In an age where infinite information is available through the internet, today’s parents should, in theory, know more about how to raise children than any of the generations of mums and dads that preceded them. But they’re also flooded with studies, data and expert insights touting conflicting premises and conclusions. The result is an abundance of advice that can feel overwhelming.
Add workplace and financial stresses to the mix and it’s not surprising to find that most parents have, at one point or another, lost their tempers with their children. But snapping and yelling almost always happen when the parent isn’t very self-aware – and that is the point of an increasingly popular style of child-rearing known as conscious parenting.
The method is centred around remaining aware of one’s own thoughts and feelings while nourishing a sense of self-esteem in children, says life coach and founder of the All About You mental wellness centre Sonia Samtani.
“A conscious parent is aware of what they’re doing, what they’re saying and why they’re saying it,” explains the expert, who has nearly 20 years of experience in the field of mental wellness.
Think of it as the opposite of parenting by impulse. When parents act outside of a state of awareness, Samtani adds, they’re being run by subconscious programming that “can often come from your own limiting beliefs, your own fears, and things that have been passed on from family to family without us checking: is it still working or not?”
When asked about what coping mechanisms could come to the rescue of parents in trying situations (we’re looking at you, terrible twos), Samtani questions the idea of such mechanisms in the first place. “I think all coping mechanisms are short-term beneficial and long-term sabotaging,” she says. “When you cope, you’re putting something on top of pain – it remains inside.” Instead, she advises parents to take a deep breath and process their emotions when they feel triggered.
“Tell the child you’re feeling triggered, why you’re feeling triggered and what you’re going to do about it,” she says. That turns a stressful moment into a learning moment, where the child actually learns from the parent “how to acknowledge their feelings, how to say that they’re triggered and that they can do something about their triggers.”
As Einstein said: “Example isn’t another way to teach, it is the only way to teach.”
Be the gardener
Samtani says safety, nurturing and guidance are the core values to adopt if one is to parent consciously. “Things that feel unsafe could be fighting at home, for instance. Nurturing is the child knowing that they’re loved and accepted. The child knows that they are important and they are enough, and guidance is to teach the child how to navigate with the laws of Earth.”
One of those laws is that children will need to face challenges on their own one day and the job of mothers and fathers is to prepare them for such eventualities. “Parents think that it’s their role to provide rules, whereas I say their role is to provide guidance and ignite the inner wisdom of the child,” Samtani says, adding that the invitation is to “be the gardener, rather than the conductor.” Gardeners understand that “they’re not in control of the plant, they’re only meant to facilitate the environment.”
Fostering inner wisdom in turn builds a child’s self-esteem, which is the primal sense to develop according to the expert.
“When self-esteem is at an optimal level, you operate more with wisdom, less with triggers. You make decisions you can live with, you believe in choice and consequence rather than right and wrong,” Samtani shares.
For those wondering whether conscious parenting is for them, well, it most likely is. True, every child is unique and there is no one-size-fits-all method in parenting, but conscious parenting is about understanding what is needed in the moment, remaining aware of the child’s needs and understanding their individuality.
Samtani will be leading mental wellness workshops in Macao this month and next, with a session on conscious parenting slated for 21 October. The workshops, she says, are for a wide audience, from parents to people who’d like to become parents, as well as teachers and those who work with children.
But “Even if you have nothing to do with children, you’ll still get something out of it because you’ll learn to deal with your own inner child who needed nurturing, safety and guidance and didn’t always have those things,” she notes.
Sonia Samtani’s workshops will be held at the Grand Coloane Resort. If you’d like to dig deeper into conscious parenting, register here.