Taking care of another person is quite the task, especially if it’s a little human. Parenting is hard. It’s definitely worth it, don’t get us wrong. But it’s hard.
Sleepless nights, going about your day on autopilot, constantly purchasing something (seriously, how did you manage to go through all those diapers so fast?), and wondering when you’ll ever feel alive again.
Parents, it’s time for conscious parenting — the modern parenting style that has even Oprah praising it.
If this piques your curiosity, then here are a few things you should know about it:
And with it, you can shift from being a parent to your children to a conscious parent to yourself.
What Is Conscious Parenting?
While plenty of parental paradigms focus primarily on the child, conscious parenting centers around the parent. It’s a reimagining of ‘helping yourself before helping others’ — parental style.
The concept, a combination of Eastern-style philosophy and Western-style psychology, is pioneered by clinical psychologist Dr. Shefali Tsabary (who’s also the trainer of Mindvalley’s Conscious Parenting Mastery Quest). And her take on modern-day parenting?
It has less to do with how to raise your kids and more to do with your inner child. It’s about making peace with the layers of baggage you may have acquired during your childhood and are now reinforcing onto your child.
How does it compare to other parenting styles?
While conscious parenting (or conscious co-parenting, if you’re in that boat) is about connecting with your child, most conventional parenting styles are power-based. Here’s a closer look at the latter:
- Authoritarian parents. They are sticklers for the rules and expect their children to obey them without explanation. These parents provide structured environments with clearly stated boundaries. More often than not, the child develops an “if I don’t obey, I’ll get punished” mentality, which doesn’t help them with self-regulation and results in a fear-based relationship with their parents.
- Permissive parenting. View these parents as the ‘hippies’ of parenting where they don’t enforce strict rules, encourage their children to learn from trial and error, and allow them to explore the world themselves. It sounds great and all, but the downside of permissive parenting is that the children are less aware of the limits of acceptable behavior.
- Neglectful parenting. Parents of this style are indifferent as much as they’re uninvolved. Their lack of communication kind of forces their children to make decisions for themselves. When it comes to neglectful parenting, it’s all about the hands-off approach.
According to parenting experts, these models put discipline and control on a pedestal. That, as we now know, doesn’t help children thrive. So maybe it’s time we adopt a new way of parenting – one that enables us to have that wonderfully deep connection with our offspring.
Why is conscious parenting important?
As the adult in the relationship, you want to find positive parenting solutions instead of tattooing your shortcomings and self-destructive patterns onto your children. So when it comes to this style, you’re encouraged to self-reflect and be intentional about your parenting decisions on the daily.
Those two qualities help when you’re raising a little human, especially if you’re hopped up on the stress that comes along with parenthood. In fact, a 2022 stress survey by American Psychological Association found that 70% of parents were under extreme stress for their children’s academic, social, and emotional development.
Focusing and making peace with your inner child helps eliminate some of that stress (because let’s be real — parents will always worry about their children).
There are handy-dandy tools that Dr. Shefali shares in Mindvalley’s Conscious Parenting Mastery Quest. It’ll help prompt five behavioral and perspective shifts within you:
- From projection: Where you superimpose your thoughts and beliefs onto your child.
To pause: Where you allow your child to express who they truly are.
- From expectation: Where you place conscious and unconscious undue pressure on your child.
To empathetic engagement: Where you see things from your child’s perspective in the present moment.
- From judgment: Where you label your child’s behavior as ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ or ‘positive’ or ‘negative’.
To compassionate accepting: Where you accept your child for the ever-evolving being that they are and practice positive reinforcement.
- From reaction: Where you let yourself get triggered by your emotions.
To feelings: Where you allow yourself to observe and fully experience your emotions.
- From correction: Where you feel the need to control and coerce your child’s behaviors.
To connection: Where you nurture the deep, meaningful bonds you and your children crave.
So when you learn to shift your perspective to nurture and love your inner child, you can have a more authentic and meaningful relationship with your actual child.
Watch the Conscious Parenting Mastery Quest trailer:
FAQs of Conscious Parenting
As long as there are parents and children in this world, the same questions will come up over and over again. So, we’ve rounded up five frequently asked questions from the Conscious Parenting Mastery Quest with examples of the behavioral and perspective shifts that we hope you’ll find useful.
#1: How do I educate my child without projecting or imposing?
“My child will be __________ when they grow up.” Raise your hand if you’re guilty of this.
Smart, beautiful, athletic, a doctor, a lawyer, or, in Vishen’s case, an engineer… Whatever the ‘fill in the blank’ answer may be, parents often project their dreams onto their children.
We, parents, are the masters of projection. We ad-lib, willy-nilly, put onto our children all our own ideations, our ideologies, our belief systems, and our emotions.— Dr. Shefali Tsabary, trainer of Mindvalley’s Conscious Parenting Mastery Quest
Children are absorbent creatures, and research shows that they repeat what they hear and imitate what they see. For example, your toddler might put her stuffed bunny to bed the same way you tuck her into bed, or your teen might freely use profanity if you’re the type to drop a few F-bombs here and there.
