Archive | April 2015

Conscious Parenting Inspirations – April 2015


“Let us keep reminding each other to breathe, to smile, to treat ourselves and one another with kindness.” – Denise Roy

I am one of two siblings; the youngest of a small, quiet family. As such, my childhood fantasies of my future family involved three children, their spouses and children, all filling up a festive, loving home, while the snow fell picturesquely outside our home (I also grew up in South Florida without snow…). I wanted a large family to fill our house with laughter, to provide friendship in times of plenty and support in times of want. I dreamt that my children would have strong, loving connections that they could rely on throughout their lives.

My dream family began when my daughter was born, and continued to grow when my son was born two-and-a-half-years-later.

But then fighting began.

I have read that things that trigger you come from unresolved issues in childhood, so somewhere in my psyche there must be some unresolved issues around sibling fighting. Or perhaps, it is simply that I, like many other parents, am easily frustrated by the broken peace and intentional irritants that are thrown back and forth between my children. Whatever it is, my dream of loving, supportive siblings is not my family’s current reality and I have decided that the change has to start with me.

If I want a peaceful, loving family, I need to build a peaceful, loving family culture. And so this month’s Conscious Parenting Inspiration touches on consciously addressing sibling issues, ways to begin choosing conscious responses, and ways to reconnect when we don’t act as loving as we’d like to.

Consciously Addressing Sibling Issues

Sibling issues – fighting, rivalry, general discord – have been featured a lot in my blog feeds and newsletters lately and what keeps coming up is the importance, not of just stopping the fighting, but of helping siblings work through conflict and creating an environment of peace.

My go-to advice for sibling issues is Dr. Laura of Aha! Parenting, who is awash with advice on sibling issues from her recent book Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings. In her post 21 Tips to Prevent Sibling Flighting, she provides information on valuable parenting tools from proactive steps like creating an intentional family culture; bringing awareness to how you talk to, and about, your children; and providing lots of one-on-one time (when possible); to tools to use after conflict has occurred, such as empathizing, modelling emotional intelligence and involving kids in conflict resolution. While Dr. Laura’s step-by-step conversations may not be practical for every family, or every situation, I’ve found that using the underlying wisdom – approaching the conflict without judgement, giving each child a chance to feel heard and involving them in resolving the conflict – in a more abbreviated form, has worked for us.

The bloggers over at A Fine Parent has put together a really helpful Sibling Rivalry infographic based on Dr. Layra’s new book and are currently offering a free printable download.

For more inspiration, Dr. Laura is currently on a virtual Happy Siblings Blog Tour in which she talks with, and shares the resources, of other great parenting professionals and bloggers.

Choosing a Conscious Response

Given the amount of advice available for parents on how to best address sibling issues, it seems safe to say that many parents of multiple children struggle with responding positively and effectively in such situations. In her post on the Empowering Parents blog, author and licensed mental health counselor Debbie Pincus describes why parents often feel powerlessness (which can lead to anger) when interacting with their children.

She explains that, when triggered, many parents believe that the only way to calm themselves is to “get their children to behave the way they want them to.” She goes on to explain that in thinking this way, parents put the power to calm themselves in the hands of their children. She says that when parents begin statements with the phrase, “I need you to…,” as in, “I need you to stop bothering your sister. I need you to speak kindly. I need you to be more respectful,” the implicit message is, “I need you to calm me, validate me, reassure me because I don’t know what to do.”

Debbie then talks about the following the feedback loop that often results from unconscious reactions:

Child/Children are “Acting Out” ——-> Parent Feels Overwhelmed and Powerless ——> Sense of Powerlessness Leads to Anxiety —–> Parent Attempts to Control Children in an Attempt to Regain Sense of Power and Calm ——-> Children Fight Back Against Attempts to Control Them (“Act Out”) ——> Parent Feels Overwhelmed and Powerless

Debbie explains that in these situations, both parent and children are reacting from a place of anxiety, rather than responding from a place of calm. And this loop often happens faster than it took you to read about it, leaving parents wondering how things got so bad so fast.

