Conscious parenting has little to do with tactics and strategies of parenting. The focus of conscious parenting is not on the child in front of you; it is on the child you once were. We tend to reach adulthood with some unhealed pain from the past. Some of it we know, some of it is unconscious and buried. All of it, however, is controlling the way we parent our children. The way to consciously raise your child is to become acutely aware of your own inner child’s needs so that your actual child does not carry that burden.
We all have unmet and realized dreams, and if we don’t stay aware, we can try and force our children to meet our unmet goals or repeat our successes. This idea of putting our dreams into our child’s life is pervasive; we don’t want them to make the same mistakes we did, or we want them to achieve those things we accomplished. By assuming we know what is best for our child, we stop seeing our child for who they are and see them as players in our movie. They have come with their own goals and passions. The best gift we can give is to back away and allow their true unique selves to emerge without the interference of our childhood dreams. If we go another step back, our accomplishments and unmet dreams may have also come from our parents. And so, the cycle of inauthenticity continues.
When we are little, our parents had ideas for us. They thought they knew the path to success for us; they knew what a good trait was and what a lousy quality was. So they steered and disciplined us to be formed into their idea of a successful adult. All the while well-intended, this has a detrimental impact on the child.
Children have two fundamental desires: to be loved and to be authentic. Love supersedes authenticity so that they will give up their authenticity for love. Parental love is such an important driving factor for a child, and children learn very early on what ideas their parents think are good or “lovable” traits and which are “bad” or unlovable traits.
So children have two choices if they want to continue to receive love from their parents. They either learn to please their parents, give up their authentic parts that the parents don’t like, or learn to rebel and give up getting love from the parents to hold onto their authenticity.
Children who are pleasers are so easy to raise. They do as you ask. They tend to do well in school, conformists and make parents look like they are doing a great parenting job. However, the trouble with pleasers is they abandon their true selves in a quest for love from their parents. While this is easy for the parent, as adults, they tend to obey their partner, be subservient, tend always seek love and validation through external sources: people and things. This idea in conscious parenting is called the lost self, as pleaser children who turn adults rarely really know who they are or know-how to stand up for themselves.
The other extreme is the rebel. Children who rebel against their parents do so in an attempt to hold onto their genuine authenticity, but furthermore, end up using their rebellious nature as a way to find their place in the world. They feel rejected from their parents’ love and seek to fill that void by being unique in their way. While this is closer to an authentic self than a pleaser, rebels also lack that self-love.
So how do we avoid raising our children towards either of these extremes? Easier said than done, by allowing their true selves to emerge and see them for who they indeed are; this is where conscious re-parenting of ourselves comes into play.
Firstly, we cannot see our children for who they are if we cannot see ourselves. If we feel not good enough in our lives, we can take an inventory of ourselves and heal where we do not feel good enough.
We also can check and see what part of ourselves was a pleaser or a rebel to our parents. We can look at how we can heal these parts of ourselves that got imposed on by someone else’s opinions.
This parenting role comes with so many ideals and pressure. It is not acceptable to merely play a sport anymore; now, we must move our children up the competitive ladder, have them go to tutors, achieve excellence in school, be the best at everything. These cultural lies put so much pressure on parents to control their kids and on children to perform to unattainable standards. To learn to relax, allow our children to be average healthy, happy kids, we can start to question these ideas of perfection that we are trying to follow.
To consciously parent yourself so that you can show up in the most authentic way possible for your children, I invite you to ask yourself a few questions:
Did you become an achiever? A peacemaker? A sporty one? A rule follower? The responsible one? The helpful one? Or did you not get the love you needed by being the rule breaker? The challenge in school? In trouble with the law? When you look at your motivation for your choices, you will see what some of your preferences were not yours but rather your attempt at getting love. These severed parts of yourself control your parenting and affect what you will and will not accept and love in your children.
This one is a universal question. We decided we are not enough at some point in our young lives, and we compensated for this somehow. If you feel like you don’t make enough money, aren’t attractive enough, aren’t smart enough, whatever your ‘not enough’ flavour is, I invite you to let it go. Sometimes we overachieve, over please, overdo, in attempts to feel like we are enough. We keep seeking those promotions, the bigger home, more of something, only to find after a while, we are right back looking at how we can improve again.
We can only see them through how much love and acceptance we have for ourselves. Give yourself some grace, accept that NO ONE is perfect at anything and everything and let yourself be a flawed, ordinary human being. Total self-acceptance is by far the most significant example we can set for our children. If I look in the mirror and point out my cellulite, trust me, my children can learn self-criticism very quickly. It may not be in the same form, but they will show it in some area of their own lives. With media embellishing beauty and status, we need more than ever to hold a space of honouring the ordinariness of ourselves in our homes.
If you hold yourself on the hook for errors you made decades or even weeks ago, your children will learn to be hard on themselves too. Give yourself unconditional love and acceptance. Give yourself a break. We ALL make mistakes, and they are part of life. If you are kind and forgiving to yourself for mistakes you made in the past, your children will learn to allow imperfection also.
The past and future will always come to your mind. That is okay, as long as you don’t let it control your mind. Breathing, finding presence at this moment, will bring you back to this present moment. It has the potential to heal your past and have your future feel exciting. It is worth working towards a mindful current state. And when you notice you have slipped into the past or future, just see and bring yourself back.
As you reparent yourself over time, you will start to notice that some of the ways you parent your child may not be true to you. As I went along this conscious parenting journey and continue to deconstruct things, I notice that some of my beliefs about what is right and wrong we adopted from my past condition or culture and aren’t true to me. As you become more authentic to yourself, your authentic voice as a parent will emerge. As you release your past and see your motives, you can create for yourself the boundaries and connections you want to have with your children. Our conditioning can cloud our view. Once we see it more clearly, we can have some freedom and playfulness in our own families, and that is where the family we’ve always wanted will begin to emerge.