Conscious Parenting: The Best Present Is Your Presence

Happy Valentine’s Day!

We express our love in many ways. Sometimes in simple ways like kisses and hugs, and sometimes in embellished ways like a romantic dinner, expensive gifts and surprise getaways.

We each express our love in different ways (The ‘5 languages of Love‘ is a great, revealing read) in an attempt to connect to the other person, but there’s a universal way that I’ll assert we all don’t do enough of:

Looking directly into the other person’s eyes.

We often look around, into the air with our hands gesturing, whilst multi-tasking, through online messages and emails instead, whilst walking or facing in opposite directions…. the list is quite long in actuality if you begin to observe the way you communicate.

Seldom do we look squarely – but gently, and lovingly – into one’s eyes. It’s a small move that delivers an immense impact: The acknowledgement of the other person’s presence.

Today, to express your love for your spouse and kids, just do this 1 thing: Count the number of times you looked them in the eye to acknowledge the amazing connection between you both that you’re blessed with this lifetime.

The best present you can give someone, is the gift of being present.

 

Conscious Parenting: The Best Present Is Your Presence

Conscious Parenting Is A Partnership

“At the baby’s birth, we start from level 0. Both parent and child then progress and grow, learning together, learning about each other. Even with your 2nd and 3rd child, you start from 0 again, because each child is different.”

Wise words from the beautiful Rimi Yoshida, a Body Code and Emotion Code practitioner.

As adults we see ourselves as an authority to our children… why is this so? Who gave us the authority to make ourselves the authority? We start the same time they start! From Level 0! Which makes parent and child partners instead.

Partners learn to get along with each other. Partners negotiate. Partners argue and make up. Partners love each other deeply despite differences. Partners respect each other and learn to communicate with each other.

Let’s free ourselves from getting stuck in an Authoritarian role. It is tiring and stressful to pretend to know everything. Acknowledge this partnership. Partnering is a journey that encompasses adaptability and flexibility, allowing it to be fun and fulfilling for all.

 

Conscious Parenting Is A Partnership

Conscious Parenting & The Gift of Presence

Carol Dweck and Claudia Mueller’s famous 1998 study revealed the effects that praise has on a child’s relationship to achievement.

128 children were asked to solve math problems. 1 group was praised for their intellect (“you’re so clever!”) and the other for their effort  (“you must have tried very hard”). When given more complex problems next, the kids praised for intellect struggled more, whilst those praised for effort worked harder at the challenge. The kids praised for intellect showed lower task persistence, enjoyment and performance. When asked to report their task scores to an external group, they inflated their scores. This group of kids learned to define intelligence as a fixed trait, and showed signs of distress when they experienced a set back in their achievements.

So instead of practicing excessive praise, what could we do instead?

Notice when you dish out empty praise. It’s likely that the words “good girl!” or “clever boy” roll off your tongue without much thought. It take effort to respond to a child’s effort or achievement. Conscious parenting challenges you to firstly notice what you say automatically.

But more than that, a healthier alternative to praise could be simply ‘keen attentiveness’ paid to the child:

“I once watched Charlotte* with a four-year-old boy, who was drawing. When he stopped and looked up at her — perhaps expecting praise — she smiled and said, ‘There is a lot of blue in your picture.’ He replied, ‘It’s the pond near my grandmother’s house — there is a bridge.’ He picked up a brown crayon, and said, ‘I’ll show you.’ Unhurried, she talked to the child, but more importantly she observed, she listened. She was present. Being present, whether with children, with friends, or even with oneself, is always hard work. But isn’t this attentiveness — the feeling that someone is trying to think about us — something we want more than praise?”

*Charlotte Stiglitz, the mother of the Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz

~ “How praise can cause a loss of confidence”, The Examined Life: How We Lose and Find Ourselves, by Stephen Grosz

Conscious Parenting & The Gift of Presence

Conscious Parenting Celebrates Virtues

We often see the world in good and bad, which affects the way we parent. Very naturally when our children do something that we approve of, we praise him or her. It usually sounds like, “good girl!” or “you’re a very good boy today”. It comes rolling off our tongue unconsciously.

Good and bad is a conclusion from which we judged an action (or non-action). The effect of this is, the child feels judged. This robs their power and their say in the matter; it is a projection placed upon him or her from the parent. Or Aunt, like in my case with my niece. She didn’t want to share her cookie with me. I got upset, and I chided her for being selfish, that her unwillingness to share doesn’t make her a good girl.

Was I the judge of her? Yes. I condemned her action and made her sit under a big neon sign that flashed the letters SELFISH. If I had put myself in her shoes for a moment before judging her so quickly, I might have seen it from another perspective. Maybe she was being careful about her things. Maybe she wanted to savor her cookie at her own pace and just wasn’t ready to share yet. The point is, she was doing her thing, not mine, and got called a bad girl for it. Pretty unfair isn’t it?

Step out of the world of good and bad. Step out of judging these little ones by the way we interpret their actions.

Take that moment instead to ask “why did you do that?” and hear from them. Acknowledge their virtues or the intention instead, like “Ah hah! You’re exploring colors!” vs. “your paining isn’t turning out very good…” or “I get that you’re trying to take care of your toys” vs. “stop pulling your sister’s hair, you’re a bad girl!” (in the case of the latter, it’s natural that they will act to protect/defend themselves when threatened – we do it too, does that make us bad girls and boys?)

Over time, your child will grow up exercising those virtues instead of grow up being afraid of that voice in their head that judges everything he or she does as good or bad.

Conscious Parenting Celebrates Virtues

Conscious Parenting Focuses On Supporting, Not Condemning 

Sometimes we don’t recognize the child’s effort because it doesn’t come across as how we’d like it to be. We have an idea of what we want, what it should look like and how to get it – the ‘Adult’s’ way, usually formed from past experiences of what we’ve found works. Kids have their way too,but usually exercised differently from us. 

Just yesterday, Claire, my 3 year old niece reached for a tub of cookies and spilt my mug of hot Milo in the process. Shocked, I yelped and groaned loudly, “CLAIRRREEE!!!!!”and buried my face in my hands. She ran off to grab 6 pieces of tissue from the tissue box and went about cleaning up her chair, stepping all over the sticky liquid on the floor and spreading it as she ran back and forth to the tissue box. 

“CLAIRE your feet are sticky stop coming into this area! You’re making it worse!” I exclaimed. “I’ll clean it up for you, get away from here.” After two tries, she stopped, and walked away. 

After cleaning the mess up, I called out for her several times rather sternly wondering where she had run off to with her sticky little feet. It was a while before a small voice came from the garden. She was picking fallen flowers off the driveway looking somewhat disheartened. 

In that moment I realized that in my fervour to contain the mess, I failed to see and support her effort in helping clean her accident up. She was so focused on wiping down her chair of course she wouldn’t care, or know, the consequences of walking around with sticky feet! She’s a 3 year old, geez! I was expecting too much from her in that moment of chaos. I lost my clarity and calm. I chided her for being ignorant in her ways without noticing that I was equally ignorant in mine. I reacted, and my focus went to what she’s doing wrong instead of what she’s doing right.

I asked if I gave her a shock with my loud reaction and she nodded. I apologised and explained that I was shocked too. We fist bumped and made up. I still feel guilty for brushing her good intention aside, but I’m learning that conscious parenting is a journey. Make up and connect when you can; learn and own up when you can’t. It’s the second best way to do right to the Child.

Recognize efforts instead of right/wrong, then focus on supporting and improving those efforts. 

Conscious Parenting Focuses On Supporting, Not Condemning