In her post, The 5 Main Tenets of Mindful Parenting, mindfulness educator Lisa Kring privdes describes how the use of the acronym, S.T.O.P, as a conscious reminder can help parents break this loop by changing a reaction to a response in tense moments:


Whenever you notice stress or imbalance, simply pause in awareness.


Bring your awareness to your breath.


Internally – observe how the breath begins to calm your nerves. Externally – observe what is really happening, in the moment.


Having shifted to a more mindfully responsive mode, respond in a thoughtful way to the situation, even if it means explaining that you need a break to calm yourself and returning to address the situation at a later time.

In her post, On the Hard Days, Remember, the author provides beautifully describes her habit of intentionally focusing on positive memories from the past, using the mantra “Remember,” to bring more clarity and perspective to stressful situations.

In her post, 4 Mommy Mantras for Being a More Mindful Parent, Stephanie Morgan of Modern Parents, Messy Kids, explains that remembering the quote, “Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory,” by Dr. Seuss, helps her to remember that how we act as parents will become our children’s memories, for better or for worse, as inspiration to choose more conscious responses.

Consciously Reconnecting

As we are all human, we will never respond to our children intentionally and lovingly 100% of the time. Many of us, myself included, might be happy if we are able to respond intentionally and lovingly even 50% of the time. But even when we find ourselves reacting, it is still possible to parent consciously, after the fact.

In her post, Five Ways to Reconnect with Your Child When You are Having a Bad Day, Dr. Laura of Aha! Parenting provides five strategies to reconnect by helping them feel safe, clarifying your opposing needs, physically reconnecting, playing and empathizing with their feelings.

In her post on Positive Parenting Connection, The Most Important Question to Ask After Yelling, Dr Andra Brill, founder of Mindful Happy Families, describes the importance of having a ritual to reconnect after you lose your temper with your children. She shares her family’s question, “What do you need?” which helps her to get to the root of the problems in order to avoid stressful situations in the future and helps family members feel heard and participate in the problem solving.

What about you? Have you found anything new that works for your family this month or come across any Conscious Parenting Resources to share? If so, I’d love to hear from you!

Thanks for Reading!

Sharon, Author, The Conscious Parenting Notebook

Conscious Mental Clarity (or How to Regain Your Positive Outlook When You Misplace It)


If you truly want to change your life, you must first change your mind. – Unknown

I hit a rough patch last week. I was in what seemed like an endless loop of conflict with my children. I was overcome by anger, self-pity, guilt, shame and powerlessness over my parenting decisions, my past behaviors, even the choices that have led me to where I am today. I found myself turning more and more to distractions – sweets, television, internet – to avoid dealing with everything that was swirling around in my head. And on top of it all, I was disgusted with myself for not being true to my desire to live more consciously. I was a mess.

In my state, I turned to supportive online parenting communities for help (sometimes it is easier to reveal your messy insides to people who can’t actually see you), and while they were tremendously supportive, I realized that by addressing one issue at a time, I was missing the bigger picture. I was feeling bad for actions from my past, feeling guilt over their repercussions in the present, and not knowing how to atone for them in the future. I was trying to clean up small messes, not realizing that my whole house was a disaster.

Luckily, I finally opened up to my husband about what was going on and having all my messy insides seen and accepted, helped me to realize that things really weren’t as bad as I’d been making them out to be. And if my partner could still love me despite how awful I felt, then maybe I could, too. Talking things out didn’t make everything better in an instant, but it allowed me to crawl out from under the massive pile of garbage I’d been piling on myself for the past week and breathe a little fresh air. Feel some sunshine on my face. And come up with a plan to throw out the trash.

I’ve always loved new beginnings, fresh slates, opportunities to wipe away the old mistakes and start anew. Usually, my new beginnings coincided with some other external beginning – a new year, a new home, a new term at school, a new job, or even the start of a new week – but it occurred to me that I don’t need an external beginning to start fresh. All I need to to recognize the need for change.

