Published on August 1st, 2014 | by Publisher, Natural Awakenings New Mexico0
Conscious Parenting: Our Children as Our Awakeners
In The Conscious Parent, Dr. Shefali Tsabary explains that to parent consciously is to become aware that the parenting process evokes for us many issues from our own childhood. In fact, she says, our children come into our lives to trigger these issues, functioning as a mirror of our own unresolved past. By parenting consciously, we see ourselves reflected through our children’s ways of behaving and the conflicts we experience as parent and child.
Our children may be small and powerless in terms of living independent lives, but they are mighty in their potential to be our life’s greatest awakeners.
“Awakeners” is a term the author likes because it speaks directly to our children’s potential to raise our consciousness to new levels. When we begin to notice exactly how they do this, we are in awe.
When Tsabary speaks of becoming “conscious” as parents, she’s not talking about a sudden epiphany of an extraordinary kind. Rather, it’s in the most ordinary of moments, and often the most humbling situations, that our children’s capacity for kindling our consciousness is revealed. Everyday routines can become a window into the ways in which, as parents, we have yet to grow up.
It’s usually in situations involving conflict that we tend to glimpse aspects of our behavior that are originating from a lack of awareness. This is why, instead of shying away from conflict, perhaps even denying that there is conflict, The Conscious Parent encourages parents to accept the inevitability of conflict, then use the insights that can emerge from such situations to awaken themselves to the growth that still needs to take place in them.
The reason we don’t tend to see the opportunities for growth that are children afford us is that we have a tendency to blame our children for the things that aren’t working in our relationship with them, Tsabary explains. We then resort to dictating to them, trying to control them, attempting to set them straight.
The last thing we are expecting is for such moments to offer us an opportunity for our own spiritual development. Yet if we are willing to open our eyes, our children constantly reflect back to us things about ourselves that need to change.
Take, for example, the mother who complains that she loses her temper with her children when it’s time to get ready for school because they “never listen,” and consequently arrive late for class. It might seem that such a parent needs to teach her children to pay attention—and in some cases this may be true. But what if the mother were to explore her own behavior, for instance examining whether she herself is disorganized and tends to be tardy, particularly in the mornings? Perhaps she’s not naturally a “morning person.” The conscious approach to parenting shifts the focus away from what our children need to change, to aspects of ourselves that may need to be addressed.
A conscious way of parenting begins with asking ourselves, “Do I need to revisit the way I operate? Are there ways I need to restructure my life so I can be more organized for my children?” Where a certain level of disorganization may have been acceptable before we became a parent, we now realize that such chaos is simply too confusing for a child.
Being more organized may seem like such a small thing. Surely this can’t be the answer to why our children are late? Yet, it’s precisely these “small” things that have the potential to create many a dysfunctional pattern in a family.
Consider the 8-year-old that has inexplicably become a social recluse, refusing to go to school or play with his friends. His parents are at a loss for what to do. Experts have been called in to “fix” the child, yet the situation persists. Professional intervention may indeed be necessary in some cases, but what about first turning the focus onto the parents?
When the parents put the spotlight on themselves, the mother discovers that she herself went through a traumatic period when she was around 7 years old. She was in a car accident in which her father died, witnessing the entire tragedy firsthand. For the next two years, she became selectively mute. In other words, what we are dealing with here is a generational pattern of anxiety, passed on from mother to son.
These are just two examples, one seemingly superficial and the other more serious, of the ways in which our children tell us: “Wake up, look at yourself, transform yourself, heal yourself. Do this for you, so that I may be free of what burdens you.”
The Conscious Parent promises that our children have the ability to awaken us to our tardiness, our obsessiveness, our anxiety, our need for perfection, our desire for control, our inability to say “yes” or “no” and mean it, our neediness, our marital troubles, and even our addictions.
Perhaps one of the biggest lessons we can learn from our children is how to simply be “still,” which is something many of us have a hard time with. Along with this, goes the ability to engage with full-on presence, to be intuitive, and especially to be authentic. We can even learn what it is to be open, spontaneous and playful.
“The list of opportunities for growth that our children bring into our lives is almost endless,” Tsabary says. “If our eyes are open, we will see our unconsciousness at work in how they act and react to us, as well as in how we act and react to them.”
It comes down to awakening to the fact that parenting isn’t so much about the raising of our children, but beginning to act like real parents by first raising ourselves.
Dr. Shefali Tsabary is a clinical psychologist with a private practice in New York. Her specialty is in the integration of Eastern philosophy and Western psychology. It’s this blend of East and West that allows her to reach a global audience, and establishes her as one of a kind in the field of mindfulness psychology. Namaste Publishing, her publisher, has now released her second book, Out of Control: Why Disciplining Your Child Doesn’t Work and What Will.