Parenting is a deeply rewarding but challenging job. It can be easy to slip into patterns, with negative results for both the child and the parents.
Conscious parenting calls for patience, understanding, and awareness. Most important, conscious parenting involves being intentional about the parenting decisions you make.
How Conscious Parenting Compares With Other Styles
Conscious parenting is relationship-based, but many traditional parenting styles are considered power-based approaches:
Authoritarian style. Authoritarian parents make a lot of demands of their children but lack responsiveness. They may lean toward hostility or harsh punishment. They may also expect compliance without explaining why. There’s little to no communication between authoritarian parents and their children about the child’s upbringing and expectations for their behavior.
Permissive style. Permissive parents are warm but neglectful. They may not set firm limits, may not monitor children's activities closely enough, or may not require mature behavior of children. Children raised under a permissive style tend to be impulsive, rebellious, aimless, domineering, aggressive, and low in self-reliance, self-control, and achievement.
Uninvolved style. Uninvolved parents are totally unresponsive, unavailable, and rejecting. Children raised with uninvolved parents tend to have low self-esteem and little self-confidence. They tend to seek other, sometimes inappropriate, role models to substitute for a parent’s neglect.
How to Become a Conscious Parent
Anyone can be a conscious parent, whether you already have children, are expecting, or are just thinking ahead. The first step is to identify the habits that are damaging to a conscious parent. Then, take action to put the new parenting style into place and keep it up.
Here are some practical tips for the new conscious parent:
Boost your child's self-esteem. Praising achievements, no matter how small, will make your child proud. Let them do things independently so they feel capable and strong. Avoid belittling comments or comparing your child unfavorably with another, as this can make children feel worthless.
Speak carefully. Remember that words are powerful, especially to young minds. A conscious parent chooses their words carefully and with compassion. When your child makes a mistake, let them know that everyone makes mistakes and that you still love them, even if you don’t love their behavior. Avoid making loaded statements or using words as weapons.
Catch kids being good. Sometimes, you may find yourself criticizing more often than complimenting. The more effective approach is to catch children doing something right. Make a point of rewarding good behavior. Positively reinforcing actions with hugs or compliments can boost a child’s sense of self and encourage them to keep it up.
Set limits, and be consistent with your discipline. Discipline is essential in every home. It aims to help children choose good behavior and to help them learn self-control. Sometimes, children will test the limits you’ve set up, but they need those limits to grow into responsible adults. Creating house rules will help your child understand your expectations. Follow through with consequences when rules are broken.
Create time with your kids. Children who don’t get attention from their parents will often act out or misbehave to get noticed. Conscious parents find ways to spend time with their kids and give them individual attention. This could also include things like putting a note or something special in your child’s lunch box or attending concerts, games, and other events together.
Be a good role model. Your child learns a lot about how to act by watching you. This is especially true with young children, who have fewer life experiences of their own. Children learn behaviors and values such as respect, friendliness, honesty, kindness, and tolerance from their parents or guardians.
Make communication a priority. You can't expect children to do everything just because you say so. Communication helps make your expectations clear. If there’s an issue you need to address, describe it, express your feelings, and invite your child to work on a solution with you. Be sure to include consequences, suggestions, and choices. Be open to your child's suggestions, as well. By offering choices, you help show that you care about your child’s needs, making them more likely to care about yours.