I have a program on my laptop, a cleaner, that periodically reminds me that I need to clean my computer. When I run it, it erases all my browsing history, it empties my recycle bin, cleans out temporary files, goes deep into those files I don’t even know how to access to clean out bits and pieces of code or fragments of files that impede optimal functioning; it even performs something called a memory dump. I love running this program because it helps me feel like I am taking good care of my computer, helping it run at its highest capacity.

It was this image that gave me the idea for how to clear out my own mental junk. And when I started research it, it turns out that I am not the first to think of something like this.

If you ever find, or have ever found, yourself in a deep hole, under a black cloud or buried under a pile of your own mental negativity, try the following techniques to help get you back to a better place.

Open Yourself to a Fresh Perspective

For me, the first step was to feel heard and accepted. I’m sure I would have eventually come out of my negative state one way or another, but reaching out and allowing myself to be vulnerable (which wasn’t easy – I actually had to make a bulleted list on a napkin and pass it across the table for him to read – such is my aversion to vulnerability and outside inspection), gave me a different, more accepting and realistic, perspective on my situation than the one I’d been feeding myself for days.

I don’t have any clinical training, but just knowing how good it feels to share feelings of guilt and shame with my best friends and hear that they have felt the same way or done the same things, or accept and love me regardless, proves to me that there is healing power in this type of vulnerability and connection. The most important part of this is that the person from whom you are seeking support, acceptance or a new perspective, is someone who will provide genuine support and acceptance, be it a friend, family member or mental health professional.

Perform a Mental Cleanse

Of the sources I read on this topic, the most common suggestion was to somehow get as much as you can out of your head and on to paper. Outstanding things to do; feelings of guilt, shame, anger, sadness; old memories; current anxieties; sources of frustration; even positive feelings that may be buried somewhere under everything else. This can be done through stream of consciousness writing in a journal, a notepad, a computer; over one session or multiple days. The important thing to get it out of your head. As the author in Quick Brain Detox and Mental Reboot, states, the first time you do this, there may be a lot to process, but once this becomes a regular habit (assuming you want it make it one), successive detoxification yields a bit less over time.

For some, this stream of consciousness writing (or typing) may come easy, but others, like me, may need more structure. A long time ago a friend of mine shared a therapeutic technique that she liked to use when she felt stuck and using a somewhat modified version of her method, helped me to detox in a more structured way.

To clean your mental closet, figuratively gather a list of empty boxes labeled with the most important facets of your life, e.g. Physical Health, Mental Health, Spiritual/Emotional Health, Family, Friends, Romantic Relationship(s), Children, Home, Work, Pets, Recreation, Outstanding Tasks, etc. (everyone’s boxes will be unique) and give each box a line, half a page, or a whole page, depending on how much room you need. Then write down whatever thoughts some up for you as you consider each facet of your life, one box at a time. Once you have considered each box, check to make sure there isn’t anything you have missed (or put whatever doesn’t fit into a Misc. box).

Once you have all of your boxes from your detox, you can now take the time to sort through them, label them, and decide whether they are still serving you or whether you can take steps to get rid of them.

Other Resources for a Regular Mental Cleanse

In A New Kind of Cleanse, author Karolyn Gazella lists five inspiring action steps to take at the end of each day to “clear away space to make room for the positive.”

In the post, Reboot Your Life: 20 Mental Barriers You Should Let Go Of, the author lists 20 labels of things that, should you find them swirling in your brain, it would best serve you to dispose of.

In his post 7 Tips for Renewal, Dr. David Simon, Ayurvedic practitioner and author of Free to Love, Free to Heal, provides seven tips to help when you feel you need some rejuvenation, from physical suggestions regarding diet and exercise, to meditation and journaling.

In Spring Cleaning for Your Psyche (one of a series of posts on the topic), Dr. Laura of Aha! Parenting provides insight, advice and practical exercises for parents trapped in reactivity and negativity.

In Detox Your Mind in 5-Minutes: The Power of Quantum Cleansing, Dr. Alejandor Junger, provides instructions and a guided meditation for a quick five-minute mental cleanse.

In her post, Spring Cleaning for the Soul: Tidying Up Our Personal Closet, the author suggests creating a virtual vault for positive memories, because while a mental detox and rebook are important to clear out things that are holding you back, creating a store of positive memories (and their associated thoughts and feelings) can help keep the dark clouds at bay the next time they start gathering in your mind.

