10 Ways I Parent Consciously
I am Sophie and I am a first time Mum to a beautiful and delightful 14 month old son, Henry. I am by no means a parenting expert but am sharing with you some of my intentions for how I want to raise my son as consciously as I possibly can, some of what I am speaking about has come from my intuition and some from wiser sources than myself (see below)! Hopefully this can help you in any way too.
I believe that children are born whole and are authentically themselves. Unfortunately, as we go through life, outside influences can chip away at who we once were at our core, such as someone calling us a mean name, being made fun of for being different, feeling the pressure to fit in, or even those who have the best intentions for us – encouraging us to be different to our authentic self etc.
It is for that reason that my goal for my precious son Henry, is to cultivate his self-confidence and resilience so he can live bravely as his authentic self. It is not my job to tell him who I think he should be but guide him to discover who he is for himself (I will of course encourage good manners, safety etc.).
I cannot be sure that what I will say or do during my parenting journey will be enough, but I can only do my best and hopefully my dear son will know that he is so incredibly loved.
Here are ten of the ways I want to consciously parent:
1. Not using labels
I want to separate Henry’s behaviour from who he is. It is an important distinction. If I was to label him as naughty for example (I don’t feel that way but you get the gist), it would only create a division between us, it would increase any frustration on my part towards him and potentially harm my sons self-esteem. It could create a self-fulfilling prophecy where Henry believes being naughty is who he is and therefore will act out in more “naughty” ways. Plus, it isn’t very helpful feedback. If you give specific examples about the behaviour and what can be done instead, then it will most likely lead to a better outcome.
2. Empathy and allowing space for feelings
One thing I have learnt for myself since becoming a mum is that it is so important to allow yourself to feel your feelings. I used to try to avoid or numb with food/social media/housework, any uncomfortable feelings I didn’t want to feel. However, whatever you resist, persists. It is so much better to acknowledge your feelings and allow them to move through you.
I want Henry to accept that it is ok to have feelings. It is ok to not feel happy all the time. As a parent we help teach our children what their emotions are and help them to figure out how they can regulate them.
When Henry is upset, although he is only young, I say to him “It is ok to have feelings, I understand you’re upset because you are teething. You’ve been so brave to go through this at such a little age” etc.
Saying things like the above has also helps me to empathise and be more present with him when he wakes in the middle of the night, when let’s be real, I would like to be asleep! So it is beneficial for both of us.
3. Fixed vs growth mindset
I want Henry to have a growth mindset. To have a love and curiosity about learning, to understand that mistakes are a part of the learning journey and can often even be the best way to learn. Mistakes are an event, not him.
Having a growth mindset is a game changer for learning and resilience. I recommend reading Carol Dweck’s book Mindset for more information about the fixed vs growth mindset.
It can be tempting when praising children to use labels and say things like “good boy/girl”, but it is not very specific feedback and is not as motivating for children. It can also create a fixed (ability) based mindset. I am sure I won’t always be perfect at this as it is so ingrained but I do try to give effort based praise such as “thank you so much Henry for lying patiently on your change mat, that is really helpful for Mummy to change your nappy”.
Here are some other suggestions on effort-based praise:
4. Scarcity vs abundant mindset
I want to encourage Henry to have an abundant mindset instead of a scarcity mindset, that other children having talents or other friends, does not take away from what he has. He has his own gifts, just as everyone has theirs.
And that it is so much cooler to be inclusive to people, than exclusive.
And it is definitely much cooler (and more peaceful) to celebrate and support each other, rather than seeing others achievements as a threat.
When we give to others whole heartedly without any strings attached (and when it is not more than we can/want to give as that can lead to resentment) it almost always comes back to us any way.
5. Instructive language
Rather than always telling him what not to do, without explanation or with a fearful explanation, such as saying “Don’t do that, you’ll fall”, using positive and instructive language is more helpful such as “hold on with two hands and steady your feet for balance”. (And be close by to support him if he needed me).
I believe this will help to increase his self-confidence and will teach him how he can do things on his own.
6. The power of words and praise
The words we say to ourselves and others matters. The stories we tell ourselves, create pictures in our mind and impacts our emotions, confidence and how we see the world.
Marisa Peer (see resources below) explains the importance of praise and self-praise.
Every night as I put Henry to sleep I say the following affirmations to him: “You are lovable. You are enough. You matter. You have your own special gift to share with the world. You are kind, brave, confident and resilient”.
I am aware that Henry’s subconscious is being formed and am hopeful that if I fill it with the right kinds of praise it will help build his self-belief.
I want to be aware the words I am using to describe a stage Henry is going through. Some moments can be more challenging than others but reminding myself that he is being age appropriate, not difficult. That, that moment too shall pass.
7. Being aware of what he is exposed to
There are a lot of messages that we are all exposed to from external sources every day, whether that is from other people, the news, social media, books, TV etc. At this stage I am trying to be intentional with what I expose Henry too, such as reading him books that are designed to help him learn or that are uplifting, inspiring and include diversity.
8. Being present
Being truly present is one of the most important things I can do for Henry. I try to not be on my phone when I am around him as it is such a distraction. This can be a challenge sometimes as phones are so addictive these days (and are designed to be so). However, I want him to feel seen and cared for. To pay attention and observe what he likes/dislikes, how he is feeling, who he is, what made him laugh and what he is learning each day. He is growing so fast and will only be this little for so long. I want to be with him and soak up as much of my time with him as possible.
9. Leading by example
We all know the phrase “monkey see, monkey do”, as much as I believe our words are important, children are incredibly observant and will notice if there is a discrepancy between what we do and what we say (if we “talk the talk but don’t walk the walk”). They are far more likely to follow what we do rather than what we say, so it is an important responsibility that we are leading by example. We can do this by being kind and respectful to our child, to others and ourselves. By regulating our emotions and showing them how we do it. By telling them the truth (at an age appropriate level). Being respectful to our property and cleaning up after ourselves and encouraging them to do the same. Cooking/Baking with them. When we make a mistake, taking ownership and picking ourselves back up again. And the list goes on.
10. The importance of self-care
As a parent we cannot give from an empty cup. To be the best version of ourselves, we must prioritise our self-care too. Getting enough sleep, movement, nutrition in our day. And making time to do something we enjoy, like having a bubble bath, painting our nails, having a massage, catching up with friends, having a cup of tea etc. Whatever makes us feel special, relaxed or like ourselves. I am making a conscious effort to not just spend the end of my day mindlessly scrolling through my phone or watching TV and seeing this as an opportunity to carve out some “me time”. But again this is a work in progress!
It also is beneficial for Henry to see me be able to take care of myself as it will encourage him to do the same for himself and be in tune with his needs.
Becoming a parent has honestly been such an incredible experience with so much personal growth. It has caused me to pause and reflect, encouraged deeper self-awareness and has made me want to act on becoming the best version of myself. It has been challenging and painful at times of course (especially during the newborn sleep deprivation days) and there is forever new terrain to navigate but now I remind myself that everything is temporary. The challenges of every stage will pass as they all do, but so too will the beauty of that stage, so it is so important for me to soak up the magic that is in every ordinary and extraordinary moment and squishy cuddle. And fingers crossed what I have done along the way helps Henry as much as he has helped me!
Resources (I recommend which relate to some of the topics I have spoken about):
- Dr Shefali Tsabary a clinical psychologist and author who speaks about conscious parenting:
- Dr Carol S. Dweck - Mindset, a psychologist and author which discusses the fixed vs growth mindset
- Marisa Peer is a renowned speaker, Rapid Transformational Therapy trainer and author
- Martha Beck - Finding your North Star