Archive | October 2014

Conscious Parenting Inspirations – October 2014


I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element. It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes that weather. I possess tremendous power to make life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspirations; I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis is escalated or de-escalated, and a person is humanized or de-humanized. If we treat people as they are, we make them worse. If we treat people as they ought to be, we help them become what they are capable of becoming. ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

 More and more in my parenting journey, I’ve learned that my mood sets the tone for my daughter’s behavior. Not necessarily her actions, but her response to my interruptions of the important work of being four. Being more of a quiet, deliberate sort, favoring peace and harmony to chaos and strife, I can easily be jarred out of balance by my headstrong, rambunctious, not-always-so-nice-to-her-brother, preschooler. So this month, I’ve been working on more conscious self-awareness and self-control when it comes to interacting with my children – proving that, although I began this journey for a more conscious life months ago, I am still, and forever will be, a work in progress.

Noticing Common Themes and Trigger Points

In his book, The Opposite of Worry, Lawrence J. Cohen (author of Playful Parenting) explains how emotions work with the analogy of a fire: a spark (thought) typically leads to a flame (emotion). And to take that one step further, that flame can rapidly become a fire (angry tirade), if not put out quickly. In mindfulness, as in meditation, your thoughts are brought into more conscious awareness, allowing you to hear what goes on in your head, often beneath your level of awareness. You can also practice becoming more aware of your thoughts and your moods by bringing more attention to them throughout the day. For me, in bringing more awareness to my thoughts and physical sensations when I am interacting with my children, I have been able to notice common themes and trigger points (for lack of a less-violent word) that commonly lead to anger or frustration.

I have noticed that any altercation between my oldest and youngest, which leaves my youngest in tears, often brings out my inner tiger mama, set on protecting her young. Other triggers include instances in which my daughter has done something that I have asked her countless times not to do, when she doesn’t listen, when I hear that she has been “mean” to another child – all things that occur on a more or less regular basis given her age and temperament. Despite my awareness of this fact, I have been known to react unthinkingly, rather than to respond sensitively, to these particular situations. But knowing that I am easily prone to anger in these situations and that they will come up again and again, I can choose to be more responsive, either thinking through a response ahead of time or walking away and telling my daughter that we will talk later when I’ve calmed down. These common themes, trigger points and conscious response strategies will be different for every parent, but the exercise of identifying them and reflecting on them is universally beneficial. For more, Shelia McGraith, aka the Orange Rhino, has a post about triggers complete with a Trigger Tracking Sheet.

Consciously Setting the Stage

As I mentioned above, taking time to identify common themes and trigger points that often lead you to anger and planning a more thoughtful response, is a helpful proactive strategy. Other proactive strategies include:

Self check-Ins

In her talk on Being More Nurturing, part of Carrie Contey’s Your Extraordinary Family Life interview series, Renee Trudeau (author of Nurturing the Soul of Your Family: 10 Ways to Reconnect and Find Peace in Everyday Life) provided a simple set of questions to ask yourself throughout the day: 1) How am I feeling? 2) What do I want? 3) What do I need? Asking these questions on a regular basis throughout the day can help you to bring greater awareness to your feelings and help you to get in the habit of addressing these feelings by meeting their underlying needs before they overwhelm you.

Setting Your Intentions

In her talk on Being More Spacious, part of Carrie Contey’s Your Extraordinary Family Life interview series, Bernadette Noll, author of Slow Family Living, suggests consciously setting intentions for yourself before you begin an interaction with your children or family member. Sometimes just reminding myself to be calm and loving, when I am feeling anxious and distracted, can help me to be more attentive to my children or partner when they need me to be.

Choosing Your Own Energy

Ms. Noll also talks about the ability we have to create our own energy. If you often find yourself at odds with the energy in your home when you arrive home from work – you want to relax, your home is anything but relaxed – she suggests pausing to notice your mood, taking a few minutes to breath and set a positive intention, and then by moving slowly and consciously as you enter the new environment. By doing this, you may be less likely to be unconsciously adversely affected by the energy in the room or the mood of other family members.

Helping Children with Emotional Self-Awareness

As my spirited four-year-old moves further into her fourth year, I find that my innate parenting style – that of logic and reason – that failed so miserably when she was two, is actually beginning to bear some fruit. At four, she understands that sometimes she is happy, sometimes she is agitated, sometimes she is angry, sometimes she is sad, sometimes she is excited and that all of those feelings are all temporary. She can usually explain what triggered her feelings and how her body responds when she feels that way.

Recently, she told me that when she is upset, it takes her a long time to calm down. When she told me this, I remembered an anger management strategy I had used with clients in my former professional life and began talking to her about stop lights – GREEN meaning happy, RED meaning very upset, and yellow meaning the feelings – frustration, irritation, exhaustion – that lead us from one to the other. We talked about how it is really hard to calm down when you are feeling RED, but how if you notice when you are starting to feel YELLOW, and catch yourself, it is a lot easier to turn GREEN again before you get all the way to RED. I asked her if she would let me help her by pointing out when she is starting to feel YELLOW and suggest ways for her to avoid getting to RED and she agreed.

In the past, when I tried to teach her to take deep breaths, a great method recommended by Dr. Becky Bailey, author of Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline and developer of the Conscious Discipline program, more often than not she would just turn to me, red-faced and scream “I DON’T WANT TO TAKE DEEP BREATH-ES!” Not wanting to invoke a similar reaction, I simply say, “Your starting to go to the YELLOW; how can I help you get back to GREEN?” For more, read AHA! Parenting’s article on helping children manage their anger.