How about you? Have you ever felt stuck in negativity or reactivity? Have you found ways that help you break through and reclaim a more positive outlook? If so I’d love to hear from you!

Thanks for Reading!

Sharon, Author, The Conscious Parenting Notebook

Conscious Flexibility


A tree that is unbending is easily broken. – Lao Tzu

I am not the most flexible person.

When I am in the middle of something, I like to finish what I’m doing before moving on to something else.

If I have plans and they go awry, it takes time for me to recommit to Plan B.

If I ask my children to do something, kindly and respectfully, like the authoritarian parents of previous generations, I expect them to do it and when they don’t, I tend to use power plays to “get my way.” (Read Encouraging Children to Listen for a better way.).

And I used to be even worse.

When my daughter, our first child, was young, I thought I could control things that were out of my control – her behavior, her sleep habits, her expressions of emotion. When her spirited personality clashed with my introverted one, and I had used up all of my reserves of patience and motherly affection, I would fall back into more authoritarian parenting tactics. Not every time. Not all the time. But enough. Enough for me to remember and hope she doesn’t.

These days, I am more aware of what falls under my sphere of control (partially from repeating, “You can’t make other people do things; the only person you can control is yourself” to my daughter for years). Through my journey to live a more conscious life, I have become more flexible in some areas. I have learned to accept things as they are and not force them to bend to my will. I have learned not to react so dramatically to things that would previously have caused me upset. I have learned to catch myself in knee-jerk reactions and pause to choose a more thoughtful response.


But not always.

I still sometimes give in to frustration and disappointment when my carefully laid plans are threatened by an inconvenient melt-down. I still find myself trying to control situations outside my control. I still feel a distinct sense of unease when I feel powerless in my parenting.

But I realize that this need for control and lack of flexibility is a detriment. It is a detriment to my relationship with my children. It is a detriment to a growth-oriented mindset. It is a detriment to my desire to live a more conscious life.

But the worst part of it is that my four-year-old has turned into a mini-dictator who appears to feel actual, physical pain when asked to say something nicely, and who has heaps of pre-school control issues, and I’m just a little bit afraid that she might have gotten some of that from me.

And so, in April of my More Conscious Year, I am going to work on being more flexible, less rigid, in my everyday life.

Control vs. a Sense of Control

A sense of control, if not actual control, is a deep psychological need, not just for me, but for people in general. A sense of control allows people to feel safe and secure; it allows them to move forward in their lives with predictability.

Feeling out-of-control, or in a situation that is out-of-control, can lead to feelings of helplessness, powerlessness and fear. According to social scientists, this aversion to feelings of helplessness and powerlessness and desire for control is so strong, that people will make things up or find patterns where there are none, in order to regain a sense of control.

Our need for a sense of control can be traced back to our evolutionary roots when our survival depended on a sense of control over our environment. When we feel in control, we are at less risk of danger. When we feel in control, we feel safe. When we feel out-of-control, our mental and physical health can suffer.

And yet, a sense of control over our lives and the desire to control everything in our lives are very different things.

A sense of control over the things we can actually control – our own behavior, our reactions to others behavior, how, and with whom, we choose to spend our time and energy – is positive. But attempts to control other people and other things outside of our actual control, more often than not leads to unhappiness, rather than the security (and following happiness) we are hoping to attain by maintaining control (according to Psychology Today Article, Let Go, Be Happy).

Effects of Controlling Parenting

This need for control, or a sense of control, can also enter our parenting. According to the author of Five Things You Can and Can’t Control as a Parent, many parents attempt to control their children’s behaviors because of societal pressure or their own fear. Denny Hagel, founder of Awakened Parenting, explains that perceived lack of control is a common cause of parental frustration. Parents can become so focused on their child’s behavior that they are unable to see the larger picture and only feel the need to win the power struggle.

