How to be a Conscious Parent

Alison Burton

How has your week been?  Mine life seems to have settled down a little but I know many people are going through big challenges at the moment.  For lots of people, the issues they have struggled with for many years may be coming to a head. Whether it’s money, relationships, career or health it feels like the shift is really hitting the fan.

We’ve known for a long time that changes are sorely needed on the planet but we don’t really like it when change is preceded by chaos or catastrophe.  If you’re going through challenges at the moment it may help to know that the Chinese word for Crisis is the same as the word for Opportunity.  Sometimes it can be incredibly hard to see the opportunity when you’re in the middle of the crisis, however.

Nowhere is this more relevant than when it comes to parenting.  I remember when my children were young having moments of tearing my hair out and feeling sorely tempted to knock their heads together.  I recall a particularly spectacular tantrum in the supermarket over much desired a packet of potato chips. It developed into a tug of war over said packet which ended up as a potato crumbs instead of chips. I have to confess I put back on the shelf because I really needed to win the argument.

Last weekend we babysat our two grandchildren. The kids are 4 years old and almost 2 (although Mason did tell me his little sister was “half past one” which I thought was pretty cute.)  They’re both at an age where they can be totally adorable and incredibly challenging within the space of 2 minutes.

Michelle was talking about her challenges and frustrations about parenting recently and a colleague advised her to always come back to thinking about what values she wanted to teach her children.  Over the weekend while we were looking after the kids I thought about that question a lot.

I realised how everything we do and say in front of a child is teaching them a value of some kind. If we let them hurt a sibling or snatch a toy are we teaching them that violence is an acceptable way to get what you want? If we ignore them while we check Facebook are we teaching them that technology is more important than people?  If we allow them to eat junk food are we teaching them that their health isn’t important? And if we give them Panadol for every slight temperature are we teaching them that their bodies need drugs?

The list of the beliefs and values we teach our children goes on and on and I started to wonder how many parents actually stop and think about what values they want their children to grow up with. What do you want to teach them about managing money for example? About kindness? About generosity and optimism?  What do you want to teach them about managing their emotions or choosing their thoughts?  What do we teach a child when we say, “Poor daddy has to go to work”?  Or what do they learn when mum has sacrificed her dreams to do everything for the family?

I realised what an amazing opportunity we have with young children. How incredible would it be to raise children with the beliefs and values that we would like to have in the world rather than the ones that currently limit us and cause suffering.  What if we consciously taught them to value creativity and co-operation rather than striving to be better than others? What if we taught them to focus on solutions rather than problems? Or if we taught every 8 year old to practise a random act of kindness a day? What about their helping them understand their ability to heal their own body or manifest what they think about? The possibilities are endless.

The Dalai Lama has said,   If every 8 year old learned to meditate we would end violence on the planet within one generation.  On Sunday I gave Mason his first lesson in meditation.  I simply told him to close his eyes and feel the feeling in his nose as he breathed.  I told him to count four breaths in and out and make them nice a slow. He did beautifully!  Of course, children learn much more from what we do than from what we say so Opa had to demonstrate for him.

. It’s so important to be mindful of what you’re teaching children by your own behaviour.

  • Do they see you meditate?
  • Do they see you managing your emotions?
  • Do they see you being kind and co-operative?
  • Do they see you being grateful and optimistic?
  • What are the values you want to teach your children?
  • And are you a living example?

When my daughter Leah was quite young she answered the door to a friend who had called in.  She told them the “Mummy is upstairs medicating.”  She was quite matter of fact about mummy taking time out to “medicate” but I’m not sure what my friend thought!

So if you have young children who are just learning values I strongly recommend that you take time to write down what you would like your children to learn from you. Watch for the opportunities to teach and demonstrate those values and remember that those opportunities often come in the midst of a crisis.

The friend and colleague who asked Michelle to think about values is Life Coach, Marilou Coombes. Marilou specialises in supporting parents and has a fabulous Facebook Page that I suggest you take a look at.

I also believe that every parent needs to know about SleepTalk for Children.  Here’s a short video I did that explains a little about it.