What do Oprah, Mindy Kaling, and Jessica Mulroney have in common besides being rich and famous with great wardrobes? They are all fans of Dr. Shefali Tsabary, an acclaimed clinical psychologist, international speaker, and a New York Times bestselling author.
In fact, Dr. Shefali’s book, The Conscious Parent, has been endorsed by Oprah as one of the most profound books on parenting she has ever read.
In reference to Dr. Shefali, OPRAH emphatically exclaims, “In the THIRTY years that I’ve been doing interviews, the best I’ve EVER heard!”
SOLD. Oprah? SOLD three times over.
So, when I found out that Dr. Shefali will be coming to Toronto later this month, I was one of the first to get tickets for her parenting workshop. I have read all her parenting books and have been fortunate enough to take a course with Dr. Shefali, which has transformed my life. While I'm still a work in progress like all parents, I can truthfully say that I am a different parent than I was before I began her course.
To be given the opportunity to speak to her personally has been on my bucket list and recently, it became a reality. And what she has to say isn't something you hear everyday. Her tip for being a better parent? Love your children a little less.
Let's start from the beginning.
Gurpreet: Okay, let's begin with something you've said that sounds awfully controversial. Love your children a little less! Um, care to explain?
Dr. Shefali: There is no doubt that parents love their children! The problem arises when this love is tinged with possession over the child. When a parent believes that their child is ‘theirs’, then they don't have any compunction infusing their love with control and ownership. The child then feels stifled and pupeteered. Although the parent is acting from a place of love, the child primarily feels controlled. It is for this reason I ask parents to ‘love’ their children less. While this doesn’t mean to feel less connection, it does mean to infuse their love with consciousness so that the parent is aware of when they are trying to dominate or mold their children to follow their expectations of who they should be.
Gurpreet: Yes, I can understand that. In a simplified manner, it seems that you believe we need to allow our children to be true to themselves. And then the question becomes, how does one do that in today's complicated world?!
Dr. Shefali: It’s not easy for sure. We are all distracted by so much cultural pressure and noise. If we can just set the INTENTION to allow our children to be their own unique beings, then we would at least attempt to create the space for this to occur with some degree of consistency. When our focus is on CONNECTION to our children in their essence - especially during their early years - we build our schedules and activities around this basic vision. CONNECTION then, is the predicator of the activity - especially in the early years - as opposed to success or achievement. This setting of the intention requires that the parent lives an attuned and connected life themselves. When they live their own lives in a manner that is true, it is easier to pave the path for their children to do so as well.
Gurpreet: This is essentially the dominant theme in your concept of CONSCIOUS PARENTING and so, let’s take it back to that. I’d love to hear what the embodiment of a conscious parent means to you?
Dr. Shefali: A conscious parent is one who is on the path of raising themselves into higher states of evolution. What this means is that they realize they have emotional wounds from childhood that they need to attend to and heal. This might involve a daily meditation practice as well as consistent therapeutic interventions to delve into their past to uncover the roots of their psychological triggers. A conscious parent is aware that as they heal themselves into wholeness, they will be more aware, attuned and connected when raising their children. In essence, the conscious parent realizes that the person they need to raise is themselves. Once they do, their children will absorb the lessons they need to learn from them.
Gurpreet: You often refer to these emotional wounds from the past as our emotional legacy. Please help us understand, in more detail, what that refers to?
Dr. Shefali: Each one of us is conditioned by our first emotional environments. Our parents’ ways of being and their connection to us influences us deeply. In addition, we are influenced by the culture around us as well. Both these influences - our parents and culture - lodge themselves as emotional stories or legacies and influence our ways of being in the world. Our later relationships and behaviours pattern themselves on these legacies and deeply influence how we are in the world. The process of becoming conscious involves understanding these patterns and learning to choose which ones to implement with wisdom and discernment.
Gurpreet: Expanding on that, your work speaks to many parents in regards to being respectful and loving to not only their children but to themselves as well. How does one take care of themselves when life seems so busy just taking care of the family?
Dr. Shefali: Life is busy, yes, but a lot of this busyness comes from a compulsion and obsession dictated by outer forces. Most of us live lives to please others and to gain validation from others. It is only when we turn inward and begin to attune to our deepest inner voice that we will tailor a more simple life. If we were truly honest with ourselves, we would admit that much of our busyness comes from distractions, or the desire to fit in, or the compulsion to belong, or the neediness to gain validation from others. All of these needs need to be met by the inner spirit and can never be met from the outside. As we fill these inner needs on our own, our life simplifies naturally.
