Conscious Parenting.

Pregnancy is the perfect time to consider creating conscious choices for a long, healthy and whole life together. Though at times it is hard to think about life beyond the birth, this is what conscious parenting is all about. It is forward thinking – and thinking forward. It is not just doing things because your mother or your best friend or all the people you know did or do. It is thinking beyond the box, or rather, looking deeper, into what resonates true for you – what feels right. From researching choices concerning your child’s education, to parenting styles and philosophies, to creating a safe and healthy environment, pregnancy provides a great prompt for discovering options for how you will choose to raise your child and create your family.

What if we taught our children the most important lessons of all? What if we taught them to speak clearly and love dearly? What else would we teach them that matters most?

Many of us consciously choose to NOT be the parents our parents were. And so we look elsewhere (and within) for inspiration. Role models are great – parents we see as the parents we want to be. And support helps too – encouragement for our conscious choices, not adverse reactions. As a single mother, I did not have the support for my choices from a partner, but nor did I have the discouragement. Being in tune and in line, or finding a balance, with your partner is usually the first step to creating this foundation. You may start working on this together now.

Though there is no one right way, we are encouraged to be conscious and aware of our parenting choices. Responsible, respectful, caring and loving parents are more likely to raise responsible, respectful, caring and loving children. We do not create who they are, but we can help create how they are. Please choose wisely.

Now is a good time to begin.

When I was a new mother, I felt in my heart that I wanted to do thing differently than any other mother I knew. Quite honestly, I did not know a lot of mothers. I was rather isolated. This also allowed me to make my own choices without negative influences or pressures. Most of the answers came from my heart, and I was pleased with them. In my heart, I believed in what we now call the attached or the connected family. Things like knowing my baby is hungry before he cried, sharing the bed, on demand nursing, wearing my baby, nursing for years, not saying “no,” and letting the little guy run naked and free, but beside me all the time… Attachment parenting was just beginning (or rather, re-beginning!) back then and I was so relieved to find support for my personal beliefs when I got my hands on old copies of Mothering Magazine. Knowing I was not alone, not wrong, and actually, a part of a whole that felt my way was a good way was huge for me.

The theory I held dear in my heart was that the more I gave to my child when he was little and needed it, the more confident and independent he would one day grow. It worked for me. More often than not, I worked beside him. I had to. As such, I didn’t fuss over him or play with him, but gave him his space and he knew it was a safe one. For me, as a mom, it was easier for me to be with him than apart. Everyone is different; that’s just what I did. And it worked. My son works at the South Pole now, and when he’s home, I am pretty sure he’s happy to be with me as friends.

I don’t know if this is the way you wish to parent. That’s your choice. But that’s the point – make a choice. Make a conscious choice. I still know parents that think they should spank their kids because they were spanked as kids. Really? So that’s a pretty extreme example, but it serves to get the point across, and then some.

There is a large rift between conscious parenting and unconscious parenting. One way, we listen to our heart, look beyond the norms, research and understand and implement what we deeply believe and actually have personally found to work best for ourselves and our children.  The other way is based upon doing what one is told, or simply following the path they’ve seen taken without questioning or considering an alternative way.

Although it is not my place to encourage parenting choices, I cannot help but encourage conscious parenting. Please: make your own choices and base them on your found truths. Your child matters. Your family matters. You matter.

For more information on conscious parenting, you may wish to read this book:  The Conscious Parent by Dr. Shefali Tsabary as a start.

These are the Principles of Conscious Parenting as shared by speaker and educator, Alfie Kohn:

  1. Be reflective.
  2. Reconsider your requests.
  3. Stay focused on your long-term goals.
  4. Put your relationship first.
  5. Change how you see not just how you act.
  6. R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
  7. Be authentic.
  8. Talk less, ask more.
  9. Be mindful of your child’s age.
  10. Attribute to children the best possible motive consistent with the facts.
  11. Don’t stick to no’s unnecessarily.
  12. Don’t be rigid.
  13. Don’t be in a hurry.

Still, choosing Conscious Parenting is choosing a well defined principle to follow. As with Attachment Parenting, I ask that when creating your own family, you look beyond labels and honor your unique and beautiful self, situation, and family.

Remember too that we can give our child too much. One of the greatest gifts we can give a young child is space. Back off from time to time. Let him or her fill their time themselves. For a little while, stop the fussing, primping, preening, stimulation, playing with them and providing entertainment. Let them think for themselves! Let them find answers their own way. Let them explore their own world and have the opportunity to find their place in it. Let them know what silence feels like and not be afraid of it. Let them know how to dream. Give them time. Give them space. This is one of the greatest gifts we can give our child, and one of the most often over looked.

There’s a huge difference between being allowed to be alone, and being left alone. The first honors the human need for occasional stillness, and in that space, imagination and creativity are born. The second, of course, denies the human need for contact, attention, affection and love. Somehow I’m pretty sure if you’re here reading this now, that’s not going to be a concern in your family. But will allowing your child to be alone be honored? Look around. The role models are few. We’re encouraged to continual dote on our kids today. Is this truly best for them? Only you (and they) will know. Think about it. This is one more conscious choice you can make.

Further down the road, we’ll discuss the possibility of homeschooling, and even unschooling. For now, if you have time and interest (if we’ve got your curiosity going!) I recommend beginning with the work of John Holt. His books, including Learning All the Time and Teach Your Own were all I needed to be convinced of the benefits of unschooling when I began considering the education of my child. You’ve got time to think of this down the road, but it os fun to consider the options. Creating a family is your choice. Being conscious of  your choices is the greatest gift you can give as you become the mother you want to be.

Here are some websites you may wish to look into further for extending your view, for getting started, for articles, ideas and links for additional sites and sources to support you, or open your mind to new ideas.