Conscious parenting: A crucial tool for social change
- Published: 27 May 2014
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After coming close to hitting one of his children, John Edwards knew it was time to redefine parenting away from traditional models involving punishment and discipline to a calm and collaborative approach. He believes the ripple effects of conscious parenting can benefit people, animals and the planet.
28 May 2014
My parenting spiralled out of control when I lost my temper and nearly hit my child.
I was raised by an alcoholic father and a traumatised but loving mother. My father is of the old “Do as I say” and “Kids should be seen and not heard” mentality which was made worse by his drinking problem.
This was the only parenting style I knew.
At 23 I married my wife Sally and we had our first child. At that time I could not even hold a drink in my hand because I was so shaken up by my turbulent upbringing. We soon had two more kids.
I struggled with my demons from childhood and struggled as a parent. I would yell, smack and lose my temper over silly things that my children said or did.
The day I flew into a rage and nearly hit my child was the day that I realised I was modelling my father's rage. I knew that if I did not change I would lose my wife and children. I realised it was time for me to become the parent that my children deserved me to be.
It took a process of deep inner change. The moment it dawned on me that my children's behaviour was a consequence of needs that I was not meeting was the moment my awakening came.
I developed steps that allowed me to begin to analyse why my children were misbehaving and what they were trying to achieve. I documented all of my interactions with my family and realised there were patterns occurring. My behaviour was being affected by events and emotions that triggered irrational behaviours.
It was only then that I could begin to modify my own behaviour to effect change in my children.
My relationship with Sally is now the strongest it has ever been and I have a great relationship with all three of my children. The change in my parenting has been transformational.
Not all of us are lucky enough to have positive life experiences and parenting does not come with a manual. We make it up as we go along.
My passion is now to provide practical steps for parents to follow so they can become conscious parents who react in a calm, considered manner, which reduces stress and allows them to have a fun, rewarding and fulfilling time as a parent.
The origins of conscious parenting
It is difficult to determine who actually coined the phrase ‘conscious parenting’, but it has certainly grown with our current focus on consciousness, whether that be in relation to parenting, relationships, business, animals or the environment.
Conscious parenting appears to have been influenced by Alderian psychology, which posits that the success of families rests primarily on mutual respect.
Alder noted the importance of our perceptions and social relationships to our own emotional and physical health and to that of our families. He placed great emphasis on nurturing our innate ability to co-operate with each other and to encourage others and ourselves.
Conscious parenting is a move away from the approach used by past generations that relied heavily on discipline, punishment and control.
It is a realisation that our children are individuals who must be respected and treated with respect, while at the same time teaching them a sense of ethics, right/wrong and values all within a set of boundaries.
The difference between conscious parenting and traditional parenting
A typical problem with toddlers is that they play with their toys and then leave them around the house or all over their bedroom.
Here is what a traditional parenting approach looks like:
- You ask your child to put away the toys, giving them only a couple of minutes to do so, before taking action.
- You shout, yell and demand that the child put the toys away immediately.
- Your body language is domineering as you force the child to do what you asked and you may even smack the child if they refuse to comply.
- In this situation, you may achieve the end result of the child putting away the toys but there is incredible stress, frustration and often anger involved.
- All this does nothing at all to help the toddler to develop their decision-making skills and the forceful, demanding manner of the parent often damages their relationship. If this type of behaviour continues, it is likely to result in the child developing emotional issues.
In contrast, here is how a conscious parent approaches the situation:
- You remain calm and politely ask the toddler to put the toys away.
- You get down to the eye level of the toddler so you are not dominating, but instead having a discussion with the toddler.
- You examine the situation and do your best to determine the reason behind the child’s failure to put the toys away – it might be attention seeking or a power struggle, for example. If it is a case of attention seeking, then more one-on-one time could be scheduled with the child. If it is a power struggle, they could be provided with some responsible roles (setting the table, helping with dinner).
- You modify your behaviour so that no further attention or debate is conducted around the toys.
- You provide a simple choice for the toddler – “Either pick up your toys or I will pick them up and you will not be able to play with them for two days.” If the toddler picks them up that is great, otherwise you simply pick them up, put them somewhere the toddler cannot access and discuss the issue no further (regardless of your toddler’s reaction). When your toddler wants to play with the toys tomorrow, explain the choice and why they will now need to wait.
- The next opportunity that the child has to play with their toys, you will let them know the choice again and if necessary repeat the process. It may take a couple of times but your toddler will learn.
What are the advantages of conscious parenting?
As illustrated in the above example, conscious parenting looks at the reasons why the misbehaviour is occurring and addresses those reasons. A child does not misbehave for the fun of it.
There is no demeaning language or posturing by the parent; instead the parent has modified their behaviour and provided a simple choice that is calmly and respectfully presented to the toddler.
The decision is now in the hands of the toddler, as it should be, and the parent simply follows through on the consequence if required.
There is very little stress for both parent and child, little disruption for the family and importantly the child is given the opportunity to make their own decision and learn to live the with the consequences.
It is an approach to parenting that removes the stress from parenting decisions and allows relationships within the family to develop and grow in a positive environment.
Conscious parenting goes beyond the family
Conscious parenting is such an important concept for parents to embrace because its effects are so far reaching. I believe it is a crucial tool for social change.
I know that my children will be able to take my conscious parenting style and implement it when they have children. Their children will do the same and create lasting generational change within our family.
What this means is that the following generations of kids will develop with a strong sense of self; they will be loved, respected and develop close, strong lasting relationships with their parents.
As this style of parenting becomes the norm, it will produce young people who are proactive in developing their communities and keen to work towards creating a brighter future for all.
If children are raised in a respectful manner where issues are dealt with calmly, they are more likely to take this approach into the world. More well-rounded, respectful children means that they are more likely to be respectful of and compassionate towards people, animals and the planet.
For the parents reading this article I know that your children are precious to you and if you can embrace this style of conscious parenting, then regardless of anything else you do in your life you are creating an amazing legacy.
John Edwards is an expert in conscious parenting. He shows parents how to stop the fights, tantrums and arguments with their kids by reacting in a calm, controlled manner that reduces stress to produce a happy home for all family members.
Over the past 20 years he has worked with more than 10,000 children and 6,500 parents.
Visit his Parenting Consciously website and sign up to receive valuable weekly conscious parenting tips.