Gurpreet: That is profound! Ourselves aside, how do we empower our children to live THEIR best lives?
Dr. Shefali: When we accept them for who it is they are we give them the message that they are worthy of our love and attention. This, in itself, empowers them to believe in themselves and follow their natural expression of who it is they are. This doesn’t mean they will not stumble and flail. It just means they will believe in themselves and have the freedom to discover who it is they are in this adventure called life.
Gurpreet: This quite naturally leads us to the question of bullying. We want our children to be themselves but in doing so, how do we deal with the insurgence of bullying that takes place today?
Dr. Shefali: It is not an easy task, especially given the influence of social media. Our children are facing an influx of complex pressures that often we don’t even have awareness of. The best thing we can do is provide a safe and attuned space where they feel comfortable coming to us with their problems and confiding to us. While we cannot fully control or prevent what happens to our children in the outer, social world, we can mitigate its harsh effects by fostering a close and connected bond with them in the home.
Gurpreet: This question is more personal for me as I just gave birth to my third daughter in August. What do you believe specifically that we, as mothers, need to teach our daughters? What advice do you have for mothers of daughters in other words?
Dr. Shefali: We mothers have an emotional imperative to teach our daughters to be whole from within. Therefore, this is something we need to work on in our own lives. This means that we embrace a sense of worth and completeness in our own lives. We dismantle our own inner critics and perfectionists and learn to holistically accept who it is we already are. As our daughters watch us, they too will give themselves the permission to be who it is they truly are, without the desire to fix or deny themselves.
Gurpreet: You say that we must teach our children to be whole from within. This seems in direct contradiction to something I’ve heard you say in previous interviews and which is quite provocative, in that parenting is not about raising happy children! What do you mean when you say that?
Dr. Shefali: We want nothing more for our children than that they be happy. Yet, few of us know what this really means or what the path could be to achieve this. While it is a wonderful sentient to desire that all beings be happy, we must be aware that this is something that cannot be imposed or wished on another. Happiness is a state of being that emerges from deep within the individual and often is discovered through a process of pain. It is for this reason, desiring happiness for our children is not a simple endeavour.
Instead of desiring to raise happy children, I challenge parents to endeavour to raise authentic children who are driven by their own internal thermometer and compass. These children are in touch with their feelings and know how to ask for their needs. They are also allowed to experience painful feelings and metabolize these feelings in their own unique way. The parent doesn’t control how their children experience their experiences and allows them to feel their feelings, however painful. It is through this awareness that the child realizes that happiness is about the experience and expression of authenticity. The child realizes that happiness is a deep state of awareness and not something on the surface or externally derived.
Gurpreet: Those are powerful words. And make so much sense! But I can’t see parents coming to that kind of realization without a gentle push. That’s why your books are so important for parents to read. Speaking of your books, please explain the concept of an awakened family as you write about in your latest one?
Dr. Shefali: In essence, all of the world is a family and everyone we encounter is part of this family. No one is separate from this collective. An awakened world or family is one where the rights, dignity and sovereignty of all is respected and honoured. Of course, this can only occur when we honour these elements within ourselves. Therefore, an awakened family or collective, first begins with an awakened individual. When each singular individual awakens, the collective does the same.
Gurpreet: That sounds beautiful and revolutionary. What is your ultimate hope for the future of families?
Dr. Shefali: If I were to project into a vision for the future, it would involve a move away from this intensely rigid, competitive, nuclear-family, achievement-oriented system we currently have into more collective living where connections with community is restored and life is lived with a deep belonging in nature.
Gurpreet: That sounds like the kind of world we need! Thank you, Dr. Shefali. It’s been amazing to be able to speak to you. I cannot wait for your parenting workshop in Toronto and feel so fortunate to be able to hear you speak in our city. I know the parents who attend will be blown away by your guidance and wisdom!
Tickets can still be bought for Dr. Shefali’s first parenting workshop in Toronto at https://drshefali.com/toronto/. It is being held on Sunday, September 30, 2018 at the Isabel Bader Theatre at 6:00 pm. Parents will learn how to stop struggling and find more joy in parenting; how to raise more motivated, empowered resilient, and aware children; how to deal with your controlling child; and so much more. It is an event parents can't afford to miss.