As a therapist and mother, I believe that all parents long to feel more deeply connected to their child and that can seem so difficult at times. Parenting is the only job in the world that is unpaid, amazing, rewarding and challenging all at the same. In fact, a lot of times it tends to be the most challenging for me when I am exhausted or stressed myself and cannot be mentally present for my daughter. That is why I believe whole heartedly in the idea of working on being more intentional in my parenting or what some parenting experts call conscious parenting. According to an article on BetterUp by Allaya Cooks-Campbell: “Conscious parenting is a child-rearing philosophy that encourages parents to make mindful, emotionally intelligent decisions in raising their children… parents are taught to manage their own behavior, thoughts, and feelings first and foremost.”
The whole idea behind conscious parenting is first recognizing how we as parents are showing up in our interactions with our children and being curious about what is causing that in ourselves. Whether we initially realize it or not, our life experiences shape how we respond to things, either consciously or unconsciously. If we are not aware of our own responses and do not work on ourselves first, we can repeat patterns that were taught to us or even our own childhood traumatic experiences. This is not to say that this always happens and that is necessarily anyone’s fault, however, recognizing where we are mentally and how that may be influenced by our own upbringing is so important. The more in tune we are with our own emotions and experiences, the more intentional we can be with our children.
In order to parent more intentionally with my daughter, I have learned that I must work on being present in the moment with my child and make sure that I am trying to first regulate my own emotions. This awareness continually takes lot of practice and it can be helpful to do your own therapy work in this as well to look into what is bringing up these emotions. Then once you learn more of your own triggers for your children (crying, whining, talking back, etc.) & what is going on with you (like a history of being told not to show emotions for example) you can be more effective as a parent. While this is ultimately a longer process than some traditional parenting techniques (like time outs or authoritarian parenting), there are a lot of benefits from conscious parenting. Some of the research on conscious parenting found that there is ultimately better communication between the parent and their child as well as improved mindfulness and emotional intelligence in children. Most importantly, this should ultimately lead to a better connection between a parent and their child. Below are a list of key elements of conscious parenting or guidelines on how to become a conscious parent from the BetterUp article including:
1. Talk to your kids.
The next time your kids do something “wrong,” take a moment before you hand out the punishment. Ask them to explain what happened. It may not change the consequences, but it will make them feel more heard.
2. Do the Inner Work
Conscious parenting means being aware of your own emotional hurts and parenting yourself, first and foremost. In taking time for reflection, you’ll become aware of your patterns and how they impact your parenting style. Working with a coach (or therapist) — especially one that specializes in working parents — can help you stay calm and centered.
3. Set clear boundaries
Don’t think that conscious parents just let their kids do whatever they want. Part of this parenting style is communicating what is acceptable and why. When your children violate a boundary, reinforce it. Remind them that what they did isn’t okay and why.
4. Accept how things are
New parents — especially type-A parents — often have a hard time accepting the messiness and unpredictability of parenting. Your kids are individuals, whether you love it or not — but you can love them no matter what. Accept that while things may not be perfect, they are what they are, and move forward without making the situation, your kids, or yourself wrong for it.
While the whole idea of conscious parenting may be new to you, I would encourage you that you can take steps towards it today by recognizing your own emotions and how you are showing up as a parent. I think you’ll be amazed as you reflect and learn more about yourself and notice how small changes can affect yourself and your whole family dynamics. I hope that you have an intentional year of parenting!
Lindsay Doten, MSW, LGSW
Individual & Family Therapist
Lakes Center for Youth & Families
Cooks-Campbell, A. (n.d.). Conscious parenting: Raise your children by parenting yourself. BetterUp. Retrieved December 20, 2021, from https://www.betterup.com/blog/conscious-parenting#:~:text=Conscious%20parenting%20places%20a%20high%20value%20on%20communication,age%20helps%20to%20boost%20cognitive%20skills%20and%20reasoning.