One of the biggest misconceptions of Conscious Parenting is that it’s permissive parenting. When in reality, the conscious parenting approach is nothing like permissive parenting. There are a number of benefits of conscious parenting, most notably a transformed parent-child relationship.
If you’ve been curious about non-traditional parenting styles, like gentle parenting, peaceful parenting, mindful parenting, attachment parenting, and yes, conscious parenting - but you’re afraid you’ll have a snotty brat who walks all over you - then keep reading.
I’ll bust some myths and lay out some truths…and from there, you can decide what style of parenting feels the best for you.
What is Conscious Parenting?
Put simply, conscious parenting is self-aware parenting. Parenting where you have control over your own emotions first.
This means that by seeing our children as our greatest teachers (a line made famous by Clinical Psychologist and founder of Conscious Parenting, Dr. Shefali Tsabary), we will have the opportunity to do the inner work that effective parenting requires us to do.
Each one of us goes into parenting with our own childhood stories to tell. These stories are blueprints for how we learn to understand our child’s needs. They are the foundation for our own sense of internal control.
These stories subconsciously inform our parenting choices.
When we choose to consciously parent our children, we shine a light on our upbringing. We examine the ways we were treated, and we ask ourselves:
What does this bring up for me now that I’m a parent?
This is where deep healing can happen. When we learn to reflect on our inner child’s thoughts, feelings, and needs, we stop acting out our inner child onto our kids.
Case in point:
Your child refuses to turn off the TV.
Instead of supporting your child into cooperation, you become domineering and aggressive: "Who do you think you are? I’m your parent! You better respect and obey me!"
An unconscious parent will stay stuck in feeling triggered. Literally, trapped in their own big feelings.
They will persist in making the trigger the child’s problem. Now, the child has to deal with the parent’s rage and frustration. All while not getting the understanding, guidance, and skills the child actually needs.
Grant it, I don’t know one parent who hasn’t had some unconscious moments. (Myself included) So let’s be real. You’re going to regret a lot of moments. Look for the rule… not the exception. And remember…keep going.
When you’re committed to becoming the conscious parent you never had, you might stop yourself in the moment. You’ll re-wind and try again: "Hey, it wasn’t okay to shout at you like that. I was feeling frustrated, and you’re not responsible for my feelings. It is your job, however, to find a way to work together. We discussed that the TV would shut off at this time. So you can turn it off, or I will turn it off. Your choice."
This is conscious parenting...embracing a mutual parent-with-child relationship.
It’s holding space for the emotions - both yours and your child’s.
It’s meeting everyone’s needs in the household - and knowing when and how to prioritize.
It’s responding to challenges in self-aware ways - or at least attempting to - to help your children learn those same skills.
It’s setting boundaries and holding them with compassion and respect - for all the important people in your life.
It’s about being humble - not perfect - in this process.
It’s about recognizing that good parenting happens from your knees, not your feet…and if you try to parent from your feet, eventually.. You will be knocked down to your knees like the rest of us.
Is Conscious Parenting The Same as Permissive Parenting?
The Permissive Parenting style usually involves a ton of warmth and nurturance but lacks healthy boundaries.
There's a good reason why parents fall into the permissive parenting trap. Many parents who give their kids too much permission were often raised with too tight of reigns.
So to unconsciously retaliate, they give their own children freedom…and end up going overboard.
Permissive parents often walk on eggshells around their children’s emotions. They are afraid of detonating the bomb that is their child’s next meltdown..and so they tip-toe on expectations, requests, and family obligations.
Usually, this feeds the parent’s resentment, sense of inadequacy, and deep feelings of ineffectiveness. Both conscious parenting and permissive parenting value WARMTH and NURTURING the child’s EMOTIONAL LIFE. This is about the only similarity.
True conscious parenting is high on demands - but without being demanding.
Here’s what that means:
You’re aware of what the child is capable of doing. And you also give them the space and grace to be human, stumble, and fall.
You hold your child to a high standard: I expect you to work hard and prioritize your learning at school.
Without becoming overbearing: If you choose not to do your homework, you will have to deal with whatever consequences you’ll face with your teacher.
A permissive parent would perhaps complete the homework for the child. An authoritarian parent would punish the child for not completing the homework. Both are considered forms of unconscious parenting.
Whereas a conscious parent would prepare the child to reflect on the potential impact of their choices, all while encouraging the child to put their best foot forward.
Benefits of Conscious Parenting
The benefits of Conscious Parenting are numerous. Because Conscious Parenting is a style of authoritative parenting that combines warmth, connection, structure, and boundaries, it is associated with superior child outcomes according to research.
Children raised in this conscious environment are more likely to develop independence skills and confidence with self-reliance. These children tend to have more social and academic success. Furthermore, it is well documented that children raised in authoritative environments have higher emotional intelligence and better behavioral self-management. And truly, don't doubt their parent's unconditional love.
