Automatic parenting strikes again. Within 5 hours I observed 3 incidences of parents running on “automatic” mode without any seeming awareness as to how crucial their words, actions and behavior are to their child. I am not looking for perfection but I do wish to see more and more parents operating from a positive parenting style. This means less use of profanities, less threatening children with spanking and less discouragement. It is parenting from an informed optimistic, encouraging and conscious place.
Such parenting I know is happening. More parents have also been coming into my purview that really are being “positive and firm” in their approach, which is evidenced over and over again as the most effective parenting approach. It only happens through reviewing your automatic parenting style, assessing what works and what doesn’t and then consciously seeking to parent in a fashion that supports your child’s unique development – now this is awakening parental awareness.
Awakening Parental Awareness
So the three incidents I refer to happened in the supermarket, bookstore and coffee shop. I felt as if the universe was giving me a message. One I didn’t ignore. Dad at the supermarket threatened his son with spanking, and said it was “gonna hurt” with his fist raised. Grandma in the bookstore looked at her energetic grandson and said, “What is wrong with you?” as if his exuberance needed to be squelched. And the finale was the coffee shop where mom used 4-letter words as adjectives, verbs and nouns when speaking to her sensitive teenager. He looked mortified.
So where does this leave us? I believe each of us on a regular basis need to step-back and take a review of our:
Words – Words have the power to propel a child’s best life or discourage his or her dreams. Be careful in your words. Not perfect but thoughtful. And kids fully accept apologies as well as most can extend a level of forgiveness and compassion for you. “Mommy has had a tough day at work, and needs a few minutes” is perfectly acceptable upon coming home.
Actions – Do your words and actions match? My mother always used to say, “do as I say, not as I do” and as a kid this never made sense to me. It still doesn’t. A parents words and actions are ideally in alignment so that children truly can learn how to become authentic and trust that it is not only okay, but supported in this world.
Feelings – Feelings really are indicators. If you are feeling incredibly frustrated, unsupported or angry with your spouse or kids – it might be a time for you to take a “time out.” Really. Your feelings matter and as you take better care of your own emotional well being such gains naturally spill into your parenting style.
Thoughts – Our thoughts truly create our worlds. So being mindful of how we think about our kids is essential. In other words, don’t label them even in your mind (i.e. the smart one, the quiet one, the bad math student, the slow one). Focus upon your child’s unique and positive qualities (i.e. excellent painter, mechanically skilled, gifted singer) as well as thinking positive thoughts about him or her will be a priceless gift. It may not be easy as your 2 year old is crayoning the wall to see his or her artistic talent — but try, just a little bit.
Words, actions, feelings and thoughts that convey similar encouraging messages are at the heart of positive parenting. It is parenting with a deepened awareness as you raise these highly intelligent children. And because I am so darn passionate about this topic I will share with you some ways to awaken your parenting awareness.
Keys to Awareness
Awareness is a journey not a destination. So wherever you are on your path of developing your awareness there are tools and teachers to help you. And since awareness is personal, I will share with you some key experiences that have worked for myself as well as others:
Get a Teacher – Find someone that you really resonate with about deepening your awareness or refining your parenting approach. It’s a small plug but please forgive me. I teach a workshop called the “Tao of Parenting” that teaches parents how to deepen their awareness as well as develop parenting techniques for the highly creative, intelligent and sensitive child. I am honored to be a witness to such courageous parents as they hone their conscious parenting style.
Commit to It – Decide that parenting with a little more awareness or mindfulness is something you really want to do and do right. Once you make the mental and emotional dedication to it – it just happens without resistance and so much easier. Think also about committing to something to support your decision. One thing that helped me was attending a regularly weekly mindfulness meditation class from a qualified teacher.
Learn – Pick up books, information or connect with those similar to you that are on a path of parenting as well as raising your consciousness for the good of you as well as your child or children. Two books I enjoy are: How to See Yourself as You Really Are by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Present Moment Awareness by Shannon Duncan.
Show Up – I believe showing up is over 50% of the key. So many of us have good intentions, worthy aims and great ideas but when push comes to shove we don’t go to that class, forget nurturing ourselves or place a priority on spending focused quality time with our child. I encourage each of you to show-up fully for yourself, your dreams and your child.
Slow Down – I once had a friend say to me, “slow down to go fast” and I got it. It’s the proverbial turtle and hare story, the turtle won by going slower. Faster only gets you to your destination quicker, it still may not be the right destination. By learning to go slower, become mindful and pay attention — you actually arrive exactly where you wanted to be as a parent faster and with more awareness.
So each of these may sound simple. Usually the practice is harder. But I encourage you wherever you are on this great path and mystery we call life to delve deeper into developing your own awareness for the benefit of yourself as well as others. You may decide to do more journal writing, group mindfulness meditation classes, listening to lectures, taking more slow contemplative walks or solely being more present. I salute your willingness to explore and go deeper. It really is in the day-to-day steps that great strides are made – this much I know is true.
Maureen Healy (BA, MBA, MA) is the Founder of Growing Happy Kids, a worldwide organization dedicated to bringing out the best in children. Her expertise is fostering children’s emotional health as well as guiding parents to do the same! More information: www.growinghappykids.com