First Steps

First Steps on the Journey to Conscious Parenting

What I haven’t yet related in this blog is that, initially, I didn’t set out on a journey to change my parenting, rather I set out on the pre-requisite journey – that of healing and learning to love myself…

Five years ago, I was a person crippled by anxiety and fear, by self-doubt, self-loathing and despair.  My relationship with my children was poor, guilt-ridden, exhausting – I yelled at my kids a lot.  I remember my eldest daughter telling me she wished her best friend’s Mom was her Mom because there was never any screaming at her house.  Over the course of a couple of years, as I healed and learned to forgive and to love myself, I was growing in myself a state of inner resourcefulness.  And, it was from this place of inner resourcefulness (self-compassion, self-love), that I was able to take a good, honest look at my parenting behaviours and my relationship with my children.

I mention this, not only to demonstrate the distance it’s possible to travel in a few years, but mainly because if we don’t address our own pain, our own woundedness, we will be sure to unintentionally inflict those same wounds on our children – despite our best intentions to the contrary.  I also mention this because the human spirit is extremely resilient and I’m amazed, humbled and grateful for the manner in which, as I’ve healed, I have been able to create the loving space within myself and within our home for my children’s healing to occur as well.

I think the deepest, most basic wound from which most of us suffer is that of never having been truly ‘seen’ [psychologists call this ‘proximal’ abandonment] and so, having been rejected on the most basic of soul levels, we repress and even attempt to outright murder our own true and authentic self.  This is the disease of disconnect of which I’ve been speaking.  We have lost or murdered our true self because it was never welcomed, it was never honoured, it was never seen [on the contrary, it was overtly suppressed] – by our parents, by our teachers, by our community and THIS is the wound that we inflict again upon our children.  And we do it in so many ways:

  • by cribbing children instead of carrying them or sleeping with them, ignoring their deep need for psycho-emotional bonding and attachment [a need that actually takes precedence over and above the satiation of basic physical needs like the need for food or sleep]
  • by letting our children ‘cry it out’ when studies are now showing children, even up to the ages of four and five, are unable to regulate their own psycho-emotional state and require soothing from a calm adult in order to learn how to properly self-soothe
  • by shaming them for exhibiting the same violent behaviour we unconsciously perpetrate on them on a daily basis
  • by being so busy doing that there is no space for simply being present with oneself, let alone with our children
  • by keeping our children so busy doing there is no space for them to simply be present with themselves
  • by violating our children’s inherent rights to self-ownership and self-expression, leaving no space for the unfolding of their own uniqueness
  • by attempting to control and mold them according to our own idea of what a ‘good’ child is
  • and so, consequently, by continuously violating them physically, emotionally and psychologically.

And we do it because we are so shell-shocked ourselves, because we are so disconnected from the vulnerable inner self that was so violated and shamed when we were children that it went into the deepest of hiding places.  The disconnection is so extreme and it is so ‘normalized’, most of us don’t even realize there is even a healing journey to begin.

And so, of course, I encourage you to begin the journey ‘home’.  It takes immense courage, immense resolve and immense humility.   Give yourself the necessary permission to hold yourself, to dare to be seen, to slow down, breathe out, and take those necessary first steps towards healing…

This is how a better world is birthed.

Resources:

Women Who Run with the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype – Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D

Warming the Stone Child: Myths and Stories about Abandonment and the Unmothered Child – Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D {Audio Work}

Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love – Dr. Sue Johnson

http://www.kindredcommunity.com

Wheels of Life: The Classic Guide to the Chakra System – Anodea Judith, Ph.D

EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) Tapping Manual Download (acupressure/tapping to aid in the freeing-up and release of repressed emotions and trauma)

Peter Levine’s Work and Healing Methodologies: http://www.somaticexperiencing.com  and http://www.traumahealing.com/somatic-experiencing/peter-levine.html

Survivors and Partners: healing the relationships of sexual abuse survivors – Paul A. Hansen

Belleruth Nazpartek’s guided imagery for healing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Why My Kids Have Scraggly Dreads…

This past New Year’s marks the two year anniversary of me starting and stumbling through to a more moral and honourable way of parenting.  Over the course of the past two years, I’ve distilled my parenting approach and come to fully embrace it for what it truly is: non-authoritarian parenting. I must admit that many times I regretted that I had ‘let my daughters in’ on my change in parenting philosophy, especially my oldest daughter.  Why had I not just quietly made changes without informing her that I had no right to impose my will on her or that she possessed the inherent right to author her own life?  Frustrating and humbling as it has been to have my 7, 8, and now 9 year-old call me out on the incongruent, immoral or hypocritical nature of some of my behaviours, I am, after all, very glad I did tell her.  It has kept me – she has kept me – honest, honest and walking a path of integrity. It’s far too easy to violate the rights of children since they are relatively powerless, largely or completely dependent upon us, and also largely lacking the force and ability to defend themselves and their rights.  All the more reason why abusing a child’s inherent rights is so heinously wrong.  Much harder – though getting easier for me by the day – is the path I now walk, one of non-authoritarian parenting. What does non-authoritarian parenting look like in my house these days, two years later?

  • It means I don’t always ‘get my way’, even though I’m the parent;
  • It looks like compromise;
  • It looks like negotiation;
  • It looks like respecting a child’s right to say “NO” which, I’ve come to realize, often means they will be more likely to say “YES” the next time around simply because their right to choose has been respected;
  • It looks like kids with scraggly dreads in their hair and long nails because I respect their right to choose how they care for their body.  Sometimes it even smells like stinky kids who have chosen not to have a bath or a shower for 2 weeks… 🙂
  • It looks like me modelling the behaviour I want my children to learn: walking my talk because I *know*  children learn what we do and not what we say;
  • It looks like discussions around right* and wrong* behaviour and that each of us chooses and is responsible for our own behaviour;
  • It looks like my children learning about the effects of their choices on other people and learning about the natural consequences (good or bad) of their choices;
  • On my part, it looks like patience and understanding and remembering that my girls are children and that they are in the process of learning to be responsible, respectful adults.  There is no need for shaming or reprimands because of the very fact that they are children;
  • It looks like me distilling my understanding of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ and what the word ‘respect’ really means to me.
  • It looks like me sometimes being very unhappy with my children’s choices but still respecting their right to make those choices;
  • It looks like me communicating respectfully how a child’s choice may have positively or negatively affected me;
  • It looks like a living workshop: my family and I re-learning how to live successfully and respectfully in community; and
  • It feels healthy, it feels peaceful, it feels good.   🙂

NB: *I would like to clarify what I mean by ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ behaviour.  To me, ‘right’ behaviour does not mean a child complying with what a parent or an authority figure wants or demands.  I don’t classify ‘right’ behaviour as obedience and ‘wrong’ behaviour as disobedience.  By ‘right’ behaviour, I mean behaviour that respects the rights of other people and ‘wrong’ behaviour being behaviour that violates the rights of other people.