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When you hear the word "consciousness," what comes to mind: a sense of awareness? Alertness? The state of being fully awake? If so, then you already know what it means to be a conscious parent. "Conscious parenting is a parent-focused, connection-based parenting approach where the parent uses self-awareness to develop a strong, authentic connection to their child," says Erin Morrison, MA, EdM, CPMCP, and The Conscious Mom. It is purposeful, thoughtful, and emotionally intelligent, and conscious parents view parenting as a two-way relationship—one which can help each person (and party) grow.
But what is conscious parenting, really? And, more importantly, what does it look like? Here's everything you need to know about conscious parenting.
What Is Conscious Parenting?
Conscious parenting, or CP, is a term used to describe a parenting style which focuses on awareness, connectedness, and mindfulness. Rather than leading in an authoritative or permissive way, conscious parents are attuned to their child and/or children. They listen to them, thoroughly and completely, and try to understand the reason why they may be acting up or lashing out.
Conscious parents see their child as an equal, or peer. This removes the hierarchal struggle and allows both the parent and child to communicate on an equal level. And conscious parents do not punish their children, at least not in a conventional sense. Rather, they set expectations and encourage self-regulation.
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"Conscious parenting is parent-focused, connection-based, and punishment-free," Morrison says. "Natural consequences allow the child to experience the true nature of their actions via cause and effect."
What Are the Benefits of Conscious Parenting?
Because conscious parenting is rooted in awareness and mindfulness, this parenting approach has numerous benefits, for both the caregiver and child.
Authenticity: One of the greatest benefits of conscious parenting, for both parent and child, is how this method encourages authenticity. "Parents aren't forced to play a role or read a script that isn't theirs," says Morrison. "Children get to be themselves, and they aren't forced to bend themselves into what their parents want but instead who they want to be."
Connectivity: Nothing is better than truly feeling connected to your child. Being present, after all, is a gift. And because conscious parents deal with the here and now, they tend to be more connected to the moment—and their kid[s]. "We can't always be connected to and with our children, so if we carve out even just one block of time each day to connect, we ditch the parenting guilt and allow ourselves to enjoy the moment," says Morrison.
Improved Communication: Due to the calm and focused nature of conscious parenting, this style lends itself to improved communication—as it is a parenting approach which embodies love and respect, not dominance, control, or fear.
Reduced stress: Numerous studies have proven the health benefits of mindfulness, and when individuals parent consciously, they tend to have lower levels of stress and anxiety and reduced blood pressure.
Respect: When a parent is mindful of what they do and how they act, the child tends to follow suit. After all, children learn by example, copying what they see. This means that if a parent is speaking a hushed voice—using thoughtful and respectful language—the child will generally mimic this behavior, creating a space and relationship grounded in respect.
Conscious parents also tend to be more calm and patient than, say, authoritative parents. These types of parents might rule the roost with orders and commands, from the top down.
Are There Any Drawbacks or Risks to Conscious Parenting?
While conscious parenting works for some, the approach is not right for everyone or every situation. It can take a long time to achieve the amount of self-reflection and internal control necessary to parent in this way, i.e. change won't happen overnight. During this shift, you may experience resistance or pushback. You may also struggle emotionally, particularly because conscious parenting relies on self-regulation and self-control.
"The change has to come from the parent and it requires digging up old feelings that were buried for a reason," says Morrison. "With the right conscious parenting expert, parents can have full support as they shift into parenting consciously."
What's more, since children being raised in this fashion must learn via trial and error—they must grow on their own, learning from their mistakes—conscious parenting can also be messy and rough around the edges. It can be hard.
How Can You Implement Conscious Parenting In Your Life?
If you are ready to start conscious parenting, the first thing you should do, think about, or feel is compassion—for yourself and your child. "Compassion is the gateway feeling for conscious parenting," Morrison says.
"You need compassion for yourself because parenting is hard," continues Morrison. "You need compassion for your child and/or children because it's hard being a kid with very little autonomy, and the next time you feel frustrated, you need to put yourself in their shoes. Have you felt their feelings before? The pain, sadness, anger, disappointment, and frustration? If you have, allow the compassion to wash over you, knowing your child experiences the same human emotions as you."
Once you've embraced compassion, the rest of this approach will fall into place. With compassion, you will be less likely to react in rage, which is a no-go for conscious parents. "First, identify surface feelings, like anger, frustration, and irritability," Morrison says. "Then, describe what your anger or frustration is really saying, i.e. 'I'm so tired of feeling like no one listens to me in this house or that no one appreciates anything I do.'" Processing your feelings will help you regulate your response—and keep you from lashing out.
With compassion, you'll be more likely to breathe and reflect, which will help keep your emotions in check. And compassion will help you with acceptance; your child may not do or act in the way you would have but that's okay. They are unique human beings learning from the world around them.
You should also set age-appropriate boundaries which help guide your child and keep them safe, as all children need guidance and oversight. "Be clear, concise, and compassionate," says Morrison. "Explain why you are setting a specific boundary and summarize how said boundary will how help keep them healthy or safe." And lead with love. Even when tensions are high—and voices are higher—stop, pause, and remember: Your child is trying to tell you something important. Sometimes (heck, most of the time) we just need to listen.