How To Parent Consciously
“Your purpose as a parent is to create the conditions for your child to thrive. This means we parent our children as our children are, not as we might wish them to be.”
Dr. Shefali Tsabary, The Conscious Parent
Sometimes I read something, and it smacks me in the face and forces me to take a long, hard look at myself. When my 18 month old had her first meltdown, I was mortified. I froze and thought, “What did I do wrong?” Instead of seeing this as a normal toddler reaction, I immediately made it a story about me. It was this episode that made me realize so much of the agony I faced as a new parent has been from my unconscious expectations of myself and my daughter. The problem with expectations is they are are not grounded in reality. As a result, I struggled to truly be there for my daughter when I was disconnected from the present and from myself.
So what does it mean to be a conscious parent? My takeaways boil down to a few things:
- Letting go
Whether it’s sitting in a therapy session or watching your mom and realizing “Oh my god, I’m exactly like her,” we all have baggage from our childhood we carry with us. My concept of self worth has always been tied to my list of achievements and what other people think. Now as I watch my 18-month-old daughter grow, I’m conscious of her internalizing these ideas as well. Letting go of my ideas of being a “perfect mom” is critical to creating an authentic connection with my daughter and with myself. This allows me to make mistakes, embrace opportunities for growth, and be a bit more light-hearted along the way.
“It is what it is.” My daughter is definitely her own spirit and not a “mini me” in any way. Exhibit A: She whines and says “no no mama” when I play my favorite country music playlist; she loves Red Hot Chili Peppers and EDM songs with heavy bass and snare. She’s also quiet and observant in new situations, and while I used to apologize for her lack of engagement and not wanting to high-five my friends, I realize this is just how she is. At her 12 month check-up her pediatrician was amazed she knew 10 words while kids her age typically have about 3. When I chalked it up to daycare and her exposure to other kids, the doctor looked at me and said, “No mom, it’s her. She’s amazing.” Her comment brought tears to my eyes. I acknowledge her for exactly who she is, and I will never again downplay her greatness. I see you, sweet girl, I truly do.
At 18 months, my daughter is learning to test her limits (and mine!). She’s forcing me to draw my boundaries and be a leader to help her thrive. Last week, she was having a tantrum, and I just about lost it. I put her down, went into the bathroom, and shut the door, leaving her screeching on the other side with my husband. While this was not one of my proudest moments, it definitely proved I have to take care of myself, physically and mentally, to be fully present for her. Because it’s easier said than done, it is my constant practice, and I have made it a priority.
So how do we parent more consciously? Here are a couple strategies I’ve begun to practice on a daily/weekly basis:
- Meditation – My spiritual practice is paramount to staying unruffled during epic meltdowns. I do a 10 minute meditation when I’m really on my game, but mostly, I try to take a few deep breaths throughout the day. My daughter has learned to take deep breaths with me too!
- Gratitude Journal – I write down 3 moments I’m grateful for every night before bed and reflect on all the positive in my life. Most of my list consists of simple joys such as “stopping to smell rosemary and jasmine on our walk.”
- Me Time – I’ve committed to working out regularly (3x a week) during my lunch hour to maximize my time with my daughter before/after work. On weekends, my husband gets daddy time while I go for a swim at Barton Springs.
- Sleep – I am not my best self when I don’t take care of my basic needs, and sleep is paramount to my ability to function at my best. I set an alert on my phone to go to bed and get at least 7.5 hours of sleep a night.
Conscious parenting may seem like a hippy dippy concept in theory, but in today’s climate, there’s an obvious trend towards authentic connection and acknowledgment of our humanity – flaws and all. To be conscious means to be aware – our thoughts, actions, and language have a deep impact on the people closest to us, our kids. Our children are here to awaken us to our truth so we can be the best version of ourselves. We deserve this, and so do they.