In her post, Let’s Stop Controlling and Start Listing to Children, Parent Coach Shelly Birger Phillips says that when parents force children to submit to their authority, they send the message that they are the more powerful ones and their children’s ideas, thoughts, and desires don’t matter. By controlling, parents teach children to submit to another’s will and not think for themselves. Authoritarian, or overly powerful, parenting robs children of their psychological autonomy, by telling children what to do, what to think and how they should feel. Kids parented in this manner may be relatively well-behaved, but they also tend to be less resourceful, have poorer social skills, and lower self esteem.

While I don’t consider myself a controlling parent in a lot of ways, I have realized that it is my fall-back parenting strategy when I am over-tired, stressed or overwhelmed, and all of the above is motivation enough to want to make a change.

Ways to Practice More Flexible (Respectful) Parenting

Week 1: Awareness of the Bigger Picture

Following the adage that our children are mirrors of ourselves, I want to use my daughters controlling behavior as a wake-up call to be more conscious of my own words and actions towards my children (and my spouse) when I am under stress. I want to bring awareness to these moments when I use power inappropriately, to see the bigger picture of the unintentional example I may be setting.

For any of you who may be practicing your own flexibility, bringing awareness to your use, or misuse of power, in all areas of your life is a good start to affecting change. Additionally, noting the areas of your life for which you actually have control and reflecting on them in these moments can help to shift your perspective. In her article, How to Let Go of Control Issues, the author suggests making a conscious list of the things in life that you have control over, and later when you find yourself trying to exert control over something, she suggests returning to the list (mentally) to hep bring your focus to what you can control.

Week 2: Be Proactive

Making self-care a priority is key to a sense of control over your life. When we are rested, exercised, relaxed, we are more likely to feel in control and to be in control of our responses.

Additionally, working on my relationship with my daughter to prevent power struggles, may help prevent the occasions where we find ourselves in a power struggle. In her article on power struggles, Denny Hagel advises parents to work to convey to their children that they are a resource for help, guidance and support from an early age, to foster a teamwork mentality, rather than a “you against them” mentality. She explains that parents can do this by reacting consciously and supportively when children make mistakes; she states, when children make mistakes, how you react will determine your child’s perception of you as supporter or opponent.

This week I am going to work on meeting my goals for self-care and work to consciously build a less adversarial relationship with my daughter.

Week 3: Choose a Conscious Response

In her article Let Go of Control: How to Learn the Art of Surrender, psychologist Amy Johnson notes that sometimes it can be as easy as noticing that you are in control mode and choosing to let go, consciously surrendering to the moment. She describes how when she finds herself in a situation where she is trying to impose her will, she imagines that she is in a canoe paddling upstream, against the current. She then pictures the boat turning around, dropping the oars, and floating downstream, or simply reminding herself to “let go of the oars,” to shift her perspective.

This week, I am going to try to use Amy’s technique, or simply ask myself “Where is the power?” when I find myself trying to exert control, to reminding myself that my job is to help my children feel powerful not powerless.

Week 4: Practicing Surrender

When dealing with more difficult situations, Amy Johnson, recommends asking yourself the following questions, “What am I afraid will happen if I let go of control?” “Could this really happen? And if it could, how bad could it actually be?” Parent Coach Shelly Birger Phillips recommends taking a step back and watching what happens when we stop trying to control things (situations, people, children) and see what happens; to get in the habit of following the lead of others and surrendering to the moment.

Following this combined advice, this week, I am going to try “surrendering to the moment,” facing my fears of “what could happen,” and seeing if I can’t let the reality of what unfolds help me to become a more flexible parent.

(For more on letting go of control for parents see Control Less, Trust More).

What about you? Do you have issues with power and control that you would like to work through? Do you notice yourself falling back into a certain, less, conscious way of parenting or being when you are over-tired or over-stressed? Do you have any techniques that have helped you make a more positive shift in these times? If so, I’d love to hear from you!

I’d love to hear if you find anything in this series helpful. I am writing a lot that I want to do personally, but I am hoping that some of the situations might resonate with readers and some of the links may be helpful. If you find the A More Conscious Year series helpful (or don’t think it is helpful at all), I’d love to hear from you. 

Thanks for reading!

Sharon, Author, The Conscious Parenting Notebook