I’m here today to talk to you about conscious parenting—not just about what it is, but a real example that happened in my own home two nights ago.
I think this example is important because conscious parenting is a difficult topic. I had to hear about it over and over again, read about it, and learn about it, before I could really embrace it, take it in, and understand how I could use it in my own life.
A couple of nights ago, I made hamburgers. I thought that would be great! The kids would love hamburgers. We sat down for dinner, and my oldest daughter got mad—for what I thought was no reason. But she got mad. The burger was a little thick, and it kept slipping off the bun. She got mad at the burger and she threw it, and then ran away, and said, “Nobody’s helping me! Nobody’s helping me!” She came back to the table, tried to put the burger on the bun again, threw it, got mad, left again. She tried going down to the basement. She repeated this a number of times.
And that was an opportunity for me to practice my conscious parenting.
Tying in Conscious Parenting
The first thing I did was take a deep breath. Breath is important because it slows everything down. It lowers your blood pressure, it slows down your heart rate, and it creates space in your body. That breath creates space and space creates opportunity. That opportunity gave me the chance to either respond to my daughter with compassion or have more of a knee-jerk reaction.
A lot of people are concerned with conscious parenting, discipline and boundaries. I did set boundaries. I said, “I will not allow you to speak to me that way, but I’m here for you. So when you’re ready, I’m here for you. Please let me know how I can help you.”
The importance here was that I was trying to create a connection with my child. If I had gotten angry with her, and let her storm off, and said, “Yeah, you’re being ridiculous, leave the table. Stay in the basement.” That would have just created a disconnection. I took a deep breath, and laid down the boundary—because she was speaking in a really nasty way. “I won’t allow you to speak to me that way. I am also here for you.”
This gave me an opportunity to remind myself about what was happening with my inner landscape. Conscious parenting allows us to be aware of what we’re thinking and what we’re feeling. On that day, unfortunately I had woken up at 4:30 in the morning, because my husband had to hop on a flight at that hour, and I really couldn’t get back to sleep. And that night I had a workshop that I was doing, on conscious parenting. I knew that I was going to be on edge all day. Partly because I was tired, and partly because I was anxious about the workshop, and all the other things I had to get done so I could leave for this workshop. It required me to take that minute and remind myself, OK, I have all this going on. That’s my inner landscape right now. I’m feeling stressed and I’m feeling tired. I reminded myself, so that I didn’t project that onto my child.
That also gave me the opportunity to remind myself that she has her own inner landscape. I don’t know what happened at school today. She might have gotten left out on the playground. She might have gotten yelled at by the teacher. Any number of things could have happened, and [that] I’m not aware of what her inner landscape is. And because she’s only six, she doesn’t have the vocabulary or the wherewithal that we do as adults—not that we even do. There are times I say things that later I’m like, Whoops, I was really angry, I shouldn’t have said it that way. Our kids do the same thing. So it’s not that we’re allowing it, not that it’s OK, but we’re accepting it—accepting the situation for what it is. She’s upset; she’s angry. I don’t know what it is, but I want that connection to stay.
I worked with her to make sure she knew I was here, the boundary was set, and I was also honoring that she’s a human being, she had experiences today, and what those experiences might have been to lead her to have this moment at the dinner table.
The exchange happened a few times where she got angry, left the table, and came back. I laid the boundary and offered the support. She got angry again. Left again. Finally, I just stayed quiet. I had already said what I needed to say. And I let her rant. And that’s a difficult thing to do, to hear your child just going and going and complaining. But she had this pent up energy that needed to be released and unfortunately, I was the target.
The point was I didn’t need to say anything anymore. Silence is golden. You’ve heard that. It kept me in a place where I don’t need to respond, I don’t need to react. I already responded. I can stay calm, try to focus on my meal. Next thing you know, and I’m not kidding, she bounced back. And it was like nothing ever happened. It was really bizarre. But that’s what happens.
What’s Going On
Our children go off on these temper tantrums, and we need to be there for support. Not to create more of a disconnection. When our child is having a temper tantrum, it’s telling us that something is going on, and we need to figure out what that is. In that moment, I couldn’t figure out what it was, because she was in the middle of this temper tantrum. But the next day we reviewed it, and we repaired it. And that’s the big thing. It’s not like I “allowed” what happened to happen. I allowed it to happen in that moment. Because there was nothing I could do to change the trajectory of where it was going. I could have only made it worse.
I let it be, offered that connection, and then the next day we reviewed it and repaired it. The way we reviewed it was saying, “Hey, remember what happened last night?” and we talked about it. And I explained to her, “I don’t like being spoken to that way. I understand you were frustrated.” And we talked about what she might have been feeling that day, what happened at school. It was hard for her to articulate that, but just giving her the opportunity to voice her thoughts and her opinion, and reflect on what happened and what her behavior was, and offer her some alternatives, like, “Hey, next time you’re angry about your burger, or whatever it is you think you might be angry about, these are some things you could do.”
It’s not going to change overnight. It’s that repetitive modeling of behavior that I’m offering to her, that over time, she’ll learn that when she gets frustrated, that that’s not the way to talk to someone or get your needs met. But it takes time.
I would love to hear from you! If you could, write to me, explaining the times that are frustrating to you, where you would like to implement this idea of conscious parenting. I would love to hear from you!