Conscious parenting is parenting with the end result you have in mind for your child. I believe every parent wants a well-adjusted, responsible, compassionate child who, as an adult, has reasonable good sense and empathy.
Start With That Goal in Mind From the Beginning
Babies come to us as totally dependent creatures with only one skill…the ability to let us know when they are hungry, in pain, or uncomfortable. Their needs are to be fed, warm, dry and cuddled. This stage is demanding for any caring parent, but those needs are easy to meet compared with parenting an adventurous toddler or challenging teenager!
A Well-Adjusted Adult Begins in The Beginning
I define well-adjusted as having confidence in her skills, and potential for achievement. It also includes the security that comes when one knows he is loved. Because this human has been taught rules to successfully navigate social environments, (such as courtesies common in his culture) while also being reassured of his intrinsic value) he recovers from failures. He sees failures as a normal part of the learning process.
A well-adjusted adult emerges when a child is given love, discipline and empathy in equal measures. Discipline is firm and predictable, without being harsh and judgmental. Consequences are experienced as a normal result of choices…either good or bad. Parents are trusted as authorities, but also sources of fun and companionship.
A Responsible Adult Begins Near the Beginning
A baby cannot feed and cloth herself. That responsibility is not appropriate to expect at that age. But a two-year-old can help you put her toys away at the end of a playtime. Most five-year-olds can dress themselves. An eight-year-old can set the table for dinner or clear it afterwards. A twelve-year-old can do his own laundry and take out the trash, Somewhere in the eight to twelve range, a child can be responsible to remember homework assignments and sports equipment when they leave for school…and suffer the consequences if forgotten.
One of the toughest things about being a conscious parent is allowing your child to make choices that you know will lead to pain. Moderate painful consequences is an invaluable tool for learning. Yet, some choices have to be blocked because the potential for life-altering pain is too great…such as diving off of a cliff into unexplored water. Breaking one’s neck is not a life lesson you’d want your child to learn the hard way. So teaching reasonable caution has to be balanced with allowing some painful lessons.
The Challenge of Social Media for Kids
Today one of the areas requiring the most wisdom from parents is managing social media. The positive potential for a supportive community is there, but helping a child learn to be discreet about what is appropriate to share and what isn’t, is part of the responsibility of having a social media account. Many parents I know allow the social media but only if they have total access to monitor and use it as a teaching tool.
A Compassionate Adult Begins Near the Beginning
I was present when my grandson’s class of fellow eight-year-olds was enjoying his home’s backyard for a party. He had a trampoline which he enjoyed and was confident in using. A friend of his climbed up onto the trampoline, but was uncomfortable with the feeling of instability. Nick saw his discomfort and said to his friend, “It’s OK. We can do something else.” Nick demonstrated compassion for his friend’s lack of confidence and responded with another alternative, rather than belittling or embarrassing his friend.
Empathy is a skill that can be learned, even at a very young age. My friend was taking her three-year-old to pick up some toys advertised as “free.” Her son was excited about getting new toys, but decided that he wouldn’t take all that was offered because another kid might be sad that there weren’t any left. Empathy in action!
There is No Perfect Parent
I was far from a perfect parent! I did a lot of things very well, and also made a ton of mistakes. But every day of my life as a parent I did the best I knew how to do at the time.
I love my daughter-in-law’s philosophy, She says, “Our parents did the best they could, and we’ve done our best to be better parents in areas they may have been lacking. Now that our kids are adults, it’s their job to recover from whatever our failures may have been. I refuse to feel regret or guilt. We always did the best we knew how to do. And I like the responsible, caring adults that they have become.”
My friend Elisabeth Stitt teaches joyful parenting methods. Simple changes can make a huge difference in reducing the amount of stress you have around parenting. You may benefit from her coaching or newsletters. Many of my clients have found that implementing House Rules with predictable consequences has reduced the drama around parenting children from toddlers to teenagers. Email me to ask for a copy of House Rules instructions.
There is no more difficult job than bringing a child from infancy to well-adjusted, responsible and compassionate adulthood.
You have my love and support,