As Mother’s Day nears, I find myself thinking of my journey as a mom and how much I’ve learned from my kids over the years. As I’ve shared in previous newsletters, I believe that the key to having healthy, harmonious relationships is becoming aware of ourselves and understanding how we affect the people in our lives. In order to change any relationship, we must focus on changing ourselves. In no other relationship is this more true than in our relationships with our children.
For the past several years, I’ve been experimenting with a new approach to parenting. I learned about this approach from Dr. Shefali Tsabary, author of 3 groundbreaking and revolutionary books on parenting, The Conscious Parent, Out of Control and The Awakened Family. In her books, Dr. Shefali explains that there’s a new paradigm for parenting.
The old parenting paradigm is fear-based – we seek to dominate and control our children, even if it means they become fearful of us as their parents. This paradigm views children as blank slates, and our role as parents is to mold our children into the people we want them to become. We want our children to become better versions of ourselves and to have the opportunities we wish we’d had. We want them to have all our strengths and none of our weaknesses. We mold them to fit our needs. In this approach, children often lose touch with who they truly are because they are seeking to meet their parents’ needs and wishes.
The new paradigm sees children coming into this world with their own unique personalities, their own strengths and weaknesses, and their own purpose to discover. In this paradigm, it is not our job to mold and shape them, but to support them and allow them to become who they’re inherently meant to be. We tailor our raising of them to fit their needs. We know that the punishment model of parenting doesn’t work for long term success. With this approach, children are encouraged to stay connected to their authentic selves.
In the old paradigm, parents are driven by ego. We view the parent as the superior being – we are meant to control our children and teach them all they need to know. In the new paradigm, we know that we are spiritually equal – that our children are here to teach us as much as we are to teach them. We see that their purpose is to help us evolve into the parents we’re meant to become.
When we make the shift from the old paradigm to the new, we are invited to look within and become aware of ourselves. We are asked to become conscious of our energy, our thoughts, our egos, and our beliefs, as well as to gain control of our actions and our reactions. The focus shifts from fixing our children to healing ourselves.
As I’ve become conscious of these paradigms, I’ve made shifts in the way I view motherhood and in the way I parent. There are so many examples that come to mind, but here are two specific ones:
When my son was a toddler, he went through a phase of having temper tantrums. Being a new parent, I didn’t have a plan for how to handle these and I often reacted in anger, giving punishments in effort to control his behavior. After a while, I realized that when I was angry, my son reacted to my anger and his fits got bigger. I also noticed that the more I punished him, the more frequent his tantrums seemed to come. I started experimenting with how I handled these. I worked on remaining calm during his storms and discovered that they passed more quickly. I started asking him if he needed a hug, and this seemed to stop the tantrum in its tracks. I constantly looked for good things that he was doing so I could point them out to him to change the focus on his bad behavior to his good behavior. I fully believe that shifting my energy, reaction and focus limited his tantrums and our conflicts during that time.
When my daughter was 5, she was invited to join a competitive gymnastics team. To me, this seemed like a dream. As a child, I loved gymnastics and would have relished an opportunity like that. I chose to have my daughter join the team, which meant that she had long practices several times a week. After a few months, my daughter started to have lots of melt-downs. She was tired, and she wanted to stay at home and play instead of going to gymnastics. If I had stayed in my ego, I likely would have made her continue with gymnastics. Instead, I realized that my wish for her to be on the team was based on my own childhood desires, and not her own wants and needs in her life. As soon as I removed her from the team, she became her happy, playful self again.
Though it may seem like this approach lends itself to a lack of discipline, the opposite is actually true. As parents, we are asked to be very clear on our boundaries and the reasons behind our requests. The focus moves from the parent controlling the child to the child learning self-discipline, listening to their own inner voice to make right choices.
I want to clarify that practicing Dr. Shefali’s approach to conscious parenting does not mean that all challenges go away or that you become a perfect parent! I make mistakes every day, and new challenges arise as my kids continue to grow. What this new approach has done for me is to allow my relationships with my children to flow more easily. We experience much more connection than we do conflict. We have fewer power struggles and much more peace. I feel that I’m able to enjoy their unique personalities because I’m not trying to control their behavior. Instead, I’m open to learning about myself through them. Most importantly, I’m able to feel immense gratitude that I get to experience this beautiful journey of motherhood.
Even if you don’t have children, recognizing these paradigms can still benefit you. It can help you understand the way you were parented and possibly the ways in which you lost touch with your own inner voice. This understanding can be a catalyst to lead you back to your authentic self.
In my next few newsletters, I’ll share some of Dr. Shefali’s steps to shifting to the new paradigm of conscious parenting. I hope that you’ll find her suggestions as life-altering as I have.
Love and light,