What is Conscious Parenting?

The quest for wholeness can never begin on the external level. It is always an inside job.”

Dr Shefali Tsabary

After having children, I heard the term ‘conscious parenting’ and never really gave it a second thought. I carried on parenting the way I knew best which generally involved doing things the way I was brought up.

After hearing the words ‘conscious parenting’ a few more times, I was curious about what it meant. The more I read, the more it drew me in and eventually, I was engrossed in it! 

I started reading books and spent hours and hours conducting all sorts of research (from doctors and child psychologists) to see what I needed to do to become a ‘conscious parent’ and why it was so important to be a conscious parent.  

Let me save you all that time and break it down for you here. 

We all have 2 minds – a conscious mind and a subconscious mind.

The conscious mind is the part we use to think about things rationally and to be aware of what we are doing at any given time including who is around us, what the environment is like, etc. We can only be present using our conscious mind.

The subconscious mind is our programmed part of the mind. It holds all of our learned behaviours, habits, etc. When we find ourselves in a particular situation, the subconscious mind retrieves what we usually do in those situations and plays it out. For example, have you ever driven anywhere and not remembered the journey? That’s because driving has become a learned skill which you can do without thinking and you’re so used to the journey that it is embedded into your mind. It’s the same with riding a bike. Once you’ve learnt how to ride a bike, you never forget, even after years of not practicing it. 

Our life runs from the subconscious mind 95% of the time. The program in our subconscious mind comes from our first six years of childhood. EVERYTHING we are privy to in those early years is recorded in our brain, a bit like a movie. The reason it all goes straight to the subconscious mind is because the conscious part doesn’t develop that early. 

After having kids, have you ever thought, ‘God, I sound just like my mother’? That’s because ALL the behaviours, habits and perceptions that our parents had in our early years were passed down to us. It’s the same for them. Our parents’ habits, behaviours and perceptions were passed down to them from their parents and so on. Consequently, what we end up with is generation after generation of the same parenting without anyone stopping to think and question why things are done in a certain way or even done at all. This type of parenting comes from the subconscious mind.

Roll out the red carpet and cue the orchestra…………here comes conscious parenting. 

You may have now guessed that this means THINKING about what we are teaching our offspring. It involves questioning what we are doing; why are we doing it?; what is it teaching my children?; what impact do my actions, words and behaviours have on my children in the LONG RUN? 

Conscious parenting is about the long-term impact and requires thought in every given situation, even when things are mega challenging. 

The first thing a baby does when it is born is work out who the mother and father are. This is because they become the baby’s point of reference for everything, i.e. when the baby is hungry or scared or needs a clean after a big poo explosion which somehow escapes the nappy and spreads all the way up the back (and we’re secretly excited and grossed out at the same time every time our child poops – you know what I’m talking about, don’t you?!).

Once the baby has worked out who mummy and daddy are, it observes EVERYTHING they do and uses their reactions to gauge its environment and the world. For example, the baby will learn if something is dangerous by observing mummy’s or daddy’s reaction to that thing. It also works the other way round. If mummy and daddy are smiling then the baby learns that the environment is safe and will go and explore. This means the child downloads all habits and behaviours from its parents rather than its own experiences and why we find ourselves responding to our children the way our parents responded to us. 

Putting all that aside, how can you become a conscious parent? The best place to start is recognising your own negative behaviours that you wouldn’t want to pass on to your children and change them. 

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