It gets better. Children of being raised by conscious parents also report less depression and anxiety. There’s also a documented history of less delinquency, truancy, and drug use.
And these are just the child outcomes. I always say: we cannot parent solely for the benefit of the child.
But we must also parent for the evolution of our own social and emotional awareness. Healing the unresolved issues from our childhood experiences is one of the most vital benefits of conscious parenting.
For example, if you were spanked as a child, and you experienced a lot of shame as a result of constantly being punished by your parents, you may find yourself feeling triggered by your child’s misbehavior.
Recognizing how those spankings and punishments harmed you as a child gives you a chance to recognize your child’s misbehavior as simply an expression of a child who is still learning.
…not a child who is intentionally trying to aggravate you.
…not a child who needs to learn their lesson.
Remember this: Children are mirrors of their parents. So, listen to what they're trying to teach you.
By responding to the need beneath the behavior while also holding whatever limit is necessary…And while honoring the hurt and pain you’ve repressed for decades…you have a chance to give your child a supported experience WHILE ALSO giving yourself a healing experience.
Yes, the inner work of conscious parenting can be heavy at times. Especially if you have a trauma history. But it’s work is worth your effort. You will feel more confident in meeting your own personal needs.
You will feel more connected to your child, because you will be able to consider your child’s thoughts, feelings, and needs with more ease.
You will have more success in navigating conflict with more emotional attunement and intelligence…and so will your kids.
Your children will trust that you are emotionally available to support them when they are scared or upset. Your teenage children will feel comfortable coming to you to share their challenges because they know they won’t be judged by you.
Everyone in the home will learn the art of loving boundaries - because they will be actively practiced as part of your family value system.
You will all benefit from mutual respect and masterful communication because this is something you will be nurturing and encouraging in your every day interactions.
Both you and your child will be furnished with the internal tools to regulate yourselves: problem-solving, critical thinking, logical reasoning, emotion coaching, empathy, and compassion by engaging in a conscious parenting practice.
And remember: perfection is not necessary.
Kids do not require perfection. They require us to model how to mess up. How to get back onto the boat. How to keep going.
Concerns of Conscious Parenting
If a parent takes their own inner healing to such an extreme where they are not available for the needs of their children, this can be a potential attachment rupture that would need to be repaired.
Furthermore, conscious parenting isn’t easy. As the African proverb goes, "It takes a village to raise a child". For many modern parents, this village has never really existed, and so many parents can stress themselves out trying to parent the “right” way without having the necessary support to feel effective in doing so. (Make sure you read to the end of this article to learn how we can help you build your village).
Conscious parenting also has the potential to become elitist when parents use it as a way to elevate their social status and put down parents who parent differently. However, I would argue that by doing so, one would not actually be practicing conscious parenting. They would be living in their ego, which is the false self - a state of mind-conscious parenting vehemently exposes and deconstructs. Conscious parenting aims to shatter the ego and help parents integrate with their true, Authentic selves.
But probably the biggest concern of them all…is that it’s misunderstood. That it’s ineffective. That it’s impractical.
None of which are true.
It’s just that conscious parenting requires thoughtfulness, patience, and self-compassion. 3 key elements of conscious parenting that can be hard to access if you didn’t have them effectively modeled in childhood or didn’t learn them in young adulthood.
How to Become a Conscious Parent
Here are some key steps you can take today to become the conscious parent you never had.
Self-awareness: Start a meditation practice and start noticing your thoughts and feelings. Can you notice them without judgment? In a difficult moment with your kid, try pausing and asking yourself: “What is my reaction about for me personally? I’m feeling X…because…Y.”
Break cycles: You do not have to be beholden by whatever problematic or difficult issues you faced in childhood. Nor do you have to break every single cycle to be a good parent. Choose the top 2 most important issues that you want to change for your children, and take steps toward unlearning your conditioning so you can make space for something new.
Set boundaries: Every healthy relationship needs functional boundaries that allow two people to feel safe together. Boundaries are essentially the bridges that allow you to feel connected with others. If you’re a people pleaser who struggles with boundaries, my workshops will help you immensely.
Master communication: As you get better at reading your own cues and breaking cycles, you will begin to be gentler and more compassionate with yourself. This is essential for mastering conscious communication with your children. Conscious communication means you are curious about the underlying thoughts, feelings, and needs of those around you. Work hard not to take everything so personally, and ask yourself: “What might this behavior be trying to communicate to me?” From there, you can more effectively communicate and respond to your child.
What is Conscious Parenting: Recap
Conscious parenting is a parenting philosophy that encourages you to be in the present moment harboring self-awareness and self-control. The bigger picture, however, is that it promotes a safe, strong, and connected parent-to-child relationship.
If you want to go much deeper on your healing journey to become a more conscious parent, join the waitlist for my membership, The Conscious Mommy Community. This is my brand new community where like-minded parents will come together to support one another, embrace the conscious parenting philosophy, and heal from their past hurts so they can show up as the conscious parent they never had.