone and attitude is respectful and encouraging. Check that the language that you are using is not insensitive, impatient, or sarcastic.
2. Realistic expectations: Take into account the child’s age, interests, ability and environment to set realistic expectations from him/her.
3. Reflection: Keep in check your reactions while responding to a situation. Is your manner calm and confident? Are you non-argumentative and composed when your child is not?
What Conscious Parents do differently?
1. Listen to your child: In your conversations focus more on listening to your child so that they feel valued. Ask them questions to understand their perspective and take their opinion on family choices like “What should we cook today?” or “Which movie would you want to watch this weekend?”
2. Don’t punish: When your child makes a mistake, opt for time-ins instead of time-outs. When your child is having a meltdown or throwing a tantrum, pacify them with a hug. Speak to them and try to understand the root cause of the problem.
3. Keep the larger picture in view: There will be instances of disobedience and indiscipline in children which can trigger a negative reaction in you. One of the key learnings of becoming a conscious parent is to keep in check one’s own emotions. All your dealings with your child should be based on the bigger picture of creating a bond with your child that is based on trust, love and empathy.
4. Communicating with your child: While communicating with your child, speak to him/her with respect and tone, as you would use with an adult. Whatever emotional cues the children pick up from your conversations, they will be using them in their interactions later in life.
5. Lead by example: We all have experienced that children learn more by imitating their elders rather than listening to them. If you want your child to eat healthy food, then you will have to lead the way and quit junk food, sweets etc. So instead of teaching them what to do, show it to them through your behaviour.
6. Fix a routine: Children thrive on schedule and routine. It’s easier for them to adjust and be ready for an activity when they know what is coming next. Also, having a daily routine for yourself and your children will lead to more harmony and reduced stress.
7. Unconditional Love: Make your children feel that you love them unconditionally even when they make mistakes. Correct your child’s behaviour but also let them know that they have your support so that they can be a better version of themselves.
Conscious Parenting is a wonderful philosophy that creates a harmonious environment for the child to thrive though there might be situations demanding use of other parenting techniques depending on the personalities of those involved and other parenting views. Most parents rely on a mix of parenting philosophies based on the age and personality of child and a complex combination of a lot of factors.