Upcoming Conscious Parenting Resources and Events

I’m so excited to report that Carrie Contey will be holding another free on-line conference called Parenting Now, on November 10 – 14. The conference will feature professionals, authors, doctors and trainers in the fields of parenting, mindfulness, holistic heath, child development, psychology and family counselling. The interviews are available for free for 24-hours and are the available for sale as a package of downloads. Carrie’s previous on-line conference, Your Extraordinary Family Life, was diverse, engaging and inspirational and I would expect this one to be similarly beneficial.

Thanks for reading!

What about you? Have you had any inspiring parenting insights this month? Do you have any go-to resources for coconsciouss parenting online or otherwise? If so, I’d love to hear from you!

Sharon, Author of The Conscious Parenting Notebook

Conscious Parenting Inspirations – September 2014


“Parenting is one of the most challenging, demanding, and stressful jobs on the planet. It is also one of the most important, for how it is done influences in great measure the heart and soul and consciousness of the next generation, their experience of meaning and connection, their repertoire of life skills, and their deepest feelings about themselves and their possible place in a rapidly changing world.” Jon and Myla Kabat-Zinn, Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting

As the seasons change from summer to fall in our old neighborhood, we are consciously grateful for the “year-long summer” here in Southeast Asia that keeps the pools open and the parks welcoming. I have had to be even more conscious of my parenting this month, as we work to form and settle into a new routine. As the seasons change, as our circumstances change, as our children change, it helps to be conscious of the changes, how they affect our children and our families and how we can respond to them in a way that strengthens or maintains our family harmony. This month, I’ve tried to be more conscious of the changes by scheduling quality time, making self-care a priority and enjoying the fruits of my efforts as motivation to keep on track.

Scheduling Quality Time

One challenge I have been facing these days, common to most parents of more than one young child, is how to spend quality time with each and to make the most of the time we all share together. While, I know it is not easy, or even possible, for everyone depending on children’s ages and family circumstances, scheduling quality time has been a positive changing in our family. Because my daughter is in preschool in the mornings, I am able to spend a good portion of focused time with my son. Because he is our second child, and a much calmer, easy-going child, much of his first two years was spent riding around in my arms, chasing after his sister. But now, I can focus solely, going on morning adventures or just staying home and playing his favorite games. Through this time, we’re deepening our connection and making more happy memories.

With the morning over and both children home and awake, I had little opportunity for similar quality time with my daughter. Upon seeing how distressed she became when we arrived home and she had to immediately share my attentions with her younger brother, I found child care arrangement that would allow us to come home a little later a few days a week, so she has that special time just with me before arriving home, and it has made a tangible difference in how she greets her brother upon arriving home and in her disposition for the rest of the afternoon. And because I am able to spend the morning with my son, I don’t feel so guilty coming home a little later. If you don’t have the luxury of time, something as simple as turning off the radio in the car or taking a few minutes to play (or sit and talk with older children) when you are reunited may be appreciated. For ideas for scheduling one-on-one time if your time is more limited read Five Ways to Spend More Time with Your Kids When You Have No Time on Lifehack, Simple Ways to Spend Quality Time with Your Kids or for a more structured approach, read AHA! Parenting’s post on scheduling Special Time.

Making Self-Care a Priority

Another challenge this month has been handling the stress of daily life in a healthy manner and not letting it adversely affect my parenting. Stress affects us all, regardless of our life circumstances, family situation or geographic location. If unchecked, it can easily bubble over into our parenting in the form of shorter tempers, less patience and less focused attention. In order to avoid this, I have been working to make my own self-care a priority. Whether it is relaxing over a cup of tea in the evenings after the kids are in bed, making time for regular exercise or taking a few minutes to journal during the day, a small investment in self care brings far greater rewards in the time I spend with my children. In her book, The Life Organizer,  A Woman’s Guide to a Mindful Year (gender specifics aside, this could also work for men), Jennifer Louden talks about the idea of Minimum Daily Requirements.  I love this term because, like food, water and shelter, your Minimum Daily Requirements are the minimum necessities to be your best self each day. While massages, vacations and therapy sessions might do wonders for our mental health, minimum daily requirements are more basic habits, integral to daily well-being. For me, exercise, getting outdoors, connecting with family and friends and finding time to reflect each day, keep me balanced. When I start feeling off, upon closer inspection, I usually find I am neglecting my Minimum Daily Requirements.

Enjoying the Fruits of My Efforts

Parenting, especially parenting high needs, spirited or other children with special needs, can be a demanding, often thankless job, with little immediate positive results of your efforts. However, once in a while, a spontaneous display of affection, an introspective question or an un-prodded act of kindness from our children helps us to see that something we are doing is working. I have had  a few such moments this month that helped to remind me that it is worth it to take the extra time and effort to be patent, to be kind, to be thoughtful in how I respond to and interact with my children.

After regularly discussing our snuggle tanks (discussed in Conscious Parenting Inspirations – August 2014), my spirited four-year-old has become more conscious of her need for connection. While, she still has strong, emotional outbursts, now, sometimes, instead of being inconsolable or aggressive, she will come and say, “I need a snuggle,” knowing that a sense of disconnection is often the source of her upset and a “snuggle” is a great way to restore her balance. Additionally, after a few months of loving kindness meditation as part of our bedtime routine (Conscious Parenting Inspirations – June 2014), she noticed  a family in the rain and decided that she would send them loving kindness because they “only had a small umbrella.” And finally, as we have been connecting more though our morning and evening routines and our scheduled quality time, I have become the recipient of many more spontaneous hugs and kisses.

Thanks for reading!

What about you? Have you had any Conscious Parenting Inspirations this month? If so, I’d love to hear from you!

Sharon, Author, The Conscious Parenting Notebook