The Conscious Parent

by Joni on February 9, 2010

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Positive parenting is hard. Why? Because you must be a conscious parent, always. Constantly. All day long. Every minute of every day. Even in the fuzzy gray of those groggy mornings after a night of restless co-sleeping–even when it’s late in the afternoon following a whirling day of no naps and fussy teething–and yes–even when it’s smack dab in the middle of bedtime and you are ready to go to bed much much more than the little one that you are struggling to soothe to sleep. You must be a conscious parent–a calm, gentle, thinking, and strategical parent, even then.

Positive parenting takes work, effort, time, energy, but most of all it takes brain power–lots of it–when you have it the least to give. As our 14 month-old son begins blossoming into a pre-toddler–that neitherland between infanthood and official toddlerhood at the age of two–we are beginning to consciously think about how we are going to handle the challenging behaviors that we know he is bound to exhibit. As we prepare by talking to other parents, reading books and articles, and attending parenting groups, our philosophy on how we are going to navigate through the wily world of throwing, kicking, biting, and tantrums is beginning to take shape.

Hitting, spanking, time outs, raised voices, and bribing with rewards are all routes we know that we do not wish to take. We know that these methods can result in a humiliated, embarrassed, isolated, externally rewarded, and defeated child and will not lead to the kinds of positive outcomes we are ultimately seeking–a confident, internally motivated, emotionally balanced, and secure child and teenager. And we know that it all starts now. We know that creating a child-friendly environment in our home is much healthier than constantly policing a home that has many things that cannot be touched, or that teaching empathy and giving tools to express frustration and anger early can curb a tantrum before it starts. We know that explaining to him now why he cannot do something is much more effective than overusing the scold “no”. Even at such a young age, we know that he is ready to learn from us and that anything but gentle conscious parenting during these challenging times will perhaps train, but not teach, him.

But during the long and fatigued days that are sure to be ahead, we also know that falling back on easier methods of parenting are just plain, well, easier–you don’t have to plan and think and explain. Using negative directives like “no” or “stop it” or “don’t do that” instead of explaining why or offering choices and alternatives obviously takes less effort and brain power. But at what expense? It will be hard to remember, always, that we will need to offer him the best of us so that he can fulfill his utmost potential–whatever he deems that to be. But we must.

Yes, it’s darn difficult raising a human, but, heck, whoever said it would be easy? And, we want a good human–a really good human.

Joni is an attached mom of one. She blogs over at her mommy blog, mama :: milieu, as well as, at her food website for families with hungry children, Feeding Little Foodies.

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Joni (5 Posts)

Joni is a first time mommy (with another on the way), former teacher and lover of all things writing and cooking. She enthusiastically blogs about the pleasures and perils of natural mommying and wholesome organic cooking for your little family of foodies over at: www.mamamilieu.blogspot.com and www.feedinglittlefoodies.blogspot.com.


{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

sara February 9, 2010 at 11:42 am

I’d like to read articles like this but from the perspective of an attached mother of more than one child!

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Nancy February 9, 2010 at 11:47 am

I’ve been struggling with this since my daughter turned 17 or 18 months old. She’s 19 months now. I’ve had more than one moment where I’m not proud of my behavior. It takes a lot to sort of sit back and re-evaluate the situation, especially in the heat of the moment. I don’t hit or spank but I can feel my voice and my body language getting tense, so I have to take a deep breath and remind myself of my personal mantra: Pick and Choose your Battles. There are some situations where being stern and unyielding is required, for matters of safety but most of the time, I find that the little things that come up are not worth the stress or the struggle, not worth the fight. For example, my daughter hates to wear her mittens, so I’ve contended that having cold hands won’t kill her, and if its really so cold out that it *would* kill her, then we really have no business being outside in the first place! :D

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Karina February 9, 2010 at 7:00 pm

What a great post! So true and well written that I had to print it and stick it to my fridge!! Thank you Joni.

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Joni February 9, 2010 at 10:47 pm

Karina, thank you for the very kind words–I take being displayed on the refrigerator as quite a compliment as I know it is a special play for display in our home!

Nancy, thank you for your very thoughtful response. A very, very good friend of mine has a 2 year old and as I have watched her struggle over the past year as more challenging behaviors pop up, I can see how she is constantly tested. I think that your wisdom of picking battles is a very smart option. My doula and early childhood educator says that it’s best to have only a few hard and fast rules that you stick to and let the other stuff go. Flexible parenting in a child-friendly atmosphere, I like to call it! lol!

Sara, I think that it would be very valuable to have the perspective of a mom with more than one child on this topic, too. The doula and childbirth educator that I spoke about above has three older teens and actually taught me much of what’s in this post. So, I know first-hand that this is very much the philosophy she practiced and still practices with her children. And, I’d like to think that my husband and I, too, will continue the gentle and conscious kind of parenting spoke of above even as our family grows.

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Brooke @ Parenting from Scratch February 12, 2010 at 10:57 pm

I like this post a lot. I’m new at this parenting gig, and it’s really helpful to read posts like this, to help me prepare for being the conscious, positive parent I want to be for my daughter.

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