“Seriously…the pink frilly ones?” I was disappointed. I was sure I wasn’t a girly girl, but my daughter was exhibiting a pure princess-like obsession and she was forcing me to walk my parenting talk. Let me explain…
We took a trip to a mall in Penang to buy shoes for Miss I. On display and positioned perfectly at eye level for a 2 year old, were toddler shoes that spanned a few decades in style. I picked out a very practical pair that she could wear everyday and turned to show them to Miss I. The shoes I held in my hand would match most of her outfits, were closed toe and had pretty flowers. Despite my most “Wow, look at this awesome-ness” face, she would have nothing to do with them. She had already found her preference: an overly sweet, frilly pink pair that reeked of toddler pageants. This was a huge parenting moment as I fully understood what it meant to be a conscious parent.
Un-learning Parenting Styles
Parenting style is often influenced by what was modeled to us when we were children. Often times, that model is one of authoritarianism, where the parents hold all control and inject their will upon the children. It’s a “Power Rules” paradigm. We did not want to model that for our children. Instead, we started becoming more conscientious of our thoughts, the way we communicate, our parenting style and the subtleties of our children. We’ve gained an immense amount of awareness of our children and ourselves by observing old patterns of thought and behavior and eliminating (or trying to eliminate) those that don’t serve us positively.
The first step in conscious parenting is to identify your own tendencies, attitudes and programmed behaviors about parenting. Most adults of this and older generations have grown up with a parenting style that exhibited a ‘top-down’ authoritarian style of parenting. The parents know what is best and the children must obey or be subject to punishment. This works for some families. When we exhibited this type of parenting in our young family, it just didn’t feel right to us. We didn’t yell, but there were a lot of “No’s” being said. It was not encouraging to any of our hearts and I witnessed the shrinking of my child’s spirit. And that broke my heart.
In an effort to create a family full of trust, respect and happiness, we changed our parenting style to one that follows a more harmonious path. Children are people, they are young and open to the world and should be shown respect through our communication and thoughts about them. It’s not always easy to break the barriers of social and emotional conditioning, but we are consciously aware of our own tendencies and constantly take inventory of our thoughts and actions with one another.
This shoe incident with Miss I could have gone 2 ways.
1) I could have said No. (Full disclosure: I tried).
I could have put my figurative foot down and denied her the shoes that she picked out. But what good would that have done?
What damage might that have done? It would have undermined her ability to make decisions. It would have modeled to her that her interests aren’t valid unless she shows interest in the ‘right’ things. It would have undermined her confidence and self-esteem and her ability to make her own decisions without looking to others. In other words, it would have started the pattern of conforming to society instead of singing her own song. When children grow up constantly looking over their shoulder to see if their choices are the right ones, eventually, they subconsciously stop making their own choices, and simply follow what everyone else is doing.
The only way for children to learn to make decisions based on their own judgement is by experimenting from a young age.
2) I could have bought the shoes.
Realizing that I could either choose to trust Miss I to make her own choices, or give her the message that her choices can’t be trusted, I bought her pinky shoes. Because even though she’s only 2 years old, she has opinions on what she likes and has the ability to make choices.
I put my money where my values are.
My Goals as a Conscious Parent
Fostering my child’s spirit and individual personality is more important than infusing her with my own preferences.
Parenting is a balancing act. My daughter, Miss I, has been a very relaxed happy soul. She rightfully deserves her nickname of being our “ray of sunshine”. Fostering my child’s spirit and individual personality is more important than infusing her with my own preferences.We have restructured our lives to make relationships and spirit a priority and the shoes don’t really matter. What mattered was me validating my daughters choice and heart’s desire. Conscious parenting simply means parenting each child with awareness and love, with the goal of building trust in the parent-child relationship.
In that moment, I was aware that I was trying to impose my preferences on my child, when clearly, her preference was the pink, frilly, totally glittery shoes. That moment represented my awareness of the detrimental patterns I learned from my own parents. We can change those repeating patterns and start taking responsibility for our own behaviors by consciously observing them.
This was a beautiful lesson for me that I wanted to share.