This quote and the non-violent approach of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is a beautiful inspiration for the conscious parenting journey. When we become parents we often see, with startling clarity, the impact of our choices, of our actions, on those around us. Our life and our choices are not just our own any more. They never really were - but as parents we are given the opportunity to see this unfold up close. We’re also given the opportunity to make those choices more consciously.
Right from the start there are a myriad of choices a parent must make, from birth plans and childcare to feeding and sleeping choices. The choices continue and seem to multiply with each year and parents everywhere are looking for answers. With hundreds of parenting books, all contradicting each other, how can a parent really know what is best?
We are each, both parent and child, unique individuals with different personalities, different needs, different challenges and strengths. While there are many helpful insights, tools and techniques available how could they possibly respond to the unique and ever-changing reality of the parent-child relationship and the needs of each individual child? As parents quickly find out, as soon as we think we’ve got it figured out our children grow and change!
So how do we navigate these constant changes to really do what is best? To prepare our child for life and help them achieve true happiness? To nurture their unique gifts and support them in their growth?
Here are a few key principles, inspired by the Education for Life approach, that can help with decision-making and problem-solving as a parent, while allowing us to be responsive to the unique needs of each child and of each moment:
Clarify your core values and intentions
This is essential! Clarity about our core values and intentions as a parent is like our GPS. Even if we make a wrong turn (we all do at some point!) our clear intentions help us to reroute and keep us heading in the right direction. They help us better understand what matters most and give us a guide for all our decisions, big and small. If we’re clear about our values and what’s really important (hint: it’s not the math test or the dirty socks on the floor), we can more easily and calmly define and hold important boundaries and make difficult decisions. If you’d like some help discovering your core values and intentions you can schedule a free coaching session here.
Practice centering to develop your awareness and intuition
On this path of conscious parenting we start to realize that the best answers aren’t found “out there,” but within, from our own instincts and intuition. While getting advice and perspective from others can be helpful, our best resource is calm, patient observation of our child and listening to our own inner guidance. We can help strengthen and attune ourselves to this inner guidance by developing a regular centering practice that helps us to relax and reconnect with the bigger picture. You can find a few guided centering practices to get you started here and here.
Start with strengths