Just as your parents had projected onto you, what their parents had done to them, and so on and so forth, your child most likely incorporates your feelings and thoughts as if it’s their own.
Traditional parenting: projection
It’s all in your head. No, seriously. It is.
Projection is one of the biggest parenting challenges because it’s a reflexive emotional habit. When something happens to our children that we feel isn’t making them happy or successful, we project our own ways onto them. We create stories in our heads, like:
“My son must be upset that he’s going to his senior prom with friends instead of with a date.”
Or “My 30-year-old daughter must be upset because all of her close friends are married and having children, and she still doesn’t have any prospects.”
When we assume these stories, we dismiss our children’s truths and forget to see them for who they truly are.
Our children — they know what they feel. They are able to experience their own experiences. They are fully developed in their capacity to understand who it is they are.— Dr. Shefali Tsabary, trainer of Mindvalley’s Conscious Parenting Mastery Quest
So, projection ends up causing one of two things (or even both): your child struggles to find their authentic self or it allows them to completely shut down from you.
Conscious parenting: pause
So, what do you do when you want to chuck out an old habit? Simply, cultivate a new one.
In the case of moving away from projection, it’s best to just pause. It sounds simple and mundane, we know. But trust us, it’s powerful.
So, pause, take a step back, and observe your child’s situation without any reaction on your part. If you do feel the need to react, ask yourself these questions:
- Where is this reaction coming from?
- Is what I’m feeling right now worthy of sharing?
- Will my child benefit from it or is it appeasing my ego?
- Is this reaction to what’s happening at the moment?
- Or am I replaying some old habits of mine?
Once you’ve gotten into “the habit of a conscious pause,” as Dr. Shefali calls it, you’ll be able to reflect on the stories you created in your head, to see how you’ve projected your emotions and expectations onto your child, and to understand how this all sets them up for failure.
#2: How do I let go of certain expectations that I want my child to do?
As the saying goes, “expectations are premeditated resentments.” And humans naturally pin their hopes for happiness and success on fulfilled expectations, the majority of which are conditioned in us by culture.
Now, Vishen talks a lot about “brules” — bullsh*t rules that we adopt from the cultural norms. This includes the common perceptions of hard work, money, love, people, and success. And parental expectations are one on the list.
Traditional parenting: expectation
Adults often feel the pressure and burden when people impose their expectations on them. Children, being humans too, feel the same.
I don’t think we expect more from anyone as much as we expect from our children.— Dr. Shefali Tsabary, trainer of Mindvalley’s Conscious Parenting Mastery Quest
Once an expectation has been set, you’re dependent on them to make that expectation come true. How often do we see this in children whose parents expect them to be doctors, lawyers, or engineers? And what happens when those expectations aren’t met?
The irony of it all is that not only does it cause harm to your children, but to you, too.
Because expectations kill connections and create conditional love. When they meet your expectations, then you’re happy and provide your offspring with so much love. However, when they don’t, then you react and withdraw your love.
And like a balloon, the more pressure you put on your offspring, sooner or later, they’re going to burst and the hopes of establishing a meaningful connection with them may just be lost.
Conscious parenting: empathetic engagement
So, the question is how can you withhold from setting certain expectations on your child? Well, would it be too weird to start singing “Let It Go” right now? Because Elsa has a point.
If you’re expecting to be empathetic and also have expectations for your child, you’re out of luck. Because neither go hand-in-hand.
“To empathize means to see the world from your children’s eyes,” Dr. Shefali explains. Your expectations, on the other hand, block you from truly seeing their reality through their eyes.
So try these three steps to shift into conscious parenting mode:
- Identify your expectations — the ones you have for your child and for yourself as a parent.
- Reevaluate your expectations. Ask yourself whether they’re relevant or worthy.
- Make a choice. Choose to either change your expectations or somehow shift your reality.
You’re allowing yourself to let go of your original version of how you want things to be and instead, empathically connect with your children. And taking a cue from Elsa, it’s time to see what you can do, to test the limits and break through. Let it go.
#3: How do I help my child to accept themselves without projecting my fear and coming across as controlling or judgmental?
Judgment in and of itself is already harsh and we do it all the time to other people. Now, imagine when judgment comes from a parent.
Traditional parenting: judgment
As children (yes, you’ve been one before), we often heard judgmental comments coming from our parents. And we may have even done the same to our children. These comments are very similar to:
- “How come your report card is all C’s when Karen can get straight A’s?” can translate to “I’m not smart enough.”
- “Tom can bench 185 — be more like Tom” can translate to “I’m not strong enough.”
- “This lipstick will look good on you like it does on Kylie” can translate to “I’m not pretty enough.”
What you say as a parent attributes to your child’s behavior. And it’s not their fault because we project what we feel.
Dr. Rubin Khoddam, clinical psychologist and founder of COPE Psychological Center, explains we often end up believing our judgments and thoughts, converting them in our minds as facts. We believe that person is horrible or that skirt is ugly.
