It’s hard to know what to expect before your baby arrives. Sure, you might have done some babysitting, have younger siblings, or read every parenting book in the library, but nothing can prepare you for your little one’s arrival. You have new decisions to make, like disposable diapers or cloth? But have you considered the parenting approach you will take, like conscious parenting?
You may have decided to do the opposite of your parents, or perhaps you are working on instinct. Either way, as your child develops from a baby into a small person with a unique take on the world – opinions, thoughts, and reactions – you might start to consider the style that will influence the choices you make as a parent. One such style you might consider is called conscious parenting.
What is Conscious Parenting?
Conscious parenting is a way of describing parenting focused on connection, mindfulness, and awareness. It is a melding of Eastern-style philosophies and Western-style psychology. In simpler terms, it combines meditation, mindfulness, and self-reflection. Rather than focusing on punishment, a conscious parent is attuned to their child. Instead of trying to stop a behavior or put consequences in place, they try to understand why their child is acting out.1,2
Conscious parenting is all about awareness. The idea is when a parent is aware of their own baggage and influences; they can see how these things impact their parenting decisions and can act or react outside of this influence. They also view children as unique, independent individuals with their own views, needs, etc. Conscious parenting involves breaking away from old patterns and habits. This allows children to develop their identity because they are accepted for who they are, not who their parents want or wish them to be.1,2
What Does Conscious Parenting Look Like?
Here are some key characteristics of what conscious parenting looks like:1,2
- They let go of their ego and baggage to parent their child.
- They believe their child can teach them, and vice versa. The relationship with their child is equal, respectful, and reciprocal.
- The parent focuses on regulating themselves so they can better support their child.
- They put in place boundaries and are consistent with them.
- Positive reinforcement is the focus, not punishment.
- Instead of being reactive or responding at the moment, they think about what the behavior is telling them or consider the bigger picture behind what their child is doing.
- Although the outcome of conscious parenting can be a happier child, that is not the primary thing they work toward. They want to give their children opportunities to be independent and grow.
- They focus on being present, not drawn into their past. They manage the situation at hand.
Benefits of Conscious Parenting
Conscious parenting is focused on being aware and mindful, and this has significant, positive impacts on both the parent and the child, including:1,2,3
The relationship between the parent and child is strong. This is because you are more present and engaged with your child, and the focus is on equal respect. In turn, the quality of the relationship improves. In addition, being treated with respect helps your child learn positive and healthy social skills to use in other areas of life.
Mindfulness is associated with lower stress and anxiety levels, as well as lower blood pressure. So, it improves the relationship with your child, and you can reap physical benefits from practicing mindfulness.
Both you and your child are given the space to be authentic. This allows children to step outside barriers or molds that parents can accidentally enforce (being who their parents want them to be), and they can explore and enjoy being their genuine selves.
Communication is open and respectful as you focus more on the message of what your child’s behavior means rather than punishment or consequences. This calm, loving way of being with your child fosters openness. This means they are more likely to be transparent and honest if they have nothing to fear within their relationships. In addition, some research says when we use high quality and quantity of language with our children in the early years, it promotes cognitive development, general improvements in their development, and less aggression.4
Downsides to Conscious Parenting
Conscious parenting can also come with its challenges. First, it’s not a quick fix that will help with a tantrum or other challenging behavior that’s happening right now. This is because the primary benefits come from a parent becoming more aware of their own “stuff” or baggage, and this takes time. Parents who want to become more aware must examine how they react automatically to things and work out new, “conscious” or intentional ways of responding to their child instead. These automatic responses can be subconscious, so re-training or breaking these habits can take time.
Second, it can be challenging for parents to take a step back. This is regarding allowing their children more independence and giving them opportunities to struggle, fail and make age and developmentally-appropriate choices. This can feel chaotic and sometimes take longer (hello to any other parents spending 20 minutes allowing their child to pick their own outfit). However, when we step back, this doesn’t mean we don’t still provide support; instead of rushing in, we wait and offer comfort or support if they need it. This is where the magic happens, as it allows our kids to solve problems or learn to manage situations. They also learn more about themselves, what they like, what they can handle, and how to cope. These things – while messy and challenging for parents — are great for helping build a child’s sense of self, confidence, and resilience.
How to Become a Conscious Parent
Here are some steps you can take to become a conscious parent.
Learn the art of taking a pause. This moment allows you to catch those automatic habits and reactions and make a choice instead. It also gets you at the moment and being mindful, which is what conscious parenting is all about! When you stop rushing, you also give your child space to figure things out.
During that pause, take a moment to collect your thoughts and identify if you have been triggered and what triggered you. Look at the emotions that came up and then make an intentional or conscious decision about your next step. Working on your issues is a critical element of conscious parenting.
Use Respectful Language
Remember that modeling and showing our kids what we expect is most effective when we do it ourselves. Communication is a huge part of conscious parenting, so remember to speak gently with compassion, be accountable, and don’t forget to use your manners and say sorry when necessary.
Be Aware of Your Expectations
Be aware of what you expect from your child and how this influences your parenting choices. Our expectations for our kids essentially tell them that our way and what we want are “correct” and everything else (i.e., their wants, needs, and values) is wrong. They may feel ashamed or guilty when they can’t meet these expectations.
Have Clear Boundaries
Ensure your child knows what the boundaries are in advance. Boundaries help kids feel safe because they know what to expect in certain situations.
Give Your Child Responsibility and Choices
With responsibilities, they will not only learn about themselves, but they will also develop increased independence and self-confidence. They will also learn what they are capable of. This could include helping pick recipes for dinner, choosing their outfits, arranging a movie night for the family, doing chores, or helping around the house.
This could include starting a meditation practice, daily gratitude practice, learning about mindful activities, and using affirmations. These self-improvement strategies aim to get you focused on the present.
Although conscious parenting has some benefits, it’s not an easy path to follow. Instead of other parenting techniques, the focus is on the parents increasing their self-awareness and relationship with their children. These things can hit a nerve, be challenging, and take time. Conscious parenting may suit some children, some parents, and some situations, and many parents rely on a combination of parenting philosophies when raising their children.
Now that you know more about conscious parenting, try some strategies, and see how they influence your communication and interactions with your child. But don’t forget that the most important aspect of conscious parenting is not a pathway toward being a perfect parent; it’s being present, aware, and engaged, which feels authentic and achievable!