An interview with Dr. Shefali Tsabary, clinical psychologist, New York Times Bestselling author of the book, The Conscious Parent, and others including The Awakened Family and Out of Control.
What is conscious parenting?
Let’s start at the beginning. I am a mindful parenting coach who advocates peaceful parenting approaches.
Some may boil down peaceful parenting to: parenting without punishment. While that definition conjures up mild panic in most parents (along with images of ill-mannered children), peaceful parenting goes beyond simply “no punishments.”
Peaceful parenting focuses on:
|Controlling the environment||Locking the pantry door rather than punishing a child who sneaks treats|
|Emotional regulation of the parent||Deep breaths, a calm voice|
|Connection with the child||The greatest influence on behavior is emotional connection|
How is conscious parenting different?
Well, peaceful parenting and conscious parenting are the same, but conscious parenting can perhaps be thought of as a “level-up” — like when Mario eats the mushroom and grows up into SUPER MARIO. 🍄
That’s conscious parenting in a nutshell: SUPER Parenting.
It has all the components of peaceful parenting, but with a much stronger focus on the parent. Rather than focusing on raising the child, it’s more about raising the parent.
The best way to explain this paradigm shift is through an example: your two year old refuses to put on her shoes.
When usual persuasion methods prove unsuccessful, you grow frustrated. You threaten punishment (an attempt to control the child and situation), but it doesn’t work. You become angry. You yell and threaten to punish (No iPad in the car for you!).
Let’s run through the peaceful parenting points above:
|Controlling the environment||You place the shoes and socks by the door so the child doesn’t get frustrated with the task of finding matching pairs.|
|Emotional regulation of the parent||You calm your internal mood through deep breathing and not raising your voice.|
|Connection with the child||You get down on your child’s eye level, seek to understand the need underneath her refusal or tantrum. Is she tired? Is she worried about going to school? Help her express her worries.|
But here is where we get bonus points for conscious parenting: We use a deep level of introspection and self-awareness to see that we are triggered (a fancy word meaning overly angry), and then we ask ourselves WHY. And that’s the secret sauce: the WHY.
Are you triggered because you have FEAR of running late (and that dreadful things will happen)?
Conscious parenting is about bringing your awareness to that hidden fear or those subconscious thoughts running in the background. Then, you can metaphorically hit CTR+ALT+DELETE to stop those fears.
But we’ll hit traffic and be an hour late if we don’t leave right now! (Maybe you will, maybe you won’t. But you don’t let that thought run the show).
And you realize that yelling is caused by that fear hidden in the background…. NOT because your child refuses to put on her shoes.
Let me take this Windows PC metaphor WAY too far here: when you are angry, yelling, or punishing…that’s a pop-up window. Open your task manager and end that thought, fear, or anger running in the background, or at least, reduce its control. (Simply acknowledging the thoughts are there is the best way to reduce their control on your behavior.)
Conscious parenting is the recognition that parenting is all about YOU and your internal world.
The following table compares mainstream and conscious parenting:
|Traditional parenting||Conscious parenting|
|Main focus||The child||The parent’s internal world|
|Main tool||Discipline and punishments||Connection with the child|
|Uses high level of:||Control||Introspection and self-awareness|
|Sees the child as:||An object||A teacher|
|Results in:||Power struggles, ruptured connection, rebellion, dependence on consequences||Deeper connection, greater influence, elevated role as child’s teacher, greater self-control of triggers and emotions|
|Inspired and influenced by:||Habits, outdated beliefs, childhood experiences||Science and research.|