How can we be more conscious in our parenting endeavours, and what does it mean to parent more consciously?
Conscious parenting is really about thinking more mindfully about the way we engage with our children. What principles do we want carried in our home, and how do these principles unfold in the parent-child relationship?
Conscious parenting aims to focus on aspects like consistency, predictability and following through in parenthood. If we can ensure these things are in place, we are constantly communicating to our kids that their world is a safe and secure place, and they are safe to be who they are. Their emotional experiences and behaviours are never too much for us, as parents. We are able to hold and contain them regardless of how or what they feel. The irony is that the more we instil a consistent environment, and hold firm to the boundaries in place, the more freedom a child feels to express who they truly are, and what they truly feel. And even though this can at times manifest in behaviour that is ‘unmanageable or difficult,’ our children are feeling safe enough to expose their vulnerable sides. When this holding frame is not in place, children withdraw and feel ashamed of certain parts of themselves; and feel they cannot be shown. This can appear in so many different ways but may look like a child with anxiety, a child with aggressive outbursts, or even an extremely compliant child aiming for perfection. Our message should be clear, we accept you in your entirety, we love you as you are.
Our love should never be conditional, we don’t accept our kids only if they conform to our ways, or only if they behave in a certain way. Love is unconditional and shows acceptance of any emotion, but holding firm to the boundary of the manner in which this emotion is expressed. Yes, there may be behaviour that is unwanted, but we are clear about communicating how the behaviour is unwanted and can be addressed, rather than the feeling or experience itself. That distinction is key. In short, we say yes to the emotion and no to the behaviour.