“Instead of seeing our multitude of judgments as a perception or as a lens we put on situations, we see it as a truth,” he explains. “By doing this, we subliminally create a separation and a lack of acceptance of others’ beliefs.”
Although you hurt your child when you judge them, you’re also hurting yourself.
Conscious parenting: compassionate accepting
Judgment takes you out of the heart and into the mind, but compassion does the opposite.
It allows you to understand that everyone has anger, fear, and insecurities and that we’re all seeking worthiness, validation, and safety. Compassion allows you to accept people for who they truly are without judgment.
“When we enter a state of compassion, we immediately enter an expansion from within where we have a greater tolerance for all expressions of self,” says Dr. Shefali.
So, do your child (and yourself) a favor: accept the fact that you’re not superior to your offspring and lift the judgments you have of them. You may just find yourself appreciating your child’s uniqueness and celebrating their own discovery of themselves.
#4: How do I teach my child emotional resilience and how to react when they feel their big feeling?
Watching the current events like Afghanistan and Black Lives Matter unfolding makes you wonder how many of those conflicts could’ve been resolved if people just responded instead of reacted.
Most of us are living our lives in a state of slumber, in unconscious reactivity, rather than a state of conscious responsiveness.— Dr. Shefali Tsabary, trainer of Mindvalley’s Conscious Parenting Mastery Quest
Because we’re stimulated by the external situations in our lives and allow ourselves to react to them instead of feeling them, we then pass on this behavior to our children.
Traditional parenting: reaction
“Big girls don’t cry” or “suck it up” are quite common ‘advice’ thrown around to not only children but adults too. When feelings arise, we pass them off externally like a hot potato. The bottom line is, many of us are not taught self-regulation.
Why? Because they’re uncomfortable. But why? Because we are forced to face our true selves.
It’s such a tragedy that when we get triggered by our emotions, we’re unable to just sit with our feelings, and see, welcome, and embrace all parts of ourselves.
Conscious parenting: feelings
When it comes to your emotions, it’s only you that feel them. Many of us avoid it by using distractions, like indulging in food or reaching for our gadgets.
But according to Amy Morin, psychotherapist and bestselling author, “Every time we reach for things that do us more harm than good, we feel a little more helpless. And our intolerance to discomfort grows as well.”
So, when you’re consciously aware of your emotions, you tend to respond instead of reacting. As Ice Cube says, “Check yo self before you wreck yo self.”
And while dialogue with your child is definitely important, the dialogue you have with your inner child is even more. Before you react to what’s really bothering you, look inside and ask your inner child:
- “What can I do to help you?”
- “How can I make you feel whole?”
- “How can I nurture you?”
These are the elements of self-care and self-compassion that will enable you to be the role model for your child on how to handle big feelings.
“Practice makes perfect” is the saying, and transforming your consciousness from reaction to feelings takes a lot of practice. But once it comes easy to you, it’ll help shift your relationships, particularly with your children.
#5: How do I move away from control and into a deeper connection with my child?
This is exactly what the Conscious Parenting Mastery Quest is all about — “out of control, into connection.”
Although the idea of connecting with our children sounds easy, we know it’s harder than it looks.
Traditional parenting: correction
Many of us love our children, that’s undeniable. But we also struggle to stop controlling them and to connect with them. Thankfully, now you know the things you’re doing that are standing in the way of your connection:
- Past patterns
- Cultural archetypal upbringing
- Your parents’ control (or lack thereof) over you
- Your parents’ ability to honor and validate you
“Our desire is to connect, but there are things in the way,” explains Dr. Shefali. “Only consciousness can evaporate those things.”
Conscious parenting: connection
Your intentions to connect with your child may be good, but it doesn’t transpire solely on that. It happens when you’re truly authentic to yourself.
Connection is energetic. It is vibrational. It is almost non-verbal. … All true connection emerges from one place only: our connection to ourselves.— Dr. Shefali Tsabary, trainer of Mindvalley’s Conscious Parenting Mastery Quest
Mindfulness and consciousness are the way for you to get there. And once you’ve made peace with and befriended your inner child, your authenticity will show externally. Your offspring now has a role model of how to connect authentically with their own inner child.
Awaken Your Parental Greatness
Honestly, perfect parenting doesn’t really exist. And parental advice, as you are aware, is plenty, especially on your social media feed that you scroll through in those last few minutes of the night that you get to yourself.
Some of those suggestions hold merit, but others… Well, let’s just say it’s time to turn off the internet.
This undertaking of consciousness is not for the weak-hearted.— Dr. Shefali Tsabary, trainer of Mindvalley’s Conscious Parenting Mastery Quest
The Conscious Parenting Mastery Quest will take you on one heck of a self-realization ride, evolving the relationship between you, your child, and your inner child. But if Dr. Shefali and all those parents who’ve taken the Quest can come to terms with their inner child, so can you.
As long as you’re willing to examine your past and deconstruct cultural beliefs, you’re already on your way to being a more conscious parent and a perfectly perfect one to guide your child to become the wonderful, great little humans they are.