Several years ago, I attended a parenting workshop. The facilitator gave everyone worksheets to write down what they would like for their children to be when they turned 18. Words that participants used to share with the group were : independent, compassionate, caring, empowered, resilient, courageous and the like. And then the facilitator asked us to think back to see if our children had what we listed when they were toddlers. And voila! All of our children already had what we wanted them to as adults, even when they were toddlers. My job was simply to get out of the way! This was a revelation! This along with many useful insights from the workshop coupled with a breathing and meditation class I attended brought much needed personal clarity. I have also been lucky to interact and learn from several fellow parents that have raised happy and empowered children.
Here are my favorite five ways to parent with peace and awareness gathered along my parenting journey so far.
1. Manage stress levels
Science proves what we already know – parents experience high-levels of stress and high parental stress levels during early childhood years will cause long term ramifications to our children’s physical and emotional well-being. While many of us would like to possess a magic wand to wish away our responsibilities and laze around on a sunny beach all year to beat stress, practical realities dictate otherwise. One recourse then, is to manage stress on a daily basis so we can efficiently handle our responsibilities without getting burnt out. There is plenty of research to indicate that yogic breathing techniques such as SKY or a daily meditation practice are great ways to manage stress.
2. Learn as much as teach
Being a teacher to your child is an important part of parenting. However parenting is a two-way journey – every child has something that they can teach an adult. For e.g. – a toddler throwing a tantrum may be teaching you a life-lesson on patience. An argument with a school-aged child may teach you something new about their constantly evolving personality. Approaching interactions with your children as a possible learning moment for you, rather than merely a teaching moment for them will pave the way for a solid parent-child relationship.
3. Cherish their uniqueness
Every child is born with some inherent tendencies and as they mature into adults – they accumulate traits from what they see, observe and experience. Much of parenting is having the wisdom to distinguish between the two and to recognize what is inherent in them. In our quest as well-intentioned parents wanting to provide the best to our children, we forget that it’s important to recognize and cherish their uniqueness. This awareness will stop us from being caught in “fixing them” and bring instant peace.
4. Do as I do, not just as I say
In my personal experience, children possess excellent hypocrisy meters! One essential aspect of parenting is to increase awareness around our own behaviors and evaluate if we are modeling behaviors we want to see in them. It is easier said than done – none of us are perfect! Increasing this awareness that children do we as do, not as we say brings about a certain reality check in our expectations of them. Besides, it gives us some higher personal goals to strive towards.
5. Aim for quality time vs. quantity
Parents of many successful and well-adjusted young adults I know, have aimed for quality of time as opposed to just quantity. Research, not surprisingly corroborates that. There may be several tactics to maximize quality time – e.g. minimizing disruptions from mobile devices when with them, maintaining 1:1 parent-child time on the calendar, practicing daily meditation to stay more present when with them. Recognizing that quality time is even more important than quantity of time will help us drop any feelings of guilt about being less-than-perfect parents and focus instead on being fully present during the time we have with them.
What are your favorite ways to parent with peace and awareness? What would you add to this list?